Use of the word ‘queer’ sparks debate in black community

Erica Carter

Although the use of the word ‘queer’ has become more accepted in the LGBTQ community, some still have issues with its usage.

“I personally don’t care about the word, but there’s history around it being used as an insult,” said senior fashion merchandising major Todd White. “So for someone to say ‘ I cannot vibe with queers’ isn’t just saying you can’t vibe with gay people, there’s a sense of aggression towards gay people when you use the word ‘queers.’ Why can’t we just be gay?’

Migos rapper Offset sent off red flags with his lyrics in his latest song with YFN Lucci called “Boss Life,” where he raps, “I cannot vibe with queers.” The artist received backlash on Twitter, accusing him of homophobia.

The rapper said he meant no harm over the word and that it simply rhymed in the song. However, it still raised questions to the use of the word ‘queer,’ and homophobia in the black community.

White said words like this go back to ignorance and people needing to be educated on being sensitive to certain terminology regarding the LGBTQ community.

“There are people out there who say ‘ I’m queer’ and love it,” White said. “They identify with it. So when you say “f queers’ or use the word as an insult, you aren’t just insulting a gay person, you’re insulting a whole group of people who identify with this terminology. “

The use of the word “queer” dates all the way back to the 19th century. People used it as a way to identify others involved in same-sex relationships.

“The word ‘queer’ is the same as ‘gay’ to me,” said junior fashion design major De’Von Gomez. “Gay means happy, queer means weird. I think [the gay community] open ourselves up to more discrimination when we keep getting upset over this simple terminology.”

Gomez grew up around homophobia and has dealt with it more than he’s had to deal with racism. He said he’s not bothered with the word as much as he’s bothered with the homophobic nature surrounding the word.  

“When I hear a black man say, ‘I cannot vibe with queers’ it just reminds me of all the homophobia in the black community. I don’t ever think our community will ever get over gay black men,” Gomez said.

Taylor Burgess, junior general business major, said the issues with homophobia go way back into the childhood of African-American males.  

“Gay men comfortable with their sexuality bothers straight black men. I think it’s something that is learned in the home,” Burgess said. “Especially if a father is in the house, or even a woman. Imagine a gay black man walking into a room with straight black men, he just disrupted their atmosphere.”

Gomez said he has seen people around Kent that use LGBTQ terms loosely.

“Kent State has a whole LGBTQ center,” he said. “Get educated. Choosing not to educate yourself is even more offensive then using the wrong terminology.”

At the LGBTQ center, students, faculty and staff dedicate themselves to creating and hosting programs to educate people on proper terminology to use so they don’t find themselves in a position to offended anyone.  

“Using words like this and being blatantly insensitive is the reason why we work so hard in the LGBTQ center, the word ‘queer’ still hurts people, no matter what the technical definition is,” said Katiee Matisse, program coordinator of the LGBTQ Center at Kent State.

The LGBTQ center hosts Ditlevson, Grubb Trans 101 and Safe Space Ally Training.

“I noticed that the LGBTQ community keep growing in terms of identification,” said Bianca Davis, junior journalism major. “As an African-American woman, I’m quick to get offended by things said to me. I have a lot of gay and bisexual friends so I took it upon myself to go to ally training so I can never offend them.”

Burgess remains hopeful that homophobia in the black community will eventually wither out.

“Offset said a stupid thing,” Burgess said. “I have faith in our black men, though. I know one day we can and will escape the homophobia centred around the black community.”

Erica Carter is the diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected].