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'Queer' an assertion of our identity, say LGBT groups

in INDIA, 02/02/2014

Why would a community call itself queer? The term "queer", a symbol of identity for sexual minorities, is a word which the dictionary alludes to as 'odd' or 'strange.' The community says it has appropriated the word much the way the word 'Dalit' or 'Negro' have been used by persecuted communities to represent themselves.

After all, Martin Luther King used the term Negro- Spanish for black- a number of times in his landmark speech "I have a dream." Negro was once a term used by nineteenth century slave masters to summon their black slaves. African Americans have often used the %term Negro for themselves. Much African American spiritual songs are called Negro spirituals.

Dalit, a word that means crushed, ground and oppressed, used by social reformer Jyotirao Phule to describe outcastes on the fringes of Hindu society, is a term the community now uses as an emblem of its identity.

"For Dalits, the term is an assertion of otherness, a reiteration of the fact that they are people who have been oppressed. For the queer community, the word queer is used in irony. They are queer in the eyes of others. Any word that an oppressed group uses for itself is a word that the rest of society should acknowledge and adopt, as it is a word chosen by the community for itself," says acclaimed documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan, who has spent 14 years on his latest film on Dalits in India.

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