Thursday, July 02, 2009

alphabet soup

today a friend posted on his blog about the fact that the media-standard acronym LGBT (or GLBT, or GBLT - which can amusingly be pronounced giblet - and maybe isn't as standard as it seems after all) is morphing into the longer, more inclusive, but totally unpronounceable LGBTQQIA. and before you ask, because i know you're going to, it stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Ally community.

it prompted an unusually long and thoughtful response that has been percolating all day, so i'm elaborating here:

i thought there were two A's, one for asexual and one for ally. hrmmm... another friend has said he thinks the term asexual is wrong because it has a defined biological meaning, and that is not what you think it is. most people use asexual to describe humans who seem to be devoid of sexual impulse or sexual feelings, just not interested in sex at all and confused as to why the rest of us are so fascinated with it. however, in biological terms, it refers to critters that reproduce without the need of male and female partners, or without the need of partners at all. you know, critters that simply bud off or divide or something. i don't think that is going to stop the asexual community from using the term, though, so i guess they'll just have to brush up on their understandings of mitosis v. meiosis and keep on explaining that they're capable, but not interested, in the majority's favorite sport.

the guy who posted this was generally intimating that the longer acronym is silly when the shorter one is well-accepted and well-understood. personally, i disagree with him. i don't mind stringing bunches of letters together. it's no more awkward than the "colored people," "black people," "african american people" rigamarole that the media have marched through over the past 60-odd years. we've all survived, and we all knew who was being referenced by the terms, it just made the members of the community feel somewhat better to be referred to in respectful ways. the thing is, when the label on a racial community changes, there is no doubt that all the members of the race were and are still included. with the queer community, there have been a number of names and labels that were NOT so inclusive. every time we've changed the label, we've made the umbrella bigger, going from "gay community" to "gay and lesbian community" to "GLBT community" and now to "GLBTQQIA(A?)" i can't see that as a bad thing, but i figure that ultimately we'll be "the sexual and gender minority community" because that covers it all accurately and includes every imaginable group. further, i like "sexual and gender minority community" because it draws the very important distinction that not all the minorities under our umbrella feel themselves to be of a queer sexual orientation. for example, transgender and intersex individuals may not embrace the roles society expects them to play based on their biology, but it does not automatically follow that their sexual orientations are queer.

now this one i'm going to pose as a question, because i frankly don't know the answer. it seems to me that biracial folk are one of the few racial minorities that experience the queer labeling struggle in parallel. people are usually pretty clearly in or out of a racial or ethnic minority group, unless they are multiracial. sometimes they feel (and are treated) like outsiders in all the racial communities they try to straddle. sometimes their identity claims are rejected because they're not [insert identity] enough, as a half-[insert other identity here] person. i think any members of the GBLT community not covered by the acronym GBLT probably feel the same way. and that feeling has to suck. we read our children the story of the ugly duckling to remind them that even if they are rejected by one group, they will eventually find a place in life where they fit. how can we do that, and then turn around and tell people it's too much hassle to make room for them in our tent? a couple extra letters are that inconvenient? so hard to type? so much harder to say? stretch that canvas, i say. move those tent poles out a little further, and maybe the raindrops will bounce off a little better.

the irony of my favorite name for the community is that the term "sexual and gender minority community" really drives a spike in heart of the the "we're all normal, just like you" message, by emphasizing the minority aspect, the sexual aspect, and the gender-variant aspect of our big queer alphabet soup. and until there is some wider social acceptance of sexual and gender variance, the movable moderates need to keep being reminded that we're not a big scary "them" so much as we are an interesting and tangible "us". so alphabet soup it is.


RHKR said...

A few years ago, there was a columnist who wrote for the Texas Triangle, Ann Rostow, who used the acronym--LGBTQA-LMNOP--to illustrate how absurd the whole thing was getting. And that was a few years ago before we added this latest bunch of letters.

I have to say, I could not disagree with you more on this one. I think it is standard practice to delegate a term to cover the whole group. Yes, the term for black people has morphed, but what ever term is used still covers a broad range of hues and languages. The same can be said for "Hispanic" as a category. I think if we start adding a letter (or group of letters) for every person or small group of persons who self-identify as Not Really Gay, But I Like Musical Theater and Having Occasional Self-Loathing Sex With Men (NRG,BILMTHOSLSWM)or (my favorite) LUGs--it will soon take so long to type out the acronym that people will use it as an excuse to ignore us.

Anonymous said...

galabit-qq is much easier to remember.

A friend who's been reading for a while - and missing your posts.