If you tell me just go with "queer" I'll know you're messing with me.
May 31, 2010 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Is "LGBT" the official designation for any particular organization or group, or is it simply an accepted social convention, like saying "white people" or "ball players?"

Seriously not trying to troll or be ugly in any way. I just want to get it right when using the acronym in conversation and casual writing. I've also seen "GLBT," and a few other arrangements, so I was curious. AFAIK there is no "governing body" for the the gay/bisexual/transgender/etc community, but I'd like to know what learned people (of any orientation or lifestyle) think is polite and acceptable.
posted by snapped to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
LGBT (sometimes GLBT) is just a conversational name for the community, like "the Latino community" or "mid-westerners." Sometimes I hear "Q" added onto the letters to include those "questoning" their sexual orientation.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:43 AM on May 31, 2010

LGBT is a mainstream, widely adopted term for referring collectively to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It isn't affiliated with a specific group - hence the variations that sometimes appear.

The wikipedia article offers a good, thorough explanation and history for the term, including criticisms.
posted by susanvance at 6:52 AM on May 31, 2010

Wow, that is excellent, susanvance. I didn't even think wikipedia would have such an in-depth article, so I figured getting some opinions would be the best way. Thanks!
posted by snapped at 7:17 AM on May 31, 2010

It's a name for a community. It's perhaps most analogous to "People of Color", in that it's a polite catch-all term for groups of people who are very different, yet experience similar struggles and feel some sense of shared solidarity with each other. In some contexts it's more appropriate to talk about "GLBT communities" rather than "the GLBT community".

Besides Q, the other letter that is commonly added is 'I' for Intersex, so the acronym becomes GLBTI or GLBTQI. Putting the L first gives the acronym a feminist tilt but many people use LGBT and GLBT interchangeably. If you work for a government department, your style guide may specify the letter order.
posted by embrangled at 7:24 AM on May 31, 2010

Fwiw, Q can also mean Queer, for folk (like me) who self-identify that way.
posted by gregglind at 7:27 AM on May 31, 2010

Actually I thought the Q stood for Queer, as well. I think that Wikipedia article is a bit off, there's a whole lot of ideological drama happening on the talk page.

(To the OP: Queer is often used by people who are non-straight, but who feel that labels like gay or lesbian don't fully describe their sexual orientation or identity. It's not used much in official correspondence outside the Queer/GLBT community, probably because it was once a pejorative slur and some people still read it that way).
posted by embrangled at 7:36 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder how big one acronym can grow: LGBTQQIAA, anyone?
posted by robself at 7:57 AM on May 31, 2010

Nthing that I thought Q was for Queer.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:07 AM on May 31, 2010

Maybe just because I live in the American South, but I thought "Queer" was still pejorative. I appreciate that the term has been reclaimed, but it sounds like I may want to avoid it in any writing or conversation unless it has been established that I was being sympathetic instead of critical.
posted by snapped at 8:17 AM on May 31, 2010

I think the Q has evolved over time-- in the late '90s, it definitely meant Questioning, and now that the term Queer has developed more cultural currency, it's more often interpreted that way.

(btw, good on you for asking this!)
posted by dizziest at 8:41 AM on May 31, 2010

I know that it varies from locale to locale, but I think that Queer has been pretty much fully reclaimed. It does still get used as a pejorative but, even as a straight person, you're pretty safe using it so long as the tone of your voice or writing isn't clearly derogatory.

"Queer Culture," "Queer Positive" and "Queer Event" are very common parlance in urban LGBT communities in Canada, the UK and most of the USA. The only time you need to be careful is when referring to an individual person as "queer" or "a queer." And, even then, it's not so much that the word is pejorative as it is that LGBT people can (with good reason) be quite particular about what labels get applied to them. Someone who identifies as part of the Queer community may still identify strictly as "a lesbian" and not as "a queer person," and so it's only poliute to refer to them as such.
posted by 256 at 9:28 AM on May 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

Basically with "Queer" you're safe using it about people who refer to themselves that way. I mean, a lot of universities have "Queer Studies" now.

It's different from how the N word has been reclaimed by some.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:54 AM on May 31, 2010

Also, though LGBTQ is generally the order the acronym is written/spoken, some people will mix it up, rearrange the order within a given piece, to fight the centering of the most privileged groups. Writing TLQBG puts more focus on the trans community, which is often left behind, forgotten, or sacrificed in the struggle for equal rights.

The Q is definitely Queer at this point, at least in the NYC QTBGL community, and it is considered a blanket term that encompasses all the other letters, as well as any identities that don't necessarily fit anywhere else - people who are genderqueer/nonbinary, for example.

Also, if you see LGBTQH the H is for HIV-affected.
posted by philotes at 12:02 PM on May 31, 2010

In Canada another T is sometimes added - for Two-Spirited, which refers to the belief some Aboriginal people share that certain members of the population are blessed with a male and a female spirit. Such people might enter into relationships with someone of their own sex/gender, or another. So, when we are being inclusive, we will refer to LGBTTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Two-Spirited, Queer).
posted by arcticwoman at 1:04 PM on May 31, 2010

I work with a group that includes "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, and Ally (LGBTTTIQQAA) people". The alphabet soup is a bit of a mouthful, for sure. For the name of the group, which was getting unruly, they decided to use "Rainbow" as a catchall term.
posted by Joad at 7:26 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

With any luck, we'll have the whole alphabet covered (twice!) in a few years.
posted by schmod at 8:27 AM on June 1, 2010

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