“Queer” tops vote at Transport For London’s panel event on the ways in which language surrounding identity is shifting

BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS

This February, Transport For London (TfL) held their LGBT History Month event with TfL staff network group, OUTbound.

Consisting of a panel opening up the “hot topic” discussion on the ways language used within the LGBTQI community has changed in recent years, I went along and – quite literally – threw myself in at the deep end as a guest panel member.

I was joined on the panel by Hannah Wood and Philip Hewson of TfL, along with Moud Goba, a Zimbabwean lesbian, refugee and founding member of UK Black Pride. 

The evening proved to be an emotive one, sparking important and relevant conversations… 

To kick off, we were provided with prompts to get us thinking about our favourite and least favourite LGBTQI terms. 

For me, that meant sharing my experiences of growing up in a small working class town where LGBTQI terms were most often used in a derogatory way to both differentiate and degrade. 

The audience seemed to be in agreement that often, the terms we use with pride now, are words we at one time found to be triggering or harmful – perhaps before we felt comfortable with our own sexuality. 

Perhaps most interestingly, there seemed to be an overall consensus for the word “queer” as the favourite LGBTQI term and the one most people in the audience could identify with. 

It was held up as the “most fluid” of the terms we discussed, despite its long history as an abusive word for the community.

Still, it remains a controversial label but for most at the TfL event, reclaiming the word “queer” was a positive thing. 

Hannah Wood, fellow panel member and a TfL employee who identifies as bisexual and has a gender-queer teenager, openly shared her experiences of how people usually think she has more than one child when speaking about her child because she uses “they/them” pronouns for them.

This lead to discussion regarding whether it is necessary to identify our gender identity in everyday life at all and how that adds to the complexity of LGBTQI language. 

As we began to wrap the evening up, many agreed it would be wonderful to get to a point where we no longer need labels, but for now, the audience agreed we still need that language-led visibility to achieve total acceptance. 

In a community saturated with new words, phrases and labels and in which the meanings and uses of words are often blurred or misunderstood, it was wonderful to be invited to take part in such an important discussion.

The takeaway message? We need to keep having these discussions until they’re no longer needed.

For more on TfL’s staff network OUTbound click here.

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