Why Queer?

In an email message a few days ago, a reader wrote that his one reservation about this site is the name – “Queering the Church”:

But I do have to say that I kind of have issues with the word “queer” as it makes me cringe.  As a young person I didn’t like hearing that word.  I guess that you could say that I have issues, but then again, don’t we all. 🙂

Indeed we do, Mark – and I have issues with any alternative terms. However, a colleague at the Soho Masses some time ago made precisely the same observation to me, and so has my partner, Raymond. This is probably a reservation shared by many people, especially those from a generation who can remember when the word was widely used as a term of abuse and derision.

I do have very specific reasons for choosing this word as the best among a range of unsatisfactory choices, and explained these in one of my very first posts. As most of my present readers will not have seen my earliest writing, Mark’s expression of regret has suggested to me that it could be helpful to repost the same original explanation – which I do below:

Here’s why I like ‘Queer’

Over the years, we’ve moved beyond gay, through gay & lesbian, LGB, LGBT, to LGBTQI  ( “Q =Queer” adds more sexual minorities, including the heterosexual flavour, such as S&M and cross-dressers; “I” goes beyond transgendered to “Intersex”). I’m sure we could further extend the acronym if we put our minds to it.

We can extend the concept of ‘minority’ still further. In the context of the church, we are ALL minorities: ‘heterosexuals’ who are divorced, practicing birth control, adulterers, sexually active teens and pre-marital adults: all of these are living outside approved sexual norms.Celibate clergy who truly live their vows, are a rather odd sexual minority of a different sort. And what of those clergy who do not comply?  (Over at Nihil Obstat, “Censor Librorum” makes the fascinating point at this season of Advent, that the original Holy Family itself fell outside standard norms. See  “How Natural is God?” , posted Dec 28.)

Strip out all the above, and those who remain must be a tiny minority indeed. Ultimately we are all minorities – the only variable is identifying the precise flavour applicable to each of us.  But thereby, we are also all part of a supermajority – a majority of minorities, the  universal human race, in which the great ‘universal, apostolic’ Catholic Church is reaching out to all.

So ‘Queering the church’ to me involves moving to a point of such acceptance of minorities, that sexual identity in the church becomes simply irrelevant.

Also see:

Queer By Any Other Name: Mark Jordan on Terminology (Queering Theology and Ministry)


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3 Responses to “Why Queer?”

  1. scroobious Says:

    I like the argument, but can you explain more what you like about the word Queer specifically? Do you see it as shorthand for “all sexual socalled minorities”?

  2. queeringthechurch Says:

    I do indeed see it so – but not just me. It is an increasingly accepted term in academic queer studies, and also in queer theology, used in just that sense. See the closing chapter of Elizabeth Stuart, “Gay and Lesbian Theologies”. Chapter 8 is called “Christianity is a Queer Thing. ” Amen to that.

  3. queeringthechurch Says:

    Correction – ‘queering’ is not only referring to all minorities, but also, and more importantly in current thinking, to going way beyond any recognition of ‘minorities’, as I tried to spin out above.


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