We hear so much about new words to describe our community these days. The labels and identities are constantly changing, becoming more refined. It seems everyone wants a label that best describes their identity. That is a very reasonable request, where is MY label? How do I describe my identity? So, let’s take a look at some of these.
The original was just L&G. In fact, the San Diego Center was originally known as the Gay and Lesbian Center. San Diego Pride was referred to as Gay Pride. The B was added later in the 80’s, according to Wikipedia, as people who identified that way demanded they be included. The T for Transgender was added in the 90’s, again according to Wikipedia. Organizations and Social Service Agencies wanted to be more inclusive as the new millennium approached. This seemed to be stable for quite a few years.
In 2016 GLAAD’s media reference guide added the Q to be more inclusive of mainly the younger generation. The Q of course stands for Queer. The older generation of people in the community were, from what I learned having discussed this with many of them, is that that word had been used against folks that were Gay or Lesbian and even Trans as a slur. Many of our older folks were shocked and angry when they heard people use the word Queer to identify themselves. As I see it, they reclaimed the word and called it their own. By doing this no one could use the word against them anymore. I found that fascinating and wonderful. Kudos to our young folks. Some say the Q is also for ‘Questioning’. Referring to folks who are trying to figure out their own sexuality or gender identity.
This has now become LGBTQI, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Queer and Intersex. The Intersex community, from what I understand stands divided over this. I have spoken to quite a few Intersex folks and some do not want to be associated with the LGBTQ Community, while some do. It’s all about self-identity.
Then the A for Asexual and Aromantic was added. USA today in an article published June 2, 2015 stated that the Asexual and Aromantic communities were becoming increasingly popular and participating more in the LGBTQ community. Some also say that the A stands for ‘Allies’. It seems everyone has their own interpretation of what the A represents.
Very recently 2S was added. This stands for Two-Spirit People. Indigenous people view this as a spiritual and gender identity. So now we have LGBTQIA2S. I have heard many different people use the identity Two-Spirit as it denotes, to those I have talked to, a feeling of physical and emotional/spiritual gender identities, but I wonder if this isn’t being disrespectful to Indigenous people. So now we have Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Aromantic, Allies and Two-Spirit. Wow the acronym keeps on growing. So now what? Aren’t we leaving out some people?
Well, many folks say we are leaving out a large number of smaller minorities within our community, such as Pansexual, Non-binary, Gender Queer, Omnisexual and more. The biggest question is how do we find a word or words that is all inclusive without naming every group within our larger community. I don’t have an answer, but I wish I did. Will we someday just be known as humans? I do not know but what I do know is that while we have some words that work pretty well for now, why aren’t some people using them?
The word Gay has become, for so many, a catchall inclusive word for the entire community. I see it mostly used by people who identify as Gay. Many Lesbians also identify as Gay, the word is definitely associated with one’s sexual orientation. So, what about the rest of us?
I am a Transgender man, that is my gender identity. But like all people I also have a sexual orientation. I like those people who identify as female. That would make me straight or heterosexual. I have actually been insulted and hurt by people who found out my orientation and questioned my membership in the community. I can tell you it stings badly, and knowing that, I never want to do it to anyone else.
When I do public speaking, I try to be mindful of words that are not inclusive. But I also notice when others are not. I see it happen at fundraisers and political events. At sporting events, rallies, and even at Pride. If you want to really be inclusive of all people here are some tips.
Do not use the word Gay to mean everyone in your audience or the community as a whole. You are excluding lots of folks. Use gender neutral words always. Instead of my brothers and sisters say siblings. Instead of ladies and gentlemen use words like, folks, people, fellow humans, be creative. You can also just say welcome everyone. Instead of sir or ma’am or miss, just say “Hi”, or “How may I help you?”. Gendered words are not necessary all the time. Be mindful and respectful of the pronouns of the person you are speaking with. If you are not sure about their pronouns just ask. One way I do it is to say, “Hi, I’m Connor, my pronouns are he, him, his”. What pronouns do you use? If you make a mistake, immediately apologize and move on. Listen when someone tells you their pronouns. Too many times I have seen someone correct a person, but they keep on misgendering anyways.
Remember, it hurts to be excluded and it hurts to be misgendered or misnamed. We can all do better, including me.