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vb. (present participle of queer English)


Queering is an interpretive method used in historical or literary study. It is based on the re-appropriated term " queer", used for LGBT issues, but used as a verb. "Queering" means to reevaluate or reinterpret a work with an eye to sexual orientation and/or to gender, by applying queer theory. An example of "queering" would be to reexamine the primary sources from the life of King Richard I of England, to search for evidence that he exhibited homosexual behavior or attitudes.

Queering, as a tool of historical analysis, does not necessarily mean an attempt to determine if historical figure actually engaged in homosexual behaviors. It embraces a more fluid spectrum of gender attitudes which may have been entirely emotional, i.e. if celibate monks who wrote letters of intimate affection could be said to be exhibiting a form of romantic love, even if they never engaged in intimate physical behavior, or even consciously considered their behavior to be a parallel of romantic physical relationships.

Queering has drawn some criticism from contemporary scholarship for projecting modern biases backwards onto historical figures, or seeing only what researchers want to see. Conversely, other scholarship has argued that it is a useful tool for challenging previously held assumptions that the concepts of gender behavior held by peoples in different historical eras were exactly like modern conceptions. To turn to the example of Richard the Lionheart, early 20th century scholarship barely questioned that he might have taken part in homosexual behavior. At the other extreme, later scholarship reexamined the evidence and concluded that he was a "homosexual" in the modern sense. These two extremes were debated and refined, with a general consensus emerging that Richard probably engaged in sexuality activity with both men and women at different times in his life, but that Richard's self-conception wasn't necessarily an exact equivalent to the modern sense of homosexual identity.