The LGBTQQIAAP (or LGBTTIQQ2SA) Community, and Why

When I was first out, in the early 1980s, we called ourselves the Gay community, but over time it became increasingly obvious that when people heard the word gay they only thought of gay men, so to give women their due Lesbians were separated out, and the Bi people in the middle included, so we the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual community. Then it became clear that GLB did not really include the interrelated issues of gender, and so a T was added for Transexual, and we became the LGBT community.

Of course four letters are not enough to account for all of the variations in human sexuality and gender, so in the spirit of acknowledging everyone, we kept adding letters, to the point it got a bit ridiculous. I think I laughed out loud the first time I saw LGBTQQIAAP:

  • L: Lesbian. Women attracted to women.
  • G: Gay. Men attracted to men.
  • B: Bisexual. People attracted to both sexes.
  • T: Transgender. People whose interior sense of gender is different than their exterior physical sexuality, whether male to female (MTF) or female to male (FTM).
  • Q: Queer. People who don’t want to label themselves by their sex acts but do want to claim being different, eccentric, and fabulous. Reclaimed from an old hate term, Queer can also be highly offensive, depending on usage.
  • Q: Questioning. People still working out who they are attracted to, often applicable to the young.
  • I: Intersex. People born into bodies that are not definitiviely male or female, including those born with ambiguous genitalia, bits of both male and female plumbing, or genetics beyond the standard XX and XY.
  • A: Asexual. People who are affectional but aren’t that into sex.
  • A: Allies. Straight people who support the LGBTQ+ community.
  • P: Pansexual. People attracted to others more by individual personality, differing from bisexuality in that they ignore the gender binary altogether.

And of course that is not all. Another of my personal favorites comes from Canada where they add North American respect for an indigenous non-European category, making it LGBTQQIAAP2S, or some variant thereof:

  • 2S: Two Spirit. The traditional gender variation in First People communities who often served as the community’s visionaries and healers.

And for those who think this all sounds trivial, India’s Supreme Court recently recognized the legal status of traditional Hijras, people born male or intersex but live as women or in-between genders. So voters registering in the world’s largest democracy now have gender checkboxes that include M, F, and O, for Male, Female, and Other.

At some point all these letters add up to acronyms so long no one can say them, and they become too long to even fit on a tshirt! But more importantly, using labels right can be tough. On the one hand, they are incredibly useful – think American, athletic, Muslim, grandmother, plumber, and shy – all useful signposts for navigating the social sphere and showing respect, or disrespect, for other people. Yet they can also be limiting or misdirect people from the truth. Grandmother may sound like a sweet label, but not all grandmothers are sweet. Meanwhile Muslim may mean terrorist in some people’s ears, but there are more than a billion and a half people on the planet who strongly disagree. I was raised Mormon and I am gay, but the words gay and ex-Mormon are only a hint of my larger story, because like everyone else I am so much more than my labels.

Most people fit in the middle of the demographic bell curves, by definition. It must be a wonderful thing to feel like you are “normal,” although I have met few people, straight or gay, who admit to feeling completely normal on the inside. I think we all feel a little special, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. But if this magical state of normal does exist, I am all for it. My existence outside the norms is not an attack on anyone else’s typicality.

The truth is am both “normal” and atypical. In many ways I am a pretty typical white American male, for example, and yet I am a good bit taller than average, and of course I am gay. None of these qualities should disqualify me from equal respect as a human being, they are just variations in the size, shape, and nature of my humanity.

The gay/LGBT/LGBTQQIAAP+2S community, then, is a group of people whose sexuality and sense of gender lie outside the center of the bell curve. We are a club inclusive of outsiders, where anyone who feels they belong is welcome. At the same time we often divide up into smaller sub-groups, as it can be empowering to be with others like ourselves. That’s why people have church picnics after all, as it can be great to hang out with your own community, even if you have friends, family, co-workers, and others in your community outside of the church. Lesbians, drag queens, and queer androgynous kids all feel the same way, as it can be joyful to experience communion and solidarity with fellow travelers, even as they maintain their place in the larger social world.

The gay community is now at the paradoxical crossroads of the problem of labels. We are increasingly hyper-specializing into finely grained sub-groups, while at the same time we are letting go of those groupings and identities and integrating into the mainstream. A young gay person can now choose an intricately defined self-identity and live within a tightly proscribed tribe of like-minded friends, or they can choose a traditional path of marriage and family little different from their straight peers. For me all of this represents success, as I want people to be who they are and puzzle out their path through life with the support of healthy community, something I wish for everyone – straight, gay, or none of the above.

Let us enjoy our labels and groupings: Texan, Presbyterian, voluptuous, ripped, Eagle Scout, volleyball player, stubborn, brown, pedestrian, Chinese, fundamentalist, Hare Krishna, and female. And at the same time let us see beyond the labels and respect each individual for who they are, far beyond the limitations of language.

And as for sexuality, at our core maybe we are all just humansexuals, doing the things that humans do in all the different ways that humans do it, and maybe that too is something worth celebrating.

23 Comments

  1. “Inconclusive inclusive syndrome” ? – – -

  2. The whole is the sum of its parts, meaning that the further we divide our community into smaller creationary sects, the more difficult it will be to gain the inalienable rights we have been denied for so long. The TTIQQ2SA community should be recognized and I believe everyone would agree with me however it is important not to lose focus of the bigger picture. We all want the same thing. Wouldn’t it be easier to just leave it at LGBTAVOP. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and All Varieties Of People. Recognition of our Individuality can be easily attained amongst ourselves.

    The more I read and re-read the acronym, the sillier it becomes. Under the definitions described above wouldn’t Pansexual and Bisexual be the same thing? Or when Queer or Asexual people choose someone to be with would they then drop the Q or A and adopt one of the L, G, B or T letters? Absurdity afoot.

    The decision to include Allies, Questioning and 2 Spirit is also confusing to me. Last time I checked all people following into one of the above categories are still able to marry, adopt children, be covered under their partner’s insurance or are generally accepted into mainstream society.

    In the quest to be distinguished as each being a seperate group worthy of distinction we further move from the end objective which is not to be different from heterosexuals but to be included as people “worthy” of the same rights as others.

    That is all.

  3. Thanks for this explanation. There are so many letters! I just wish we could all come up with something a little easier to remember…

  4. “•I: Intersex. People born into bodies that are not clearly, or only, male or female; hermaphrodites.”

    Actually, we no longer use the term hermaphrodites to describe intersexed individuals or those with ambiguous genitalia. Hermaphrodites are organisms such as the earth worm that have full male and female reproductive systems. Humans are incapable of being born with full reproductive systems so in essence the term does not apply.

    “•2S: Two-spirit. The visionaries and healers of aboriginal communities, the gay and lesbian shamans. ” 2spirit is a broad term and can also have different meanings. Basically, it means someone who is genderfluid or genderqueer; someone that does not fit into the binary boxes of male and female from a First Nation perspective.

  5. LGBT covers all of it. The rest is redundant or unnecessary. Q=G, P=B, allies are nice but should not be included. Asexual are just that, and does questioning really need to be included? They are either LGBT or S and just don’t what yet. 10 letters makes a mockery of it and it’s embarrassing.

  6. We could (and should, no, NEED to) make up a category like Protist on biology. Something (a SINGLE NAME) that comprises everyone. You can’t honestly think everyone is going to write, or even less likely say L G B T Q Q I A A P 2 S A (what is that last A about, again?!?) every time they’re in the need to mention people from all of those communities as a single group (which clearly we can discuss aren’t other than in respect to talking about sexuality and not being heteronormative). I mean, honestly, I can’t even remember half of the letters when I need to or find myself in this situation… and I’m an MD, so I am accostumed to acronyms, medical terminology and latin (aka weird, long as fuck and very very specific) terms.

  7. I liked your use of “LGBT+ community”. Lets include everyone and keep the acronym short and easy to use. The extra long ones puts too much emphasis on the differences in our community.

  8. wait how come we have a space for Allies but not for demi/gray/lithsexual people? Or genderqueer/nonbinary/bigender/genderfluid people?

  9. Thank you for including asexuality in this. It gets left out too often.

  10. Me too, @Eliza!

  11. Good points, @ki. This was written a while back and my own learning curve has progressed. I have updated the blog post accordingly.

  12. @Blake. Actually that is not quite right, as many people do not feel like they are an L, G, B, or T, yet absolutely feel part of the community. People whose sexuality is more fluid, for example, don’t feel like they fit in the little boxes, yet they clearly belong. They may call themselves Queer without wanting to be pigeonholed as Gay. That is what inclusiveness means to me… figuring out how to make sure everyone gets included in a way that makes them feel respected just as they are.

  13. @robist… I learned a new word! I had to go look up Protist: a kingdom or large grouping of organisms. Thank you for that!

    I agree a meaningful taxonomy for the human condition would be brilliant, but I think our efforts to organize human life into strictly defined categories is an ongoing effort that never reaches a satisfying conclusion. See the ongoing work around the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for an example of how hard, and ultimately unsatisfying, that project is.

    In the end I think human life defies strict categorization, and I for one celebrate that we are so joyful, abundant, digressive, and defiant that we defy easy categorization! Or at least I know I do. ;)

  14. Exactly @The Queer. The list of who we want to include is endless.

    And graysexual was new to me. From the Urban Dictionary I got: “Whereas sexual orientation exists along a continuum of heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual, sex drive also exists along a continuum. Some people (highly sexual) desire to have sex with anyone they can; some people (strictly asexual) have no sexual desires; graysexuals are predominantly asexual but capable of manifesting sexual desires under specific circumstances. This is not to be confused with an asexual that is satisfying a partner’s sexual desires despite lacking sexual desire of their own.” I am ever impressed by our ability to come up with new ways of nailing down the details. Thanks for that one!

  15. I so agree with you @Gary. It feels like there is a dynamic tension between getting labels more and more specific and therefore fully respect each individual’s experience, verses the umbrella terms that encompass everyone and promote a more singular solidarity. In a way I think the answer is both/and: We are both all these little groups, and this one big group. But people tend to prefer either/or thinking, and it is harder to get them to a more functional view that sometimes humans are best described with broad generalizing strokes that catch the big picture, and sometimes best rendered in high resolution detail that captures what makes individuals so fascinating.

  16. Just a quick note! While I understand that it may not be a big difference of huge deal, but saying “Transgendered” is incorrect. It’s plainly transgender or a transgender person. Just like you wouldn’t call a homosexual man “gayed” or a heterosexual “straightened”. Just trying to educate!! :) Also this is great! Thanks a bunch.

  17. Thank you @Sergey, you are right. And it is funny to note my own edumucation on the subject, as I would not write ‘transgendered’ today, but obviously wasn’t clear on the distinctions when I wrote this. Good catch. And… There, I fixed it! ;)

  18. How about the “I.O.D” (Inclusive of Diversity) or “L.G.D” society? (Loving Great Diversity) Either contains a few letters so they maintain comprehension and recognition to the established group. They do not target sexuality which in many ways is so unnecessary anyways and either would simplify what is hard to define. And hopefully, one day, we won’t need a reason to classify these great people to protect their rights and all this will become a turning point in history.

  19. Beautiful, @Randy. Yeah, I would love a term that means “all the bell curve – the ones in the mainstream middle, and the ones on the varying edges.” Diversity Inclusive is a nice framing of it.

  20. I have the perfect name that covers everyone and leaves no one out! HUMAN There is no need to try and separate us out. We have always wanted to just be included and not left out. So why ate we still trying to separate ourselves out even more. The tone has come for the world to stop thinking of it as straight and xxxxxxx! They are pay off it just add much as we all are. Forget all the labels and just get back to having respect for all humans again!

  21. Agreed @Louis Inks. I love the saying: there is no Them, there is only Us.

  22. allies do not belong in this

  23. Funny how everyone has their own idea of what makes a community, huh. So often it depends what we are defining – the entire sprawl of community, or the divided subgroups within. In my experience of true Allies, they often relate to the LGBT+ community in some powerfully personal way, even in ways they cannot fully articulate. So if there is something inside them that feels like they want to be included, then I say Welcome!

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