Queer! What do I mean? Is a person “odd” or “strange,” or am I referring to sexual orientation?
After browsing through resources on the King James and NRSV Bibles, I don’t think “queer” appears in scripture, though I’m confident there are Hebrew and Greek words easily and rightly translated to queer . . . synonyms for odd, strange, peculiar and so forth.
Nowadays it usually refers to sexual orientation. Once—I know this personally—it was only derogatory. In the early 1970s I took a road trip with my college roommate and his sister. I recall driving by a billboard advertising a company with this motto in large print: “We are fast and friendly!” I immediately said, “Or do they mean quick and queer?” All three of us laughed. Wasn’t I a funny guy? Back then, I said something biased and accusatory. Queers, queens, gays, homos, lesbos: all were “bad” people, easily ridiculed, dismissed . . .
Queer has become a positive; from a joke to a jolt of pride.
Especially as a United Methodist, I know this kind of transformation sometimes happens. When John Wesley attended Oxford in the 1700s, he developed a daily routine to strengthen his faith. This regime included prayers, tithing, study and helping others. Wesley’s peers slammed him for being a methodist because of his methodical approach to Christianity. He embraced that sarcastic comment and it became the formal name for his efforts to challenge and rejuvenate the Anglican Church.
A harsh insult evolved into a hopeful identity.