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L+G+B+T: Does it Matter?

I really didn’t start this blog post with the intention to talk about how we label the LGBT community itself, but rather to lay a foundation and a premise. The premise, is that there is strength as well as purpose in talking about a LGBT community, as if it were a whole. The linked blog stands as an illustration for what happens when we do not.

It isn’t hard to find adamant people who will scoff at the idea that there is such a thing as the LGBT community. Even the way we (in the most general sense) talk about it, gets offered up as evidence: is it GLBT, LGBT, BGLT, or are there a bunch of other letters tagged on at the end? Recently, I saw something that had LGBTQQIA on it. I’m sure you can find people within the so-called community who wouldn’t even know what each of those extra characters stand for- it took me a while to get them all. Some of this is historical. For example, the first “gay” group I ever joined was OGRC- the Ohio Gay Rights Coalition, which then changed its name to the OGLRG. and in college I was part of the GAA (Gay Activists Alliance). But as we learned and became aware of how heterosexist male dominated concepts pervaded the way we viewed the world, the active articulation of the inclusion of lesbians, and other sexual minorities was not only important but essential. This was not really about wanting everyone to feel welcome in a simple way (although that is important) rather, by naming everyone- gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders- we actively broke the patterns of exclusion by a male dominated heterosexist hegemony. The very act of inclusion was a weapon and resistance against the way the predominate culture makes all of us invisible.

My methodology has been to use LGBT and GLBTQ interchangeably, most often with both occurring any time I write. I sit on a board where we uniformly use LGBT. But what about those folks who say there is no such community or who raise other issues? Part of my treatment of the first issue (there is no such unified community) has been to talk about GLBTQ as a collective of communities, and I think that has some validity to it. However others fault calling it a community under the notion that it takes away the voices of some of the parts of the whole. This accusation comes commonly from the Trans community, and with justification. The Gay and Lesbians community still isn’t always very inclusive or aware when it comes to Trans women and men. For me, part of the response to this is that the LGBT community can’t and shouldn’t speak for all of these subgroups, but it must seek out and find voices for each and become a platform that allows all voices to be heard.

One place this issue of inclusion/exclusion comes up surrounds non-discrimination protections. The Federal ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act) has been at different points, inclusive of Transexuals or excluding them, and lawmakers thought it would be easier to pass if it excluded them. I believe that today, in 2010, we should all recognize the danger to everyone if we allow any marginalized group to be cut off simply to male equality easier for the status quo to accept. That isn’t equality at all.

Some states have laws protecting gays and lesbians but where Trans persons are still the target of discrimination. There are states in New England, where two men can get married, and a transexual can be refused employment simply because they are transexual.

Many tactics and word weapons are used to target gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transpersons, and for Trans, a common one is the use of “the bathroom bill” as a way to describe the attempts to provide non-discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. The (false) accusation is made that these laws will allow men into women’s bathrooms.

This is language and attack is something we all need to become familiar with, and speak out against. The method for dealing with lies and misinformation has to be to counter them by calling out the lies and offering real information instead. L+G+B+T matters when we all raise our voices together against any of the weapons of lies and misinformation directed at any of us individually.

Maine Commission Highlights “Bathroom Bill” Concern.

3 Comments

  1. Of course language matters. As a queer asexual, I rarely ever see my identity represented in the usual LGBT acronym(s), and as an activist in the community, that exclusion is particularly hurtful. There is good reason why I aligned myself with the transgender community when I first came out.

    That said, I also understand the need for semi-uniform acronyms, labels, and the like to build a solid framework and to present a united front to politicians and the public. One compromise I have found helpful is to use “accepted” language when working with members outside of the LGBTQ community and to use more inclusive, personalized language within the community. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a step in the right direction.

    • Thanks for the comment! I like your ideas about the language used inside vs outside the community. To be honest, I’ve never met anyone who self-identified as queer asexual. I don’t think I even know what that means. So, one obstacle to being more inclusive, is a need for us (in the general sense) to better understand each other. So would you be open to sharing more about why you self identify that way?

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