'Queer' is a contentious word. I'm a fan of it--I refer to myself as queer on a regular basis--but not everyone is, because for some people it's a slur and it always will be. Which is awkward mostly because it's the only word we've got right now that isn't an acronym (or worse, an initialism) for trying to collectively refer to the many demographics that aren't heterocis. LGBTTQIAP+. QUILTBAG. What's we're getting at is basically:
- Homosexual (comprising lesbian and gay, but there's never an H in these things)
- Bisexual (hello!)
- Pansexual (neither identical to nor exclusive of bisexuality)
- Asexual (encompassing a whole spectrum of grey/demi variations)
- (also any of the above can have '-romantic' swapped in for '-sexual' for finer delineations)
- Trans (without the asterisk, for several reasons)
- Genderfluid/genderqueer (these are both themselves big umbrellas)
- Two-spirit (all across North America)
- Intersex (which is related but in many ways very different from these other things, which is part of what I'm getting at here)
I would not call a person 'queer' if I don't know if they reject it for themselves. I wouldn't use it to refer to a group in any situation where it might sound like I was 'othering' people rather than referring to my own group. I know it's a slur--I've been getting called queer by people as an insult at least since I was eleven. (People who had no idea whether I was or not, of course, because it's intended as an insult, because who would want to be queer? Yo.) That's not the kind of thing that a person can toss around lightly. (I had a whole knife-juggling metaphor about this, like two years ago.)
But I claim 'queer' for myself, and I do tend to use it for those other groups too, because that's part of the point that I'm getting at when I mash all those many different identities under one term: their problems are not separate from mine. The oppression of trans people is not some side issue I can choose to ignore because I'm cis. The right of pan people to define their identities as precisely as they want to is not something I can ignore if I want to be able to define my terms either. The existence of ace people is not something I can pretend is up for debate if I want anyone to care that bisexuality is a real identity. Queer is, for me, a matter of solidarity, and a reminder that as a white cis allosexual bi man I'm actually doing pretty well privilege-wise and there's a much bigger community that I need to listen to and support.
And it's a bit weird, isn't it, that the word I'd latch onto for this is a synonym for 'weird', but that's a reminder for me as well. I imagine most of us in one of the above demographics have heard a variation on "Oh, for a moment I forgot you were _____". The thing is, on good days, on the best days, I forget I'm queer too. I don't forget I'm bi; there are entirely too many pretty people in the world for me to forget I'm bi. But I've known I'm bi for about two years now, and I asked a guy out the other day (no luck) and I remarked to a friend afterwards that the weirdest thing about it was that it didn't feel weird at all. I don't know what anyone else in the area might have thought about a couple of dudes potentially going on a date, but as far as we were concerned, this was life as usual.
When people say to me (with blessed infrequency) "Oh, I forgot you were queer", what they're saying is "I forgot there's something weird about you". What I mean when I say I forget I'm queer is "I forgot that the way I am is considered abnormal, my identity is up for debate, and my rights are privileges to be granted by the majority". To call myself queer is to remind myself that there are two angles on my identity; one is just about who I am and the other is about how I'm treated, how I'm viewed, how society at large ranks me. One is immutable and the other is not.
If you're any of the things on that list up there, or more than one of them, or some very specific thing that doesn't have the kind of media attention cis white gay men have managed to gather, there's a good chance you've been called a special snowflake at some point. The idea here, obviously, is that marginalisation is such a rollicking good time that people declare themselves to be abnormal in order to boost their egos. So, if I'm going to talk about queer, if I'm going to talk about 'weird', then let's not leave out its obverse, because it takes a whole lot of chutzpah to take one particular body shape and one particular pattern of attraction and one particular aesthetic presentation and one particular set of pronouns and tie all those things together and declare that's normal. If you're looking for a 'special snowflake', consider the person who says that they're the only kind of person in the world that isn't 'weird'.