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Chris Tina Bruce

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'LGBT' Transforming into Alphabet Soup?

Posted: 12/22/11 06:56 PM ET

LGBTQIAAP: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, allies, and panseuxal

Really? Are we trying to communicate a message or create alphabet soup?

As a newbie to the LGBT community, I felt it was my responsibility to learn the history and understand how we came to be where we are and how I can help move us forward. These are the majority of acronyms and definitions (based on GLAAD's glossary of terms), even with some disagreement within our community:

  • Lesbian: a woman whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay, or as gay women.
  • Gay: the adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex (e.g., a gay man, gay people).
  • Bisexual: an individual who is physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to men and women.
  • Transgender: an umbrella adjective for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include, but is not limited to, transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.
  • Queer: traditionally a pejorative term, "queer" has been appropriated by some LGBT people to describe themselves. However, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless quoting or describing someone who self-identifies that way.
  • Questioning: the adjective used to describe people who are unsure of their sexual orientation.
  • Intersex: the adjective used to describe a person whose biological sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal, or anatomical variations that make a person's sex ambiguous (e.g., Klinefelter syndrome). The term "intersex" is not interchangeable with or a synonym for "transgender."
  • Asexual: an individual who is not physically, romantically, or emotionally attracted to others.
  • Ally: a person who is not lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, or pansexual but who supports the LGBT(QQIAAP) community.
  • Pansexual: a person who is attracted to others without taking gender or biological sex into account.

Even in our own community, we are not clear on all the acronyms that represent us. If I, as a person in the LGBT community, am having a hard time understanding and knowing all the acronyms sprouting up every other month, how can we honestly expect mainstream America to understand?

Our message is supposed to about unity to obtain equality, although we cannot even communicate a clear and consistent message. I believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice by expanding our acronym for every micro group instead of projecting a simple and understandable message of equality for all.

A large percentage of mainstream America currently does not even understand the differences between sex, gender, and sexual orientation, and the expansion of additional acronyms only helps to dilute our unity and message. I experienced this lack of knowledge firsthand in my coming out. Just two years ago, while opening up to my mom after 40 years of living as her all-American, football-star and bodybuilding son, she was quite shocked, although she took it in her motherly, loving way. A few weeks (and many hours of talking about the whens, wheres, hows, etc. of being transgender) later, she made a comment that I will never forget: "So you consider yourself more female than male, but you do not like men and still date women? I do not understand." My 60-something, educated, open-minded, and loving mother, like many others, really did not understand the difference between sex, gender, and sexual orientation.

A common misconception is that gender and sex are the same. Wrong. Sex is based on the reproductive organ supplied at birth, whereas gender is the mental perception you have of yourself, and then there is sexual orientation, or your sexual preference (e.g., heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc.). In other words, your sex is between your legs, your gender is between your ears, and your sexual orientation is between your sheets. I produced this video to help explain the differences between sex, gender, and sexual orientation for my family and friends.

For the large majority of our population, gender and sex are congruent, and they are heterosexual. For example, Johnny is born with male sex organs, his gender (the way he perceives himself) is male, and his sexual orientation is heterosexual. I, being giftedly gendered, was born with male sex organs, but my gender is more female than male, and my sexual preference has always been toward women. So then am I a trans lesbian? Do we now add another letter to our ever-expanding alphabet soup? I say no. I prefer to the win the war of equality and will sacrifice a few small battles, as the movement is about us, not about me. So let's keep the LGBT a clear, united, and simple message of equality for all.

Be Bold, Be Proud, Be Yourself.

 

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