Graphic Illustrated by Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He)
*This article is a modern analysis of the themes and content of “The Genesis of LGBTQ2IA” (Fall 2001), the first installment of our From The Archive series”*
In “The Genesis of LGBTQ2IA,” there is an implication that the queer community can be defined in a finite acronym: LGBTQ2IA. There is nothing outside the eight letters to describe members of the queer community. It implies that “Lesbian,” “Gay,” “Bisexual,” “Transgender,” “Queer,” “Questioning,” “Intersex,” or “Ally” are the only legitimate ways to identify with and within the queer community. In fact, the article asserts itself as having “given you every identity yielding desire that is upon the face of all the earth,” and “it was very good.”
The article, despite attempting at being humorous through its Book of Genesis references, also bounds the definitions of these eight words to harmfully strict limits.
Lesbian and Gay. “And God separated the lesbians from the gays.” This implication that gay women must solely identify as lesbian is limiting to lesbians and gay women that describe their identity outside this reductionist term. This also excludes nonbinary lesbians from the LGBTQ2IA party. Additionally, gay is only applied to men in this restrictive world of LGBTQ2IA. The opportunity to use gay as an umbrella term has left the conversation before we’re even halfway through the acronym.
Bisexual. The article goes on to describe people who identify as bisexual as “doubts in the midst of the homosexuals,” a biphobic trope that suggests bisexual people are using their “doubt” to excuse their supposedly more promiscuous and sex-filled lives, which the article confirms with “and there were threesomes, the second day.”
Transgender. The article then strictly defines transgender within the notion of passing as cis men and cis women, completely leaving out nonbinary identities and throwing non-passing individuals under the LGBTQ2IA bus. It defines the trans experience as being surrounded by “miscast women,” “miscast men,” “penile reconstructions,” “breasts with the implants in them,” and “hormones.” Ultimately, the article implies that passing is the only way to properly be trans, and not passing is the ultimate sin.
Queer. The article defines queer as an overarching term to help encompass everything else previously mentioned. Yet, it makes sure to unify only the “LGBTs,” still implying that the separation between homosexual and heterosexual individuals lies within the individual identifying with L, G, B, or T. If you lie outside that narrow range, you aren’t really queer. At least, this is what the article says. This overarching term, that ironically feels inadequate, is still constricted, leaving the term’s true potential quashed.
Questioning? The article uses questioning individuals as a scapegoat, leaving no room for the validity of their experiences. Questioning individuals are those who are “intoxicated sorority girl[s] who experiment” or “effeminate boy[s].” This definition dismisses the natural human experience of exploring one’s sexuality and gender expression as something meant for those who are actually “queer” to look down upon. Simply put, it’s gatekeeping.
Intersex. The article makes the assumption that intersex people are “ambiguous” looking with no “clear sex,” identifying “outside the stereotypes of the genders.” Equating sex with gender identity is harmful to the intersex and trans communities, and is the root of a lot of enbyphobia and transphobia. Additionally, this assumption makes the allowance for only intersex people to identify outside gendered stereotypes, while insinuating that other members of the queer community cannot (as seen with the article’s interpretation of trans identities).
Ally. The inclusion of non-queer people in a deliberately queer conversation feels out of place, but even the heterosexual people who support the gays get their own letter here at LGBTQ2IA. The representation of queer allies within the acronym is apparently more important than including identities outside the brief seven identities one can have. Although queer allies can be an important pool of support, allies should not be equated to those who are at the forefront of a queer-led and queer-started movement.
This acronym, used in TenPercent’s Fall 2001 issue, is a gross misunderstanding and underappreciation of what it means to be queer.
Today, this restricting eight letter acronym has been both truncated and extended at the same time. Today, LGBTQ+ has become a common point of reference to the queer community, shortening the articles eight letter acronym to five letters with the addition of a plus sign to indicate that there are potentially too many identities to list to adequately represent queer people. Today, it appears that things have become “too complicated” for people to understand other people, so they just add a plus sign at the end and think it is sufficient.
Oftentimes, cishet people do not even take the time to memorize the 5 letters and their proper order. “LBTQRS.” “GBT.” “LGBTQABC.” They excuse themselves by saying it is too complicated, yet they can memorize a twenty-six letter alphabet (at least most can) and tell you everything that has happened in the last eighteen seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Not only are cishet people using the “too complicated” acronym to excuse queerphobic slipups and their general lackadaisical attitude, queer people continuously argue about how long the acronym should be. “It should just be LGBTQ, since the Q stands for queer and by default includes the remaining members of the community.” “It should just remain LGBTQ+ to keep people happy.” “It should reflect the inclusion of intersex and asexual identities as well and be LGBTQIA+ (but lump every other identity into a plus sign).” Nevertheless, no matter the reasoning, it still feels like this acronym, in any shape or form, doesn’t accurately capture the queer experience.
Instead, queer. Using “queer’ as a truly all-encompassing term to include everything under the queer umbrella and within the queer experience can be freeing. It allows for nuance, as queer people can still identify with other identities and use other labels, while allowing for simplicity. It offers the necessary and crucially important time to truly understand other people’s experiences and feelings without reducing them to a letter. It’s the truncated and extended version of LGBTQ+ that delivers an authentic encapsulation of living outside the cisheteronormative standard.
“Queer” and queerness allows for infinity.