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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Scrabble Bag of Inclusion

For the past year I have been wracking my brain in an attempt to come up with a better term than LGBTQ. We need a better term because the current one is a mouthful and there's a creeping tendency for new letters to be added to it; the last time I checked, the "full and proper" version is LGBTQQIAAP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies and Pansexual).

Look, I don't care how politically correct you are, you aren't going to say that name more than once a conversation, if that. LGBTQ is practically a full name by itself -- I once made a joke that you pronounce it like a Star Wars character, "Elgee Beeteeque" -- and so trying to pronounce Elgee Beeteecue Cueaiayaypee in standard conversation just isn't going to happen.

(This, by the by, is why I love the word "queer". It's short, it's easy to say, it encompasses everyone, and it's us reclaiming a word that was once offensive. Sadly, not everyone sees things my way.)

So I've been trying to brainstorm a new word for all us non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender folks. It's more difficult than you'd think, because the  ideal replacement word is inclusive, evocative, memorable, easy to pronounce, and - most importantly - NOT SILLY.

I present to you as means of illustration two counter-examples that weren't made by me:
  • QUILTBAG: Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer.  
    • Inclusive - yes. This word salad includes everyone. 
    • Evocative - kind of, but not in a good way. 
    • Memorable - sadly, yes. 
    • Easy to pronounce - absolutely. 
    • Not silly - OH HELL NO.
  • SAGA: Sexual And Gender Acceptance
    • Inclusive - no. Mainly because "acceptance" is an action and not a demographic. SAGA would be a great name for an initiative, but not a group. 
    • Evocative - absolutely. 
    • Memorable - sort of. I expect some humorous confusion where someone would mis-remember the name and try to make an acronym out of EPIC. 
    • Easy to pronounce - enviously so. 
    • Not silly - well, it's a bit camp in its pretension, but the word itself isn't silly. 
Not easy, is it? 

The best I've managed to come up with -- and I give you all blanket permission to laugh at it, because I know full well how silly it sounds -- is LABGASM (Law Abiding Gender and Sexual Minorities). 
  • Inclusive? Yes. Its strength is that instead of trying to pin everyone down, it just spreads an umbrella. 
  • Evocative? Yes. Unfortunately so. As a friend of mine remarked, "Sounds sterile, but with mice running in wheels running vibrators or something."
  • Memorable? Yes, but again, not in a good way. 
  • Easy to pronounce? I'm pretty sure people would be laughing too much to get past the "LAB" part. 
  • Not Silly?  Silly, campy, and straight-up ridiculous. 
Now one of you smart cookies will no doubt ask "Why not just use GSM, Gender and Sexual Minorities?" And that's a damn good question. The unfortunate answer is that, taken on its face, "sexual minority" could also be interpreted as encompassing illegal (non-consenting) sexual attractions. This is something to be avoided with extreme prejudice, because there are already people in the world who equate homosexuality with perversion and moral turpitude, and already one step away from bestiality, pedophilia and necrophilia. Why should I make it easy for them to say "Look! By their own words, they include such perversion! (point, hiss, shudder)"

I'm not really sure what to do at this point. We desperately need a new, abstractly inclusive, non-silly word, and I'm not sure if such a thing can be created. 

But damn, do I love the word "queer". 


Special Thanks to my friend Erin Smith, who coined the term "Scrabble Bag" to describe the collection of letters you get when you try to explicitly include everyone. 

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