This started out as a facebook post, and then it got long and kind of personal and so I decided it was better on my blog.
I don’t usually like to get involved in hot-button issues like this because it usually just tends to draw trolls and people who would rather argue with me than listen. But the more I read, the more I have to chime in on this LGBTQI “A” acronym debate. Please, when you read this, understand that I’ve been in this community since before any acronym existed at all. I have first-hand experience and knowledge of what I am telling you.
The GLBT acronym was adopted by the gay community (at least in NYC where I was living) in the very late 80s/early 90s, and it was adopted because it was rightly felt that the term “gay community” was no longer inclusive enough or fully representative of who we were. So – again I’m old enough that I remember all of this personally – we all started using the four-letter acronym and feeling very positive and inclusive about it. Some of us (like *cough* me) quickly switched it up to LGBT because it felt very feminist to put the women first. 😉
Not long after, mid-90s I would say, the community began adding the letter “Q”, which at the time meant “questioning”, and then very shortly after that came to represent both “questioning” and “queer”. One letter, two meanings. It took a short while for the community to widely embrace that letter because it was kind of like a big game of telephone – you didn’t know about it until you heard it from someone who heard it from someone else, but we got it, and then we all felt very positive and inclusive about that, too.
I remember very clearly adding the “A”. At that time it meant “ally.” It undeniably did. I don’t even recall the term “asexual” existing at the time, at least not in my circles. I remember clearly that we used it to mean ally when I lived in NYC, starting later in the 90s. I realize that in 2016 using it that way is controversial, but in 1998 it wasn’t. It absolutely meant “ally”, and man, did we need our allies. So, it was our way of honoring them and we encouraged our allies to be as proud to be openly accepting as we were to be LGBT&Q. And we all felt very positive and inclusive about THAT.
Then the “I” came along after that, and has always meant “intersex” as far as I remember. About the same time (or maybe just after) people starting coming out more and more as asexual, and the “A” started to represent “ally” and “asexual”. One letter, two terms – just like the Q. So then we had LGBTQIA. And yes, the “A” still meant ally.
I used that acronym for a long time, and then many of us added a +, which, if I’m not just using “queer” as all-encompassing, is my preference today: LGBTQIA+.
Very recently, I learned that many people also use the “A” to mean “arosexual”. I’m good with that. It’s inclusive. And that has, all along, been the whole point of even having an acronym.
I would love to find an acronym that encompasses all of us, wherever we fall on the spectrum, because despite the fact that I am older, and so, in some senses “old school”, I believe the arms of our community are wide enough for everyone who wants to consider themselves a part of it. But the fact is, if we try to come up with an acronym that suits us all, pretty soon there will be so many letters that the acronym becomes useless. I mean, what about our pansexuals? What about our gender non-conforming folks? What about our gender non-binary friends? What about all the lovely descriptors I haven’t mentioned?
And after we’ve encircled all of the beautiful diversity in our community within our ever-strengthening arms, are you really going to argue with the “A” also encompassing our amazing, activist, truth-speaking, open-hearted allies who defend us and set a shining example of the way we deserve to be treated?
Come on. Really?
I get that our straight, cisgender allies are not on the “spectrum” of queer people, but how far do you think our community would have come without them? We’re big enough and strong enough and OUT enough to fight our own battles for the most part now, sure. But when we depended on them, we were more than happy to include them. We still need them today.
So okay, I might be old enough to be your mother, and yes, sometimes my community changes so fast my head spins. But I adapt, I change my vocabulary, I broaden my thinking every day not only because I want to, but also because it’s my mandate as a person represented by that acronym. I don’t think it’s unfair of me to ask those in my community, in turn, to acknowledge that there was a time when just LGBT was kind of mind-blowingly progressive in and of itself.
Like queer couples marrying, like people using bathrooms that best suit their identity, like all equality, an ally’s desire to be part of our acronym has no bearing on your place in it.
Those activists, my friends, that were the ally in the letter “A” all those years ago will always be the ally in the letter “A” to me. I owe them the same inclusion that they freely offered to me.
Thanks for reading.