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We Need To Talk : Being Queer in Las Vegas

Companion guide to the panel series, We Need To Talk, sponsored by the University Libraries and Greenspun College of Urban Affairs with livestreaming by UNLV TV.

Our Panelists

Guest Host, Kevin Sebastian, Teaching and Learning Librarian for Online Education

Antioco Carrillo (c/o ‘00 & ‘03, Social Work), executive director, Aid for AIDS of Nevada

AJ Huth, director of public affairs & civic engagement, The LGBTQIA+ Center of Southern Nevada

Dennis McBride (c/o ‘77 & ‘82), Las Vegas queer historian

Lukas Serrano, HIV patient manager, The LGBTQIA+ Center of Southern Nevada

Being queer has been HERE my dear....

To give some historical context on the term, queer hasn’t always been used as a way to describe someone’s sexuality or gender identity. While many people today use it as an umbrella term to describe fluid sexualities and genders, “queer” was (and, in some contexts, still is) a common derogatory term thrown at LGBTQ+ people.    

Because queer originally meant odd, strange, and unusual, cisgender straight people adopted it as a way to insult and alienate LGBTQ+ folks. The first recorded use of the term as a slur was in 1894, when John Douglas, the 9th Marquis of Queensberry, called his son Lord Alfred Douglas and his alleged lover Oscar Wilde “Snob Queers” in a public court trial. Soon after, American newspapers began using “queer” to refer to gay men in disparaging articles, which introduced it into the popular lexicon.

After the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which many consider the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, organizers began having conversations about what terms best describe our community’s shared experiences. While gay people, lesbians, and trans folks of all sexualities experience the world differently, cis-het society views us all as “queer.”

Queer is a term that is many things, and every person who uses the term has their own interpretation of it. In short, it is the politicisation of sexual orientation in a way that rejects cisheterocapitalist values.

Today, the word “queer” is a way for folx to create space for those who have been othered by the LGBTQ+ rights movement, by social norms and customs, and by outdated notions of gender. Depending on whom you ask, there are a million conflicting meanings for the word. Many still see it as a degrading slur. Many others embrace it with pride.

“Queer” is not the first word of its kind to be reclaimed. But unlike others, “queer” seems poised to represent all of us. It’s a word charged with as many meanings, emotions, and historical perspectives as there are shades of LGBTQ+ identity. 

--Summary courtesy of

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