Jesse's Journal: Alphabet Soup

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Photo by Charles Pratt.

The evolution of the way we describe ourselves took another turn recently when GLAAD recommended that media organizations add Q to the acronym LGBT. In the tenth edition of its Media Reference Guide, released October 26, GLAAD “encouraged journalists and other media content creators to adopt the use of ‘LGBTQ’ as the preferred acronym to most inclusively describe the community. … GLAAD today also renewed its commitment to working on behalf of queer-identified people, updating its mission to include ‘queer’ in the organization’s work to accelerate acceptance for LGBTQ people.”

Though here the letter Q stands for “queer,” in some other places it might also stand for “questioning.” In either case, as GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis told the Advocate, “one of the biggest drivers toward adding the Q is we’re seeing more and more of the younger generation adopting the Q,” finding the terms lesbian, gay or bisexual too limiting or loaded with cultural baggage. “This is our opportunity to look forward and reclaim the word in a very visible way.” In any case, the term “gay community” should be avoided, “as it does not accurately reflect the diversity of the [LGBTQ] community.”

There was a time when we considered “gay community” to be a compliment. Before Stonewall, gay men were called homosexuals - lesbians were already lesbians - when we were not called pansies, nancys, fairies, faggots, sodomites or sexual perverts as well as queers. Early activists called ourselves homophiles, though that term did not last.

After Stonewall, we continued to use the term homosexual for a while until it was eventually replaced by “gay men and women.” This did not last long, as queer women rightly demanded an end to the lesbian invisibility brought about by this all-inclusive term.

“Gay men and women” became “gay men and lesbians” and, eventually, “lesbians and gay men.” By the 1980s bisexual people came forward on their behalf and our group title became “lesbian, gay and bisexual people,” LGB or LesBiGay. By the gay ‘90s our group acronym was changed again, this time reflecting transgender awareness, to GLBT or, more commonly, LGBT. (Some groups use the term LBGT, placing bisexuals after lesbians and before gay men.) LGBTQ is another step in our road to inclusion.

Though LGBTQ is a step forward as far as we are concerned, it will not be the end of our efforts to expand our community’s alphabet soup. To LGBTQ we could add the letter I for Intersex, P for Pansexuals, 2S for Two-Spirit and A for Asexuals and/or Allies. That should cover everyone alive or dead except for those people who hate us. If I left anyone out, please let me know. Though this ever-expanding acronym can be cumbersome, it is the right thing to do. All of us, regardless of our sexual orientation or our gender identity, have the right to name ourselves, even when we work together.

I remember the first time I was called an “LGBT person.” Though I understood where the caller, a well-meaning ally, was coming from, I do not consider myself to be an “LGBT person.” I am a gay man, though part of an LGBT or LGBTQ community. And I am also a queer man, though I came from a generation that thought queer was a dirty word. Thus I am both a G and a Q - as well as a Cuban-American, a Jew, a Lefty, a Progressive Democrat, and a nudist. And though I am not lesbian, bisexual or transgender, I support their goals and their interests and commit myself to be part of our inclusive LGBTQ community. Working together we will eventually achieve our unique and common rights.


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