I’m hard pressed to find a “community” as ever-changing and ultimately unnameable as the gay community.

Once upon a time we were all homosexuals.

Then, as people started realizing that in many contexts “homosexual” has a negative, clinical connotation – in polls, when you use the word “homosexual” instead of “gay,” support plummets – we slowly started shifting towards the word “gay.”

But then, some felt that “gay” was too male, and left women out. So we became “gay men and lesbians.” (Of course, by saying “gay men” we’re suggesting that “gay” does not equal “men” at all, otherwise the phrase would be redundant, and akin to saying “lesbian women” or “male boys.”)

Then we became “gay, lesbian and bisexual” or GLB, since bisexuals, who are attracted to both genders, aren’t technically “gay.”  (Interestingly, we make no distinction between male and female bisexuals in the abbreviation, but we do between male and female gays.)

Pride (courtesy of AndrewRm)

Pride in Bologna, Italy, 2008 (courtesy of AndrewRm)

Then, some started calling us LGB, because GLB put “men” first. (Though, of course, LGB puts bisexuals last, but no one was terribly concerned about that, other than, one presumes, bisexuals.)

Then we became “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” – GLBT, since trans people were left out of GLB.

And then we became LGBT – again, the concern about women – though many older gays (LGBTs?) use GLBT.

Now, it’s becoming more common in some circles to call us LGBTQ – the Q is for “questioning.”

And in some circles, especially if you go abroad, the acronym gets even longer, with the addition of interesex (I), asexual (A), queer (Q), ally (A), and much. Columbia even offers a course titled “LGBTQIAA: Psychodynamics of Sexuality and Gender.”

Wikipedia presents some of the latest thinking on what we should call ourselves:

Many variants exist including variations that merely change the order of the letters; LGBT or GLBT are the most common terms and the ones most frequently seen in current usage. Although identical in meaning, “LGBT” may have a more feminist connotation than “GLBT” as it places the “L” (for “lesbian”) first. When not inclusive of transgender people it is sometimes shortened to LGB. LGBT may also include additional “Q”s for “queer” or “questioning” (sometimes abbreviated with a question mark and sometimes used to mean anybody not literally L, G, B or T) which can then look like e.g., “LGBTQ” or “LGBTQQ””.

Other variants may add a “U” for “unsure”; a “C” for “curious”; an “I” for “intersex”; another “T” for “transsexual” or “transvestite”; another “T”, “TS”, or “2” for “Two‐Spirit” persons; an “A” or “SA” for “straight allies”; or an “A” for “asexual”. Some may also add a “P” for “pansexual” or “polyamorous”, an “H” for “HIV-affected”, and/or an “O” for “other”….

The magazine Anything That Moves coined the acronym “FABGLITTER” from Fetish (such as the BDSM lifestyle community), Allies or poly-Amorous (as in Polyamorous couples), Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Intersexed, Transgender, Transsexual Engendering Revolution or inter-Racial attraction; however, this term has not made its way into common usage. Another acronym that has begun to spread is “QUILTBAG” from Queer or Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual, Gay; again, this is not a common term. Similarly, in some areas people are starting to simply use “LGBTQetc” or “LGBTQ+” to be more inclusive. The initial A for Allies comes from straight (heterosexual) allies who are in support of the GLBT community, and sometimes they form an alliance in sociopolitical affairs to further represent the umbrella initialism “GLBTA” (Gay Lesbian Bi Trans Alternative or Allies).[citation needed] The A may also be used to represent asexual people. “LGBTQIA” has some use among transgender American college students and their contemporaries.

Andrew Sullivan weighed in on all of this the other day:

Equal marriage supporters at a Stonewall rally outside the House of Lords as peers gave the Bill Third Reading on 15 July. (Photo credit: SIMON CALLAGHAN.)

Equal marriage supporters at a Stonewall rally outside the House of Lords in London, July 2013 (Photo credit: SIMON CALLAGHAN.)

[T]here is a “word” that seems to me worth retiring. Not by fiat, just by trying to avoid or ignore it. It’s the unpronounceable p.c. acronym: LGBT. God I hate that “word”. It describes no single person; it cannot be spoken easily; it reeks of bullshit. No one started using that word of their own accord as a way to describe herself. It was created by leftists who believe that all oppressed groups are primarily defined by their oppression and that the very different lives and identities of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender are somehow all one. I know it’s an effort at inclusion. I appreciate the good intent. And if it had any wit or originality, instead of sounding like a town in Croatia, I could live with it. But it doesn’t.

The ever-expanding abbreviation (it’s not an acronym, as it’s unpronounceable) does run into a few problems. Not the least of which is that a lot of people have no idea what it even means, so we’re actually in-ning ourselves when we use it.

How many other civil rights communities find themselves ever-expanding?

How many other civil rights communities find themselves ever-expanding, and thus ever-in-need of a new name?

Unidentified participants taking part to the second gay pride march through the city of Thessaloniki on June 15, 2013 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Portokalis /

Unidentified participants taking part to the second gay pride march through the city of Thessaloniki on June 15, 2013 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Portokalis /

The black community has called itself different things over time, including negro (United Negro College Found), colored (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), black, and African-American.

And while those names changed to reflect the times – just as with “homosexual,” “colored” now has a negative, discriminatory connotation – I don’t think the definition of who is “African-American” has expanded over time.

And, interestingly, you don’t see the NAACP adding an “A” for allies who aren’t black, nor do you see the ACLU adding a “Q” for people who are coming around on the whole civil liberties thing, but not entirely there yet. Should they?

That’s not to say that expansion is necessarily a bad thing. It’s entirely possible that some community members weren’t being represented by the overall name, but is that really the case with “gay”?  Did people really not realize that in the 1990s, when you said Gay Pride, you also meant lesbians and bisexuals?  As for transgender people, when you say Gay Pride in 2014 (in fact, the celebration is increasingly being called “LGBT Pride”), people generally assume the T is welcome alongside the LGB.  So was the expansion of the abbreviation necessary, and even if it was, at what point will it ever stop expanding and changing?  And should it?

Are we defining ourselves out of existence?

While it’s fine to say that the abbreviation should never stop expanding, cumbaya and all, at some point you stop being a “community” if you start being all 7 billion people on the planet.

And while I suspect some younger “gays” (for lack of a better term) would like nothing better than for us to do away with all of these insular self-defined communities (e.g., black, feminist, gay, Latino, enviro), they tried that in France, and it’s been undercutting their cultural (as opposed to legal) battle for civil and human rights for a while.

India pro-LGBT protest, New Delhi (photo by Rajan Zaveri)

India pro-LGBT protest, New Delhi (photo by Rajan Zaveri)

While the discussion is worthy of its own post, in a nutshell, when you have a society that says it’s inappropriate to be hyphenated (gay-American, African-American, Greek-American), the assumption from the git-go is that “everybody’s equal already,” so there’s no reason to push for greater equality.  And those who do push – who seem to be identifying with a “community,” rather than the nation at large – are looked on with some disdain.

There are a lot more reasons why the “we are the world” approach to progressive advocacy doesn’t really work – including the old “jack of all trades, master of none” argument – but that’s for another post.

Expansion without reflection is not a recipe for inclusion

As I’ve written before, it’s all well and good to expand the “gay” community by alphabetical fiat, but a change in spelling does not a community make.

Do lesbians feel more included since, and because of, their addition to the abbreviation nearly two decades ago? Do bisexuals feel any less ignored or disbelieved? And do trans people feel finally welcome and accepted as an equal partner of the ever-expanding alphabet soup?

gay--ukraineWhen you define someone’s community for them, you’re simply creating the illusion of inclusion.  You give people an easy out.  “Sure, we believe in bisexuals – look, there’s a B in our name!”  But in fact, I’m one of the only gay people I know who believes that bisexuals even exist (many gays think bisexuals are just “faking it,” and are actually closeted gays).  You get the letter, but you don’t get the buy-in. And that has political and social repercussions, as the sub-community eventually finds out that the abbreviation only provides lip-service to inclusiveness.

After all, how many “LGBTs” are going to fall on their political swords for the intersex community?

Some people object to having these discussions at all.  They’d rather we all just pretend that the entire “community” accepts this ever-expanding definition of community.  But I worry, politically, that when you don’t get people to buy in to a common definition of who they are, they don’t end up fighting nearly as hard for some members as they do others.  And we can either ignore that reality, since discussing it makes some people uncomfortable, or we can address it, and hopefully make things better for everyone.

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

Share This Post

198 Responses to “LGBT RIP”

  1. goulo says:

    It’s interesting: the notion of “Hispanic” actually seems to be rather ambiguous and not as simple as “they all hail from Spanish-speaking countries”. It has many mutually inconsistent definitions and common usages.

    E.g. is someone from Spain (or any other non-American) country Hispanic, or is a Hispanic person necessarily from an American country? (And what about a person who is from a Spanish-speaking country but does not speak Spanish as their first/primary language? E.g. a person of German descent in Argentina or of Japanese descent in Peru, or of course people from various Indian tribes in what are now Central or South American countries.)

    Or is being from “Latin America” the definition? And if “Latin America” is the definition, does it include all Romance language (Portuguese and French) speaking countries like Brazil and Suriname, or only Spanish speaking countries?

    There are different definitions and different people and sources use them differently… e.g. see:

  2. Steven Koh says:

    I don’t agree with everything Sweetie said. But somewhere in there is a basic legit point that T is gender identity and LGB is sexual orientation and those are 2 different things. Of course, some Ts can be gay. But that is true of every social, ethnic, professional, racial, religious, etc. group on the planet. There are gay Ts just as there are gay bus drivers and gay Buddhists. That doesn’t mean that all bus drivers and all Buddhists get a letter and form “one people” with LGBs.

  3. Steven Koh says:

    Hispanics all share a common trait – they all hail from Spanish speaking countries. Hispanic is thus analogous to LGB. Ls, Gs, and Bs all have differences, but they also share a common trait, which is the basis of the identity of each.

    LGBT, by contrast, purports to meld 2 discrete groups into one. It is an absurd sham. By way of analogy, it would be like someone coming up with the term “Hispanic” to mean “all people who hail from Spanish-speaking nations PLUS all left-handed doctors.”

  4. John says:

    There is a fundamental absurdity in “oppression identity”. Such focus shows an inherent intolerance and stunning lack of diversity in those who claim diversity is god. It implies that members of “groups” are and/or must be monolithic in their thinking. This is far from the truth and leads to an enforced group think. Members who stray from or do not fully support a particular group ideology are marginalized. This is true of “oppressed” across the landscape of political ideology. It is understandable how this develops but it is nevertheless a false construct. We now have a society in which being a victim entitles one to intolerance. This leads us to rationalize and justify becoming what we profess to hate. Again understandable at a human level but it remains the stuff of tribalism rather than transcendent development.

  5. Erica Cook says:

    Well, honestly I’ve thought of that too, as minority goes, including women would mean we’d have a closer connection to the women’s right movement. That couldn’t hurt us, but there is an argument that given ciz women are ruffly 52% of the world population they aren’t a minority, and given ciz men have the social power they don’t count that way. As for gender nonconforming, I said gender minority not gender nonconforming. Gender minority is meant to be people who’s anatomy didn’t fit their psychologically based gender perception. This includeds transgender, intersex, and nongender people. Their issues are our issues, the violence we suffer, they suffer. In fighting for them we change nothing in our cause, we just gain people who would otherwise be forgotten.

    If what we do has the side effect of making ciz straight people who don’t conform to gender roles easier that can only help. They will have a vested interest in our cause through wanting a better life for themselves. They will be able to empathize with us. So are men in traditionally feminine roles and women in traditionally
    masculine roles a part of our community if they are strait? No, but
    what is wrong with that their support helps our cause?

    Now the black Civil rights movement at one time didn’t want to include people of mixed race because in theory they could pass, and therefor their issues were assumed to be less. That wasn’t actually the case, they were often cut out of both worlds unless they denied half their heritage, and not all could. So, reluctantly they were accepted. So much so in the end that the president of the NAACP is so light he is often mistaken for fully white. During the fight for the civil rights of blacks, many Jewish law firms helped in representing blacks as well. They were accepted into the fold because they saw a need to help, and were an oppressed group in their own right. That fact didn’t mean they were honorary blacks, but people saw they knew what the issues were first hand.

    The fight for equality for blacks, paved the way for the disabled. We are a very different group and not included, but their fight was our fight too. Every ramp leading into a store, every braille posting under a bathroom sigh, every jack to allow people to hear what an ATM says, every low teller stand in a bank has its direct roots to the civil rights movement for the blacks, because they paved the way for accepting people who were different in a way others saw as inferior.

    Are my straight ally parents a part of this movement? Yes, because they face losing their jobs, exile from their churches, loss of friends, hate crimes, and everything we suffer for accepting us. They volunteer to be a part of our community through support of their children, and given so many parents don’t do this we owe them that. In most communities the parents would belong by default because in most communities a minority status is inherited. Race, religion, and even sometimes disability. I understand including absolutely everyone is a bad idea, but the situation with parents who aren’t necessarily gay is something other communities haven’t had to deal with. They deserve an honorary status within the community.

    I count strait allies as a part of our community because we need them. In the same way it is an honorary status, but weather you see allies as members or just friends we are NOT going to get anywhere without these people who aren’t full members of our community. We need to give them a place in our social structure, and the best one I can think of is by saying, you aren’t a gender or attraction based minority but you are on our side, so you have a place at my table.

  6. Gender is still difficult because gender discrimination is something women face, so is every woman now a member of our “community”? That’s fine for NARAL or NOW or PPFA, but we seem to be getting away from our mission if our organizations represent half the world (which is whY I’ve never accepted the LGBT are linked by “gender non-conformity discrimination” – that would make every woman LGBT, and LGBT would also include straight male nurses, and heterosexual stay-at-home dads, and straight female airline pilots, etc – anyone who isn’t conforming to “traditional “gender norms and faces discrimination based on it. And while yes, they all do suffer discrimination based on gender expectations, that’s a much larger penumbra than just gay, or lgbt, and I think it just gets too big for a “gay” organization unless we just give up on all the issues we’ve been focusing on. Not that that isn’t the intent of some on the left, to get us to basically become a poverty organization, or some other liberal organizaton that has nothing to do with gay rights.

  7. Erica Cook says:

    I’ve actually thought about this. It is a bit more complicated than any alphabet soup we use. We are actually so much more diverse, and I do think we need to include people like my mom and dad, who are straight. The reason is the fight is their fight through me. What I’ve thought of is saying, gender and attraction based minorities. In this we define anyone who is a minority because of who they love, how they love and how they see gender. Now, this may cause some issues if those people we are always equated with say they are now included, but it isn’t hard to point out that the desire for sex with children isn’t attraction, but a form of sexual fetishes which causes nothing but harm. In truth, not a sexuality at all. But I think it will be useful as different ways of expressing one’s sexual and gender identity become more apparent. I don’t think we’ve seen all there is left to see.

  8. goulo says:

    I just ran across a similar example at Sociological Images of a group label becoming more encompassing:

    > > >
    One may well wonder where the term “Hispanic,” and for that matter, “Latino,”
    came from. The press and pundits are all abuzz about the Hispanic vote,
    Hispanic organizations, and Hispanic cultural influences. Back in the
    mid-twentieth century, however, they wrote about Mexicans or Puerto
    Ricans or Guatemalans, not about Hispanics. Of course, people of Latin
    American origin have become far more numerous in the United States since
    then and the immigration itself brings more attention. Nonetheless, the
    labels have changed. Starting in the 1970s, the media rapidly
    adopted the “pan-ethnic” term Hispanic, and to a lesser degree, Latino,
    and slowed down their use of specific national labels.
    < < <

  9. Oh there’s more than enough hate to go around on all sides. :)

  10. From what I saw, Kouric was railroaded too.

  11. Drew2u says:

    As an international spotlight, I think using the acronym, “LGBT” or “GLBT”, whatever, is great as a non-word entity that other languages could pick up. Since it doesn’t necessarily need pronunciation, it can stand as a literary symbolism that is recognized if not read. See this story about a gay man in China suing the government, then look at the protest signs in the pictures.

  12. SFExPat says:

    Blogvader, most of us don’t get activist but many still have strong opinions. There is also, I believe, a large social/political (?) difference between MTFs and FTMs. I have not spent much time actually IN either group, though I have known several people in each group over the years. In my somewhat limited experience, I found that most of us go to support groups to find out what we need to find out, where to go to get it and then go back to our regularly scheduled lives, hopefully (as in my case) with a lot more confidence and serenity.

  13. SFExPat says:

    Thanks, John, and I have read quite enough of those “few activists”, who are I believe made up uniformly of MTFs who seem to have a beef with mostly gay men and want to be seen solely as women and not trans or formerly gay or whatever. Fine with me, I say, but where does the hatred come from?
    On the other hand, I have also read and seen quite enough anti-trans* sentiment, mostly from gay men — although I lost a few lesbian friends over a decade ago when they perceived me to have “gone over to the dark side”. Sigh.
    As for whether (or when) trans*people will gain our basic civil rights also, it’ll be good to see how things go in states with trans* protections, e.g. CA and now MD.
    Thanks for the discussion here, all. It is way less civil in some other places, as I know you know.

  14. 4th Turning says:

    Gracias. Happy to defer and edit.

  15. I think we always do best pleading our case as a special interest group. An organization devoted to every liberal cause won’t be very effective as they won’t have enough time or money or influence or chits saved up to help everybody. I’m talking practical politics. In your heart, of course you should be “for” everyone. But you can’t donate to every cause, you can’t advocate on behalf of every cause (because you simply don’t have the time). So it’s a reality of politics that you have to pick and choose.

    And yeah, I’ve never understood the whole “bisexuals are lying argument.” I’m sure some are, but why should we believe that every other permutation on the Kinsey Scale is believable, you can be a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or a 6, but you simply CANNOT be a 3.5! And while some dont like the Kinsey Scale, that’s not my point. Gay people readily accept that some gay people are 70-30 gay to straight, or whatever. But we can’t accept 50-50. It’s just silly,

  16. 4th Turning says:

    An interesting sidebar perspective ie. the broader labeling minefield.
    Not sure how to excise choicest morsel so fast-forward to 4:50.

    My guess is, no matter how much progress, residues of hateful
    speech will linger for a very long time.—professional-soccer-toddler–golf-innovations—washington-redskins-charm-offensive

  17. So you wind up pleading your case as a special interest group?

    I dislike the “initialism” myself, but… truth is?

    To the extent that gay/lesbian/transsexual/whatever is actually linked to a birth condition, that we are “born this way” – we’re all particular species of intersex conditions – persons born with variant -brain structures- caused by “abnormal” hormonal conditions in the womb, rather than visually obvious genital variations.

    PS: Many intersexed persons, like many transsexual persons, don’t much care for being linked with GL/whatever, so they may be just as happy if you don’t take up their cause?


    Ah, but anyway, John, thanks for accepting that bisexual persons actually exist!

    … the science is now coming along to support this, following several decades of fervent denial of the mere possibility that bi-folk exist.

  18. Blogvader says:

    It’s interesting.

    A good friend of mine that I’ve known for almost 20 years is a transman, and was pretty shocked to read about the coverage of the Piers Morgan and Katie Couric backlash.

    It seems like there are a lot of trans people that don’t associate with the most vocal members of that community. (And thankfully so.)

  19. I appreciate that. Then please join in the discussion more :) Here and elsewhere.

  20. And you sound like a decent person. Please speak up more :) I’m not sure you fully appreciate the degree to which a “few activists” have coopted your entire movement’s message.

  21. Ruslanchik says:

    John, I think initialism is mostly used by people who insist on being correct about such things. :)

    Most people would probably call LGBT an acronym and I don’t think you would be criticized too harshly for doing that in a blog post. However, in a semantic/linguistic article like the one above you are probably safe using initialism since the readers who are interested in such details would likely appreciate the accuracy. That’s just my two cents, though.

  22. I think a lot of gay people don’t undersand how sexual orientation works with gender identity – meaning, you’re gay, you transition, now you’re straight. It took me a while to understand it, and I find a lot of people I meet still get confused. So that might be what’s going on.

  23. FLL says:

    LGBT is the combination of two separate phenomena: sexuality (who you’re attracted to) and gender identification. This combined use of sexuality/gender identification has only been used in terms of political strategy for anti-discrimination laws and the fight against religious bigotry, which often targets both phenomena. I’m not making any comment on the effectiveness of that political strategy. Whatever works to speed up legal progress rather than slow it down is effective. I’m just saying that once you move beyond anti-discrimination law, there is no reason for society to discuss or regard sexuality and gender identification in combination rather than as the two completely different and unrelated phenomena that they are.

  24. The problem, we all have an interest in defending and promoting progressive values everywhere. That doesn’t mean I’d kill ENDA in order to get GMO labeling. The phrase “fall on your sword” was used intentionally. People give verbal “support”to lots of things. But they give up something they’ve always wanted only in exchange for something else dear to them. Most gay people in this country do not accept the intersex segment of the population as dear to them, as part of their ‘commnity,’ as something they would sacrifice one of their top goals for. That was my point. Adding the letter I to the initialism does not mean people will consider Intersex as much a part of the gay community as lesbians. That was my point.

  25. Silly Ruslan, everyone knows that it’s “an initialism of starlings.” :) Actually that’s really interesting, I never knew that. And Ive googled this repeated to confirm, in the past, that it’s not an acronym. I never came across initialism. But just googled it, and you’re write. Only problem is that I fear the word is too unknown to be useful – do folks actually use it?

  26. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I’ve got to join the group for that.

  27. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    This seems to be about our experiences. Where I grew up, no one used “queer” as a slur, but “homo”was. So I have a bad reaction to “homo”. I do know that I’m getting really tired of the alphabet soup. I have actually seen “LGBTQIA”. Besides, “homo” is just one step away from “mo”.

  28. Ruslanchik says:

    An unpronounceable acronym, like LGBT, is called an initialism, not an abbreviation.


  29. UncleBucky says:

    I think he has a problem with getting close to people… It shows up in that he’s always putting up barriers…

  30. UncleBucky says:

    Not Straight. Hm. Reminds me of Firesign Theatre’s “Not Insane”


  31. UncleBucky says:

    Rand Paul is the new Joe McCarthy in many ways…

    We have to find a new ___________ to combat him…

  32. UncleBucky says:

    I think that “queer” has meant “something is wrong with you, but I’m not sure…” It is getting to mean a more fluid, yet still indistinct sexual identity, possibly including the arts, fashion, style if not specifically the plumbing…

    There might be room in the future for “queer”, but not as a general term for the present.

  33. UncleBucky says:

    I made the change from GLBT to LGBT not out of chivalry, but rather out of a sense of sharing power or giving over control. Let Lesbians go first. Let’s all drink a beer together and eat lunch at the same table. I ain’t gonna fight over which comes first, L or G.

    Rainbow is OK with me, too. My retinas can sense all colours. My skin can sense infrared colours, I think.

  34. UncleBucky says:

    I’d like it if there wasn’t history of its being used as a slur. I realize that in some cases, taking control of the slur takes back power. But I wouldn’t wear it on a t-shirt. Not even yet.

  35. UncleBucky says:

    When is it right for people (trans ppl and allies) to strike back at others who are going through a developmental process to understand, review one’s attitudes, review one’s reactions and figure out how to properly interact with trans people? When is it right for them to make enemies with those who are trying to work out of years of indoctrination? I mean!!!

    John, why do they make enemies instead of saying, “you’ve come so far… GOOD! Now, here’s some areas where you could improve, and MAY I SUGGEST…” and “Thank you, let’s continue to go forward together…”

    I was an HRC Rep two years in a row at the Be-All Conference in Arlington Heights, IL. I think I was given that job because no one else wanted to do it? ;o)

  36. SFExPat says:

    I have never ripped the head off anyone or anything in my life and would never do so unless they were coming after my head first.
    There are trans* people who are bigoted against gays and gays (men and women) who are bigoted against trans* people. A major point is, much of straight bigoted religionist society hates us all, and unfortunately, that is one thing we do have in common.

  37. UncleBucky says:

    I was listening to Stephanie Miller I think. And a male voice was talking. He said something about coming out as a kid. He said something like “One day I just realized I was into guys. And I liked that guy right over THERE!”

    Your post reminded me of that rather clever moment!

  38. SFExPat says:

    Geez, do any of you know any ordinary trans* people or just a few activists with a beef against something/one?
    I identify with GBLT* even tho’ I agree with John it is academic and not terribly useful. I am a gay transman human being, not a “movement” or a “community”, and I don’t care how few or many of us there are, we are people, and we are here.

  39. SFExPat says:

    As a gay transman, I am very much represented by the “G” and the “T” in the acronym. Why do you try to speak for all trans* people by saying we all are really hetero?
    That said, I do sorta agree this acronymizing of us has gone a bit silly.

  40. frogview says:

    I agree.

  41. “After all, how many “LGBTs” are going to fall on their political swords for the intersex community?” – John Aravosis

    The intersexed are not a “community,” they are a segment of the population who are exquisitely vulnerable to abuse – because medical professionals and much of the public perceive them as THE OTHER… and thus the medicos often subject them to involuntary “surgical correction” of their anatomical anomalies as infants which typically impair their functioning, and the public at large often subjects them to social ostracism.

    PS: that would be me: there is no political sacrifice involved in defending the innocent, and all of us in the GL-“whatever”, as persons sharing some form of “sexual variation,” have a common interest in defending ourselves against social oppression “justified” by Procrustean norms.

  42. Sweetie says:

    “How could they have created a word for something that didn’t exist?”


    We’ve always been around, even if people want to pretend otherwise. There have been, and still are, differences in how people see/have seen us, but the orientation (homosexual human) has existed for as long as humans have.

  43. Henry Owen says:

    Actually, it is not my opinion. Would you like my opinion of your snarky comments (if those are indeed your opinion)?

  44. Henry Owen says:

    LGBT RIP, or LGBT R.I.P.?

  45. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    The use a a supposed third party as the true holder of a despicable viewpoint is a tired rhetorical device often used by bigots.

    The opinion you expressed was yours, wasn’t it?

  46. Henry Owen says:

    Most people who have expressed an opinion to me…

  47. BeccaM says:

    Even so, I’ve felt bad about not having time to do anything more than grab moments here and there to rant in the comments.

    Making money = good. Especially when just a year ago, we were worrying about paying the mortgage and one prospective client after another kept falling through.

    Not having time to enjoy life and the things I like doing? Not so good.

  48. BeccaM says:

    I doubt we’re alone.

  49. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    Wow, you just imperiously deny the existence of the people around you.

  50. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    Yeah, gay was great when it was all-inclusive all these other terms are so fragmentary we end up with alphabet soup.

  51. Sweetie says:

    The only thing that gets my fluids going is the male body.

  52. A) It having been a slur “You queers”. B) That because of it, I think it would make non-queer people feel weird using the word. And C) it’s all well and good to take a slur and try to turn it around, but if it doesn’t work, you’ve just given people permission to use the slur again :)

  53. Sweetie says:

    Both can be partially solved by dumping the “sexual” part of the term.


    Few syllables and no explicit references to sex… While homo has been used as a slur, it isn’t one morphologically (objectively).

  54. Breathing. You’d have to ask a trans person that, if you can find one that won’t rip your head off for asking the question the wrong way.

  55. That wasn’t meant as a nudge LOL

  56. Sweetie says:

    It’s horrible. It’s like blacks calling themselves by the n word all the time rather than in selective circumstances.

  57. No, I’m saying I don’t think the name change does much to help. I know for a fact that lesbian friends have told me they’ve felt excluded.

  58. Sweetie says:

    Cultural baggage like the definition of the word?

    A much better case can be made for homosexual, although it suffers from two problems:

    1. Too many syllables
    2. Contains “sex” which offends Puritanical America

  59. Only if I can be Ginger. Or have the professor.

  60. Sweetie says:

    Transgenderism and the drag community typically have commonalities, though. The performative aspect of gender for one thing. Another is the difference between gender expression and physiological gender markers. However, cross-dressers (who are heterosexual) also share this performative aspect and they aren’t lumped in with homosexuality typically.

  61. Sweetie says:

    Straight is a slur against homosexuals.

  62. Sweetie says:

    I mind it intensely, for good reason.

  63. Bomer says:

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that cries at that part.

  64. Sweetie says:

    Furthermore, it’s bad enough to be defined by a slur that means “strange enough to be incompatible with society and possibly imaginary (like a queer little elf that lives under a rock)” without bundling in “theory” — to further reinforce the imaginary aspect. That’s just what we need to fight the whackadoodles with their reparative nonsense — even more promotion of gay invisibility rhetoric by suggesting that we’re merely theoretical.

    Homosexual Analysis may cause some here to cringe, but at least it doesn’t embed an objective slur or suggest that we’re fictitious.

  65. Would LGBTetc. sound too much like “and the rest” on Gilligan’s Island?

  66. Sweetie says:

    Academia, with its “Queer Theory” disgusts me. I do not appreciate walking down the hall and seeing books with titles like that in a glass case operated by an English department. It is the epitome of the out of touch ivory tower. It may be comfortable enough for them to ladle slurs all over us, but some of us know what the consequences are for embracing that BS amelioration theory.

  67. Bomer says:

    Same here. When I was little being called a queer was usually followed with getting the shit kicked out of you.

  68. Sweetie says:

    + carries the connotation of HIV positive which is not something everyone would be comfortable with. Transgendered people have more in common with heterosexuals (preferring members of the opposite sex). Putting lesbian first is a weird form of sexism or a denigration of gay men. And, not going strictly alphabetically, which places bisexuals first, involves judgements about importance that are going to be difficult to defend.

  69. Sweetie says:

    Edit to the last part. Heteros obviously aren’t in the same class. The problem is how to fit in bisexuals. To be really perfectionist one might even argue that bisexuals, like transgendered people, really shouldn’t be classified with homosexuals — at least not bisexuals who are 50/50 or more hetero than homo. However, they are closer to homosexuality than transgendered people are, because they are attracted to some degree to members of the same sex.

  70. Sweetie says:

    Gay rights is a movement for civil rights for gay people. Gay people are homosexual.

    Transgenderism is not homosexuality. In fact, it’s closer to heterosexuality than it is to homosexuality. Homosexuals are attracted to members of their sex. They like the body they have to the point of wanting to have intimate relations with others with the same type of body. That’s the polar opposite of a transgendered person.

    The fact is that homosexual is a neutral descriptive term. Homo = same. Hetero = different. There is nothing inherent in the word that makes it pejorative or negative. That is not the case with the other terms, especially the very offensive slur queer.

    Homo and hetero are vastly preferable to the stupid acronyms, especially those that embed bizarrely anachronistic chivalry or judgements about importance (putting L before G and putting B last or next to last). For those who believe in bisexuality, then bi suffices, too. We have no need for references to Greek islands or the 1920/30s sissy stereotyping (gay).

    Homo, hetero, bi. As a group… I suppose gay will have to do, annoying as it is — especially with the gay vs. straight nonsense that perpetuates the notion that we’re defective (straight arrow vs. bent one).

  71. Agree, John. I’ve followed some of the twitter fight, and they just come out of the gate so nasty. Not necessary, and not a way to win friends, that’s for sure.

  72. Would the opposite of straight be “Curly?” “Naturally Curly?”

  73. How about just “Out?” Too vague?

  74. Henry Owen says:

    Most people who have expressed an opinion to me think that calling one’s self bisexual is like saying you are allergic to cigarette smoke, or are ADHD. While there are some people with a bonafide diagnosis of a smoke allergy, or ADHD, more often it is an unverified and convenient excuse for something else.

  75. Rev. M. Vernon Hunt says:

    This is why I just use LGBT+. It makes more sense than crowding the bowl by dumping ever more letters into the alphabet soup, and it’s plenty inclusive, in my opinion. I have also advocated for the use of SO/GI (sexual orientation/gender identity) when appropriate, but I don’t think that one’s going to catch on anytime soon.

  76. 4th Turning says:

    And one more thing. Whatever title, euphemism, label bubbles up from this united nations hot tub romp, it will still be synonymous with prison/execution for our brothers and sisters in uganda, iran, india, as well as moscow.

  77. Stan says:

    Not sure I understand your argument, but are you saying they should already have felt included (I think you are) or that they really aren’t part of the same community? Well anyway, how can we tell people what they should feel? And if they are welcomed, then why not honor that with a letter?

    I mean, I get that there are other communities and sub communities, and there is common cause. It’s never simple. But the question of Blacks and people of color is instructive: Black people can feel that they are a community apart from but possibly within a larger “community” of common cause: those who are not white. And Whiteness is really a core problem in the not-quite-post colonial world. Who gets to be “white?”

    As for the alphabet soup, one could worry that some LGBs are saying, we’re born that way but those others are just pervy. Not putting this on anyone, just putting it out there.

    In a condo I used to live in there was a large Republican gay community and I tried to understand where they were coming from. It’s really a vexing problem for me that they can embrace the GOP identity and it was a chance to get to understand them better. I can’t say I succeeded, but I did come away with a theory: Some, at least, seemed to be saying, “I’m educated, I’m successful (and I’m Caucasian), why can’t I be part of the privileged set too?” (Why can’t I be fully white too?) I could totally be wrong, but that’s my best shot.

    So anyway, I think we can parse it down to: What are the genuine communities (in terms of socialization, values, mutual support)? What are the meaningful clusters of communities with common cause? And what is the system of acceptance and privilege that exclude others from full participation in society (and which the various hyphenated communities stand simultaneously in opposition to and, often, to some extent are also begging admission to).

    It’s complicated, but I doubt there are enough letters in the alphabet to capture it all.

  78. I often wonder about that fluidity thing. I’m a Kinsey 6, never felt otherwise. Fluids, maybe, but not fluid!

  79. 4th Turning says:

    Showers or no showers, the straight world will be very happy to “embrace” whatever we wind up
    calling ourselves-as long as we keep redistributing our considerable wealth. Going way back in
    time to last Sept. am remembering Mayor Rybak’s smiling (drooling?) face on the news.
    Regret this post got somewhat derailed as the issue of labeling is very important maybe even
    critical since it gets its stranglehold starting in grade school. Nerd may have made it into the movies.
    But intelligent, hardworking-if ordinary looking and unathletic-students should never have been belittled and made to feel ashamed of being smart. Gay parents may be more welcomed now by their neighbors-I suspect life is and for sometime to come will be touch and go for their kids in school.

  80. BeccaM says:

    The problem for me right now and why I haven’t been active except in the comments is I’m working two full-time clients…

  81. Who, lesbians? I’m not sure that adding lesbian to the name did anything real for lesbians. Trans is probably another story, since they’ve had far less visibility. But lesbian? I’m open to hearing an argument.

  82. Mind you, I’ve offered a few quite civil, sane trans people to write for us. Zilch. (Then again, I’ve offered a lot of women to come write for us too, and that also typically got rejected.)

  83. Stan says:

    “Do lesbians feel more included since, and because of, their addition to the abbreviation nearly two decades ago? Do bisexuals feel any less ignored or disbelieved? And do trans people feel finally welcome and accepted as an equal partner of the ever-expanding alphabet soup?”

    Do you really doubt that this has had no positive benefit for them?

  84. We need more sane, civil and smart trans leaders who aren’t afraid to speak up. I’ve talked to some, they won’t speak up because they’ve been silenced too.

  85. BeccaM says:

    I know what you mean. I also wish it wasn’t me feeling compelled to speak up for a marginalized and oft-maligned group that doesn’t even seem to have a presence here… but then I see the comments with the negativity and anger and judgmentalism and have to wonder if it’s simply because they know they won’t be welcome here.

    I still think the “crazy T*” is as much an undeserved stereotype as the swishy gay or the diesel dyke or the nympho-bi. And then somebody says, “Yes, but those are the only ones I ever encounter!”

    At which point I throw up my hands and pour a large snifter of scotch… I think I still have most of that bottle of birthday Lagavulin.

  86. pappyvet says:

    I agree Sis but I believe it is time to hear from some in the trans community who do not come equipped with an already loaded and cocked chip on their shoulder.
    I would like to see an open forum here at AMERICAblog. but what good would it do if we cannot have a conversation with rational people?

  87. Chance says:

    When I visualise a self-professed “queer”, I see a nineteen-year old Trotskyite telling me I don’t understand my own struggles, because I have false class/sexuality consciousness.

  88. Dave says:

    Don’t be intimidated. I have followed these trans activists for a long time. There’s only a couple of dozen of these hardcore nuts, scattered across North America. The entire trans movement is ridiculously small, which is why it needed to ensconce itself into the LGB movement. But the cadre of angry trans activists you are referencing is miniscule. You could fit them all into a 2 or 3 booths at a diner.

    They are extremely nasty people, but their power comes from others caring about what they say. As angry sadists, they love nothing more than to hear apologies and attempts at conciliation. It fuels them more. That is why they almost always go after progressive straights (Piers Morgan, Roseanne Barr, Jared Leto) and LGBs (Israel Luna, HRC, Dan Savage). You won’t find these trans activists going after Bryan Fischer or Peter Labarbera. Why? Because those people do not care about trans activists tweets and won’t grovel and apologize.

    Without groveling, there’s no pleasure for the trans activists in the attack. So don’t apologize. Don’t grovel. Don’t engage with them. Deal only with civil, rational people who come here for good faith discussion.

  89. Lo Hung says:

    You have no problem using labels in lieu of argument.

  90. Dave says:

    Excellent post. LGBT is illegitimate because it was never debated and adapted from the ground up. It was imposed, created by “queer” academics and quickly thrust upon gay groups and institutions. Most people went along because the when we went from G to LG to LGB. We went from one letter to 3 not to contrive any fundamental change in our identity, but to give equal recognition to all the components of the community comprising people who are attracted to their own sex.

    When the “T” was added, it seemed like just another step in the same process. But it wasn’t. The T was a fundamental redefinition of our community. The “T” purports to link homosexuals – as a matter of identity – with all manner of heterosexuals. Heterosexual crossdressers, heterosexual transsexuals, heterosexual intersexed people, heterosexual “neutrois” (people who want to get castrated). While any of these groups could be friends or allies of LGBs, forcibly linking us to them as a matter of self-definition was an attack on gay identity and self-determination. It never should have happened without a full and free debate. Now, thanks to the internet, we can have the debate that should have happened 15 years ago.

  91. Sean says:

    That whole “post-gay” thing really bugs me. Coming out and owning up to the label “gay” was one of the great victories of my life. By rejecting conformity as the highest value, and fighting for an OPEN acceptance of sexual difference, it let me finally join society. Living in a “post-gay” world sounds like the Nazi’s won the war. (Living in a “post-straight” world sounds OK – but am I admitting to a prejudice if I say that?)

  92. pappyvet says:

    John , what exactly have we been accused of doing that is not supportive? I do not get the problem.

  93. BeccaM says:

    Having known a number of transfolk over the years, it’s clearly complicated.

    First, there’s the fact that job and accommodations protections for the transgender lags way, way behind gay rights. Some of the resentment is legitimate.

    Then there’s the fact that for a lot of transfolk, they don’t want to be known as such. I don’t mean the name, but rather how for quite a few, they just want to transition and forget about the past. I remember one friend telling me she didn’t want to “wear the Scarlet T” for the rest of her life. The way our culture is structured — and because there’s so much anti-trans animus, including among the LGB community — it definitely encourages those who “pass” convincingly simply to disappear.

    That leaves the activists, and the strident and the angry. And the crazies who unfortunately give the impression all transfolk are just like them.

    I mean, to use another example, one of the main reasons it became ‘cool’ to hate hippies back in my era was because there were some who (1) claimed to speak for the movement and (2) behaved badly. I’m talking violent revolution ‘badly.’ It didn’t matter that the vast majority of the so-called hippies weren’t radicals — but before long, anybody wearing tie-dye and sporting long hair was presumed to be a potentially dangerous soldier-spitting radical.

    The actions, attitudes, and statements of a few reflected badly on the whole. Unfortunately, for transfolk — the ones I’ve known anyway — most of the non-crazy ones don’t want to be activists or to be noticed.

  94. I think Daho has a point, but you do too. The issue is that in a post-gay world, when everyone leaves us alone, when we’re not facing major discrimination, then the labels won’t marry. In the same way that it’s no longer suprising, or disturbing in some parts of the country, to see an inter-racial couple. At one point it was a ‘bad” thing, then it became a novelty, then it became just another couple. Again, depending where you live. But until we get to the point that we’re just another flavor, the identity matters. (And I’m certainly not trying to suggest that we’re post-racial either.)

  95. You cannot engage on their issues and not have your head ripped off. I was told my “Bradley Manning becomes Chelsea Manning” post was supremely offensive, and evidence of what a bad person I am. You can’t win. There’s no point in trying to engage people who hate you, and don’t want to engage.

  96. Perhaps, but the quiet ones need to speak up. Most of the top gay blogs are totally sane. Most of the top gay activists I know have been totally sane. (Most). They’re nothing like this crowd. A bunch of us stepped up, twenty years ago, risked our jobs and our families to work on our civil rights. We didn’t let the crazies define us. If anything “we” were considered the crazies, and we got nothing on this crowd. I’m still waiting for the non-gay-hating trans people to speak up.

  97. I gave up on the dialogue a long time ago. I don’t believe most folks in your community, the ones who engage publicly, are interested in dialogue. I’ve met folks like that before in my life. I don’t care how right you think you are, you should always be willing to consider that you might be wrong. I’m open to it, on any issue. These folks want to shut you down at the git-go. I appreciate that you’re being nice, so happy to chat with you again, you’re welcome here any time :) But you’re a rarity in public discourse on these issues.

    I’ll keep writing, and doing my gay rights advocacy, but I won’t dialogue with people who yell and scream, call you names, belittle your race and gender, and seem to just genuinely hate, viscerally hate, gay people. I get that trans people feel oppressed – welcome to the club. I decided at age 15 that I was going to kill myself because I’m gay. I don’t take lightly to the “I’m more oppressed than you” club. And having spent two decades educating Americans in the public eye, online and on national TV, about what it means to be gay, I also don’t accept the venom we receive from trans people who feel offended having to educate people about who they are, who are offended having dialogues with people who don’t agree with them 100%. I have those dialogues all the time. It’s why we’ve been so successful at gay rights advocacy these past few decades. Yeah, we carry a big stick, but we also did our homework, we sucked it up, and we went out there and educated people about who we are without always ripping their heads off while complaining about how things never get better for us. Try having all your friends die, then lecture a gay white man over the age of 40 about how privileged his life is.

    In the end, we’re doing great on marriage, DADT is done, ENDA may or may not move at least administratively, hate crimes is done. The culture at large is accepting gay people like never before, we’re getting more and more appointments in the politics, and more. We don’t have a lot to lose from trans people refusing to dialogue with us because they hate our living guts. They, however do have a lot to lose from refusing to at least talk, civilly, about these issues. And unless someone has the balls to admit this publicly, things will never change.

  98. emjayay says:

    Always liked the Queer thing but I kind of think its sell by date is here, except in certain contexts. Like mohawks and haircut bands. Besides the lingering slur factor, it also creates a queer/not queer (as in normal) dichotomy. And there’s nothing queer about being queer.

  99. TampaZeke says:

    Same here.

  100. emjayay says:

    GSD sounds like an STD to me.

  101. Sean says:

    That’s great – but while I can’t be fired for having blue eyes, I can be fired for being gay. So while I have no reason to reject the label “blue-eyed,” rejecting the label “gay” might look like an easy way to avoid trouble – and responsibility.

  102. emjayay says:

    Probably a little of both, and that’s why “gay” didn’t cover everyone and so LGBT and variations and Queer started to be used. Certainly “gay and lesbian” was pretty common. To me when Ellen said “I’m gay” it was the turning point in reclaiming that word for everyone, and again I think that’s where we’ll end up.

  103. emjayay says:

    If Rand Paul is president, just think of what kind of Supreme Court justices he would appoint. If they are like him they would support the Voting Rights act because it is about government but not the Civil Rights Act and anything like ENDA because they are about businesses.

  104. Sean says:


  105. Matt Rogers says:

    “Post-Gay” or “Post-Black” or “Post-Anything” strikes me as a way to symbolically erase whatever minority it’s targeting.

    Those terms seem to cast minorities in past tense, while leaving the majority unscathed. I don’t remember ever hearing “post-straight” or “post-white”

  106. daho says:

    I’ve noticed some younger people not using the words Gay or Lesbian. (It probably sounds to them what “negro” did to us – they’re very clinical sounding). They’ll just say “I’m into guys” or “she’s into girls”. This isn’t a label to them, it’s just one part of who they are. “I have blue eyes and Im into guys”.

  107. Sean says:

    From what I’ve seen and read, the popular idea that the “homosexual” did not exist before the word was created is over-stated. How could they have created a word for something that didn’t exist? And I disagree that “shouting” about the labels is all about enforcing Christian sexual taboos. The historical method of enforcing such taboos was to never bring the subject up. It was just too, too horrible. America’s Far-Right only started freaking out in public after the Stonewall riots created an open political movement.

  108. Nicole says:

    It’s easy to get frustrated and want to give up the discussion when you feel attacked, but I actually see some valid points being made by some of those folks on Twitter. (though I can see why the tone of those points might put you in stop-down mode)
    I hope you don’t give up the dialogue with folks you disagree with about this out of frustration…I believe these conversations are hugely beneficial as long as they can be had in a respectful way, and of course that means on both sides, but the more you can see the valid points being made, and address those while also airing your valid points, the calmer I imagine the other side may get.
    Pounding through the frustration will be the reason we move forward…if you can do that, you and the other party will come out of it evolved.
    Another point I want to make is that the Trans community continues to take pounding after pounding by folks both in and out of the LGB community, and it can be really hard to stay calm when somebody accidentally pokes a very big & raw bruise that’s been there for so long. As a minority, even in the LGBT community, I think that if they say something I’ve said is offensive, it is my responsibility to look at what I’ve said and find a more acceptable & compassionate way to make my points.
    Thanks for this conversation btw…I really do think it’s important dialogue to have.

  109. Sean says:

    As a gay man I have to confess I don’t feel like I’m in the same “community” as transgender people. The only thing we have in common is that we are not your basic heterosexual – so we are political allies. I think you are proposing we stick with LGBTQ, etc. If not, can you think of a word that would encompass the entire “community?”

  110. Sean says:

    This really is a Gordian Knot. I’d be perfectly happy with another word if it worked. I nominated Queer because it could include non-homosexuals. If you want to redefine gay to mean any sexual-minority, that sounds like a plan! (BTW – how horrible for you to suggest such a thing!)

  111. BeccaM says:

    The problem, John, is the angry ones claim to be the only permitted spokespersons for the ‘community’ — when they very much are not.

  112. FLL says:

    You are right to point out that most people accept those terms, but it’s worth considering that those terms and notions didn’t exist prior to the 19th century. I have a sneaking suspicion that loudly shouting about these categories has more to do with enforcing Christian sexual taboo than anything else. As fundamentalist religion continues to implode, arbitrarily defined categories of sexuality will probably become less popular.

  113. Jim Olson says:

    If you continue to behave like the third rail of any discussion, eventually people will avoid you. I can’t begin to claim that I understand the transgendered community in any personal way, but I at least try to be supportive. Can’t tell you how often I’ve had a transgendered person be offended and offensive when they perceive that I have not spoken or behaved exactly as they think I should. *sigh*

  114. Nicole says:

    I think it’s worth pointing out that ‘anything non-heterosexual’ does not include many folks who identify as transgender, which is a valid argument against simply calling our community “Queer”.

  115. Nicole says:

    Sexuality is fluid, Gender is fluid…it is precisely that fluidity that creates these complications. I think it’s one of the good things about our nature, that we try to be inclusive of those who feel on the fringe of this oppressed community, but getting bogged down in semantics is not going to help.

    I think that “LGBT” serves us fine, but that if our terminology ever changes such that something becomes more popular than LGBT, it will be with a more broad term, such as “sexual and gender minorities”.
    We will always have our subgroups though, and I think that is important. As a lesbian, I love my lesbian sisters, and I feel like we are a community unto ourselves, a community that is quite different than the gay male community.. I also love my gay brothers, as well as those who are bisexual and those who identify as transgender, genderqueer, or any variant therein…but within this broad LGBT spectrum, it is important to recognize that our sub-communities are unique, and thus our lived experiences are very different, and as a result, we (rightly) feel a need to identify in a way that is more specific/inclusive than just ‘the gay community’.

  116. True :)

  117. I appreciate everyone having a civil discussion on this issue. Sadly, the angry fringe (mostly trans people and their allies) is back sowing hate again on Twitter over this story. The thing is, if we don’t discuss these issues, their concerns about not being fully accepted in the community will never be addressed, and the problem will never be resolved. And in fact, they’re only making it worse by creating even more enemies where there weren’t enemies before. At some point, someone needs to ask them how their civil rights movement is doing. Because the vocal people who seem to be leading their movement of late don’t seem to be doing a terribly good job of creating change, rather, it seems, they’re intent on creating enemies, and I fear they succeeding.

  118. Queer would work if we could get rid of the cultural baggage – I fear non-queer people won’t want to use the word, the media won’t, lots won’t out of fear that it’s an insult. And, civil rights -wise, it’s also possible that we don’t want to choose a word that people perceive as being a slur. And while it’s fine to say “who cares what they think?” – I care what they think if it affects our civil rights battle. It’d be nice if gay just meant everything too, it would make it easier, especially now that non-gay people are finally becoming comfortable with the word gay.

  119. Sean says:

    When a solid majority of straight people start publicly complaining that the “heterosexual” label does not work for them, THEN we can talk about discarding unrealistic 19th-century terms.

  120. Naja pallida says:

    The fact that regressives are still fighting fights most of us thought won and settled generations ago is proof that the war will never be over. We will be fighting for equal rights and equal treatment under the law into the unforeseeable future. Republicans are trying to undo the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, Roe v. Wade… the list goes on and on. They’ll also continue fighting any future legislation or Supreme Court decision.

  121. BeccaM says:

    Same here.

  122. pappyvet says:

    In the tiny little minds of the hate filled , we are all the “other.”

  123. pappyvet says:

    That is the point exactly.

  124. FLL says:

    It might be time to dispense with the unrealistic way that 19th-century Westerners divided the pie: gay (homosexual) and straight (heterosexual). You might even argue against modern labels in general, including “bisexual.” Forget about talking about segments of the pie since this may vary from one culture to another. For example, bisexual men who are exclusively dominant in same-sex relations are considered heterosexual in many parts of Mexico. The only way to talk about human sexuality that would be valid for all cultures is to refer to the entire spectrum rather than arbitrarily defined segments of the spectrum.

  125. pappyvet says:

    here here

  126. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Well said! :)

  127. 2karmanot says:

    Same here. In my generation it was a vicious slur and try as I might I can’t forget that history.

  128. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I love “V for Vendetta”. The DVDs are not very expensive now, so I occasionally give a copy as a gift.

  129. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    That passage is also one of the episodes from the comic that makes it onto the screen with almost no editing or softening. “Even though I do not know who you are…I love you.”

  130. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I always thought queer was great for political usage.

  131. BeccaM says:

    I need to watch that film again… even if the vignette involving the imprisoned lesbian always makes me cry.

  132. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I always felt it was the guys who should feel left out. The women have a special name, all the guys have is a description.

  133. Sean says:

    Thanks for continuing to post on this thorny topic. Cutting to the chase – I’ll throw my vote to Queer, as in “anything non-heterosexual.” Language is critical, and we need a short, easy and positive word to identify ourselves. “I don’t believe in labels” is a high-minded sounding way of saying “I don’t want to deal with the differences between us.” “Post-Gay” or “Post-Black” or “Post-Anything” strikes me as a way to symbolically erase whatever minority it’s targeting.

  134. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    That’s terribly funny. Fortunately, I wasn’t drinking anything when I read it.

  135. goulo says:

    This seems rather over the top and gratuitously dismissive & caricaturing of BDSM people – many of whom ARE gay/bi. I don’t recall reading claims that the prejudice faced by gay people and by BDSM people are the “exact same” (though I’m open to being informed, if you have links to such claims), but there are certainly various similarities and overlap.

    The rant honestly sounds surprisingly analogous to dismissive rants one sometimes sees complaining about gay people claiming their civil rights struggle is “exactly like” black people’s civil rights struggle (i.e. straw man argument – few people actually claim they’re the “exact same” struggles) and poo-poo-ing the clearly minor silly problems faced by gay people in comparison with the very serious problems of racism, etc etc.

  136. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    I agree. It smacks of the protesting-too-much pose of white conservatives who claim that it’s liberals who are the real racists whereas they’re completely color-blind.

  137. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Makes me think of the intro to the V for Vendetta movie and Roger Allam’s overripe performance as the Limbaughesque character of Prothero. “Hoh-moh-SEX-oo-als!”

  138. goulo says:

    In fairness, if we ever get to the point where all people feel like we’re all part of one big community, then that’s probably a GOOD thing… :)

  139. I dont’ mind queer, but I think it’s too provocative of a word at the moment – we can use it, but straight, or whatever, people are not going to want to use it, and that becomes a problem in print, in conversation and more.

  140. AnitaMann says:

    Indeedy. I hope I never see him praise chocolate.

  141. 2karmanot says:

    “Can’t I just call myself “not straight”?” Kant: ” Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” :-)

  142. AnitaMann says:

    Personally, I’m not a group joiner and I don’t like labels – too confining, even if the acronym for me is 11 letters long. But the group label is helpful and has been helpful in gaining equality.

    On the other hand Andrew Sullivan’s anti-label screed reeks of affluent white male privilege, I’ve got mine-you go screw. I am more repelled by that than labels for myself.

  143. caphillprof says:

    I remember how women declared victory in 1973 after Roe v Wade and here we are 40 years later with no visible women’s movement and a nation-wide assault against legal abortion.

    Gay men and lesbians need to remain vigilant; we are winning battles, we have not won the war.

    AUTHOR:Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)QUOTATION:“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

    “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

  144. heimaey says:

    Well you know most of your readers despise him, me included. Never met a person I disliked more. That said, this is interesting. Particularly the gay man part. It’s redundant.

  145. 2karmanot says:

    I’d leave off the ‘T’ if I were you. Previous posts would advise caution.

  146. BeccaM says:

    Then let’s abolish this habit of labeling everything as a separate ‘variety’.

  147. BeccaM says:

    Who said anything about one group having to ‘identify’ with another group in order to support them?

    I think you’re missing my entire point about the divisive nature of groups and their rigid labels.

    I don’t identify with gay men. I don’t need them to ‘explain themselves’ and ask for my support in order to support them. Same with people of color. I support them — and lots of others who are NOT exactly like me — because oppression and discrimination in all its forms deserves to be opposed.

  148. Ryan says:

    I prefer queer for all of those who do not fit in the norm of sexuality, sex, and gender. If I am talking about a specific issue that applies to a specific group, I will refer to them specifically. I find it funny when people reflexively use the acronyms and end up including groups in ways that don’t make sense.

  149. caphillprof says:

    I believe Jesse Jackson campaigned under the Rainbow community brand.

  150. BeccaM says:

    Legally, yes. The precedent is there in the ‘formerly hetero marriage’ direction, in that once enacted, a change in legal gender status does not invalidate the marriage. Obviously it would work in the other direction as well.

    However from a relationship standpoint, I’m given to understand it’s often a major challenge. Divorce as a consequence of a T* person transitioning is very, very common.

  151. caphillprof says:

    Americans of all varieties will never have equal rights A new variety is born every day.

  152. caphillprof says:

    You cannot assume that X identifies with Y. It’s up to Y to explain itself and ask X to support Y.

  153. PeteWa says:

    I always wish that it was BLTG
    a BLT with guacamole, yum!

  154. BeccaM says:

    ‘Not Straight’? Works for me. Plus it makes us allies! :-)

  155. Naja pallida says:

    I’ll join you in the “not straight” category. Maybe we can start our own civil rights group.

  156. Naja pallida says:

    Andrew Sullivan has a masterful way of always coming off like a total asshole, no matter what he writes, or if what he’s saying makes sense.

  157. NCMan says:

    hmmm… I heard the explanation the other way around. Not that women felt left out. But, instead, that they wanted to be separated from gay men. It was explained to me that lesbians didn’t want to be associated with the stereotypical “gay lifestyle” of partying, drugs, alcohol and sex to the exclusion of all else.

  158. nantucket says:

    I have seen the list 12 letters long. My straight friends have a problem with this as they are afraid to leave a letter out because they may seem insensitive. I stick with Gay because it is easier to type and has history. Otherwise it’s GLBTQIAMORELETTERS

  159. Well I knew that was gonna be a red flag :)

  160. I think you meant, Casual Sex Fridays :)

  161. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    I’ve tended to prefer “GLBT” to “LGBT” for a silly reason: “GLBT” is something that you can say as an acronym with reasonably fluency–something like “glibt”–whereas “LGBT” you can’t turn into an acronym in any believable way. I mean, just try it.

    But emjayjay below turns my argument against me and points out that “LGBT”, spoken as individual letters and not mushed together into an acronym, is far more euphonious than “GLBT”. And emjayjay is quite correct in this.

  162. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    I hate labels too. I resisted calling myself bisexual for a long time because it is such a semantically loaded term it becomes imprecise. As Becca points out below people from all sides attach meanings to that word which go far beyond the dictionary. Apparently, many people see the word bisexual and read “promiscuous, unfaithful, nymphomaniac”. Many others believe it means “unstable sexual tourist”.

    Get past the labels that divide we are a community.

  163. So are all women now in our group too – so we just took over half the planet? LOL At some point we risk defining the community so large so as to no longer define it at all, I fear.

  164. Yeah, I’m still confused as to when gay became synonymous with men? I know a lot of lesbians who feel left out without the term lesbian thrown in, but I still never grew up hearing that gay was men.

  165. I think as Kathy11 noted above, we’re all members of larger communities. But I feel like something different is going on here than simply saying “gays, blacks, Latinos, Jews, people with disabilities are all members of the larger civil rights community.”

  166. Asian Pacific American is a subgroup of Asian.

    As for people of color, it’s a newer umbrella term for people who aren’t white, which goes beyond just black or Asian – yes. But good luck telling black people they’re no longer permitted to call their community the black community or the African-American community because we’ve decided its not inclusive enough :) I get a sense that’s what’s happening with gay vs lgbt, that it’s different than simply saying “we’re all members of larger communities.”

  167. TampaZeke says:

    I always found it curious that we were supposed to change GLBT to LGBT because not putting women first was offensive to women. That’s odd since “ladies first” comes from the very same code of “chivalry” that told women that they should be submissive to men, should stay at home and take care of their man, defer to their man, be dependent upon their man and serve and service their man. As a feminist I have very little respect for people who are cafeteria feminists.

  168. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    Yeah, a little bit of passive aggression is good for the circulation.

    But seriously, what we all have in common is being outside the norms in the area of sexuality. Queerness.

  169. Janus303 says:

    When Ellen came out, she said, “I’m gay.” I see the term gay as meaning “sexual and gender minorities.” If you’re talking about some subgroup in particular–and people can belong to more than one subgroup–use the term that they choose to use to the best of your ability. I refuse to call anybody “queer” because to me it’s the same as “fag,” but that’s another story for another day.

    Although “FABGLITTER” does sound kinda fab.

  170. Kathy11 says:

    “How many other civil rights communities find themselves ever-expanding, and thus ever-in-need of a new name? The black community”

    The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC)
    Welcome to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus

    That should get you started……………..

  171. 4th Turning says:

    Okay. Not to over-simplify here (inspired topic, by the way) but it seems to me we are talking apples
    and oranges “communities”. One inclusive of orchid collectors, whippet fanciers, etc. and second that
    bonds as the result of unjust, clueless, cruel, fill in your own experience persecution starting out long
    ago with abject poverty, religious/political persuasions, physical differences, etc. Human beings suffering at the hands of others for no good reason had to stick together to survive physically, emotionally, spiritually. They (we) found a measure of comfort if not healing in each other’s company because they/we got each other’s pain without labored explanations, judgment, criticism, etc.
    I didn’t inherit the swish/lisp gene so I was able to “pass” but never did I not know who my real
    people/family were. The inner/outer deal was always present but I like to think it didn’t define or limit me or my potential as a more or less together human being. Perhaps this discussion is a sign
    that we are moving on as individuals and as a “community” to some as yet to be informed “next level”.
    Which has, indeed, happened in many 2nd and 3rd generation ethnic, racial, religious groups
    once stupidly discriminated against. The times they are a changing.

  172. Jay Paul Overholser says:

    I also prefer Queer, it being inclusive as well as a more politically in your face term.

  173. Hue-Man says:

    “…you have a society that says it’s inappropriate to be hyphenated (gay-American, African-American, Greek-American)…”

    That society seems to consist mainly of right-wing white middle-aged straight (usually!) men. It also tends to pronounce the word “homoSEXule” with a heavy accent on the SEX and the ending designed to rhyme, not by accident, with “mule”.

    Why not call a truce and agree on LGBT until Americans of all varieties have equal rights? By then, the younger generation that reportedly avoids all labels regarding their sexuality can figure out what they feel comfortable with!

  174. 2karmanot says:

    Well done!

  175. 2karmanot says:


  176. 2karmanot says:

    Certainly makes casual Fridays interesting.

  177. BeccaM says:

    I agree we need a new name for ourselves, as this same discussion seems to come up every few months.

    One bit of history most of the youngsters don’t remember was how the original terms — including ‘gay’ — came as a reaction against the pejorative terms which were the only terms in existence before. So there’s that.

    Then we have our all-too-human habit of dichotomies. This or that. Male or female. Straight or gay. And we love our categories. Cramming people into narrowly defined sub-groups, even when they don’t really fit.

    And we have a desire for the pride of self-identification. To borrow from Carroll, words defining ourselves that “mean what we mean them to mean and nothing more.”

    Unfortunately, one of the unavoidable results from all this “defining” is we define ourselves away from each other. Define ourselves out of being allies for one another. “I’m X, not Y, therefore your causes aren’t mine.”

    I hate the acronym LGBT (or any of its dozens of variants), because being based on a collection of rigidly defined categories, it was bound to leave out people. Also, I just hate acronyms, period, because they’re not words. Plus, as soon as you collapse something to a few letters, there will always be people who want to add more letters to it. And just as inevitably, we have people saying, “I’m not you, I’m this other thing, this other way of being, so you have to include MY letter, too” — followed immediately by arguments insisting the letter doesn’t belong, the people associated with that letter belong, that it’s wrong even to consider an alliance of common cause.

    Do I have a good suggestion for a replacement term? Probably not. I liked the term ‘gay’ because it was positive, mostly unambiguous, relatively inclusive and not inherently pejorative. However, like we always do, we began redefining the word so that it excluded other states of being, other forms of human sexuality and gender identity and expression.

    Most folks around here know I’m Bi. But I’m fine with the label ‘gay.’ In general, I just use the self-label “non-conformist and ally to my brother and sister non-conformists.”

    I figure that includes everybody, including not just those whose form of non-conformism consists of rebelling against sexual orientation and gender expression cultural norms.

    I played a certain very raunchy and crude video game recently and had great fun playing it. But there came one particular moment when I sat back and laughed until it hurt, and that was when my little “New Kid” character/avatar in the game was carrying around a sign that said simply:

    “Fuck the Conformists!”

    I think I’ll make that my motto.

  178. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    We had been discussing marriage but it only became legal in this state recently. We’ve dithered about it for a number of reasons. Now I guess…it’ll be easier? She’s only recently changed her name legally and is still fighting through difficulties pertaining to that.

  179. caphillprof says:

    Which begs the question: If you were legally married to your formerly male partner, does the marriage survive the gender transformation?

    It is not just your self identity or that of your partner. It is how your government treats you and your partner.

  180. pappyvet says:

    When Charlie passed away there were believe it or not , some who asked me if I were going to “go straight” now. Not all of them were hetero. Very odd.

  181. caphillprof says:

    John, very thoughtful post! Some thoughts:

    I think it would help to ask (1) is there a community or differing communities and (2) what is that community or those communities. The use of “we” varies from context to context.

    Historically, before the term “homosexual” there were many, often derogatory, euphemisms for persons with same-sex attractions or those not conforming to gender stereotypes.

    There is a sense that gains made by gay men and lesbians have enabled bisexuals (who so often are hiding as heterosexuals) and transgendered (who are changing genders but perhaps not sexuality). But the issues for gay men and lesbians are not one and the same for bisexuals or for transgendered. And in truth “we” cannot frame their issues nor strategize their battles. This they must do themselves. Similar is not identical.

  182. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Sexuality is a fluid thing–or, perhaps, it may be more accurate to say that one views sexuality through a perspective that can change in sudden and unexpected ways.

    This has been brought home to me in the most personal way over the last few months because my mate is now transitioning male-to-female. It’s something she’d brought up tentatively a while back but then never mentioned again, but the approach of a crucial birthday prompted her to think “it’s now or never”. So after some discussion she decided to initiate the process. And you know what? Probably the best thing she’s ever done for herself. Fortunately she’s in a relatively safe place for making her transition–a sympathetic workplace, for example, in a relatively liberal large city. There have been difficulties of course…but overall I think she’s had a sense of purpose and optimism about her that I haven’t seen in her before.

    What does that mean for me? The only meaningful relationships I’ve ever had have been with other men so I’ve described myself as “gay” without too much reflection, but it’s not as though my attraction to my partner has lessened–rather the opposite, I’m finding. Can’t I just call myself “not straight”?

  183. nicho says:

    The problem all started when someone decided that “gay” referred only to men. “Gay” originated back in the days when we had to speak in code words to avoid being overheard and outed by straights. A lot of younger people don’t remember those days. So to say that someone was “gay” back then simply meant “homosexual” and could have referred to men or women. Then, someone decided (feminists, I suspect) that it referred only to men and they wanted their own word. Fair enough, but then it was off to the races.

  184. pappyvet says:

    Absolutely right Sis. I said I”seldom’ use it. But if some idiot wants to get snarky , I can shake my hips with the best of em. ;]

  185. Kevin says:

    I read about a new take on this that I like: GSD, for Gender & Sexual Diversities. It neither includes nor excludes anyone.

  186. BeccaM says:

    I’m sure you do…but John also has a point.

    My own wife, with whom I’ve been since 1997, was repeatedly warned by her friends in the lesbian community, that as a bisexual, I wouldn’t stick with her, that I was just ‘experimenting’ and exploiting her and would inevitably return to heterosexuality.

  187. BeccaM says:

    The one time I’ll gladly and unapologetically use the term ‘breeders’ is when homophobes try to use ‘capacity for unassisted breeding’ as their justification for oppressing gay people. As in, “They claim they want to reserve marriage only for breeders, when in reality all they want to do is come up with some excuse to deny the right to gay people.”

  188. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I’ve lived in SF and the Bay Area for a long time and I have yet to have a coworker complain about the lack of a Bring Your Sub to Work on a Leash Day.

  189. BeccaM says:


  190. Rambie says:

    John, as a gay man, I will say I know more than one bi-sexual too. I do not think they are faking or in denial though some do claim to be “bi” that aren’t. That’s no unheard of in any “group” though.

    Note: I don’t know why my Discuss login won’t work here anymore….

  191. keirmeister says:

    Whatever you choose to call your non-heteronormative community, just be sure to OWN it, and don’t let the haters define it for you.

    How about LGBTFWLCWT: Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, and Friends-Who-Like-Clubbing-With-Them?

    All kidding aside, I just call you my friends.

  192. EL says:

    John, I have wondered of late what gay leaders think about the BDSM people trying to hop on your movement and take advantage of all the progress you guys made entirely on your own.

    It’s common these days to find HETEROSEXUAL, white, male ‘dominants’ -who apparently practice a lot of BDSM, mostly involving tying up and beating women- to talk about themselves in the exact same terms as gay men do. There’s a lot of talk these days from heterosexual white guys, who like to dominate women sexually, about oppression, persecution, lack of opportunity, fear of stigma etc. And not just that, many of them openly talk about how THEIR struggles are EXACTLY like that of gay men and women.

    I’ve been wondering for a while now about why exactly the gay movement in places like Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and New York tolerates this type of victim-based rhetoric that comes from heterosexual white men.

    I don’t get why so many colleges and universities along the coasts in large cities so eagerly embrace the theory that people who practice BDSM are somehow victims in the exact same vein as gay men and women.

    I don’t get why no one from the gay community says a word about how gays are being exploited and their hard work being taken advantage of when some straightie from Seattle or SF proclaims how horribly oppressed he is that he can’t bring his sub to work dressed as a dog or a cat and have her on a leash, and how his pain and suffering is exactly the same and equal to that of gays who have to hide their sexual orientation at the work place. Or how some submissive lady will talk about how she has to hide bruises and what not because of a sound beating her ‘dominant’ gave her the previous night and now she doesn’t want her neighbors to see it, and somehow this fear of being ‘outed’ is exactly the same as the social penalties gays would face when they come out of the closet.

    It’s puzzling to me as to why exactly the gay movement tolerates and continues to tolerate this level of bullshit. I don’t understand why gay leaders somehow feel like straights that practice BDSM are somehow these wonderful, loyal allies without whom the gay movement is sadly crippled.

    It’s as though gay leaders are afraid to anger BDSM-loving straighties by telling them that they don’t get to compare and equalize their pain and suffering to that of the gays. Why is this? Why are gay leaders very polite and hands-off when it comes to straights who are into rough and fetish sex and seek to jump on the gay rights bandwagon for their own selfish and self-centered agenda?

  193. emjayay says:

    It seems to me that now that everyone possible has been included in all the various letter combos we all now get the idea, and are simply going back to “gay” to include everyone who thinks they should be included.

    LGBT still has its uses, and is the acronym almost always used in government proclamations and speeches. More letters are just too many letters. EllGeeBeeTee rolls off the tongue much easier than the awkward GeeEllBeeTee since LGBT puts the three ee sounds in a row and has the internal Gee/Tee rhyme and also starts with a vowel sound.

    “Queer” made its point and we got that and it was and still is a nice combo with “here” and “nation” but it probably never quite lost the slur element when used in isolation.

  194. heimaey says:

    Well if Andrew Sullivan hates it, it must be worth exploring more.

  195. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    Back to our Stonewall roots, just queer. We’re here, we’re queer get used to it. I think that covers all of us.

  196. pappyvet says:

    I really do not like labels to start with but I suppose that is too bad. I would rather be known as a simple human being trying to go his best . I try never to start fights but I will not back down from one either.
    I seldom call heteros “breeders” when I meet one and if they are an interesting person I would rather focus on that.
    However , the stone of prejudice hangs pretty heavy over the heads of people who are not Ozzie and Harriet inclined. I look at the bios of people like John , Gaius and Becca and I see extraordinary people with marvelous adventures that I ache to know more about. Don’t care about their sexuality all that much

  197. I nominate “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious.

    If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious.

    This whole thing just proves were better than other people (who else has people clamorous to join their civil rights group?) and we deserve free parking downtown.

© 2020 AMERICAblog Media, LLC. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS