This article is the second in a series of two articles, intending to help answer the questions about best practices when using terms such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. Read the first installment here.
We last left you, dear reader, with the burning questions about our choice to add the ‘Q’ into ‘LGBTQ’ in our second book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography.
What’s that you say? Queer! Queer? How can you use that term? Isn’t that offensive? Doesn’t the ‘Q’ in ‘LGBTQ’ mean ‘questioning?’
Yes, we said Q as in ‘queer.’ Yes, it can be offensive. And, yes, Q can mean ‘questioning.’ Which brings us back to how complex this topic can be and how important it is to have these conversations, to get in tune with the terms that the LGBTQ community is using, and to better understand how individuals and couples–your prospective clients–identify.
What we want you to understand is why we have added the ‘Q’ to our ‘LGBT’ and why this can make a difference.
While we agree that use of the word ‘queer’ can be offensive and should be used selectively in the course of your conversations as a professional photographer or in writing your marketing materials, it is important to note that its inclusion can be helpful to many couples who are largely ignored, frequently misunderstood and generally under-served. And these would be the couples who don’t quite fit in any box and don’t really want to. They often refer to themselves as being ‘queer-identified’ because it’s the most comfortable and/or descriptive way for them to categorize their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity (which, by the way, are two totally different things).
So, yes, I guess you could say that ‘queer’ is the new ‘gay.’
See? It gets complicated quickly, doesn’t it?!
Even so understanding this is important! If you want to be inclusive of the LGBT community, then try to be as inclusive and descriptive as possible — and this, to us, means including that “Q.” Because ultimately, these days, at least according to the diversity of identities and orientations that are embraced within what we used to call the “gay community” and now call the “LGBT” or “LGBTQ” community, queer is the most inclusive, single descriptor for the entire community. So, yes, I guess you could say that ‘queer’ is the new ‘gay.’
For example, I identify as ‘lesbian,’ and often call myself ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’ (in that old, inclusive use of the word). I know that the word ‘queer’ is descriptive of my sexual orientation (as it’s a broad term for the entire non-heterosexual, non-transgender community), but it’s not a word I use to describe myself. When I see it used, however, I understand some subtleties of the approach and awareness of our community the user has.
Even with understanding the generalities presented here, I hope that you’ll dig deeper to learn more about sexual orientation, gender identity and the related use and politics of language. I hope you’ll be respectful of all of your prospective clients and how they might identify. And, I hope that you’ll remember that, generally speaking, using the term ‘same-sex weddings’ or ‘same-sex couples’ is the best practice for referring to any wedding of any couple that presents as two persons of the same gender.
Photo credit: Weddings to the People