Difference Between Queer and Gay

Queer vs Gay


Gay is a term used to refer to people who are attracted to people of their sex. These people are also referred to as homosexuals. In the modern world, the majority of the people belong to heterosexuality. Heterosexuals are attracted to those of the opposite sex. This can be viewed as a social construction, which is reinforced by the argument of biology. First let us understand the terms queer and gay. Though, the word gay has several meanings such as happy, bright and carefree; it has negative connotations in the modern world. Even though, there is a word known as homosexuality to refer to people engaging in sexual act with people of the same sex, given the increased incidence of homosexuality in the 20th century, the word gay has been chosen to refer to people, especially men having sexual orientation towards other men and not women. This is because, there is a word called lesbian to refer to women having sexual relationship with other women. Queer, on the other hand, can be understood as an umbrella word to refer to all sexual minorities that are not heterosexual.  This article attempts to highlight the difference between the terms gay and queer through an examination f the two terms.

What is Queer?

Queer can be defined as all encompassing term used to refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals. This is not preferred by most people as it sounds rather negative and offensive. Even before the word queer got associated with gender identity, the word was derogative in meaning, and in general referred to something or someone not usual or common. Something strange or out of alignment meant queer, and slowly but surely, the word got associated with effeminate males and males who had homosexual tendencies. It was a derogatory term used to refer to guys who were effeminate and enjoyed receptive and passive oral and anal sex with other men. Strangely, those who performed the role of penetrators were considered straight in this gender behavior. People who are considered as queer are not only discriminated, but also excluded from family circles, friends and even work places. These exclusions create an impact on such people economically, socially and even politically.

Difference Between Queer and Gay- Queer

What is Gay?

When focusing on the term gay, it is a narrower word describing same sex attraction and that too between males. This can be identified as one of the main differences between the terms queer and gay. While the term queer encompasses all sorts of nontraditional sexual behavior and tendencies such as alternative gender roles, transvestism, intersex, sex change, fetishes and so on, the term gay is limited. It is only used for males who are attracted to one another. When people want to refer to females who are attracted to one another term Lesbian is used. Another difference is that while gay has today become more of a political word, the term queer has come to denote people who do not like to be called cultural rebels. These people reject even having a cause and are living and engaging in behaviors not accepted by the society. But they are doing it, not because of any rebellion, but because they are rather indifferent to the main stream. In many societies minorities sexual identities such as gay and lesbianism are frowned upon. However, it is interesting to note that these have to be understood as sexual identities of people even though they may not be mainstream.

Difference Between Queer and Gay- Gay

What is the Difference Between Queer and Gay?

  • If we leave sexual connotations apart, we find that dictionary defines queer as strange and unusual, whereas gay means happy and bright
  • Queer is a generic or umbrella term that includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender.
  • Gay people do not like to be termed queer as they find the word rather insulting.
  • The term, gay has today become more of a political word whereas the term queer has come to denote people who do not like to be called cultural rebels.


Image Courtesy:

1.Barbara_Gittings_1965 by Kay Tobin Lahusen [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2.Gay_Rights_demonstration,_NYC_1976 by Leffler, Warren K.,  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons