First, there was GLB, which was changed to LGB in order to not continue the sexism that constantly puts women second. Then under some protests and debates, the “T” was added. The controversy is understandable. LGB is about sexual orientation, but the T is about sexual and gender identity. So then, why was the T added?
LGB equals Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual. T used to stand for transsexual, but transsexual has been replaced by transgender. The T was included with the LGB people because the straight heteronormative population discriminated against trans (transgender) people in the same way they have been discriminating against gay people, especially against feminine gay men.
“Gay” can either mean gay men or it can be used to mean homosexuality. Like in referring to the “gay” community – meaning both gay men and lesbians.
I know this is beginning to sound confusing, but wait, it is going to get much more confusing. I also should point out that drag queens, crossdressers, and transsexuals (transgender people) were on the front line of the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movement. Exemplified by the Stonewall Inn riots in New York City in 1969.
The problem with coming up with an acronym to represent a group is that some people who feel part of the group can also feel erased by an acronym that is not inclusive enough.
So there is the search for an inclusive acronym for people who identify outside of the heteronormative cis community. Cis, meaning those people who identify comfortably with the sex they were assigned at birth, i.e., 99 percent of the population. Those people, myself included, who don’t feel they were assigned correctly tend to spend a lifetime struggling with their sexual identity. The LGBT acronym that has been used for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans community for years started unraveling when too many people who identified outside of the heteronormative cis community didn’t feel that L, G, B, and T, adequately described their identity and their struggles. So, Q was added – Q for queer. Queer is an umbrella term meaning identifying outside of cis heteronormative society, but not feeling fully described by the acronym LGBT. Queer is still a pejorative term for many and should not be used by non-LGBTQ people. However, now many universities have Queer Studies programs.
Then the intersex people started speaking out. Intersex people are born with ambiguous genitalia, which can be internal, external or both. Also, there can be genetic anomalies, such as being xxy, xxxy, xyy, and Klinefelter’s syndrome, among other things. So, the “I” was added. Then those people who identified as asexual – as in not having a sex and/or a sexual interest caused an “A” to be added. Then another Q was added for Questioning, and another A was added for ally. Soon it became apparent that other identities were being left out. So, two more “T”s were added: Transsexual and Two-Spirited. Then P was added for pansexual, and NB was added for nonbinary. But then another group felt left out. Those people who identified as gender fluid. Meaning those who found they could not stay within the confines of presenting as either male or female or man or woman. Hence GF – gender fluid.
Now our acronym looks like this: LGBTTTQQIAAPNBGF. Most of us who find ourselves somewhere in this acronym find it a bit unwieldy. By the way, I can identify with most of the letters in this alphabet soup. Yet, I would like to see an inclusive acronym that is not absurdly long. Several have been tried: LGBT+, GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities), SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression). I don’t know what will win out in the end. I tend to like the shortest one, GSM. We all, that is those that identity somewhere on the alphabet soup acronym, are either a gender and/or a sexual minority. Whether it be because of our orientation or our sexual and/or gender identity.
We are in a time of identity politics. A time where people need to feel included. Consequently, descriptive acronyms are important. Identity politics is when an individual’s identity can lead to a unique source of oppression. Sometimes when a person, like me, has multiple identities, these can lead to multiple oppressions. For example, I can be oppressed for being gay (homophobia), for being transgender (transphobia), for being female (misogyny and sexism), and even for being old (agism). This is called an intersectionality of oppressions.
I have been in some LGBT groups where the discussions and concerns do not address the concerns and even the oppression I have faced, even though I am a member of the group. It is at these times that I and others with unique forms of identities can feel erased. It feels as though our concerns and the struggles are not as important as the majority of the people in the LGBT community. I have felt oppressed by gender my whole life. However, I know many people in the LGBT community that do not find gender oppressive. Regardless of what groups we belong to, we need to be sure that the goals of the group address all the concerns of their members.
I know LGBTTTQQIAAPNBGF is a bit tedious, and by the way, there are more letters that can be added. Our acronym is very fluid. Just like some of us.
Susan Golightly stays active riding her bicycles. She earned both a BA and an MA from Western New Mexico University. Both times she was valedictorian, the first time as a man and the second time as a woman. She has lived all over the country and has had more than her share of life changing experiences.