Labelling the community: What’s in a name?

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OPINION

When a local Facebook community page changed their name, a conversation began. It is a conversation I have had and heard before, a complex discussion our community has been having for decades now: What is the most appropriate name for our community?

The administrators of the local page shortened the “LGBTIQ+” acronym to “LGBT+”. Members were divided on the change, some argued that the changes did not include all members of the community, some said that “queer” was a more fitting general term and some poked fun at how long the acronym had become.

When the conversation started, we weren’t really a part of it. We were called homosexuals, homophiles and much worse (and we still are!). When we began to speak up we became the gay community, then the gay and lesbian community. The name continued to evolve and shift for the purpose of more accurately representing those who belonged to our family. From the late 1980’s, the acronym LGBT was coined and was popularised as a friendly, all-encompassing term for those who were of diverse gender and sexuality.

Since the 1950’s, the discussion has been on the table and throughout the years the community was challenged by disunity, as each individual group within the wider community fought for their own recognition. Echoes of those dissatisfied with the state of community are still heard today. In the last few weeks, women have begun circulating a petition to remove the L from LGBT with concerns that the community is ignoring women’s rights in favour of trans issues. Late last year a similar petition was launched by trans activists to remove the T from the acronym. While most seemed to dismiss these separatist ideas, if members of our community are telling us they are not being heard, shouldn’t we be listening?

The conversation has evolved since a name was first uttered and it seems the sole prerequisite for “most appropriate” name is no longer what is most representative. Some, like actor and activist Lea DeLaria, prefer “queer” as an all encompassing term, while many of those who fought for our contemporary rights still react to the word as a slur. Personally, I am fond of the term. I have always found my heroes are those who let their freak flag fly and celebrate their otherness – a privilege I recognise I owe to those who stood up long before I could crawl.

Many argue for the myriad variants of LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTIQ, LGBTTQQIAAP, or the lesser known QUILTBAG or FABGLITTER. Many political and advocacy groups now use the umbrella term ‘diverse gender and sexuality’, which would make for a shorter acronym at least, and there are those who yearn for a label-free existence altogether.

While all parties are striving to be representative in one way or another, the longevity of the conversation is testament to how difficult it is to capture the uniqueness and evolving nature of our community, whatever you want to call it.

What do you think? Do you have a preferred identifier for the community? Are we not inclusive enough? Too inclusive? What does “queer” mean to you?

Share your thoughts below or on our social media pages and we’ll publish them in our August issue.

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Leigh Hill

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