Good news, the word “queer” is back in circulation. Actually, I’m not sure that is good news, but it opens up some possibilities.
“Queer” always had a negative connotation used derisively to refer to those batting for the other team (i.e. men sleeping with men and women with women). It was a insult to them. So, they stole the word “gay” which made things a bit more acceptable. Joyful, carefree, bright and showy was the definition of “gay” for centuries. The “gay nineties” referred to the last decade of the 19th century when all seemed well and there was much optimism in the land. According to Wikipedia, the word did have a sexual meaning in that century, but it was more related to sexual promiscuity in the traditional sense—a gay woman was a prostitute; a “gay house”—brothel; a “gay man”—womanizer. Even during the first half of the 20th century the predominate use was the original intent. It didn’t switch sides until the 1960s . . . and has been lost ever since.
But “queer” is making a come back. Actress Cynthia Nixon, who has been referred to as a lesbian (her second spouse is a female, although her first, with whom she had two children, was a male), and is running for governor of NY, has gone on record that she is “queer.” She’s not a lesbian or bisexual, just queer. According to PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) “queer” means a “kind of freedom and acceptance which allows space for individuality and acknowledges that each person’s sexuality and identity is distinct from every other.” Okay, that cleared it up.
If, however, the word “queer” can be reclaimed, how about we take back some other words that have been co-opted. From my Facebook friends comes the following terms they’d like the original definition reinstated (the first four of which I’ve previously railed): truth, tolerance, awesome, hate, liberal, forgive, progressive, racist, bigoted, respect, marriage, and the rainbow to mention a few from the growing list.
One word not mentioned was “choice.” Perhaps that’s because of the fluidity of the term and to what it is associated. When it comes to having a baby it means one thing—the mother chooses to give life or death, but in reference to school choice it takes on a different form—education dictated, where and when, by the government or left to the parents.
Wasn’t there a Saturday Night Live sketch in which parents were teaching children to use opposite terms—hate was love; yes was no?
In the 5th chapter of Isaiah, the prophet warned the wicked with a series of woes. One set goes like this: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Then he notes their future: Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isa. 5:20, 24).
We may have lost control over the dictionary and its rewrites, but there is One who continues to have complete control over all things and we can take solace in that fact that, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap (Gal. 6:7). I suppose you could say that that Someone gets the final word. Judgment day is coming!
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