October 10, 2014

PFLAG National uses the letter "Q" to denote both "Queer" and "Questioning." We define these separate terms as follows:

Queer: A term used by some people—particularly youth—to describe themselves and/or their community. Reclaimed from its earlier negative use, the term is valued by some for its defiance, by some because it can be inclusive of the entire community, and by others who find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities. Traditionally a negative or pejorative term for people who are gay, “queer” is still sometimes disliked within the LGBTQ community. Due to its varying meanings, this word should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who self-identifies as queer (i.e. “My cousin identifies as genderqueer.”)

Questioning: A term used to describe those who are in a process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof. 

Many of our chapters--particularly those who work regularly with youth--are already using the "Q" in their messaging. Additionally, through research and discussion, it's become clear that many youth either identify as queer (whether their sexual orientation, gender identity, or both) or questioning (in a process of discovery about their sexuality and gender).

In order to honor this rapidly growing trend in messaging to youth and to send a message to those youth that older PFLAGers understand and respect that trend in self-identification, PFLAG National follows the lead of these already inclusive chapters and uses the single "Q" in our messaging, especially as it relates to youth.

We encourage all of our chapters to adopt this trend, and offer the following list of Frequently Asked Questions to help guide PFLAGers in their support of their local communities, especially youth, while still honoring the feelings of those who may still find the term challenging.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should I use two "Q"s, one for "queer" and one for "questioning," in my messaging?

A: No. Use only one “Q” to represent “queer or questioning,” “queer and questioning,” “queer/questioning” (i.e. LGBTQ not LGBTQQ).

Q: Who identifies as queer, and why?

A: Within the community, the term "queer" has come to mean anyone who doesn’t identify under rigid binaries of either straight/gay or male/female, an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities. The term can represent a kind of freedom and acceptance which allows space for individuality and acknowledges that each person’s sexuality and identity is distinct from every other.

Q: Who identifies as "questioning," and why?

A: Within the community, "questioning" has come to mean anyone who hasn’t yet self-defined their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or some combination of the three. Simply put: they have a feeling they might be different, but are still in a process of exploration. Using the term allows them to identify themselves as part of the community, while avoiding labels and still honoring that they are in a process of self-identification.

Q: Should I refer to all young people as queer?

A: No. The term "queer" should only be used to reference those who self-identify that way, especially because there are still those who consider the term to be hurtful or pejorative.

Q: If we are adding the “Q,” why not the “I” for intersex or the “A” for ally?

A: Many in the intersex community have shared that they don't believe they belong in the LGBTQ movement. While some "I" activists/advocates feel that intersex people have a similar history of being ignored or erased as the LGBTQ community, many feel that to add the "I" conflates two different issues: some intersex people may be LGBT, but many are young children who don't identify with any of the other distinguishers. PFLAG has always been the organization that has included parents, family members and allies together with people who identify as LGBT. There does not seem to be unanimity within the intersex community nor within the asexual community, about wanting to be included in or directly linked to the community that identifies as LGBTQ. Therefore, PFLAG, currently, is not specifically adding “I” and “A.” However, PFLAG has always welcomed everyone to be a part of the organization and will continue to do so.

Q: How can we best respect the feelings of those who still find the term "queer" offensive?

A: It is always respectful and considerate to be aware of a person’s feelings regarding terminology and labels and avoid labeling them as something with which they aren’t comfortable. To that end, the term "queer"--whether on its own or as part of another term such as "genderqueer"--should only be used to refer to someone who self-identifies that way. Then, if someone else states that they are offended by the reference, it is appropriate to explain that you are referring to that person the way they choose to refer to themselves and are, therefore, honoring that person’s own self-definition. 

For more information on the term "queer," please contact the field manager for your region, Director of Communications Liz Owen, or Director of Learning & Inclusion Jean-Marie Navetta for more information.