MENTAL HEALTH INFLUENCER MAX HOVEY WEIGHS IN ON THE WORD 'QUEER' AND RECLAIMING IT BACK
AUGUST 18th 2020
LIFE & CULTURE

With almost 140 thousand followers on social media, influencer Max Hovey has created a safe space online, allowing his following to utilise the tools and resources he shares to make conversations surrounding mental health easier. As well as opening doors for queer mental health influencers online, Max also aids in helping men who struggle with mental health issues to feel seen. Max joined us to talk about trigger words and the importance of reclaiming words that have once been used to cause pain, specifically the word ‘queer’.

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The term queer is going to have a different meaning to most people. To a lot of LGBTQ+ people it can be triggering and can remind them of a time of oppression and prejudice. To some people it can mean to be weird or different in a negative way. To some heterosexual people it could be seen as a weapon to bring us down. But, more commonly, queer is becoming a term of empowerment for people within the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a way of reclaiming a homophobic slur as a positive term of self-expression, it’s a big middle finger up to society. It is becoming a blanket term used for inclusivity. It is a term that can allow people, of whom are not ready nor comfortable to put themselves into a specific box, to identify as queer. Trans people can identify as queer, gay people, bisexual people, non- binary, asexual etc, the list is endless.

Through my work, I have come across many opposing views to the use of the term queer, all of which I have challenged with “why?”. As I’ve already mentioned, many are still uncomfortable as the word can be quite triggering from past events. Others have said that the normalisation of the term is accepting the label of being weird or different, I counter this. We are different, periodt. We’re different from what society wants us to be, and that’s the whole point. Oppressors see themselves as better than non-conformity, and also have a fear of the unknown or that which they do not understand. So how do they handle it? They lash out.

The concept of “we’re not different”, is not a loud enough message, it’s giving in. Subconsciously, the desire to be “the same” or, and I HATE this phrase “straight acting” implies that you are conforming to what society wants. There is a spectrum of being queer, I agree. Some people fully embrace their queer nature, others do not feel the need to make it a large piece of their identity - both which I fully respect. But when people say “I’m no

different to anybody else” that is completely untrue. We HAVE to address this narrative. When we say to people “we’re all human”, that’s not saying we’re all the same. We’re all completely different and completely unique, that does not mean we don’t deserve equal treatment. You can be completely different from your peers but still deserve equal treatment. The yearning for “being the same” comes from a place of thinking we must conform in order to be treated the same. Let’s apply this to the concept of pride, a concept that many think we should no longer celebrate as “it highlights that we’re different”, like...erm yeah, we are? it’s a way of celebrating our individuality and identity by showing that we will not be oppressed. Those that conform but still criticise those that don’t will be experiencing very strong internal homophobia, a concept that still causes much conflict amongst the various queers within our community.

Some people think that by being “loud and proud” we are bringing attention to the fact that we’re gay and making us harder to accept. *sigh*, the amount of privilege in that sentence hurts me. The idea that again, we need to be somewhat conforming in order to be accepted. The reason so many of us are embracing our queer identities and becoming louder is because we still need to be heard. Accepting that you have your rights and that should enough, comes from a place of privilege. Sure, being gay has made life harder, but is it as hard as being in a place where you can literally be arrested for it? No. So by criticising the idea of pride, the use of the word queer and the loud expression of our identities all of being “different” means that you do not feel other nations that have oppressed queer people need to be addressed. Having large pride parades every year, and people being openly as queer as they like is bringing awareness and representation to a cause that is not yet finished. Trans rights are being reversed in the US; transphobia is rife in the UK. But, because someone wants to stay in their privileged comfort of conforming whilst criticising other queers for not doing so, we’re supposed to bow out and fade into the background? That is not it, sis.

So, no I’m not telling you to suddenly throw the term queer into your vocabulary, nor am I expecting you to even be comfortable with it. All I am asking is that if you are uncomfortable with it, ask yourself why and really think about it. Think about your reasons, and whether your comfort is more important than the use of a word of empowerment and the widespread awareness that the community so desperately needs.