“Queer” has long been used as a term of insult for lesbians and gay men, but by the late 1980s, it was undergoing a re-appropriation within “queer cultures.” Re-appropriation is a political strategy that entails reclaiming and transforming the meanings associated with injurious terms. In the context of queer theory, “to queer” means to disrupt or make something “strange,” twisting or unsettling meanings, pushing the invisible into the spotlight. These techniques are seen to have the potential to transform normative (taken-for-granted) assumptions, and have been widely used to challenge assumptions about sexuality and gender.
Within queer theory, an original focus was on unsettling the taken-for-granted assumption about the relationship between gender and sexuality. An everyday example of this is when lesbians are asked “which one of you is the man?” Here, the entrenched belief is that sexual relationships require a binary division in gender (masculine/feminine –...
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