Yup, it’s happened again. The acronym has changed. Don’t shudder though. If you shudder, it’s likely an indication that you’re harboring some internalized homophobia, transphobia, or outright sexism (or maybe were just born before 1985 🙊). As I’ve been told by my advocacy ancestors, every change to the acronym reflects the evolution of the struggle of the queer community. When it went from the gay movement to the GLBT community- we became more inclusive of bisexual individuals and gender-nonconforming folks, i.e., transgender people, transsexual individuals, transvestites, drag queens, etc.). After the 80's , a feminist reordering of the acronym then came into vogue (pun intended) to pay homage to the great work of women in the advancement of our community. (This was an especially important acronym adjustment when one considers how the privilege of gay, cisgender, white men has allowed them/us to maintain the spotlight in our movement, even in events such as the Stonewall Riots started by trans women of color, i.e., Marsha P. Johnson.) Thus, the root of the “alphabet soups” that I’ve known in my own lifetime was created: LGBT.
So why add QN+ to the root LGBT? What do the letters represent? Are they necessary? Are we excluding others? Where do we stop in our alterations and additions…?
In reverse order:
We never stop altering the acronym that refers to our family and our very identities. Language is a living construct. Language evolves. Here in the USA, we once called brown people like myself Chicanos and then Latinos, but now prefer the usage of terms like Hispanic (or Latinx, which is a whole separate artículo, heh heh). We have even moved toward the usage of acronyms for other communities, such as POC (people of color). Language reflects the evolution of our societal values. Praise God that in this case, the trend is one of greater sensitivity and inclusion. We need that in today’s divided and vitriolic world.
We add as we see fit and as reflects the values of our community/communities.
This could vary from community to community. Since 2012, our county has also been home to a school district that has employed use of its very own “Broward County Public Schools LGBTQ Critical Support Guide” to direct school staff on how best to support the youth of our community. This has allowed young folk to “come out” more safely, more frequently, and at younger ages. Their rejection of traditional tertiary labels like gay, straight or bi, as well as the binary labels of male or female, has had an effect on our own language in South Florida regarding our community. With so many young folk using the term queer to describe not just their sexual orientation, but also their gender-identity (or lack thereof), it seemed most fitting to me in 2011 to propose use of the acronym LGBTQ when I was a contributing author to the aforementioned Critical Support Guide used in Broward schools. In a youth group I helped run in Fort Lauderdale the students were identifying as pansexual, humansexual, queer and even unicorn- not gay, bisexual or lesbian. Recent work with youth groups at Julian’s Fountain of Youth teens and young adults has proven only a continued rejection of traditional labels and an expansion of the terms our young family members use to identify their sexual orientation and gender-identity. In regards to the latter, nonbinary as an identity is rapidly becoming the most common gender-identity in queer youth communities. Here too in South Florida, we are lucky to have a large (and growing) community of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming adults. Leading to the suggestion that:
We add QN+ to form a new root of LGBTQN+ to be used all throughout the Queendom!
So, let’s unpack this. At this point, to use an acronym that doesn’t include the “N” for nonbinary would simply be a miss with (1) such a large community of nonbinary folk residing in South Florida and (2) the term itself being SO inclusive of those of us awakened/awakening to the shackles of a rigid societal construct of sex/gender. If you’re rolling your eyes, I’m willing to bet you’re one of those Masc4Masc folk I used to see on Grindr in my single days… just sayin’. As one of the world’s greatest SOGI (sexual orientation and gender-identity) minority communities, let us lead by including in our acronym a word that represents the nonbinary folk who reject the construct of a binary gender system (male and female) in favor of a gender system that is without prescriptions regarding how short your hair should be or how large (or small) your breasts/man-boobs should be.
The placement of our pansexual, demisexual, asexual, ally, and androgynous community members under the “+” of the acronym does, in fact, “other” them.
As for the othering of members of our vastly and beautifully diverse queendom under a “+” symbol… well- just don’t other them then. Name then when you write or speak. Take the time to contribute to the shaping of our culture by using an acronym that resonates with you and your community. If allies are important to you or you yourself are asexual, then write/speak an acronym that removes the “A” from the + and into the root. You’re all writers of letters, emails, social media posts, hook-up app profiles… so use your space to reflect your thoughts, values and culture.
Identify as an AFAB male into masculine, cisgender men on your Tindr profile. Text your friends that you’re excited about LGBTA+ Pride Month. Hashtag #LGBTQNIA on every Instagram photo of you at the gym or your super exciting meal you’re having at that restaurant we have all been to in Miami… Hell, use LGBT or just say gay and lesbian community; we need to find out who you really are sometime. But as for me and my house in 2020 at Pride of the Americas- well, we shall #LGBTQN and add the “+” when we speak of our glorious rainbow family.
An Opportunity- Not a Responsibility
I didn’t define terms here. Maybe someday we will live in a world where people have magic devices in their pocket that grant them access to endless knowledge; a device in which one can type a question and get the definition of demisexual or google what the gender binary system is. Dare to dream.
You don’t have to change the acronym you use. It’s an opportunity to be more inclusive, not a responsibility. Just make sure that you’re acutely aware that language is used to oppress or liberate. Whether you’re learning how to use they/them/their pronouns or are practicing saying LGBTQN+ in conversation, you will be seen and heard for the liberator or oppressor you are.
The letters represent YOU, not words, not labels.
So go represent, Champ.
Love, Your Friendly Neighborhood LGBTQN+ Issues Expert and Trainer, Bryan CA Wilson, M.S.Ed., Pronouns: he/him/his, A Proud Queer/Cis/Gay American