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A friend of mine has a daughter who is a lesbian. Lately, when she refers to her daughter and her daughter’s friends, she uses the word “queer.” This makes me uncomfortable, since I always thought that was a really offensive word. What’s the story?

Dear Confused,

I’m very glad that you’ve asked this question since it’s something that many people wonder about these days. You are correct that the word “queer” used to be considered very offensive and some folks still find it so. However, younger people often use the word as a way of taking control of it and not allowing it to be used against them. In addition, many people feel that this is an “umbrella” term that encompasses the greatest number of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, especially people who don’t see sexuality as binary – either male or female – and want a different way of speaking about people who understand their gender orientation and sexual attraction as fluid. Sometimes, whether or not a word is offensive depends on who is speaking and who is listening. You would be best served to be careful and thoughtful should you decide to use this word.

There are other terms in use by and about the LGBTQ community that might be new to you. It’s always a good idea to seek information when you aren’t sure. You can gain access to a list of terminology by visiting and clicking on the coming out guide or by visiting GLAAD at

Thanks for your interest and sensitivity,