Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"GLBT" - but what about the "IQ?"

This is taken from one of my first posts to AARP's "Spectrum" GLBT online community group.

[Writer's note:  AARP's 'automatic' censor had blacked out some words, most of which I comment on at the end.  But "penis?"  I fail to understand . . . what if this had been a post to a men's health group discussion?  Would the word "penis" still have been censored, while "testes" was allowed?]

I had asked the serious question "GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered), but what about the 'IQ?' "  Someone commented that s/he didn't understand the term "Intersex" and asked if I was talking about hermaphrodites.

They also thought "Q" was for Queer.

I responded by explaining that "intersexed people are born with ambiguous genitals (and thank God surgeons aren't routinely and arbitrarily 'assigning sex' at birth by amputating **** and testes or sewing up a vaginal opening" as they used to)."

The spectrum of sexuality isn't just Kinsey's scale of 1-6 distinct types, as he would be the first to explain. There's a gradient line that cuts across all six sections . . . reflecting that each person is unique.

And the "Q?"

My reply, in full:

"Q" is for "questioning" -- those young (or later-life) people who are questioning their sexual identity in the process of discovering "who they really are."

I personally used to dislike the word "queer," even when it began being used by Queer Nation (and others) as an attempt to "take back the slur and use it ourselves, re-empowering the community."

That fell flat with me.  However, the late Christoper Isherwood (who I still venerate) said, "I call myself 'musical,' or 'so,' or 'queer."  He also once said "I like the word 'f****t.'  It has a crisp karate-chop sound to it."

I adore Isherwood's writings, and once got to meet him.  He graciously autographed all eleven of the books I brought to a signing of his "October," written with his other half, artist Don Bachardy.  I'd called to ask permission to lug all the books with me -- he was listed in the phone book.

In my own experience, both "queer" and "f****t" have unpleasant associations - especially "f****t.".  I've rarely heard it used by gay friends, but it was screamed at me both times I was gay-bashed as a young man.

Various names have evolved with the gay rights movement.  The problem seems to be the same as with the evolution of terms evidenced in the Civil Rights movement:  the NAACP ("colored people") through the United Negro College Fund, the Afro-Americans of the Black Power era (giving way to the People of Color, and the current African-Americans.  The time taken up getting to know the "right" terminology could be better spent, some feel, but each term reflects an era and a mind-set.

I usually use the word "gay" because (just as the above examples show), I'm a product of my era.

And I use "GLBT" or "GLBTIQ" because, as with the various rainbow flags, it covers the spectrum -- and may include either "Questioning" or "Queer."

"Queer," however, is easier -- and it has a tinge of radical subversion about it that I enjoy.  It savors of Queer Nation (and other queer notions).

Currently, most use "LGBT" (at least, in print).  I have no idea how the Lesbians moved to the front of the line.  I once asked, and was told "ladies first," which seems to me to be the kind of patronizing, sexist attitude that I'd thought the women's movement wanted to eradicate.
My own suspicion is that as gay men bore the brunt of the early AIDS crisis, dying in droves, the lesbians who supported the men's efforts simply co-opted their place in the chain (through having survived) and continued with outreach and education.  They've earned their place, regardless of who gets top billing.  

It was the Gay Rights movement first, Lesbians came into the battle a bit later (although "Dykes on Bikes" tends to be the first group in most Pride parades), and then the Bisexuals and Transgendered were acknowledged and welcomed into the fold.

"GLBTIQ," for me, sums up the history and evolution of the on-going struggle to attain equal rights for the "other/queer/odd."

Reed 13

P.S.  In writing this, I had to re-edit, because I used the full word "faggot" which was censored, coming out merely as six asterisks.  
The word "Dykes," however, was allowed.  
Interesting double standard.

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