Who, What, and Where is Queer

Source: Daniel Shih/AFP/Getty Images

The word ‘queer’ has taken on numerous meanings and connotations throughout history. Its earliest use in the 16th century was meant to describe something as ‘weird’ or ‘odd.’ In the late 19th century, ‘queer’ was used pejoratively with a negative connotation in order to demean and insult those who engaged in same-sex relationships or defied gender norms. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the LGBTQ+ community manifested into the Gay Liberation Movement

This began the reclamation of the word ‘queer’ to be used as an umbrella term for those who lived outside heterosexual norms and gender binaries. Queerness today can be described as something that all gay, bi, trans, queer, or questioning people have in common. Many people proudly identify as queer while others many still find the word offensive due to its historical usage. Nonetheless, queerness is a part of the fabric that makes up global society. It transcends cultures and ignores borders by acting as an influential factor in political decision making. As such, queerness can drive world leaders to make certain decisions as well as to present themselves and the nation they represent in a certain way.  Whether publicly or not, the idea of queerness is present in all nations and behaves as an impactful catalyst for leaders and politicians across the globe.  

A large reason why the queer trigger point has so much gravity is because of society’s perception that queerness contrasts masculinity. It is typically men (especially male leaders) who don’t want to be seen as queer or anything in its proximity; in fear of having their masculinity questioned or challenged. This can inspire overtly masculine actions that are intended to discourage any suspicions of queerness. 

An example of this complex is seen in the Republican United States Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Numerous rumours have circulated during his political career that suggests that Senator Graham is homosexual; largely originating from the fact that he is a sixty-four-year-old man who has never married and has no children. Many analysts have cited these rumours and suspicions as reasons for Graham to support aggressive, interventionist, hawk-like foreign policy; in other words, more stereotypically masculine action. For instance, in 2002 Graham adamantly supported military action in Iraq. Moreover, in 2010 he voted for a preemptive strike on the Iranian military. Finally, he has voted against nuclear disarmament deals and has been in favour of several global scale military interventions

Throughout President Trump’s duration in office, Graham has tried to encourage the U.S. President to maintain his hawkish behaviour. While not always succeeding, Graham has pressured Trump to keep boots on the ground in several military engagements, e.g. Syria. Aggressive, hawk-like foreign policy has a masculine connotation as the social constitution of masculinity has historically been intimately linked to violence and warfare. Graham’s approach to foreign policy is perceived to have particularly strong masculine characteristics, giving a reason to believe that he is attempting to make himself seem more masculine, or alternatively, less queer. Regardless if Senator Graham is gay or not, these observations support the hypothesis that Graham is very conscious of his image and is staving off any queer suspicions. Queerness in this example acts as a political element that is unwanted as a characteristic, thus inciting aggressive, interventionist foreign policy to overcompensate for the questioning of one’s masculinity.

Wesley Swan

Team Member of Communications