Q U E E R: history, politics, & reclamation | video essay

Hi, I’m Ashton and today I want to share
with you a slightly experimental makeup look, as well as my first actual video essay! It’s on a topic that I find really really
interesting to explore, and I did a shit ton of research and a shit ton of scriptwriting
to create this for your guys, and also for myself cause I’m interested in it. Before I get started I wanted to mention that
all of my sources and any media I reference will be included, linked in the description
chapter by chapter. So if you wanna check that out, I highly encourage you to And with all that being said, I really hope
all of you enjoy watching this as much as I enjoyed creating it. (V.O.) Queer: history, politics, and reclamation. A video essay by me! Chapter one – a definition and etymology:
Queer is a word that hasn’t always been used the way it is today, as is the nature
of language. It first appeared in the English lexicon in
the early 16th century, likely from the German word “quer,” meaning “oblique or perverse.” In English, it means essentially the same
thing: “differing in some way from what is usual or normal: odd, strange, or weird,”
according to Merriam-Webster. It was popularized with the northern colloquialism
“there’s nowt so queer as folk,” as well as many other phrases like “up queer
street.” Also according to Merriam-Webster, queer is
sometimes disparaging & offensive towards people who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. But how did it come to mean that, and is it
still that negatively charged? That’s what I would like to discuss today,
but first, I believe I should provide you with …… Chapter two – a concession:
Personally, I do identify as queer. My queerness, while not completely encompassing
who I am, is a large part of me. My gender is complex and my orientation can
be hard to explain, so calling myself queer is an easy, comfortable way of expressing
that my existence goes against the cisheteronormative mould. It’s one word for what might otherwise take
a paragraph. It allows me to claim one identity — queer
— and that gives me freedom. When I call myself queer, I am not obligated
to explain my gender or my transition or my coming out to anyone. I don’t have to detail my demisexuality,
why I prefer being called pansexual over bisexual, or describe how fucking my boyfriend is gay,
even though I’m trans. Using the label queer allows me to embrace
all of that for myself, but it gives me the option of explaining it to others. Allowing myself to be unapologetically queer
puts me in danger, but it gives me a level of personal freedom that I am willing to fight
tooth and nail for. I love being queer. I love queercore music, and I love reading
and discussing queer theory, I love bonding with others who see queerness in similar ways
that I do. I’m pretty clearly – or, queerly, if you
will, – not someone that goes with the grain on a presentation level, or even on a political
or philosophical level. My queer identity feels like something that
reflects that. For me, it’s a celebration of the radical
history of the reclamation of queer, as well as an identity that makes me feel powerful,
comfortable, and like myself. That said, not every LGBTQ+ person is comfortable
with being called queer, and I believe that is equally as important to recognize. Not everyone knows about the impactful history
of the word’s usage – it’s not something taught in history classes or even something
celebrated widely online. But before we take our little deep dive into
that history, I want to discuss what makes a slur a slur. Chapter three – what is a slur? A slur is any pejorative term that’s used
in a tangibly negative way and is usually targeted towards a specific group, such as
Romani people, black people, gay people, etc. Slurs are also often used in tandem with physical
violence in order to further marginalize already oppressed classes. Let’s take one of the most notorious slurs
as an example of how this dynamic works. The n-word, historically used towards enslaved
black people, is a word that holds a lot of power. Even today, when the n-word is used by non-black
people, it still carries a lot of weight. Non-black people shouldn’t use the n-word,
and at this point that’s a pretty commonly accepted theme among the majority of people
who’ve ever talked to a black person. The violence and bigotry that the n-word carries
with it, though, isn’t something I’m intimately familiar with, and isn’t mine to explain. I’d recommend you seek out content by black
creators on that topic instead of listening to me. For a starting point, I’ve linked some videos,
articles, and people in the description that I’ve learned a lot from. Of course, there’s a larger discussion to
be had about what truly makes a slur a tool of oppression, but that’s a whole other
video essay. The way I and many others see it, it has to
do with power relations and larger systemic issues. This is why words like the n-word, the b-word,
and the g-word are widely considered slurs, but something like cracker, which is used
towards the oppressive class, isn’t. White people have oppressive power, so words
that could in theory be used against us don’t really hold much weight. In a similar vein, straight and cisgender
people have oppressive power over those that aren’t that. When queers like me joke about cishets being
“heteros” or “breeders,” we aren’t using those words as slurs because cishets
are not oppressed for being cishets. If I were to kick a homeless person because
of their lack of wealth, that’d be classism. But y’know, if I were to kick Jeff Bezos
because of his wealth, that’d be praxis. My point is, there’s a difference between
making jokes about an oppressive class and making jokes about an oppressed class. The latter can result in real-life consequences
like increased violence, and an increasing comfort with bigotry that’s already present. Slurs that look down on an oppressed class,
even when they’re used in a mislead attempt at a joke, can do damage. So long story short, the power that comes
with a slur isn’t just because of that word, it’s becuase of the history and the violence
and the power dynamics behind that word. So for the purposes of this video, the definition
I am using for a slur is “a pejorative meant to negatively target a particular group.” With all of that covered, I think it’s about
time to move on to what makes queer a slur. IV – queer as a slur
Queer is a word that targets anybody who isn’t cisgender and/or heterosexual. Some people argue that it’s only a slur
used towards people attracted to their own gender, but I believe it extends to gender
variance as well. Unlike the t-slur or the f-slur, people that
use queer don’t really give a second thought as to who they’re targeting. Queer isn’t used specifically towards gay
men or bi men or lesbians or bi women or trans people or gender-non-conforming people. Rather, it’s hurled at anyone who doesn’t
fit the cis- and heteronormative mould. It’s not meant to demean anybody in particular
in the LGBT community, it’s only meant to demean anybody who doesn’t fit the cishet
standard. And that’s literally anyone in the LGBT+
community. The first recorded use of the word queer as
a slur was in 1894, thanks to the Scottish gentleman known as John Sholto Douglas, the
Marquees of Queensbury. It’s quite the story. The Marquees had two sons, and one, Francis,
had a love affair with the man he was working for. Unfortunately Francis also died early due
to an unknown cause. The Marquees, knowing of Francis’ gay affair,
wrote to his other son, Alfred. His letter referred to the late Francis’
boyfriend as a “snob queer.” Unbeknownst to the Marquees, however, Alfred
was ALSO involved in a gay relationship. Alfred exchanged extremely romantic and occasionally
steamy love letters with Oscar Wilde, who’s a notable writer, anarcho-socialist, and of
course, a gay. “Write me a line and take all my love — now
and forever. Always, and with devotion — but I have no
words for how I love you.” “l want to see you. It is really absurd. I can’t live without you… I think of you all day long, and miss your
grace, your boyish beauty, the bright sword-play of your wit, the delicate fancy of your genius,
so surprising always in its sudden swallow-flights towards north and south, towards sun and moon
— and, above all, yourself.” “you must not make scenes with me — they
kill me — they wreck the loveliness of life — I cannot see you, so Greek and gracious,
distorted with passion; I cannot listen to your curved lips saying hideous things to
me — don’t do it — you break my heart” That’s pretty damn gay if you ask me. As I was saying, the Marquees of Queensbury,
who was so outraged and disgusted by homosexuality that he not only introduced a brand-new slur
but also hunted down Oscar Wilde to imprison him… had two gay sons. After that, queer worked its way into the
English lexicon as a slur for those who like their own gender, but not very quickly. Remember, the internet didn’t exist in this
time, so fun new pejoratives didn’t spread then as quickly as they might today. Now, it is difficult to properly track the
usage of the word queer through this time. A lot of queer history is oral or underground,
and it’s very very rarely touted in history classes as an important part of our past. Seriously — when we had our little ”socio-political
and/or civil rights movements” unit in my 11th-grade history class, we had an assignment
to write about any movement of our choosing, either from a provided list or something we
got approved by the teacher. So I asked if I could write about the Stonewall
Riots, and my teacher asked if I meant the Berlin Wall. I did not mean the Berlin Wall. Then again, this is the same history teacher
who thought Canada has states, so… Back to my point, queer history is hard to
track. It’s not often accessible — in doing research
for this video, I found an Artforum article from 1990 on Queer Nation, but it was pay-to-read. And I didn’t wanna cite a source that you
guys would have to pay to check for yourselves. I also attempted to look through newspaper
archives for some of the first occurrences of queer in public print, but those are also
all pay-to-read. One of my favourite feelings is when you finally
track down a good, solid primary source, but with queer history that’s oftentimes very
hard. Regardless, from what I’ve found, twenty
years after its original use as a slur in that nobleman’s letter, queer had made its
way across the ocean, appearing to describe LGBT+ people in a Los Angeles newspaper in
1914. They describe a club as… “composed of the ‘queer’ people,”
where “the ‘queer’ people have a good time” The Oxford English Dictionary also quoted
Arnold Bennett as describing “an immense reunion of art students, painters, and queer
people. Girls in fancy male costume, queer dancing…” Through the 1900s, queer became more and more
popular as a slur, used towards anyone that presented, well, queerly. Of course, queer isn’t the only word that’s
been used against LGBT+ people. Fairy, pansy, poof, sissy, bugger, fag, queer. All of those words, and more, have been used
both by and against LGBT+ people. So, with its history as a slur in mind, let’s
move on to how queer became a very-oftentimes-reclaimed slur for people in the LGBTQIA+ community. Chapter five – reclamation
One odd myth that I see floating around online from time to time is that queer is a pejorative
that was only very recently reclaimed — as in, early 2000s or 2010s, tumblr kid style. The truth is, it’s been used by queer people,
for queer people, for a long long time before that. So buckle up, buttercups, cause this is gonna
be the long part. First I do wanna address that it is difficult
to properly determine how far back queer goes in terms of reclaimation, because as I mentioned
before, much of LGBT+ history is oral or underground. Luckily though, there are many recorded instances
of the world queer before the turn of the century. George Chauncey, notable history professor
and a director of the Columbia Research Initiative on the Global History of Sexualities, has
written that queer was a self-descriptor as far back as the 1930s. I don’t know if he has primary sources or
references for this, as I’ve not read the book this discussion occurs. For reference, the book is Gay New York: Gender,
Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, and it is by George Chauncey. Considering how reputable the author is, I
am relatively willing to take his word for it that gay men in the 1930s used queer to
describe themselves. The point is that even in the early 1900s,
queer was used as a self-descriptor by queer people. One recorded example of this is Gertrude Stein,
a notable modernist poet, playwright, and novelist who also happened to love women. Q.E.D. was published in 1950 after Stein’s
death, but she completed it in 1903 and it’s known as one of the first coming out stories. It’s a novel about a lesbian love affair
that’s based on Stein’s own life, and it includes queer as a self-descriptor, even
though it was written in the really really early 1900s. “You are queer and interesting, even if
you don’t know it.” “She is queer and will interest you, and
you are queer and will interest her.” Stein was also a Nazi sympathizer, so I wouldn’t
necessarily recommend taking her on as your queer icon. But she is also dead, if that provides any
closure. One prominent community where queer has been
reclaimed for a long time is the queercore scene. Birthed from the wider counterculture of punk,
queercore is a niche genre composed of angry, queer punks, fanzines, feminism, D.I.Y. culture,
and of course, music. G.B. Jones and Bruce LaBruce’s zine J.D.s
originated in Ontario in 1985 and is commonly credited with kicking off the queercore movement,
originally giving it the name of “homocore.” LaBruce and Jones later renamed the movement
queercore to reflect the growing gender and sexual diversity within the movement, as they
believed queer was a term that could include more LGBT+ people than the prefix “homo”
could. Their zine highlighted songs with queer themes,
featured photos of beautiful men and leather, and encouraged punk groups to create more
music centred on the queer experience. Outpunk also originated as a zine and actually
developed into a short-lived record label that introduced many queercore groups into
the scene, and its creator Matt Wobensmith also worked to combat homophobia within punk
rock. It was for a time considered a pillar of the
queercore scene. Of course, queercore has its fair share of
music. Pansy Division, Tribe 8, and Limp Wrist are
a few of my favourite older groups that feature queer-focused lyrics and band members. It’s a genre that’s still going strong
with dozens of musical groups that may be considered a more modern version of queercore. Some of my personal favourites include Against
Me!, The Butchies, Hunx and His Punx, G.L.O.S.S., and the Dog Park Dissidents. If you want some song or album recommendations
too, hit me up. It’s not just queercore, though. “Queer” is a word that’s been tied with
leftist politics, activism, and direct action for quite some time. When I asked my followers about their feelings
about the word, I wasn’t the only one who associated the word with radicalism. The embrace of radical queerness is something
that’s given “queer” a very heavy leftist connotation compared to themore liberal or
centrist or even conservative usage of LGBT+. When LGBT+ issues became more of a mainstream
discussion, some people, especially white cisgender gay men, seemed to forget about
the movement’s radical roots, like, yknow, throwing bricks at cops. Some offshoots of LGBT+ activism, or, let’s
be honest, LG activism, became assimilationist movements. A lot of these white, cis gays fought for
marriage equality, inclusion in the military, adoption rights, which on the surface all
seem great, but in the end it’ll only serve to integrate LGBT+ people into “normal”
society and make us another cog in the capitalist, military-industrial complex, white-picket-fence
machine. As this branch of assimilationsim became more
and more mainstream, more leftist people began embracing the label of queer more and more
to differentiate themselves from the assimilationist side — as the Dog Park Dissidents so eloquently
put it, Seriously, the song is a bop, but the lyrics
also have some really solid anti-assimilationist messages. And it points to one of the reasons why I
personally love using queer: the word inherently has a sense of rebellion. It’s in the defenition. Queer is not normal, it’s odd, it’s out
of place, and that might not reaonate with all LGBT+ people, but for me it does. Calling myself queer, I acknowledge that my
existence is outside of the cis and heteronormative standard. And for me, that’s far more fulfilling than
having 2.5 kids behind a white picket fence. At the end of the day, pushing for surface-level
LGBT+ rights can be productive, but it’s still extremely surface-level. Giving women voting rights didn’t end sexism. Ending slavery and ending jim crow laws didn’t
end racism. Social security didn’t end classism. Similarly, marriage equality won’t end homophobia,
and trans rights will not end transphobia. Of course, I’d prefer legal protection to
lack of it, but legal equality is not and never has been an effective placeholder for
liberation. Speaking of liberation, let’s get back to
another early uaage of reclaimation of queer. In 1990, Queer Nation was born out of increasing
anti-gay violence. They’re a direct action group that fights
homophobic violence, and are one of the first recorded radical and purposeful reclamations
of the word “queer.” In their own words, “yes, ‘gay’ is great. It has its place. But when a lot of lesbians and gay men wake
up in the morning we feel angry and disgusted, not gay. So we’ve chosen to call ourselves queer. Using ‘queer’ is a way of reminding us
how we are perceived by the rest of the world.” They’re also the parents of the now-popular
and often-parodied cry of “we’re here! we’re queer! get over it!” Queer Nation reenforced the radical liberation
aspect of queerness that some people had forgotten. Leftism, specifically anarchism, and queerness
are undoubtedly tied together. Birthed from queercore and anarchism, queer
anarchism or anarcha-queer is an anarchist school of thought that values revolution and
anarchy as paths to queer liberation. There were and are many direct action groups
that’re based on the ideas of anarcha-queerness — there was Queer Mutiny, a UK-based anarcho-syndicalist
collective focused on self-defense, queer prescence, and DIY. There was also the Queer insurrection and
liberation army of syria, a revolutionary subunit focused on combatting the anti-lgbt
violence of ISIL, or ISIS. Then there’s Queer Fist out of NYC, another
radical group who protested using the chant “We’re here! We’re queer! We’re fabulous! Don’t fuck with us!” Which is not only a fucking iconic slogan,
but an obvious reference to Queer Nation’s rally cry as well. They focus on not only anti-capitalism and
political activism, but also on anti-assimilationist activism, speaking out against groups like
the HRC and gay republican groups — yes, those exist. That’s just a few of the radical organizations
that use queerness not only in their platforms, but in their names. Stepping aside from leftism, queer is also,
simply put, a really convenient word. It encompasses anyone that may be under the
giant LGBTQ+ umbrella – not just the Ls, the Bs, and the Gs, but orientations like pansexuality,
asexuality, aromanticism, polysexuality, abrosexuality, etc. On top of that, although transgender is an
umbrella term, many trans people aren’t just trans men or trans women – genderfluid,
genderqueer, demigender, genderflux, third gender, agender, and other nonbinary identities
exist under the LGBT+ acronym that’re all just smushed into the plus. Queer is helpful in this case because it removes
the hierarchy that inherently comes with an acronym that ends in a plus sign. That “plus” is an effective way to show
that other orientations and genders are under the LGBT+ label, but it’s pretty clear which
ones are seen as the most prominent — it’s the four at the beginning of the acronym,
which is also often used without a plus sign. Gay people aren’t inherently more lgbtq+
than nonbinary people, but it may seem that way when gay is in the acronym and nonbinary
isn’t. Using “queer” instead avoids that really
easily. This convenience is often put into practice
in academia too: “queer theory” and “queer studies” sound a heck of a lot better than
“LGBT+ theory or LGBT+ studies.” The title of this book (queer poets of colour)
would be a lot less pretty if it included an acronym, and the editor even agknowledges
that in the introduction. Of course, aesthetics and convenience are
kinda shallow reasons to reclaim a slur, but who says we need a reason? If calling ourselves queer makes queer people
feel powerful, then why do we need to justify it any further than that? An expression of this that I quite liked is
given by Peter Ackroyd in Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day. He begins the book by acknowledging his use
of the word queer and explaining why he uses it. “The use of the word ‘queer’ signifies
defiance and a refusal to use Karl-Maria Benkert’s clinical neologism — homosexuality. ‘Queer’ can also be constructed as being
beyond gender. It is an accommodating term, and will be used
as such in this study… So queer people stream out of space and time,
each with his or her own story of difference. Some may consider this to be a queer narrative,
therefore, but the queerer the better.” LGBT+ people have been reclaiming the word
“queer” has been used by LGBT+ people for nearly 90 years, and possibly longer. Yes, it’s been used in a derogatory way,
but so has gay, and nobody seems to have an issue with that as a word for communities. I’ve been called gay as an insult a million
times more than I’ve been called “queer.” I’ve been called a faggot in the men’s
bathroom a dozen times, but I’ve never heard “queer” in that setting. However, that’s just my perspective – and
I’m young. Other LGBT+ people sometimes don’t like
being called queer. It may have to do with internalized homophobia,
lack of knowledge of the word’s history, personal trauma surrounding the use of the
word as a slur, or just a feeling of disconnect from the label as a whole. Let’s explore that side for a while. Chapter six – the arguments against reclamation
It’s important to acknowledge that because not everyone in the LGBT+ community is comfortable
being called queer, we probably shouldn’t use the term “queer” as a catchall. One demographic that seems to be not as into
the “queer” label is older LGBT+ people. This is pretty understandable. Queer is kinda antiquated, as slurs go, and
it’s so much more trendy to call your local gay a faggot. There are people fifty years ago, twenty-five
years ago, even today that use it in a negative light. And older gay people likely have much more
experience with queer used as a slur than I do. Some of them are on-board with its reclamation,
but others aren’t so happy about it. For example, James Peron wrote an article
for the Huffington Post when they changed their “gay voices” section to “queer
voices.” Peron states: “I don’t find the use of
the term liberating. I find it traumatic. Maybe if my life experiences were those of
the younger team members who run this page, I’d get some cheap thrill out of using the
term. I don’t. I just relive a lot of suffering because of
it. It is part of who I am; I can’t change what
I experienced.” The whole article is in a similarly condescending
tone. Peron is gay, not queer, and he wants you
to respect that. Valid. Here’s the thing. When I use sources, I like to look into them. Especially when I’m using articles, I need
to look into the author to make sure it’s credible. And James Peron… allow me to take a little
tangent. He’s written for Huffington Post as well
as a few other places, and he’s the self-proclaimed president of the Moorfield Storey Institute. There’s next to nothing about this institute
online, despite Peron claiming it as a nonprofit that’s “in the process” of getting a
501(c) status. I also feel it’s significant to point out
that he’s very intent on letting you know he’s a libertarian. Libertarians are about 70% white, and judging
by the two pictures of who i assume to be Peron online, the man is very caucasian. Now, I only bring this up because, in the
article about why he finds “queer” traumatic, he uses the n-word. And I’m just not too sure how much I value
a white libertarian man’s view on slurs when he clearly has no issue typing out and
publishing a slur that’s derogatory towards a marginalized group that he simply isn’t
a part of. At first, I didn’t want to talk about this
guy because of all that, but when you look for testimonials or articles or any research
opposing the adoption of “queer” into more mainstream use, I always found Peron’s
piece on the first page of search results. Therefore, I felt I should address his argument
and point out both his apparent lack of credibility and his logical inconsistency. Let’s move on to Mark Segal. He is a much more reputable gay person, he
was at stonewall and was one of the original creators of the gay liberation front. He’s another activist that’s been relatively
outspoken about his mized feelings on the word “queer.” He’s also a pioneer in gay media and founded
Philidelphia Gay News, and I find this isrelevant because someone who works in a media/journalism
setting likely has a lot of experience with language and how it impacts people. In Feburary 2016, also in reaction to Huffington
Post changing “gay voices” to “queer voices”, he published an article entitled
“the problem with the word queer” in response to Huffington Posts’s renamed “queer voices”
section. While I don’t agree with all of Segal’s
points, I did like this part of the article: “Maybe we should attempt to solve some of
the hard-core issues in our community rather than spending time debating semantics. While all individuals have the right to identify
with whatever term or image they wish for themselves, and that should be respected…
if you spend any capital or time on this, you’re ignoring issues such as homelessness,
poverty, employment discrimination, the need for housing to protect our seniors, and anti-trans
violence.” While I agree with the sentiment that semantics
are the least of the LGBT+ community’s worries, I still think it’s important to address
where the discussion of “is queer okay to reclaim?” comes from. I find that discussions about whether or not
it’s okay to reclaim queer happen more often in liberal spaces than leftist ones. And leftist groups, like the five I mentioned
earlier, tend to do the actual work with housing and discrimination and all of the things that
Segal is arguing we need to be focusing on. I’m not saying there’s a correlation,
but I do think it’s an interesting pattern. And I suppose that’s part of why I wanted
to make this video in the first palce: to expose more people to the rad and radical
history of the usage of queer. When people are more open to using that sort
of radical language, I’d imagine they’d be a lot more likely to join groups that use
that type of language that may be more productive in mutual aid and setting up shelters and
doing anti-fascist work. So yes, there are more productive things we
could be doing, but I don’t think that means we shouldn’t be discussing the semantics,
politics, and reclamation of slurs, especially when they’re polarizing within the community. It can be an interesting and engaging discussion,
and sometimes that’s what you need to feel comfortable with a word that’ll allow you
some self-empowerment. What’s also interesting is that a bit over
a year after this article, Segal published another article that used “queer community”
in its headline. Maybe he has less reservations about its use
now. Over the course of writing this video, I also
made an effort to talk to as many Ls, Gs, Bs, and Ts I could find that weren’t comfortable
with the usage of queer. What I found was that the vast majority of
them don’t dislike the word purely because it is a slur. They may even be aware of the radical politics
behind it. But what they do know is that the word has
been used against them, personally. And that’s what matters to them. The other common response that I got was that
they don’t nececarily dislike the word, but they weren’t as comfortable with it
as they were with gay, bisexual, or trans. Queer simply doesn’t fit who they see themselves
as, and that’s okay too. And I understand that too — while more radical
people like myself don’t really understand the desire to even come close to assimilating,
that’s all some people want. To be normal. To be accepted. Not out of the norm, not queer. So, what have we learned? chapter seven – THE CONCLUSION
For me, using queer to describe myself is empowering. I like making a word that’s been used against
me into a positive and powerful thing. I connect with its radical roots, the music
of queercore, and the politics of queer nation. However, not everyone feels that way, and
I don’t think it’s my place to tell them how to feel. As great of a word queer is for me, others
still need their space from it. And that’s alright. LGBT+ people aren’t a monolith. And unless I know that everyone I’m referring
to is alright with being called queer, I’m still gonna make an effort to avoid using
it as a catchall. For now, while not 100% of LGBT+ people are
comfortable with it, it’s a word I’ll keep to myself. I’m here, I’m queer, and you’ll have
to get over that. But if you’re not a cishet, and you’re
here but not queer, then I’ll have to get over that too. All in all, self-determination is something
I’ll always fight for. I believe that individuals should have autonomy
over their own bodies, and by extension, the labels that’re used for them. While queer may be a comfortable word for
me and many other radicals within the LGBT+ community, the truth is, it’s just not comfortable
for everybody yet, and it may never be. Sure, saying LGBT+ takes a little more time
than being queer, it gets easier with practice, and at the end of the day, I would rather
have a little bit of a toungue twister that includes everybody than have a word that makes
some people feel alienated. So, if you wanna reclaim the word for yourself,
you should feel more than welcome to, but don’t force it on other people if they’re
not okay with it yet. You can embrace its radical history as much
as you want to, and I would highly encourage you to look more into it if you’re super
interested like I am. But, if the community isn’t ready for it
to be a community word, then I don’t think it needs to be. That’s it! That’s the whole video, I finished, that’s
it, I’m done! You watched the whole thing! Oh my god, you’re still here, thank you! I really hope that you enjoyed it, and I feel
like you can tell how excited I am. I just finished filming all of this, and now
I just have to edit and upload and do all the metadata but, that’s the easy part. I mean, editing’s not the easy part, but
filming and writing was the hard part and that’s done and I’m so proud of myself. If you liked this format of video or if you
have thoughts on anything that I talked about, please let me know. I would love to hear all of your feedback,
positive or constructive. Yeah, I worked really hard on this and I hope
you guys appreciate it. And i think that is all! Thanks for watching even after that little
black screen you just saw. Goodbye, I hope you learned something or were
interested in this format or this new like, thing that I’m trying out, I don’t know,
we’ll see, and I’ll talk to you later maybe!

Comments 57

  • I’m stoked for this

  • Oml awesome makeup u look beautiful! (1st comment)

  • I've been waiting for this video since you talked about it in your Dan Howell's video!

  • Crikey this must have taken some effort! Ton of sources! I don’t choose to reclaim it (as in I don’t call myself queer), but if I’m in a group of LGBT+ people and someone says something like “we’re just a bunch of queers trying to live our best life” I won’t get offended if I am part of a self-reclaimed queer group. However, I don’t like how queer sounds, both in its historical context and I think it just sounds (to me at least) an ugly word, I just am not fond so I don’t choose to use it for myself. I don’t think people should call specific people queer, or groups they are not part of queer (especially if they are not LGBT+), obviously it’s fine to call people queer if they have given their expressed permission. So yeah, that’s my view. Great video.

  • was this video just an elaborate excuse for me to talk about queercore? maybe. but i hope you all enjoy it anyway lmao 💜

  • i didnt know that about the gay brothers and honestly that story is ICONIC
    also i was dying the whole time at your dramatic reading of the letter omg

  • I absolutely love this video! Thank you for all the education 🙂

  • I’m very excited for this video especially because you used a book about queer poc for reference. I’m stoked

  • Hey Ashton! I loved this video and I totally agree with the end message/conclusion of your video. I love learning about lgbt+ history and this video was so well done! I know it was a lot of research and time but maybe one day it’d be cool to see another video like this💓 as for me and my relationship with the word queer, I’m kind of indifferent to it. I don’t personally use it because it doesn’t click for me, but I don’t have bad feelings around the word as I’m someone who has lucky enough not to have traumatic memories with that word. I will say that I don’t mind if I’m called queer or in a group included in that word, it’s just not a personal thing I use for myself.

  • This was lovely and so well made! Thank you for giving this to all of us.

  • THIS IS SO GOOD ASHTON!!!!! you did such a great job, i loved the format, you explained everything really well, and definitely taught me some things! also the makeup is awesome

  • ONLY 5 MINUTES IN AND I LOVE IT🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈💕💕💕💕

  • you radicalize me more and more with every video and honestly i don't complain, great job

  • god those letters are so damn tender


  • Ooh I have been waiting for this for a long time! I’ve only been able to watch half of it before leaving for uni but I’ll watch the rest soon! So far it’s so damn good, I love the little dramatic reading cutaway things you’ve been doing

  • I absolutely love this video. I identify as a non-binary trans man, and I’m also gay, so I choose to just say queer to sum that all up. I feel close to the word queer, and I like to describe myself as such because it resonates with me. However, it is important for those of us who claim queer as an identity or label to be respectful of others who do not feel described by queer, thus not using it to widely label people who do not wish to fall under that descriptor. I learned so much from this video. Thanks for creating such a lovely video essay Ashton!

  • firstly i'd like to say that your makeup is beautiful and you made a good choice doing it like that!
    secondly, this video is so amazingly written. i'd been waiting for it and it is not disappointing. you spoke so perfectly and it never got boring.
    your videos encourage me and give me more energy and motivation to fight for my rights (i aspire to be an activist) and they remind me that i can transition and that i have hope.
    thank you.

    edit: i'd like to add that i love using the word queer to describe myself. it has always given me a warm feeling and i like that i can give myself that word. (queer for my sexuality and also for the way i present myself as a gender noncomforming trans guy)

  • I've finally finished watching the video and I loved it! I specially liked the part at the start in which you talked about why you personally identified with the word queer, I related a lot. I also feel like my sexual orientation, my romantic orientation and my gender are very complicated and hard to encapsulate in just one word, so I like the word queer because it's more unspecific and vague.

    Unfortunately, I'm not from an English-speaking country (I'm from Spain), so here it's not used almost at all. I think most people in the community have heard of it, since US culture is so dominant globally (thanks imperialism), specially on the internet, but it hasn't catched on as a word people use to describe themselves, unlike "gay", which is obviously an English word but is also widely used here (it definitely sounds better than the other option, "homosexual", or than the big variety of homophohic slurs).

    It's also quite funny the contrast between what words are seen as more radical in Spanish and in English, the most radical left here in Spain is quite orthodoxically Marxist (when not Stalinist…) and they see this kind of things as some postmodernist, bourgeois, liberal nonsense. They also say that pansexuality is a biphobic and transphobic (???) term that only creates division and invisibilizes bisexuality, that acearospec and intersex people don't suffer any state-organized systematic discrimination and therefore don't belong in the community (and don't get me started on what they think about nonbinary people)… basically they believe that anything that isn't L, G, B or T is some neoliberal conspiracy. Of course this isn't universally shared by everyone on the radical left, specially not by the people that decide the policies of our main radical left political party (a Bernie Sanders-like progressive democratic socialist party polling around 14% of the vote, which here with our somewhat proportional electoral system translates to many seats in Congress), who seem to have more common sense, and of course there're many queer radical actvists who disagree, but you'll see this mindset everywhere among young radical activists and in radical left Twitter, and I find it rather frustrating, specially when a fellow LGBT+ radical person calls you a liberal or a "posmo" for disagreeing.

    Ultimately, the reason why I prefer the term "queer" to refer to the community instead of "LGBT" or "LGBT+", etc, it's because as you say it's rather awkward to use an acronym and it creates this hierarchy between the people who are "LGBT" and the people who are grouped together in the +, if we appear at all. But I also acknowledge that I may be biased since obviously here I haven't seen it used as a slur at all.

    Lastly, I have to say that I really enjoyed your video essay format and that I'd be glad to see more videos like this in the future from you (from any topic, I'm sure it'd be interesting). Love you Asthon :33

  • Could I ask for some song recommendations? I love punk music but all the bands I listen to seem to be comprised entirely of straight cis white men. I need more queerness in my music taste!

  • Fantastic video! I can’t wait to see more! Also YOU’RE the best, you queer 💙

  • oh man i was just thinking about this! im glad you touched on the usage of the word queer in anarchist spaces, compared to the lgbt+ acronym used in liberal spaces! very very interesting!! id love to hear more videos on anarchism and anarcho queer and tranarchist theory tbh, bc your view on it is really really good!

  • this was amazing ! ive found that it's hard for me to remain fully aware/interested during long videos, especially video essays, but you were fully engaging ! the substance of your video was also incredibly eloquent & well-researched !
    you did it again 🙂

  • Dude! The fact that you worked so hard for this is amazing and it turned out great! Keep on doing these things man!

  • In brazil (mostly on the internet) terfs have been using "queer" as an attempt to offend trans, specially non binary people, dismiss what we say and what we fight for. It's becoming really common for them to say they hate queers, or that queers are not welcome in their profile/lives, etc. What they really mean is that they hate trans people but it sounds less bad to say they hate queer people. It's so sad to see people using this word as a pejorative term, specially with the whole story of the lgbt community and considerimg that many of the terfs that do this are lesbians or bisexual. I wish i could make all of them watch this video

  • bless this video…… we absolutely stan

  • dude,,,,,,, ur so smart. god. intelligence 100
    also have u seen that twitter acct like "has Jeff Bezos chosen to end world hunger yet" bc it's so valid & u mentioned b*zos so https://twitter.com/hasbezosdecided?lang=en

  • damn this alfred guy is kinda cute

  • dude this is so awesome!!

  • "it's a lot more trendy to call your local gay a faggot!" KJSAKJSKJKS

  • ok sorry for commenting AGAIN but I just finished the video and WOW. dude. this is?? so good?? I can tell how much work u put into this & highkey appreciate that

  • Excellent video my dude! I LOVED it. Your super rad.

  • I would just like to say, your makeup is rad and this video is rad.

  • Absolutely love this video, very informative without being the slightest bit boring. The editing is amazing too. Thank you for making it!

  • Wait im confused whats wrong with The Human Rights Campaign?

  • It makes me so happy to see videos like this. I'm a small gay that lives with homophobic parents and went to a Christian school for my first 8 years of school even though my family isnt religious. Ive been lucky enough to not have slurs thrown at my face yet, but ive also been somewhat scared to actively search for Lgbtq+ and allies until recently. I can honestly say I'm happy i was introduced to ur channel and I hope to b as confident as u r someday

  • aaaaaa so good so good aaaaaa

  • I love how this was filmed and the parts of you reading the poetry and the acting got me dead 😂 love you Ashton ! (I also learned a lot,thank you !!!!)

  • I love how you scripted this: you're such a talented writer and I really enjoyed how you organized all the topics. I swear it would be so cool to be friends with you- also sorry I keep saying "you" since you might not get the chance to read this

  • Make up looks fantastic your a pro Ashton also the rainbow flag have you always had it or is it new

  • But how do you accomodate people who feel icky about the word queer and people who hate the hierarchy of LGBT+ and don't want to be just a plus at the end of an acronym? I will continue to use queer because either way no one will be happy and that's fine. Queer is my catch all cuz lgbt+ is a non suitable catch all for me at all.

  • I absolutely loved this! I only came to listen for a little, but you caught my attention and taught me a lot.

  • I love ❤️ this video and you look so great in your makeup and you also look so very happy and awake and upbeat & vibrant more than I actually am used to seeing you in most videos and you look so excited and fresh!!!!😁 I am also loving the content…it isn’t boring & it is very entertaining and you should make more videos like this and I really love the lighting in the video and special effects and how it is devided into chapters and it was very well edited and the content was excellent overall as well as extremely well worded and your voice was crystal clear you can literally also tell that it took you ages to plan this out and congratulations on all your hard work and endless effort and endless energy to make actually in my opinion one of the best videos I have ever experienced on your YouTube channel keep up the awesome work I love 💕 it! Please make more similar videos to this and remember you are important and an excellent person and lgbt 🏳️‍🌈 activist and you also have a huge impact and inspiration on other people’s lives who are influenced by you who are experiencing very similar stuff that you & others go through daily & to everybody out their stay strong 💪 and remember you got this and no matter what you are important and needed on this earth and you are loved if not by everyone you at least have me and Ashton that love and support you and care about you very much through whatever journey you are going through stay strong & always remember you are special and you got this this life is yours! ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜💝+

  • this was super interesting! keep up the good work name twin

  • You can be proud of yourself! This video is amazing and was so educative! I briefly looked into the history of the word queer but never as much. I knew genderqueer was radical but didnt know about queer! Now everything makes more sense! No joke this video might be my favorite of all the youtube videos i watched! So interesting and educative! Now i know more about my own identity! Thanks you 🙂
    Also i really hope for other video essays, i loved the format! But no pressure, if you don't want to make any others or need a lot of time (wich i imagine you do with all the work you put into it, researches, sources, writting, filming and editing. Oh btw the editing was extremely good!!) It's ok!
    I just want to say that i loved this video and appreciated it a lot.
    Not to be cheesy or anything but the more videos you put out, the more you become my favorite youtuber!

  • Thank you so much for making this video! I learned a lot watching it. Also, that song you included sounds pretty cool.

  • This is a great video, and so well articulated. I will probably be referring anyone who asks me why I use to word queer to this video from now on. Nice one:)

  • YES YES a video essay about queerness! With captions!! Thank you!!!

  • You are too young to be doing this to yourself. Stop. If you continue down this path you will regret it.

  • if i have to bet my money if you are boy or girl i would say boy but if i will loose it i won't be so surprise. really dont know who's who today in leftists world

  • Your looks: Not what I expected to ever see, but interesting in a good way. It works pretty well!
    (will edit after I've watched the whole video)

  • Excellent, good job

  • this was a really good video and you were really well spoken! my only critique of it was about the pelon (i forgot his name LMAO) guy from huff post being anti-reclamation, while his politics are shitty and him typing out slurs that he cannot reclaim, that doesn’t make his aversion from the q word any less valid. it’s the same reason that many other older people don’t like the usage of it and there’s no way of finding out EVERY older LGBT person’s’ stance on reclamation and personal politics, shitty or not, so it doesn’t make sense to discredit negative feelings towards it solely based on that. also just wanted to add some of us radicals do know the history of the q word and still don’t use it for ourselves! i have only had it used negatively against me a few times (not a very common slur where i live) but for me i feel like it dilutes my identity when i’d rather just come out and say i’m trans and gay. i feel like it’s thrown around everywhere and used to describe anything remotely lgbt related and make it a more ~commercial-friendly~ version of saying lgbt, especially where i live LOL, that’s just my own personal reasoning for not wanting to apply it to myself, not cause of internalized homophobia etc etc it just seems diluted now so i’d rather stick with just the hard hitting Trans And Gay, but my reasoning isn’t everyone’s feelings so it do not matter lol. love ur stuff sorry for super long comment

  • imagine bashing your gay kid to your other kid but the other kid is fucking oscar wilde. iconic.

  • yo petition for ashton to just read gay poetry. like all the time.

  • bold of you to assume that painters and poet aren't the queer people lmao

  • You touched on a really good point…

    I, and almost everyone I know of my age or younger (under 30s) had the term gay used derogatorily towards us thousands times more than we ever even heard the word queer. Does that not matter about people's usage of the word gay as the word for the gay community?

    Like, I ain't gay cause I ain't a man, but that word was used to hurt me a lot when I was hiding as a boy. But I could get how if I was a man I would personally take some time to get used to being called gay and not hearing the hate behind the word.

    Just because gay is the one that the older gen got used to doesn't mean the younger gens have to get used to gay as well. Especially given queer, unlike gay, is no longer commonly used as an insult.

    So, if we go based on actual modern use; gay is out, queer is in.

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