Though it happens much less commonly now that the media has put the LGBT acronym into our national vernacular, I still sometimes find myself explaining to people that the "T" is trans, the "B" is bisexual, and so on. And there is the occasional lost cause like this time I saw that my friend had re-grammed her clueless relative's post of himself "Enjoying my LGBT sandwich! Lettuce, guacamole, bacon, and tomato." He did not seem to understand any of the comments such as "All sandwiches are born equal!"
But what I've been noticing lately is that the acronym seems to be growing. And growing. I did a quick search and pulled up one that includes basically the entire alphabet (plus the number 2):
Okay let's break this down.
L – Lesbian
G – Gay
B – Bisexual
T – Transgender
Q – Questioning
I – Intersex
P – Pansexual
2S – 2-Spirited
A – Asexual
A – Ally
Okay that is a fucking mouthful, first of all, and second of all this is becoming a seemingly endless acronym. What's next? "M" for monogamous, another "P" for polyamorous?
Look, I am not knocking all the varied and vast shades of colors in the LGBTetc. rainbow—if anything I'm wondering why we now seem to have a giant divide in the population. It's as if there's this giant wall in which cisgendered heterosexual people are on one side, and literally everyone else in the entire world is on the other.
I mean we are at the point where we have included "allies" in our acronym. Aren't allies, by definition, people who are not in the group but support the group? I love allies! You guys are the best! But I feel like even they would feel kind of strange to be part of the so-called queer acronym.
And then there's the issue of how exactly these categories work. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and pansexual are all sexual orientations, whereas transgender is gender identity, and intersex is biological sex/anatomical. "Queer" can mean so many things I can hardly keep up with all the iterations, and "questioning" is a pretty friggin' broad category if you ask me. Does that mean that every person who has wondered if they are anything but straight falls into the "questioning" group? Because that is pretty much everybody. "Two-spirited" refers to Native Americans who have exhibited qualities of both genders, and "asexual" is used to describe people who don't feel attracted to any sex at all.
And then there's the slippery slope of trying to tie all of these various identities into one person. For example, what if you are a transwoman who is attracted to women, then you are a lesbian as well. But some people have expanded "lesbian" and "gay" into the broader labels of "gynophilic" and "androphilic" meaning "woman-loving" and "man-loving" to include all the shades of gray in gender expression and identity.
And where does BDSM fall into this? That can be hetero or homosexual. And what about this new thing in which straight people are calling themselves "queer"? Within lesbians alone there are butches, femmes, bois, bros, chapstick lesbians, studs, stems, you name it. I don't even know what the hell I am anymore. I used to say "femme" to make it simple, but apparently I'm "gray area" according to my friends, because I'm not into heels and dresses.
Frankly, all of this makes my head spin, and I'm not sure it is really serving our ever-expanding community much by adding group after group to the list. All that this suggests to me is that there is no way in hell that the world is majority cis/straight people. One quick perusal of craigslist "Men seeking men" section illustrates pretty clearly that there are a lot of "I'm straight but—" dudes out there looking for some man action. (More on this later, it's pretty fascinating)
I wonder what it is about humans that we feel a need to obsessively label ourselves and our fellow folk? In a way, naming something is a way of asserting control over it. The first task that God gives Adam in the Torah/Old Testament is to name all the creatures so as to have dominion over them. We rely so heavily on signifiers (words) and signified objects (the actual physical or non physical object being described) in order to make sense of our world. Granted, the world would be a very confusing place indeed if nothing had names or labels, but sometimes I think we go a little too far.
Naming yourself is a way of owning an identity; declaring yourself as a certain thing to the world. It makes you a part of something, whatever group that is, and creates a feeling of belonging, which we all crave. But when my girlfriend and I were walking around LA Pride a few weekends ago and she remarked " Wouldn't it be great if no one went around proclaiming a sexuality or gender and we all just could kind of be people and love people? And if you love one gender more than another, that's fine, but who really cares at the end of the day?" I couldn't help but wonder what that world would be like.
Neither of us were knocking Pride; it's pretty much my favorite holiday of the year, but there is some simple truth to what she said. Of course, the world is not so simple and even within the original 4-letter community there is so much biphobia and misunderstandings about trans people that no one is really safe from discrimination. I once got questioned in a bar in San Francisco on what I was doing in a "lesbian safe space" because the girls in there assumed I was straight based on my appearance. Sadly, there will always be haters and homophobes of all stripes who feel that those of us who don't fit gender or sexuality norms need to be excluded or punished. Imagine what it would be like if people stopped spending so much time policing each other's identities and just let each other exist.
But it's nice sometimes to think about a world in which we didn't have to use dozens of letters to separate all of us who don't fall into cookie-cutter sexualities and genders from the so-called "normal" people. What is normal anyway? Everyone I know, including myself, gay or straight or whatever, is decidedly not normal. So let's chill on the labels for a bit and just be—and go get some fro-yo together.