Postby Karl » 24 Mar 2008, 06:14

Having recently spent a lot of time poking around on the internet looking for Queer organizations that recognize or support asexuality (you know, for our Knowledge Base) I’ve become just one more of many people to notice just how ridiculous some groups’ acronyms have become. Sure, there are LGBs and LGBTs, and most people are familiar with those, but there are also LGBTQs, LGBTAs, LGBTUs, LGBTIs, LGBTTs, LGBTQAs and even LGBTTTIQQAs.

And that’s just a quick sample of the acronyms in use. Not only is this rather overwhelming, but it’s pretty obvious that none of these can be pronounced without enunciating every single letter in turn. The most ridiculous one was allegedly coined by a representative of Wesleyan University, and goes something like ‘LGBTTQQFAGIPBDSM...’ which stands for ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderqueer, Intersex, Polyamourous, BDSM and anything else we might have forgotten’. Great, but what are the chances of anyone actually remembering that?

The only suggestion I came across that actually comes close to rolling of the tongue was coined by the magazine Anything That Moves, and that’s ‘FABGLITTER’ (Fetish, Allies, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Intersexed, Transgender, Transsexual Engendering Revolution). Unfortunately, even this doesn’t include every possible sexual or gender-identity minority out there.

One has to ask the question: Isn’t there a better way of being inclusive than stringing letters together to form cumbersome abbreviations? What’s wrong with naming your organization the 'Queer Alliance' or 'Rainbow Alliance', or something equally pronounceable like that?

Apparently, it all started in the 1980s. According to the wikipedia article on LGBT history:

Since the mid-1980s students at high schools and universities have organized LGBT groups, often called Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) at their respective schools. The groups form to provide support for LGBT students and to promote awareness of LGBT issues in the local community.

But even within these groups, there have always been tensions regarding inclusivity. From Wikipedia's LGBT page:
after the initial euphoria of the beginnings of the Stonewall riots wore off, starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a change in perception and some gays and lesbians were not very accepting of bisexual or transgender people.

It was thought that transsexual people were acting out stereotypes; and bisexuals were simply gay men or lesbian women who were simply afraid to "come out" and be honest about their identity. Like many organizations, the movement underwent growing pains, and these are seen even today in the fact that there is no agreement as to whether the acronym should be GLBT or LGBT.

Not until the 1990s did it become common to speak of "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people" with equal respect within the movement. Although the LGBT community has seen some controversy regarding universal acceptance of different members (transgender individuals, in particular, have sometimes been marginalized by the larger LGBT community), the term LGBT has been a positive symbol of inclusion.

These days, people are coming out or labeling themselves with all sorts of different things though. Apart from us Asexuals, there are the those who are Transsexual, Intersex, Pansexual, Omnisexual, Genderqueer, Two Spirit, Unsure, Curious, Fetish, and numerous others that don’t come to mind right now. As the existing LGBT groups decide to accept more and more of these groups into their organizations it seems only logical at first to just tag on another letter or two. Until, that is, you get to the point where you have to widen your doors to fit all the letters on the plaque.

'So, what does this have to do with asexuality?', you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. Like most other sexual and gender-identity minorities, we collectively tend to expect Queer organizations to welcome us into their groups with open arms. I’m one of the collective and I’d love to see evidence of at least the recognition of asexuality on more of these organizations' websites. It has to be said that some of them do more than this, offering information on asexuality, links to our community sites and allowing asexuals to join their meetings. But I can totally understand why the ones who don’t do any of this may have a problem with being an umbrella for everyone who doesn’t quite fit in with the norm. And I definitely understand now why they are loathe to add yet another A onto their already cumbersome acronyms for us. But as I see it, there are two alternative paths we can take:

  1. We drop all the acronyms, revise our missions statements, and group everything under an all-inclusive name like Gender & Sexuality Variation Alliance (or the more traditional Queer or Rainbow Alliance) that won’t have to be changed every few years.
  2. We fragment into dozens of different types of organizations, each with just one sexual or gender-identity minority in its remit. We have a Gay Society, a Bi Society and an Asexual Society and never mix.

Obviously, the second one is impractical, as there are generally very few members of any one minority in any particular area (try setting up an Asexual Society in your town and see how popular it is…). And let’s not forget that there is strength in numbers - that’s the very reason why LGB organizations were created in the first place, right? So shouldn’t we – meaning everyone, including the open-minded heterosexuals - stop focusing on what makes us different from each other and start working together to educate society about the very real and natural variations in gender and sexuality that occur? Sorry if I’m starting to sound like a John Lennon song, but doesn’t that make some sense?