I’m going to kick it old-school and talk about The Acronym this week. You know the one: both affectionately and despairingly referred to as “alphabet soup,” the acronym LGBTQ tries to take into account and name the multiplicity of queer sexual and gender identities. (Sidebar: yes, I know queer theory scholars get all hot and bothered about naming “queer” as an identity because, technically, it’s not. And I agree in theory, but queer is often invoked as an identity in practice, so let’s just leave it at that. And yes, I also know that “queer” is a problematic term for many because of its history of violence, but we also can’t deny that many people—including me!—use it politically and joyfully.)
See, right there? That little argument is one of the reasons why The Acronym has become so capricious in recent years: how we name ourselves is so fraught with tension, so steeped in history and turmoil, that it comes as no surprise that we try to find words and space in which to fit everyone. After all, it hasn’t been that long since we’ve had the chance to name ourselves against a backdrop of mandatory cis-heteronormativity that didn’t even recognize our existence.
Capricious it is: The Acronym has expanded into a double-digit collection of letters. For example, The Landing—the University of Alberta’s student space for gender and sexual diversity—uses LGBTTQQPIANU+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning, pansexual, intersex, asexual, non-binary, unlabelled and more) as its acronym of choice. It’s not even the longest I’ve seen.
Typically, though, I imagine most of the time we see the short version, but which short version should we use: LGBT or LGBTQ? In fact, this was a discussion I had with my editor here at Vue when she noticed that the Q was making inconsistent appearances and wanted to know why. Honestly, I’m not sure (although I suspect that the little argument above might have something to do with it), but she decided to stick with the Q through our paper.
As mildly controversial as that Q might be, it’s another letter that, in recent months, has again become contentious. Back in November, I saw a headline that a petition had been started to remove the T (for trans*). I tell you, my first thought on reading the headline was, “Oh, yeah. This is because LGB organizations are often really bad at being trans* inclusive so they shouldn’t claim to represent a population that they clearly don’t.”
How naïve I was: this petition is the exact opposite. Posted on change.org, the petition was created by some anonymous gay and bisexual men and women and calls on a number of American queer advocacy and media outlets to “Drop the T” because “[they] feel [trans*] ideology is not only completely different from that promoted by the LGB community (LGB is about sexual orientation, trans* is about gender identity), but is ultimately regressive and actually hostile to the goals of women and gay men.”
The “hostility” of a trans* ideology (and if someone could actually explain what that means to me, that would be great) is apparently due to this fine collection of folks being called on their transphobic shit. The petition ends by stating that a “discussion must be opened up to these issues, which for too long are being suppressed and censored.” You know what? I agree. The wonderful and terrible thing about The Acronym is that we’re all stuck together. So let’s finally deal with our shit, LGBs, and stop leaving everyone else behind. V