Other, Queer, Foreign – what do these terms mean?
Other is a term that allows people to define themselves by identifying what they are not. The other is often not the majority or most powerful in society instead it generally refers to the minority or least dominant groups. In gender studies the other is referred to as the woman instead of the man and therefore is considered a ‘gendered’ term which can be used in a derogatory way.
Queer is an umbrella term and a reclaimed pejorative word to refer to all LGBTIQA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer, asexual, and more) people. Many people consider queer to be not only about sexual identity but an attitude to life that embraces diversity and advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as fluid and interconnected experiences. It can also be a simple label to explain a complex set of minority sexual behaviours and desires that are not heterosexual. For example, a person who is attracted to multiple genders may identify as queer.
Foreign is defined as the quality of being, appearing or being perceived as outside, or not belonging to the norm. This norm could be in relation to ones gender identity or expression, sexuality, place of birth, race or culture.
When we think of these terms what we are referring to is any person, system, creation or way of life that isn’t that of the majority or most dominant. Many artists strive to make work that pushes the boundaries of the majority or exists outside the normative position of a society. Many of the artists Técha Noble has listed as being her artistic influences could be termed queer artists, even though for some of them the term wasn’t invented in their lifetime.
Think of your favourite artists and musicians. Do they try to push the boundaries of what is considered normal? What makes their work interesting? Is it interesting because it is the same as everyone else’s or because it is unique?
Do you ever feel foreign or that you are slightly different to the people and community around you? Do you perhaps know people that would identify as being foreign or queer? Think about your own experiences of difference and then think about how another person experiences their differences. Do you think some differences are more widely accepted in our society than others? If you had the choice to change society a little and make something more acceptable what would it be?