I posted the other day, that I had attended a queer meeting  organized by Rayden Sorock with the hopes that from it and some future meetings, a 5 year plan might come forth. At the meeting, Rayden introduced the idea of using the term QUILTBAG as a way of referring to the whole of  the rainbow community that is not well represented by the more common term LGBTQ. For one thing, he said, QUILTBAG can be pronounced as a word. Definately!

I asked for readers to post as to what QUILTBAG might mean, although no one has, so I want to write about it here.

I’m interested to see what readers might think of this. I think it is really exciting and provicdes a lot of energy for thinking about community, as well as a path forward towards what one participant at the meeting called “sexual liberation.”

For contrast, here is the standard, LGBTQ:

I do not know if anyone has chronicled the history of the initialism, LGBTQ as a descriptive label, but I can write about my own exprience surrounding it. In 1976 at the age of 18, I joined my first activist group, which was called the Ohio Gay Rights Coalition. The OGRC meet monthly in Columbus Ohio and folks, mostly from University groups around the state would come to Columbus and spend the day talking, arguing, planning and learning to create a movement. Shortly after starting the issue of the need to recognize the role of lesbians came to the surface. We chose to rename the group, OLGRC, ands placed the “L” first to demonstrate that the role of women was highly important and second to nothing. To say OGLRC would have been to adopt the general social construction that placed men as more important tham women. One of our big actions yearly was to have a booth at the Ohio State Fair, and while that may seem strange, the more you know about Ohio and the importance of Agriculture to Ohio, it may make sense. Additionally, this was placing these sexual minority identities out in from of folks from all over the state: many from small rural communities that were here at the fair.
Over time, the addition of “B” and “T” to “LG” demonstrate a chronological change to how the notion of this community was understood, and even if the “L” is first, many see this designator as a product of a male dominated culture. QUILTBAG turns all of that on its head, and sets forth an acronym where all letters share an equal weigt and play an equal role in producing a pronouncable descriptor. And similar to the reasons why “L” was added before the “G,” by starting with “Q” we are reminded to look at this and the issues from a new perspective, different than we have been up to now.
What are your thoughts about this? I’m interested to see your comments.

The 5 year plan

On the day after the meeting, I spoke to a few people who called me to ask how the meeting had gone. The responses I received as I talked about how positive I thought it had been reminded me of the another time there was a major shift in organizing power within the City of Pittsburgh. When the City first added non-discrimination protections there was a movement by anti-gay folks to get it on the ballot and over turn the legislation. an effort to fight that was begun and included lots of people who were seen as leaders of the community at that point, however, one of the most forceful players in that action was Randy Forrestor of PERSAD. Prior to this point, the only strong visible leadership for “the community” was the Tavern Guild. At the time, some people talked about this shift in leadership away from the bar owners as a changing from the old guard to a new leadership. In reality it wasn’t so clear cut and there were few definate lines that delineated these as old and new, but none the less, it was a shift in the visibility and leadership for the whole of the community. I think we are moving now into a period of a shifting awarenesses of where leadership is coming from and how this new notion of “community” and broad leadership will take us. I do not see this as a dumping of the old guard, and just as the shift wasn’t about a change from one to another, but rather a broadening of leadership to include more viewpoints, the same is happening again. As it should.
Folks asked me if anything new came out of the meeting, and I’m not sure how to answer that. On one level, No, I heard nothing new that I haven’t heard a number of times between 1976 and now. Every so often as new and younger people come and join in and seek out universal things, they think that because they do not already exist that no one before them has been trying to bring that into being. On a different level, everytime a new group joins the dialogue and brings their own experiences and perspectives to bear on the issues and intentions, new ideas and possibilities are born even if the words sound similar to words that have been used before. In this way, I think that whatever grows from this first meeting for a 5 year plan can be successful at propelling all of us, whatever that might mean or the acronym we use to label us forward in bold and exciting ways.
At the meeting, many of the current organizational leaders where present: PERSAD, GLCC, The Delta Foundation, GLSEN, and others. but there were also many young folks who either were there representing new ways of thinking about organizations and leadership, or who were folks working within these existing mainstream groups but sharing ideas perhaps broader than their leadership might put forth. The aggregation of all of these different voices and viewpoints has a potential to move all of us across sme of the hurdles that have kept us fragmented.
Of course it is also possible that the effort will crash and burn. The desire to bridge the gaps isn’t new, and it appears looking at history, at times it was easier to call defeat and just keep doing things the way they have always been done. Still, I think there is an energy and a passion in the young leaders I saw at this gathering that may be just the ticxket for moving past the hurdles and over the obstacles.


  1. I really, really love QUILTBAG. Not only is it much, much easier to say, but I think it does a better job of aknowledging how complicated human sexuality can be. I particularly love the “questioning” catagory. I know that as a young person, there was a period when I know I wasn’t straight, but I didn’t know what other lable to apply to myself. At the time, I didn’t feel like there was anyone who said to me, “it’s okay not to know.”

    • Thanks for your comment!  I think you hit on something very important- that often there is an expectation or urgency to be able to label ourselves (or others??) and there are periods within many journeys, where a person may not know and may be “trying on” different labels to see which fit. Thanks for highlighting that.

      The notion of “questioning one’s sexuality” may be scary to some. Questioning can imply being open to the possibility that it isn’t what it seems, and/or can seem to imply choice, when in reality, the process of coming to terms with our sexual orientation is a journey, not a decision.