The other day I noted that I wanted to write about LGBTQ and the alphabet soup, as it were. The ongoing collection of letters that sum up a collection of experiences other than heteronormative ones. The initialism represents solidarity, of sorts, but a faulty one. It is more or less a basket to dump other identities. I dislike this, because, as we see from the growing letters, other identities may greatly outweigh what one considers “normal.”
I put off writing the post for a while because it’s hard to argue language. Being able to say LGBTQ can be useful when describing diversity, or inequality. Even if we’re aware that it doesn’t completely summarize the whole picture, we acknowledge what it means.
Then I read this quote from the book The Age of Anxiety that hung so greatly with what I was thinking.
“The more one studies attempted solutions to problems in politics and economics, in art, philosophy, and religion, the more one has the impression of extremely gifted people wearing out their ingenuity at the impossible and futile task of trying to get the water of life into neat and permanent packages.” – Alan W. Watts
He had previous detailed the process of trying to mail water in a package. You cannot mail water because it is impossible to contain and will contain to spill out. This fit to me because it seems to be what happens to this initialism. First we have gay. Then we have lesbian. Then we have bi. Then we have trans. Then we have queer. Then we have alley. Then we have intersex. And it goes forth into new and unknown identities. Hundreds of identities that cannot be summarized in those few, easy to pass letters.
We try to pack things away but like water it slips out. As much as we want to be able to detail our identities in a string of letters, our identities are simply too vast and too complex. People will complain there is always something else. Some new group of people who have seemingly invented themselves overnight. Okay, gender queer, what, you want same special recognition now? But someone who is gender queer has always been gender queer. It is only with honesty and transparency in society are people allowed to question what being themselves means. It’s only with this openness that they are able to find the language in the first place.
It is a mixed bag. I might argue that we are safer in a world without this language. If we cannot point at someone and say “you are other” we have less ammunition. But with language we can educate. We can explain that it’s okay to express certain desires, to have certain identities, and to find others who have those identities as well.
I don’t like LGBTQIABCDEFG because it simplifies a more complex understanding of identity and presumes that after all of these identities come forward, the lack of these identities is still norm. Still, I use it, because to communicate best we must use language that others know and understand. For now, at least, these letters signify to me some version of solidarity in a world that has yet to catch up.