IPO: Queer is not an offensive term - update your policy

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My name is Gem and I run an LGBTQ+ community called Queers & Co. We publish a zine, and are now growing into a podcast and networking space. With all the exciting expansion, I decided it’s a good time to trademark the name. 

But I was absolutely shocked to learn that the Intellectual Property Office rejected my application, because it contained the word ‘queer’. According to the IPO, queer is ‘offensive’ and ‘contrary to accepted moral values within the UK’.

Whilst I understand that the policy comes from an effort to protect minority communities, I believe we should have the power to name ourselves as we choose. LGBTQ+ folks have, throughout the ages, reclaimed words of abuse and used them as words of power; words like ‘fairy’, ‘dyke’ and ‘poof’.

So I’m calling on the IPO to not consider queer an offensive word - and to update its policy on how minority groups identify.

In the rejection letter, the IPO quotes Ofcom's definition of queer as "strong language, generally unacceptable. Seen as old-fashioned but also derogatory to gay men when used as an insult." 

However, in a report Ofcom stated that “some of these sexual orientation words (like ‘poof’, ‘queer’ and ‘dyke’) were seen as having been reclaimed by the people they were originally intended to insult as expressions of their identity. In these circumstances, the words were not considered offensive.”

It’s time for the IPO to catch up with the times. In recent years, we've seen the rise in popularity of the word queer in the media; think Netflix hit Queer Eye, the BBC's Queer Britain, and the hundreds of arts and cultural events that take place in Britain each year using the word 'queer'.

Other Governmental departments like Companies House and the Government Equalities Office have already updated their policies on this, so there is no excuse for the IPO to lag behind.

With the recent surge in the number of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, it is more important than ever that government departments show solidarity with all minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, in allowing them to self-determine which words they identify with. They need to be leading by example and showing solidarity with all marginalised communities.

Thank you for reading this, and I would be incredibly grateful if you can sign the petition and share it widely. I will be responding to the IPO’s rejection with this petition so it’s vital to collect as many signatures as possible.

If you’d like to find out more about Queers & Co. and my work, please visit my website.