RIP LGBT: Let's end sexual orientation initials
June 1, 2019
While leaving a recent nonprofit meeting another member was muttering aloud, obviously annoyed. I questioned why. He said: “Ugh, ‘A’ means ‘Ally’, it has always meant ally, not ‘Alternative.’” I agreed; he was correct. What frustrated him was discussion with a younger volunteer who insisted the “A” in LGBTA meant one thing; in essence negating the other “A” which stands for straight allies. This discord reminded me of a recurring thought.
The initials “LGBT” became common in the 1980s to combine gender identities and create an inclusive framework for marginalized people organizing for social change. Even then, as an “L” (lesbian), my resistance to the “B” and the “T” was real. I’d quip: Wait a bit the “Bs” (bisexuals) will change their minds; and, aren’t they really heterosexuals? The “Ts” (transgenders) possess a plethora of distinctions beyond homosexuals who choose/prefer intimacy with their same sex. The “diverse” and “inclusive” themes continue to this day with initials added. Expecting an initialized social group to be all inclusive is an unwieldy, lofty goal; perhaps, an impossibility.
Current “initial” use provokes a “When is enough, enough?” notion for me. The “Q” is a prime example. “Q” for queer is prideful for non-heterosexual youth and millennials. Elder lesbians/gays knew and lived “queer” as an insulting, derogatory and a shaming descriptor. Youth use Q as hip, preferred, inclusive and a priority initial. Q is an impasse for me.
As always, the “L” is sufficient for my activist work with homosexual male friends, “Gs” (gays). We are lesbians and gays wanting a safe place in society while seeking others of our ilk for friendship or relationships. Most of us have little choice being non-heterosexual; it is just how we are. Yet, skepticism shrouds personal acceptance by our peers, parents, children, friends, workmates, pastors, teachers; while judgement, intolerance, hatred, disdain, ugliness characterize some straight enclaves.
Nomenclature for a segment of society requires more than Wikipedia adding initials to the LGBT entry and will not validate marginalized populations. I suggest turning a page to when Ls and Gs are only lesbians and gays. Let’s celebrate June 2019’s Pride Month affirming individuality, minus a long, entangled list of initials.
Madeline G. Holdorf, M.Ed, Anchorage Health Department retiree, Lesbian Activist, Urban Sociologist