We communicate, therefore we abbreviate.
Social media may be viral, but without the words we say and the language we speak, it would have no foundation from which to travel and spread ideas.
Culturally, words are important to LGBTQIA folks. Not only for communicating concepts, but for fighting for our rights, for inclusivity, for assisting in diversity training, and of course, for us to find and to connect with each other among many other helpful purposes.
For instance, writing the word trans* with an asterisk at the end has its own special meaning. In short, the addition of the asterisk is more inclusive. Please click here to learn more about that in a full context.
Also, there are many people who find the word “transman” or “transwoman” to be dehumanizing or offensive, and who feel you should insert a space between each word for that reason.
But then of course, language is complex and contradictory. For example, the organization Black Transmen articulates the experience of trans* men by writing “transmen” as one word in their official parlance.
This brings to mind similar linguistic differences reminiscent of calling oneself “gay” versus calling oneself “same gender loving” or SGL. (“SGL” was a term created in generally African American circles, initiated to take one’s focus away from sex and place it on relationships, but SGL automatically excludes many trans* persons).
Or, there’s articulating queer culture as being “gay” rather than the more inclusive “LGBT” “GLBT,” that’s another example. Too, people can be attached to the order of the letters, favoring starting with “G” or “L.”). Next, there is “LGBTQ.” However, writing or saying “queer” can be an issue to some, as if there is something so-called “wrong” with being gay or having another sexual or gender orientation, rather than the intended meaning of reclaiming the insult as a word of empowerment (“We’re here, we’re queer. Get used to it.”).
Also, many acronyms and terms exist to behoove inclusivity-focused communication (e.g. LGBTQIAU for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, intersex persons, allies and undeclared), and the lists go on and on.
Here are a few others:
SOFFA – Significant Other, Friends, Families and Allies – Generally used in trans* culture.
GAY – (This word didn’t begin as an acronym, but it has become one. Aside from literally meaning “homosexual,” “happy” or as shorthand for “LGBTQ”) – Gifted and Young, Good As You, Gay. Are You?
IMRU – I’m Queer/Gay. Are You?
LGBTQ / TBLG / LGBTQQIAAS / GLB / LGBTQIAP Any combination or order of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, straight, pansexual and so forth. When letters are excluded, this might have to do with, for instance, trans* activists who are exploring ideas of inclusivity when it comes to trans* culture. They might say, “We deserve to have a voice at this convention where the majority of the speakers are LGB-only.”
LGBTIH Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexed and “hijira” (third gender).
FABGLITTER Shorthand for Fetish and BDSM community, Allies or Polyamorous.
QUILTBAG Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer.
Social critics and in-community critics tend to think of all of these acronyms as “over-corrected political correctness,” too focused on sexuality, not separating sexual and gender expression properly, or too exclusive in nature.
Generally, living in queer culture involves many elements of culture, lifestyle, privilege, preference, sexual expression, race, class, gender identity, social and hierarchical challenges, religious and moral backgrounds, geographical diversity, preferences not to be labeled, and so much more that is exceedingly difficult to encapsulate or summarize.
If anything, the acronyms can become a code, a way of transacting in the world, a way to find and befriend allies, a way to encourage others to think differently or more broadly, or a way to regain respect and grounding among others in our environment who would seek to derail or exclude others.
As a communicator and mediator myself, this can make communication, sharing information and reportage seem somewhat challenging, but not impossibly so. Prosaically, I do tend to use many different terms interchangeably as well as alternating them—so it’s likely that will offend some or many without having an intention to do so.
Personally, I tend to go by the M.O. of: “I’ll address you respectfully and earnestly in the way you prefer to be addressed. I’ll do my best to honor y/our culture going on what I know, today, and using the breadth of terminology that’s available to us, so that we can all connect.”
Which acronym, term or shorthand do you prefer? (“None” counts, too.)