Explained: Queer, Questioning
'Only by speaking out can we create lasting change. And that change begins with coming out.'
By DaShanne Stokes
Two of the most popular terms used for the "Q" in LGBTQ+ acronym, Quuer and Questioning represent the non-binary nature of sexuality. The terms are also marred by debates and histories. Keep reading to get an understanding of both the terms!
When applied in an affirming manner, queer is often used as an umbrella term to describe sexual orientation or gender identity that does not conform to dominant societal norms (e.g., straight/heterosexual and cisgender).
- Straight: As a sexual orientation, heterosexuality is "an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions" to persons of the opposite sex; it "also refers to a person's sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions." Someone who is heterosexual is commonly referred to as straight.
- Along with bisexuality and homosexuality, heterosexuality is one of the three main categories of sexual orientation.
- Cisgender: Relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.
The questioning of one's sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender, or all three is a process of exploration by people who may be unsure, still exploring, or concerned about applying a social label to themselves for various reasons.
The terms queer/questioning are important because they encompass a larger number of individuals who identify as having same-sex attraction and behaviors versus self-identifying as LGB. This data underscores the importance of assessing specifics (i.e.: attraction and behavior with all individuals) rather than relying on identified labels to tell the whole story. If someone uses a word like queer to describe themselves, ask what that label means to them.
It is important to remember that sexual orientation is on a spectrum as feelings of attraction and sexual behavior may be complicated and don’t fit into traditional categories. They may also change over time.
This is a commonly asked question: Is there a certain age when people question their sexual orientation and/or gender identity?
No. People can question their sexual orientation and/or gender identity at any point in their life. It is essential to validate someone’s identity, no matter their age or how they previously identified.
Also, while we have introduced terms to describe attraction/behavior, be careful not to force a label on anyone.
Individuals who do not identify themselves as male, female, transgender, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or feel their sexuality is fluid, may refer to themselves as gender neutral, genderqueer, non-binary, or agender.
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