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!