The “Q” in the LGBTQ+ acronym stands for queer. Previously used as a slur against the gay community, it is important for us to understand the definition of this word and learn how to use it appropriately. 

Throughout LGBTQ+ history, homophobic groups often used the term “queer” to portray gay individuals negatively. Currently, some members of the gay community have reclaimed the word to describe sexual orientations or gender identities other than heterosexual and cisgender. Additionally, others may use “queer” because their sexuality or identity is too complex to fit into current labels. Technically, all LGBTQ+ members could identify as queer, but not everyone chooses to do so. Some still feel residual hurt from the harsh uses of this word in their past. Due to this, allies should be careful and considerate about their usage of this word. Never call a gay coworker queer unless they have given you permission to refer to them with this term. When in casual conversation, avoid using the term “queer” and instead use words like LGBTQ+ or gay. 

By learning about this term, we gain a deeper understanding of the gay community and its historical challenges. While newer generations have reclaimed the word “queer,” there is still a high chance that this word may elicit anxiety or fear in other LGBTQ+ members. We must do our best to be inclusive of both groups by being compassionate and considerate with our language. However, with this new knowledge, we can better communicate with coworkers who may identify as queer and foster a sense of support and inclusion.


Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company. Her mission is providing guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within their organization. Through keynote speeches, training programs and executive coaching, Dima has empowered thousands of professionals across the globe to expand their leadership potential. For more information, visit and