LGBTQ2S versus Queer
Hate speech intended to disable its target simultaneously enables its very resistance; its injurious power is the same fuel that feeds the fire of its counter-appropriation. Laying claim to the forbidden, the word as weapon is taken up and taken back by those it seeks to shackle—a self-emancipation that defies hegemonic linguistic ownership and the (ab)use of power (Brontsema: 1)
Throughout this toolkit we will use the acronym LGBTQ2S to refer to a very diverse community. This shorthand explicitly excludes a number of identities: people who are asexual, pansexual, intersex, and the list goes on. These identities are implicitly intended in the umbrella term of LGBTQ2S. There are number of other acronyms being used including: LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQA, TBLG. In an effort to be inclusive additional letters are added to the acronym. But this can make saying the acronym challenging. A new term that is gaining popularity is QUILTBAG.
It stands for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer. It is meant to be a more inclusive term than GLBT/LGBT and to be more pronounceable (and memorable) than some of the other variations or extensions on the GLBT/LGBT abbreviation (Queer Dictionary)
Another response has been a move towards using the term “queer” to label the LGBTQ2S community. There has been both movement towards embracing the term and resistance to embracing the use. The latter is caused mostly by the negative historical connotation as a derogatory and homophobic insult.
In the early 1990s an activist group Queer Nation was formed in New York City.
Queer Nation is an LGBT activist organization founded in New York City in March 1990 by AIDS activists from ACT UP New York (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). The four founders (Tom Blewitt, Alan Klein,Michelangelo Signorile and Karl Soehnlein) were outraged by the escalation of violence against LGBT people in the streets of New York, and the continued existence of anti-gay discrimination in the culture at large. Our mission throughout our history has been to eliminate homophobia and increase LGBT visibility (Queer Nation website).
Please see Reclaiming the dictionary: Shifting power through words for more information on reclaiming queer and other terms.
The word “queer” is one that still puzzles many minds today, depending on the context, as it is used now as an umbrella term for a staggeringly diverse community, one that becomes more so every day. However, for non-queer persons, one question remains: “When am I allowed to use the word ‘queer’?” (Marie)
Like dyke and fag, it is best to avoid using queer unless you identify as one of the many LGBTQ2S identity.
In the Terms and Definitions section we shared a number of important definitions. We also discussed several terms we need to avoid using. This is a good foundation. Being an inclusive space for LGBTQ2S youth, staff and volunteers requires more than having a few rainbow inspired posters in visible areas.
Do you remember the days when we said:
- Policeman instead of Police Officer
- Stewardess instead of Flight Attendant
- Waitress instead of server
- Manhole instead of maintenance cover
Sadly some folks still use what should be outdated gendered language. Moving towards gender neutral language requires us to acknowledging sexism that exists in our society and language. Shifting language moves at glacial speed (read: slow).
We need to shift towards a gender neutral language. This is hard and takes energy and mindfulness. But it is so important to LGBTQ2S folks. Being inclusive in our language is the next step.
You may be wondering what does sexist language have to do with LGBTQ2S issues? First, sexism, heterosexism and cisgenderism are all interconnected as we learnt in the Intersectionality module. Second, youth who access our services are telling us (either in formal focus groups, or informally by how they access our services and programs) that they need their gender identities respected. You will recall in the Overview section there were numerous comments about respecting chosen names and pronouns.
Things you can do
- If you have not already, update your forms (especially intake and case management forms) to be gender inclusive. Add multiple gender identity options and space for chosen names. Please see the Form module of the Tools section for samples
- During the intake process and at the beginning of groups as part of the introduction ask participants what their pronoun is. As the facilitator is best to role model by going first and sharing your pronoun. It is as easy as “Hi. My name is Elizabeth. I go by Liz. My pronoun is her.” Do this with every youth. It will soon be a natural habit.
- Consider the words you use. Try to avoid calling a group of women “ladies”. There may be some one in the group who does not identify as a “lady”. Also try to avoid calling a group of people “guys”. Instead you can use “folks” or another non-gendered term.
- Read GLAAD’s Ally’s Guide to Terminology (http://www.glaad.org/sites/default/files/allys-guide-to-terminology_1.pdf )
Below is a grassroots activity from Vancouver. Folks are encouraged to leave these business cards when they encounter non-gender neutral language.
The next module is on the topic of bullying. The language we use has an impact on the people around us. Most of us heard “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Unfortunately this cliche is not accurate. Names do hurt. They may not leave physical marks on us on their own, but they affect how we feel about ourselves. LGBTQ2S are more likely to attempt suicide than straight/cisgender youth.
Words can also be used to condone violence. We need to speak up when we hear words being used with the intent of harming others. Please see the How to be an Ally module for strategies on how to speak up.