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G.4.b. Queer Movements

From the late 1980s, in response to the growing acceptance of lesbian and gay identity in mainstream society, the ‘mainstreaming’ of LGBT organizations and at the same time a (perceived) increase in homophobic violence, new queer movements arose, initially in the USA. Queer Nation emerged as an activist group out of ACT-UP, and anonymously distributed a pamphlet at the 1990 New York Pride entitled ‘Queers Read This’ (online at: The movement spread later to Europe and to some other parts of the world, notably Latin America and some countries in Asia, as well as to South Africa.

The term ‘queer’, originally a derogatory term, was reclaimed by queer activists with a new meaning, based on the rejection of fixed identities (the hetero/homo or male/female dichotomies), and opposition to ‘normal-ization’ and respectability and an assimilationist approach to LGBT liberation. Queer politics and queer theory developed along side each other endorsing similar values, though often with an uneasy relationship. Queer activism links queer politics with social justice, anti-racism, feminism and global justice issues, refusing absorption into mainstream society. In addition to Queer Nation groups such as the Lesbian Avengers, Bash Back!, Queeruption, Queer Mutiny and many more evolved to promote radical queer activism. Today queer activism partially overlaps with tran and feminist activism, and is closely linked to some other radical movements (for example queer anarchism).

Gray, Mary L., ”Queer Nation is Dead/Long Live Queer Nation”: The Politics and Poetics of Social Movement and Media Representation, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 26, issue 3, 2009, pp. 212-236

Penedo, Suzana Lopez, Queer Politics in Spain: There is Life after Same-Sex Marriage Legislation, Jindal Global Law Review, Vol. 4, issue 1, 2012, pp. 238-263

Rand, Erin J., Reclaiming Queer Activist and Academic Rhetorics of Resistance, Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press, 2014, pp. 224

See also: Rand, Erin J., A Disunited Nation and a Legacy of Contradiction: Queer Nation Construction of Identity Journal of Communication Inquiry, 2004, pp. 288-306

Sears, Alan, Queer Anti-Capitalism: What’s Left of Lesbian and Gay Liberation?, Science and Society, Vol. 69, issue 1, 2005, pp. 92-117

Wickman, Jan, Queer Activism: What Might That Be?, Trikster, issue 4, 2010

Zimmerman, Bonnie, A Lesbian-Feminist Journey Through Queer Nation’s Construction of Identity, Journal of Lesbian Studies, Vol. 11, issue 1-2, 2007

Websites recommended

Against Equality - 2009,

An anti-capitalist collection of radical queer and trans writers, thinkers and artists

Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP) - 2003,

A lot of the early debates (pre-internet) related to queer activism (as opposed to queer theory) took place in zines. The QZAP is aiming to make many of them available online.