Just so we start off on the right footing, this is an article written by me, based mainly on the stuff that goes through my silly head, with a couple of quotes, or musings from people I “interviewed” (read: spoke to over messenger). It’s not a scientific paper, it is not going to be peer reviewed (I have no peers! Just kidding ...), and, as always, you are welcome, to agree, disagree, argue, disregard, have a sandwich; whatever you want to do with this article is fine by me.
On with the show.
As of writing, Arcadia three months old! Isn’t that adorable? We’re so cute, right now!
Yes, we are young; very young. And yet I am proud to say that we have become a reasonably respected part of the Doncaster community. Yay us!
Now, when I started Arcadia, I didn’t think much about the acronym we would use, as I personally, had always used the same one: LGBTQ+, meaning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transexual, with the + sign there to include any other group who were/are marginalised based on their gender or sexuality. We became ‘Arcadia; LGBTQ+ Social/Support Group, Doncaster’.
I thought nothing of it. I got one with my day. I may have eaten an avocado. I can’t really remember.
About a week later, two members had discussed it between themselves, and approached me (online) requesting that the ‘Q’ be removed, as they felt the word “Queer” was a derogatory term and should not be used to describe our community.
In one of the questions I asked, I enquired as to the interviewees thoughts on the term, itself. One person, Rebecca, responded:
“I don’t like the term queer. Because of the times I have been called it. It is often a term used by, in my experience, older people who say it in a mocking tone, as though being gay is amusing, which is why I don’t like it.”
My pal, Tai, however, said thus: “I don't have an issue with the word queer personally. I know a lot of older people have had associations with it, but a lot of younger people self-identify as queer - it's very important to their sense of self, and reduces the sense of exclusion from being relegated to the plus sign. A lot of ace [asexual] and pan [pansexual] people, for example, identify as queer, so including it makes them feel less forgotten about.”
Hmm. This presented me with quite the dilemma. Let’s put aside that I consider myself ‘queer’, but so do others in the group, which I put to them. Some people who didn’t like it, replied with something along the lines of “well can’t ‘Queer’ be included in the + sign?”.
I was having coffee with a friend of mine called Silver. I brought up the issue. “Fuck off!” He said, characteristically, pushing back his gorgeous, cascading brown hair into a pony (“It gets in my latté”, he would complain ... The struggle is real). “Don’t relugate us to the + sign! That’s where all the weird ones go that no one really cares about.”
Now, Silver was wise not to let me include his last name, cos I can already picture an angry (but well organised) mob heading straight for his door. Though since you’re called Silver … girl; they gonna get you.
Anyway! It made me think, as things are wont to do. People don’t want me to include the word ‘Queer’, and other people think that the + sign is a kind of ‘meh’ acknowledgment of all the other gendered identities and sexual orientations, without actually giving them any kind of a platform. I didn’t like either of those things!
So how should I include everyone?
I went in search of an acronym.
Twelve minutes, four cups of coffee, and two refills on my e-cigarette, and I had found an acronym used by the BBC, which was the closest I could come to finding someone or something that used an official acronym beyond LGB, LGBT, LGBT+, LGBTQ+. It was this:
I’ll not assume anything, so will include their full description of each letter:
L - lesbian: a woman who is attracted to other women
G - gay: a man who is attracted to other men or broadly people who identify as homosexual
B - bisexual: a person who is attracted to both men and women
T - transgender: a person whose gender identity is different from the sex the doctor put down on their birth certificate
Q - queer: originally used as a hate term, some people want to reclaim the word, while others find it offensive. It can be a political statement, suggest that someone doesn't want to identify with "binaries" (e.g. male v female, homosexual v straight) or that they don't want to label themselves only by their sexual activity
Q - questioning: a person who is still exploring their sexuality or gender identity
I - intersex: a person whose body is not definitively male or female. This may be because they have chromosomes which are not XX or XY or because their genitals or reproductive organs are not considered "standard"
A - allies: a person who identifies as straight but supports people in the LGBTQQIAAP community
A - asexual: a person who is not attracted in a sexual way to people of any gender
P - pansexual: a person whose sexual attraction is not based on gender and may themselves be fluid when it comes to gender or sexual identity.
Crikey. That is a long acronym.
So I had a choice; do I change to LGBTQQIAAP? That’s quite the mouthful (no jokes).
I know! I’ll ask people from all across the spectrum what they thought! So I turned to my Facebook Friend’s list, which is an awesome list, by the way. As one of the people I spoke to, Andrew pointed out, that having such a diverse group of friends “...helps in my daily work occasionally as well as socially too, as there is more acceptability to openly question and explore one’s identity.” I completely agree. I get to see opinions and thoughts I never would have encountered if my friend’s list read like a Grindr list (which would never happen. Never.).
I started off by asking them what LGBTQ+ means, and everyone got it right. Well done, everyone! But no one wins cake. There is not enough cake. There is no cake.
Then I dropped LGBTQQIAAP on them and not a one could figure it out (I forbade the use of googling), which isn’t a judgement, because when I looked at it, I too scratched my head in perplexion for a good while, trying to put the pieces together about as well as a toddler with a block puzzle toy.
So what did they think?
Well, every single person thought it was simply too long! Imagine any kind of business using initials to describe what it sells or does? B&M would be about three pages long!
My friend Beccy wrote: “I think it’s too long. I understand people want to be able to associate themselves with groups where they know they are included and acknowledged but having so many sub groups in my opinion makes equality harder. It almost undermines differences rather than celebrates them, which I guess is part of the ‘group ethos.’”
And Lucy, the Lady of Logic pointed out: “Where does it end, though? You can add every single verb to it. There are people who don’t even think of themselves as human! Will they be added to this list? Or will there be a new list for them?”
She has a point. There is a person called Luis Padron, who has had extensive surgery to look like a fantasy elf (side note; he really does look like a fantasy elf). He identifies as an elf; and that’s how he chooses to live.
“But that’s not a gender or a sexuality,” Silver again. “That’s a 'species' thing.”
Well; yes, I suppose it is. But what if Luis declares that he sexually attracted to other elves; or that he considers being an elf a gendered identity? Does he not get a place on the list? Do we add and include ‘Elves’?
Sound like I’m going into the realms of the far-fetched? Well, think that you may (no idea why I went ‘Yoda-talk’ there …) but people thought that exact thing when ‘pangender’ and ‘pansexual’ were being brought up or written about in the media.
I looked at my acronym (fun fact: Tai pointed out that ‘LGBTQ’ is not an acronym but an initialism. But since no one knew that, when I asked, I’m sticking with acronym for this article), and thought “what can do use instead?”
Back to Google!
I very quickly found one:
Yep … SOGI … pronounced 'soggy'. Not the most … fetching of words when describing a bunch of people, but it sure does a great job at condensing the alphabet soup of genders and sexualities.
It stands for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The source: The Council Of Europe. Their department that deals with issues of sexuality and gender is actually called the 'Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity unit'. Even if you put ‘SOGI’ into Google, you will get a lot of respected institutions and publications that are using this acronym. Why? Because it includes everybody.
Think of a gender or sexuality, and then tell me it does fall somewhere inside those letters? I couldn’t think of any, and neither could anybody I asked!
But what did they think about being SOGI?
“SOGI? Presumably pronounced "soggy" - not the most positive sounding acronym” Said Jim.
“No one is calling me soggy!” - Silver.
“My instant reaction is ‘nooooooo’, but when I think about it, it does seem to cover everything. But something that, I assume, is pronounced ‘soggy’? I cannot see it catching on. Are we going to be referred to as the ‘soggy community’ now? Maybe Sexuality and Gender Identity? [I pointed out some people might include the ‘A’ from ‘and’ in that term] So we are soggy or saggy? I don’t think the fabulous queens of our community will be a fan.” Said Dylan, a frequent contributor to Arcadia’s online presence.
I sighed. You can please anyone, these days! Bloody hell.
In all honesty, I wish I had never started this investigation and article, because in conclusion, I have no idea what to do. Some people want to keep the traditional LGBT, and are not averse to having a + sign on it. The queer-identifying folk want in on it, and rightly so … as do everyone else.
Then you find an acronym (or initialism, Tai) that covers all and sundry and people recoil in horror at the pronunciation (which I am detracting from; I want to be neither saggy nor soggy … in any way).
Lastly, I turned to the big guns. I approached my friend Cameron, who works for one of the big players in the LGBTQ+ world, but who I can’t name for legal reasons. Cameron said:
“Alex; you will not win this. Our organisation chose it’s acronym years ago, and faces pressure to change it at least once per week, both from the people we serve, to other organisations we link with. Since no one can agree on an acronym, we have simply dug in our heels, and continued to use what we always have used [I’m allowed to point out that this is LGBT], until the government decided on an official acronym themselves. And even then, we might not agree with it; our members might not agree with it. If I were you, I’d do whatever feels right, keep that ‘+’ sign that you have (because I wish we had it), and wait.”
So, ladies and gentlemen. I present you wish a massive anti-climax:
I’m not changing a bloomin’ thing.
We are Arcadia, LGBTQ+ Social Support Group, Doncaster … until further notice.
A special thank you to the following people, some of whom I directly quoted, and some whose opinions helped guide my writing in general:
Thank you all.