John Arovosis wrote a post on Americablog last week about the Gay Rights and the use of LGBTQ and the other assorted gay alphabet soup acronyms for the rainbow community. He has some interesting things to say, and I want to address a number of his points, but I thought I’d start with this notion of Q being added to LGBT to represent questioning as well as to represent queer.
Putting aside the argument about who is and isn’t a member of the gay community, and whether “questioning” is even a legitimate category at all (are there questioning Jews? – yes – so perhaps we should rename Judaism “JewsQ”).
John’s primary argument seems to be that by using these new fangled acronyms the general public doesn’t know who or what is being talked about, and this has “cost” or slowed down progress.
I think he raises an interesting question, but I think he is dead wrong as he expresses a point of view overflowing with white male privilege. (I promise to say more about that in another blog post.)
Here, let me focus on this notion of Questioning and how it relates to the Rainbow effort for Full Equality as well as John’s hilarious but ludicrous comment about questioning Jews. I think he has it totally backwards. It isn’t the use of -or the expanding of- the acronym LGBT that has cost our movement, rather the use of Gay itself which is damaging. Gay does not adequately represent the need for Full Equality, in addition to failing to represent the fullness of the Rainbow LGBTQ Community of those who are left out by Straight While Male Privilege. The push for Full equality is about more than one sexual orientation (i.e. Gay) and therefore, the word Gay can’t adequately represent that push.
Because some of us talk about Gay Rights, it perpetuates a false dichotomy- that people are either Gay or Straight. The reality is that Sexual Orientation happens across a broad and complex spectrum, such that there are people who are straight, some who are gay (or homosexual) and many who are somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum. By talking about Gay Rights, people like John ignore the vast many who do not easily identify at that one end of the spectrum or the other. More importantly “Gay Rights” suggests that or ignores the reality of how people come out, and that coming out is a process.
Truly, to talk about Gay Rights allows those seeking rights to be an identified minority and to speak from a place of victim status. It sets up a battle between the straights and the gays as if one side is hogging rights that all deserve. The reality is that no matter what a person’s sexual orientation- gay, straight or anywhere in between, that nature of their being should not be used as a basis for discrimination. But too much of the Civil Rights history of our Democracy has been based in a victim status mentality. It has always relied upon individuals being able to be easily identified into a group, and then advocation for that group’s rights. What is needed is to destroy the dominance of Straight Privilege. And Straight Privilege grows from Male Privilege and is connected to White Privilege. So, reliance upon “Gay” as an identifier fits well into our known experience of advocacy and legislative advances even as it fails to speak to the real culprit causing a lack of Equality.
“Q “is for Questioning just as much as Q is for Queer because it confronts the false dichotomy of male focused categories of Straight and Gay. Questioning reminds us that it is wrong to expect our youth to choose between these two false categories, and implies the importance of being focused on the rights and dignity of a person regardless to how they self-identity in terms of their sexual orientation.
In other words, there is a need to quit trying to see those who are calling for Full Equality as a community in the traditional sense. John says:
Putting aside the argument about who is and isn’t a member of the gay community…
Indeed! The very notion of talking about Gay Rights demands that people be fit into the categories of either belonging or not belonging. That is a symptom of the problem and not a part of the solution.
I think the world of John Arovosis even if I am picking apart his comments here. His goal like many other’s, is to move us to a place where many who have experienced tremendous discrimination are raised to a level of Equality, and he wants this urgently. We should all want this urgently, and people like John are helping to make that happen. The steps towards that end however demand that we examine not only how to practically create equality, but an examination of the forces that stand in the way of it. Q representing Questioning, isn’t what is standing in the way.