Dump the acronym

Casting Aspersions

LGBTQIWXYZ … where does it end? The unpronounceable acronym our movement has saddled itself with is patently absurd and it gets more so with every addition. Not only does it look ridiculous and require constant explanation, it serves a much more insidious and destructive function: it ipso facto divides us. It separates us into precisely defined categories — boxes from which we are not allowed to climb out. Further, it fosters subtle competition for privilege. Who comes first in line?

Amendment One Cartoon by Michael Pettyjohn for Out In Jersey magazine
Amendment One Cartoon by Michael Pettyjohn for Out In Jersey magazine

Years ago, when the acronym first appeared it was often spelled GLBT. Lesbians vociferously objected that they were not taking a back seat to gay men. When the “T” was added, both some lesbians and some gay men objected that trans issues didn’t belong on our bus (and some still do object). Then came the “Q” and many were opposed, saying, “if they haven’t made up their minds, they don’t really belong.” As for the “I” some are still asking, “what the hell does intersexed mean?” The objections and arguments go on and on, are highlighted by the acronym itself and are largely unresolvable. They serve only to drain the strength and unity of the liberation movement and divert us to petty bickering over issues that have no substantive importance.

Does it matter to our enemies whether G or L comes first? Are they intimidated by the inclusion of T or Q? I think not. It only matters to us and it shouldn’t. We need one omnibus term that includes everyone of alternative sexuality. The most likely term would be “queer.” A significant number of older people are still opposed to this term bringing back as it does painful memories of hate speech and gay bashing. To them and as a senior myself, I say take the term and make it ours for thus do we pull its fangs and deprive the enemy of a weapon. If queer is our own preferred term, when a hatemonger uses it against us, our infuriating reply would be a blank look and “your point is…?”

Most important, having one term reminds us that we are one community — all facing the exact same enemies and obstacles. The same people who opposed repeal of the sodomy laws, marriage equality, and anti-bullying legislation are the ones who had a cow over trans people using rest rooms appropriate to self-identified gender. It never ends and we will never cease needing to stand together, realizing that discrimination against any part of our community is discrimination against all of us. This you can take to the bank: a school or business that refuses to accommodate trans people regarding rest room issues is one that will discriminate against gay and lesbian employees, students or customers in any form the management thinks it can get away with.

We are heading directly into a storm at this point in the nation’s history. Through mischance, the ineptness of politicians and constitutional anomaly, our government has fallen into the hands of reactionary ultra-conservatives. Every single one of Trump’s appointees is on record as being a dedicated enemy of the queer community. We will be facing efforts to role back every civil right we have won through brutal and ceaseless struggle. Never has unity been more absolutely necessary. In previous articles about this issue, I have quoted Ben Franklin’s speech to the Continental Congress during the Revolution: “Gentlemen, we must all hang together or we will most assuredly all hang separately.”

Never have those words been more applicable to our own struggle. Let us finally get rid of the divisive acronym, and show that we are indeed standing as one.

Toby Grace is Out In Jersey magazine’s Editor Emeritus