Today’s most important acronym expands and contracts like an accordion with seemingly no rhyme or reason. From LGBT, the inclusive train of letters has now swelled to LGBTTQQIAAP2S. The two Ts stand for transgender and transsexual and the double Qs represent both “queer” and “questioning”. The I is for intersex; the twin As for “asexual” and “ally”—the latter meaning you’re hetero but down with the cause. P is for pansexual, the catch-all for being up for pretty much anything depending on the situation. The newest addition is the “2S” which denotes being Two Spirit, a term used by some First Nationers for one who does not fit into the male/female binary. If this alphabet train is not fun enough for you, others such as those at Wesleyan University have added “BDSM” as a caboose for the bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism crowd.
Is anyone left out? It is curious we don’t usually find the two Ps here: the polyamorists and the polygamists. This second P is not included because these are the unfashionable fundamentalist Mormon splinter groups, firm-handed patriarchy and all. But why exclude the polyamorous? They are indeed vivacious boundary pushers by any measure, holding quite seriously that their interest in “many lovers” is indeed as much an orientation as anything else. (The enlightened Wesleyan has added P for polyamory along with another G for “genderf—” and an F for “flexual”).
Not a few leading gay and lesbian activists cast derision upon the alphabet soup ridiculousness, deciding to just toss the whole senseless effort to include everyone. One young gay journalist explained, “We’ve had to start using Sanskrit because we’ve run out of letters.”
But does this string of letters refer to an actual group of people like the terms African-American, Native Alaskan, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic and others do? Can we reasonably speak of someone as an LGBT person? One gay activist writing a few years ago in The New York Times says certainly not:
I’m amused whenever I hear someone say “as an L.G.B.T. person.…” Nobody is an L.G.B.T. person. You can have two, maybe three letters maximum [apply to you] at any moment (three could be a bisexual trans man in a gay relationship).
Nor does there seem to be an LGBT community. It’s certainly not all peace, love, and understanding in the soup bowl. The Ls and the Gs don’t really get along so well and they both have their problems with the Bs and the Ts. One very blunt lesbian writer/activist speaks for many when she notes:
The gay establishment has always taken “L.G.B.T.” to mean “gay, with lesbian in parentheses, throw out the bisexuals, and put trans on for a little bit of window dressing.”
The Ls can’t understand how the Gs can go in for so much anonymous or casual sex and the Gs joke that a second date for the Ls is called a house-warming party. Neither of them can figure out why the Bs can’t just pick a side already and the Ts are a curiosity to them all. Susan Stryker, co-editor and founder of the Transgender Studies Quarterly explains the long alienation of the Ts from their supposed comrades:
All along…many non-trans gays and lesbians considered transgender issues to be more marginal, more deviant, less respectable and less important. Some find us threatening to their own sense of self, express open hostility, and disparage us as weird, sick or misguided. The “T” has thus had a fraught relationship with “LGB…”
Additionally, there are disagreements with whom and who are not welcomed to participate in the annual gay-pride parades. One lesbian activist from Utah lamented just a few years ago,
Of the evermore popular LGBT acronym, half of the letters are looking to a different event to get some recognition. What does it say about pride parade events that lesbians and transgender individuals need an additional march to feel visible?
The Ls feel they are being asked to make themselves content not only with a back seat but actually a whole other bus as our Utah activist confesses,
This Pride weekend, I intend to join the DYKE and Transgender March…but I hope that we won’t always need our own event. I hope that our issues can join the rest at the forefront of the movement.
The intentional alienation of the Ts is not confined to parade day. Less than a decade ago, during the national debate on ENDA (The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act), a major beach-head in the gay movement, 68 percent of respondents in a poll of gays and lesbians commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said it was acceptable to exclude their T colleagues from the protections sought in this legislation. Only 16% of the LG respondents said the Ts should indeed be included. Numbers like these could motivate major corporations and Bruce Springsteen to call for angry boycotts against the LGB movement if reason and consistency were applied to such things.
More recently, as same-sex marriage advocates assembled in demonstration before the Supreme Court as it took up the issue, a large and seemingly inclusive pro-gay coalition of mainstream groups—including HRC, the nation’s largest pro-gay advocacy—told trans activists that their participation was not welcome and to remove their flags from the gathering. They were told their presence would produce bad optics for the evening news. The outcry from the Ts at being muzzled and marginalized at this supposed “pro-equality” rally was such that it prompted a dramatic apology from the LGB coalition.
Is there any such thing as an LGBT community?
Glenn Stanton is the director of family formation studies at the Focus on the Family. His most recent book is Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth.