Eater of Trees

Why I Dislike That Initialism

Posted on: January 7, 2011

I am, of course, referring to (LG/GL)BT(Q)(Q)(I)(A)(+more).  Or possibly “QUILTBAG” …I’m actually more a fan of that one because it’s amusing and turns it into an acronym, but it still has the same problem as the initialism.  And that is that it doesn’t really do what it’s supposed to do.

My main problem with it is that is frequently gets used (especially when it’s in one of the short forms) to mean LGB.  Which is to say, it gets used specifically to refer to sexuality.  And people who claim to be in favor of LBGT people may actually not be so friendly to trans people.

So the problem is, I can’t really tell when you use that term whether you actually care at all about the people after the first three letters.  Certainly it could mean you care about trans people.  But the prevalence of people concerned about sexuality using the term to refer to specifically to sexuality while the T is in there basically means “LGBT” has lost any useful meaning, at least as far as trans people are concerned.  If you want to say you support trans people, saying you support GLBT rights is not actually going to tell me of anything.

And while there certainly is a large intersection between the two, at least inasmuch as trans people are probably inevitably going to experience homophobia, the issues and concerns between the two groups aren’t exactly the same, either.  I mean, many of my experience with support groups and the like have been nominally LGBT support groups, but with a “sure you’re welcome, we won’t do anything that actually addresses any of your concerns or your life though” sort of slant.

And while we’re on the topic, the usual words for talking about sexuality are pretty cissexist.  The terms are practically meaningless when nonbinary gender comes into play, and when everyone around you sees your gender as something it isn’t it gets really difficult to talk about your sexuality.  And using bisexual as  a synonym for pansexual has got problems, too.  Obviously.  (If you’re using it to say you’re attracted to only two genders, that’s okay.  I mean, I’ve done that.  …though half the reason for that was because, at the time, saying I was gay would’ve implied to most people that I liked men, which isn’t usually true, and saying I was lesbian would raise some more questions. :P)

But really, I don’t like the term much.  It isn’t so much that it’s problematic as that the T has just been coopted to the point that it can’t clearly be used to be inclusive of trans people.  And to be honest, I tend to be just as frustrated at people who don’t use the term, because that makes it pretty clear that you really don’t care about trans people.

The short version of this is, though, just mention trans people.  Separately from the LGB.

(And while we’re at it, intersex people may feel the same way.  I’m not entirely sure how much that overlaps with trans and how much it needs to be considered something completely seperate, because I’m lacking experience there.  Certainly coercively assigning genders is a serious problem to both.)


4 Responses to "Why I Dislike That Initialism"

Initialism such as this is indeed problematic at times although i believe it to be far more complex than simply arguing this on the basis of sexual preferences.
Indeed the T does seem to get forgotten quite often and when spoken in the terms of LGBT often is inferring about the persons sexuality. In terms of activism however being involved within a larger context and demographic allows for greater visibility as well as more headway involving policy change, that a smaller demographic would not be able to make.


Another argument is relating to the discrimination gay and lesbians individuals experience. Often this discrimination is not done on the basis of their sexual preference but rather their performance of approved gender norms. No one walks around with a sign on their back proclaiming their sexual preference but it is interpreted through the many non verbals people exhibit.

So really in a way LGBTI, feminists, whatever we are all trying to broaden the current accepted gender norm and gain the freedom to be who and what we want.

Oh, transphobia and homophobia are really closely linked, I know half the angst I had to deal with when I started transitioning was fear of being “gay” or some such, which I really didn’t want to be because of internalized homophobia and because, well, I really didn’t want to be a guy. And because of the intersection of transphobia and homophobia its hard–though not impossible–for trans people to not care about homophobia. The problem is it’s quite easy for rhetoric of “Being gay doesn’t make you any less manly” and such like that to turn into “Gay people are okay as long as they completely conform to gender norms.” And thus the T, and for that matter, large swaths of the G, is erased. (And I’m less familiar with how homophobia against women turns into transphobia because that’s not the experience I’ve had, and it tends to get less publicity, unfortunately.)

When sexual preference minorities do care about trans people this is undoubtedly a good thing. Well unless they’re doing appropriation or spreading transphobic rhetoric which is entirely possible to do even when well meaning. But assuming they aren’t doing something problematic then it certainly helps. The connection between the two is definitely there, and for that matter the connection between trans issues and feminism is there as well. My problem is that people use the term to erase the T (and the I, when it’s there at all), and as such, it doesn’t actually communicate what it should.

If you use LGTBQIA/variants when you aren’t erasing or appropriating trans voices, that is not a bad thing. Though it’s still good to make it clear that you are including the trans and intersex because the constant erasure doesn’t make the term particularly clear on that point.

Another problem I have with “LGBT” is that it makes some people believe that L,G,B and T are compeletely separate categories, and contribute to the invisibilisation of people who are both trans and homo/bi. I mean, I hate when people say “we are only LGB so we don’t have trans people”, well, sorry, there are trans people who are LGB… Just say “we are transphobe so we don’t have trans people”…

I’m not sure I’ve seen people saying that specifically, but it doesn’t surprise me. And is pretty screwed up.

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