Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Today I first heard the term LGBTQIA…

…and as much as I support the equal rights, freedoms and treatment of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual individuals, the pragmatic side of me wonders how long an acronym can get before it starts to become counterproductive.

Of course, I’m speaking from a position of white cisgender heteronormal male privilege, so I can’t really relate to the perspectives referenced. Maybe that means you should just stop reading right now and ignore everything I have to say.

But maybe you shouldn’t, because maybe people who think like me are some of the people the left is trying to win over in its fight for tolerance and accelerated social progress. I may not be able to relate to the LGBTQIA experience, but as someone who’s spent time in the Army, I do know an awful lot about acronyms – enough, as it happens, to realize that one with seven letters that don’t spell anything isn’t very memorable or conducive to frequent repetition.

I sympathize with the desire to be inclusive of all subsets of oppressed peoples. But if we take this principle to its extreme, why are these seven terms the stopping point? Why not go with LGBPTTQQIIAA (which of course, as any self-respecting social justice advocate knows, means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Intergender, Asexual, Ally). Hell, why restrict this to pure sexuality? Facebook recently offered its users 58 possible gender combinations to choose from (as this excellent article pointed out, some complained that this was not enough). The list, as compiled by ABC news, includes:

·        Agender
·        Androgyne
·        Androgynous
·        Bigender
·        Cis
·        Cisgender
·        Cis Female
·        Cis Male
·        Cis Man
·        Cis Woman
·        Cisgender Female
·        Cisgender Male
·        Cisgender Man
·        Cisgender Woman
·        Female to Male
·        FTM
·        Gender Fluid
·        Gender Nonconforming
·        Gender Questioning
·        Gender Variant
·        Genderqueer
·        Intersex
·        Male to Female
·        MTF
·        Neither
·        Neutrois
·        Non-binary
·        Other
·        Pangender
·        Trans
·        Trans*
·        Trans Female
·        Trans* Female
·        Trans Male
·        Trans* Male
·        Trans Man
·        Trans* Man
·        Trans Person
·        Trans* Person
·        Trans Woman
·        Trans* Woman
·        Transfeminine
·        Transgender
·        Transgender Female
·        Transgender Male
·        Transgender Man
·        Transgender Person
·        Transgender Woman
·        Transmasculine
·        Transsexual
·        Transsexual Female
·        Transsexual Male
·        Transsexual Man
·        Transsexual Person
·        Transsexual Woman

·        Two-Spirit

If allies of all possible genders were serious about including all possible genders in their message, why not advocate for AAABCCCCCCCCCCFFGGGGGIMMNNNOPTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT equality? The regular old LGBT acronym incorporated “transgender”, but why not represent all 26 varieties of trans-something?

The answer should be obvious to any thinking person: as the number of identifiably oppressed groups increases, the practical ability to enumerate each and every single one of them decreases. To attempt to do so every single time we reference them as a collective would render our dialogue on the subject completely laughable, creating an absurd distraction to an otherwise important message. It is unavoidable that some gender and sexual identities will be left out, whether that perpetuates the tendency for society to overlook them and leaves certain privileges intact or not.

This is similar to the problem that a much younger (and much less educated) me light-heartedly outlined several years ago, in a post titled Triflin’ Hyphen Strife. It makes sense for a man to take a woman’s name in marriage. It also makes sense for both to keep their original name. It makes sense to give the child the name of either parent alone, or even give them it a completely new surname. But you can only go a few generations with the hyphenated fusions before somebody somewhere along the line will have to pick which one to keep and which one to ditch, implications for the patriarchy be damned.

I worry that LGBTQIA enters that territory where even people who support the cause start to roll their eyes. People of atypical sexualities have been subject to ridicule for long enough; they don’t need to be ridiculed for the way their allies choose to reference them also. These people are not so hypersensitive and demanding of recognition that they need to have their particular combination of tradition-defying uniqueness mentioned by its technical, up-to-date name every time anyone steps up to fight for them. As the author of that aforementioned Daily Banter post put it:

“there has to come a point, no matter who you are, where you accept that while the world shouldn’t discriminate against you for the way you self-identify, neither can it always be expected to defer to you on the subject in a manner that satisfies you completely. It’s one of the pitfalls of being different: sometimes you get overlooked. If you pride yourself on being unique or one a very small subset, this shouldn’t really bother you.”

That author, like me, is speaking as a straight white male who will never have to deal with the disappointment of not having “femme butch” listed on the drop-down menu of recognized gender options. But privileged or not, he’s right. Expecting the rest of us to treat you kindly and equally is a fair expectation; indignantly demanding that we remember and keep organized which of the ever-growing combinations of labels with which you self-affiliate is just not.

1 comment:

  1. Lest anyone thought I was exaggerating the extent of the problem, Wesleyan University offers a dormitory called the "Open House" which it describes as a "safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexural, Asexual, [We can't print this one!], Polyamorous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/ Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities.”