Paul doesn’t like the use of the use of “LGBTI”. He suggests it has insidiously snuck into our lexicon, penning that it “has been adopted by what was traditionally called by the gay media to describe all people who are part of our community”. He then asks: “30 years ago the correct title was gay. Then it became queer. And now it’s a long acronym. But since when did LGBTI become the new black?”
Paul is a touch forlorn that his big bloc of gay men that make up the majority, have been relegated to a measly second, because those wily lesbians won the politically correct battle — muscling out the gays from the coveted GLBTI to make it LGBTI.
He wisely notes that this travesty happened “even though they should be second in percentage value”. I feel your pain, Paul. Every time I type LG rather than GL, I want to drown a baby panda with my bare hands, such is my rage that we came second to the lesser-than-men lesbians.
This festering linguistic oppression hit crisis point two weeks ago when Paul did not get bang for his buck at a free event put on by the Walkley Foundation called Something Queer Happened on the Way to the Newsroom. This event featured my boss, the Star Observer‘s editor Elias Jahshan, so of course it was singly the best thing to be on stage all year.
The worst thing that happened that night was that Elias did not give his fellow panelist Patrick Abboud my phone number — but I digress.
Paul was less forgiving of the event, apparently a little devvo that “gay” or “queer” would not again be installed into their rightful place. Afterall he and his friend Greg “hadn’t turned up on a weekday evening to listen to experts have an academic discussion about the alphabet”.
Clearly I wasn’t there (as Patrick would have my number by now if I was), but I don’t think that LGBTI lingo is “in constant threat of changing”. You see, each letter represents something real around sexual orientation, gender identity and sex. “Queer” is not anyone of those and I have the opposite view to Paul and say that this word is one that has actually been adopted by the university types.
I do agree “queer” is a catch-all, albeit an ugly one to me and in the same way I don’t reclaim “f*ggot”— I will never reclaim that word for my own use, but respect others have. And yes around film festival time or when I need to mix it up, I have used “queer” — but know that my typing fingers seize in resistance with arthritic-like effectiveness.
I think something is fundamentally lost in Paul’s quest to go back to the 80s — that pesky little thing called inclusion. As a kid I couldn’t read a book that had a gay central character. When I finally discovered The Bookshop at Darlinghurst, I made up for lost time. I read so much gay pulp-fiction with such enthusiasm that the quality of the writing was second to the character.
I, like Paul, enjoy a birthright of being part of the powerful gay men’s club (we are the majority don’t you know, just ask us) and by definition I have no idea what it is like to be a lesbian — other than knowing how to play cricket, although I was “bi” for about a year.
I certainly don’t know the pain or pressure of being gender fluid or questioning my gender identity, nor do I know the delight of someone embracing their transition, however that happens on the kaleidoscope for them. I do know that “trannies”, as Paul called the trans* community, with such blithe ignorance, are over-represented in adverse mental health outcomes to nearly twice that of their heterosexual counterparts. Being invisible won’t help them, that is for certain.
Likewise, I do not know what it is like to be born intersex and be exposed as a child to forced sterilisation, genital “normalisations” and hormone treatments or what being a sexually-active adult means for this group.
I grew up in Paul’s fabled 80s with a Catholic education as a school boy, so I do know what it is like to be airbrushed out of relevance and not be represented, whether in popular culture, literature or news. It’s crap when you just want to feel “normal” but you are invisible.
Need we look further than Macklemore’s Same Love to see the giddy highs that mainstream representation can do.
Yes “LGBTI” is clumsy to articulate. It isn’t sexy or marketing-friendly. Yes “gay” is just three little letters that pretty much says it, especially to my “straight colleagues” as Paul calls them. Except it doesn’t say it at all. Importantly each letter identifies real and prevailing differences for us, while also putting as together — as a powerful, inclusive and collective voice. A community.
If anything, we are at fault of throwing all the letters in, when in fact, the issue may not be relevant to intersex or trans*, or worse, the context of the story excludes them but we include the full LGBTI acronym — which is either lazy or ignorant and is equally unacceptable.
The moment you remove LGBTI, you are airbrushing our broad community’s members out of existence. Catch-all words like “queer” gloss over differences helping to create invisibility. This is especially so if gay men overshadow our trans* and intersex friends, even if simply because of numbers.
I want no part of such isolation, whether in news stories or in life.
All I got from Paul’s perspective was that we have more to do to explain the importance of communicating about the use of “LGBTI” to the mainstream community and also much closer to home. Just because “gay” is an easy descriptor — doesn’t make it a good one.
Paul, the 80s are over. Leave your teasing comb and mousse behind with your Juzz jeans. Jump into the DeLorean and I will be waiting here for you in 2014. Great Scott! We won’t have hoverboards when you get here, though – but we do have inclusion.
(Image source: Wikipedia Commons)