Friday, 9 June 2017

The Politics of Alphabet Soup


Finding a single, all-inclusive term for our community has always been a challenge.

At the beginning of the modern struggle for our civil and human rights in 1969, "gay" was used as a blanket term. But that word made lesbians feel invisible. So then our moniker became "gay and lesbian." That made bisexuals feel invisible. Hello, "lesbigay!" But trans people said "hey, what about us?" and so "translesbigay" started to appear.

For a while, hope arose that the reclaimed word "queer" might be suitable as a one-size-fits-all expression. However, too many people still feel the hurt of that term as a homophobic slur and don't want that word to apply to them.

So for quite a few years, we used the following acronym and everyone was more or less happy with it:


Since the turn of the century, though, more and more distinct groups have started defining themselves as members of our community and naturally want their own piece of the acronym pie. In Canada, the most recently generally accepted full community acronym is:


This stands for: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, two spirit, asexual/ally.

But over the past few years, a P and D have crept into the mix as well -- pansexual and demisexual.


The goal of a single, all-inclusive term seems to be fast disappearing over the horizon. For a while, I thought "rainbow" might solve the problem, as in "rainbow community" or "rainbow tribe." While "rainbow" did get some traction for a few purposes, it has not become the standard default term.

I see that many newspapers and media outlets have thrown in the towel and simply use the abbreviated acronym LGBT, since those four letters represent the main groups of our community. But I've also sometimes seen a plus sign added on to the end of the acronym to signal that it is a truncated term -- LGBT+ -- so that the + indicates that there are other groups too, without naming them.


I hope some day a miraculous, all-inclusive word will be devised that makes everyone feel visible, acknowledged and happy, but I'm not holding my breath. I think alphabet soup will be with us for quite awhile.

So in the meantime, just chill and have a nice sammich with your soup, everyone!


37 comments:

mistress maddie said...

Would someone be a dear and fetch me my headache powders. My head is spinning....lol

DEZMOND said...

what is 'two spirit' and 'demisexual'? BTW, can't believe there are asexual people :)

Marie Smith said...

Whatever the community decides is fine with me. It can be hard to keep up with the initials however. Common usage of the same acronymn will resolve that issue.

The Captain said...

My head just exploded!

Melancholy and Menace said...

Ha! I love the LGBT sandwich :)

Adam said...

LGBT is the one I most generally accept

the Q one threw me for a loop. Too umbrella of a term to have it's own standalone category I think.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ Dezmond -- "Two Spirit" is the term used by indigenous native people in Canada and the USA to encompass all concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity. It means that translesbigay people have both a male and female spirit or persona within themselves.

"Demisexual" means someone who can only be sexually attracted to someone they're emotionally involved with (I had to look it up myself!) So they're kind of halfway between asexual people and people who lust on a purely physical basis.

It's so friggin complicated, isn't it!

Bob Slatten said...

I usually stick with LGBT and sometimes LGBTQ, but I long for the day when we can just all be "people."

Joanne Noragon said...

I have grandchildren who classify themselves by some of the extra letters. They aren't bothered by what others think of them.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

why not just go with "not straight"?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ jaz -- The slang word opposite of "straight" already exists. It's "bent" which is used in Britain but rarely in North America. You're right -- "bent" could be an umbrella term, although it connotes being a deviant from the norm, which may be why it's not super popular here and never really caught on in Canada and the US.

Theresa Young said...

Its too bad you even have to have a label. You are people just tryin' to make your way in the world. For that matter, why does anyone have to be labeled? Its a sad state of affairs that in this day and age any of us have to identify with a specific group.

Susan said...

OY! You need a manual! Thank you for the tutorial - I had no idea that it was so complicated, but every time you go to label people it is a complicated mess.

anne marie in philly said...

I second bob and theresa! I use LGBT if necessary.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

My thoughts on "labeling" -- Our community has been negatively labeled for centuries with hostile or cruel terms chosen by the heterosexual/cisgendered majority. When any oppressed minority group rejects those kinds of labels and chooses its own name(s) instead (or reclaims the labels), it is an act of empowerment, an assertion of our own freedom and dignity, not simply more "labeling." If there were no positive descriptive words or names for our community, we would once again become completely invisible. And for our community, invisibility has always been a major tool of oppression used against us. We should not, in my opinion, voluntarily embrace it now.

Leeanna Henderson said...

My mind just went KABLOOOOOOSH! The labeling of people and their sexual orientation is just too much. I would just go with the LBGT+ and be done with it. It would mean all inclusive.

e said...

Thank you for posting this, Debra. Apparently it is still needed! I understand that hetero types think there is too much fuss over 'labels' and acronyms and what we call ourselves, but they haven't lived our experience.

Btw, a young friend of mine just came out as asexual, or Ace. She made an announcement about it not for the attention it garnered, but because she said that she was tired of lying about her life. She was tired of people expecting her to have a boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other and always asking who she was dating. Now she can just be herself. There's a big feeling of relief and freedom when you come out and I sent her warm greetings and acceptance into the tribe.

Happy Pride!

Janie Junebug said...

Wow! It took me a while to remember LGBTQ. It would take me a while to learn more letters. I suspect that rainbow tribe probably hasn't caught on because in the past it referred to families of mixed cultural identities, not mixed sexual identities. I hope we come up with a good standard word that doesn't hurt anyone's feelings. When I was a kid, it was common to say, That's so queer. You're so queer.

I wonder how many of us who said that ended up realizing that we were gay. Maybe some of the kids were already cringing at the use of queer.

Love,
Janie

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I like "Rainbow Tribe" too. Goodness, I was proud of myself to have memorized "LGBTQ" - to have to double or triple that? No thanks, I'll take my LGBTQ without any extras but double the guacamole.
Thanks for the info, Deb. Have a great weekend.

Birdie said...

My daughter has tried to explain it all to me. Your post makes more sense. So, thank you!

Debi said...

Yum! Love that Sammish! I just need to know if your an honest, kind person 🌈 xoDebi

Miss Val's Creations said...

Oh how complicated things have become! I do have to Google terms from time to time so I understand. I wonder if the labeling angers ignorant homophobic people even more making acceptance even harder.

Guillaume said...

Bad political news: Theresa May is making an alliance with Christian homophobic fundies to secure her government. I'm glad I didn't vote for her.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Just when I finished explaining what each letter in LGBT stands for to my husband because he gets all the letters mixed up...and SPLAT...there goes my mind. No way I can remember all that...LOL... I really like LGBT+; works well. But I especially love the term 'rainbow'. That would be awesome if it caught on.

Harry Hamid said...

A word. Someone should make it into a word.

Even the fascist creators of the PATRIOT Act knew enough to make a word out of their acronym.

AntiquityTravelers said...

Well Guac makes everything better :)

We have this conversation often in my house. My daughters and their friends are across the rainbow .... bi, Lesbian, pan ... as far as I'm concerned Love is Love. If you're lucky enough to find someone you want to share you life with then who is to say otherwise.

Frank said...

There was something very inclusive about the term "gay" way back when. I'm talking before Stonewall and some years thereafter. It did not discriminate between men or women or between those who were butch or fem or between those who were very sexually active and those who had less of a need for sex or those whose gender identity did not conform to norms of any kind. I sometime wish the term "gay" had kept that inclusive meaning and not gotten associated with gay men exclusively. It would have been much simpler. But I imagine there is no going back.

Neesie said...

Wow that's quite something. I think if I had to use any more letter than LGBT+ then I'd probably get it wrong and offend.
It's a pity that we have to have categories and labels in our modern world.
Very interesting post Debra...now I'm off to google some of those terms that I haven't heard of before.
Have a wonderful weekend :D

Fearsome Beard said...

Let us not forget the Solosexual.
Sorry had to throw another in the mix.

bj said...

good grief...i've never heard of so many different names...it's hard for me to understand why we have to HAVE names for it all...-To me, gay and straight is all that's really needed.
And that sandwich looks really REALLY good...and I'm having a BLT for dinner tonight...:)

Missy George said...

It must be BLT week..Hope you got yours..I never heard of P and D..I'm a bit behind..not sure what they mean..Do I want to know??

Glenn Kelley said...

I don't think you can categorize sexuallity . If you continue the fragmentation that you have documented to the logical conclusion the names will be Missy , bj , Nessie , Frank , Harry .

I told my kids there are no categories , just a continuum from asexual to hypersexual .

Glenn

Empty Nest Insider said...

Sometimes wouldn't it be easier to tell people who are not close friends and family to MYOB? I agree that it's important to be a good person, and that no one should feel invisible. Everyone has the right to decide what they're comfortable with, and how they'd like to express themselves.

BTW, when you hear some of the horror stories about everyone hooking up with everyone on cell phone apps, it's refreshing to learn the definition of "demisexual."

Julie

G. B. Miller said...

Sorry, but the language police is denied entry in my life. Being a both a child of the 70's and a knowledgeable fan of the English language, I have made very few concessions to political correctness (developmentally disabled for starters and using the term "spouse") in my life, but this is just going way overboard.

For me, people applying labels either to themselves or to others, just creates another class of "victims". And honestly, do we really need multiple classes of "victims"?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ G.B. Miller -- Ha ha, I KNEW this post would make your head explode, my right-wing buddy! There is a conceptual difference between "labeling" and "naming" however. "Labeling" is what the majority arrogantly assumes it has the right to do to the minority. "Naming" is an act of empowerment when a minority group rejects imposed labels from others and chooses what we ourselves want to be called. Our community's alphabet soup represents our attempt(s) to name ourselves.

MrsDuncanMahogany said...

I think rainbow suits all those under the umbrella (heh...see what I did there...rainbow...umbrella...rain). Ok. Its Monday! :)

Magic Love Crow said...

I love the word Rainbow! I think that is so beautiful!!!! I have to be honest with you Debra, there are several words that you used and I don't know what they mean? I'm going to have to look them up!