A New Initialism for a New Year

2011 January 1

I have resolved to use a new initialism, ITAPBLGQ, to stand for intersex, transgender, asexual, polysexual or pansexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer or questioning. This replaces my previous abbreviation of choice, TBLGQ. (I am continuing my original practice of placing identities that are excluded or marginalized first.) Of course some readers will now have a question for me: Why have I waited so long to include the I, the A, and the P?

When it came to the P, I considered that people who are polysexual or pansexual are attracted to people of more than two genders, and I thought that queer expressed this adequately. In hindsight this was a terrible decision on my part. No one would ever include the P and the B while excluding the L and the G and justify it by saying that lesbian and gay folks can just identify as queer. The reason for this is that polysexual, pansexual, and bisexual folks are in many respects more marginalized, and this is precisely why we need to explicitly include them. Another problem with leaving out the P is that it plays into the view that there are only two genders or sexes. I now realize that I cannot justify excluding polysexual and pansexual people, and I am hoping the P remedies the situation.

My thoughts on the I and the A were a little different. Some intersex and asexual folks do not want to be lumped together with people who are oppressed because of their sexual orientations. Asexuality is related to sexual orientation only insofar as colorlessness is related to color. Intersexuality has even less to do with sexual orientation, if such a thing is possible. As someone who is sensitive to the way trans people—even straight trans people—are often lumped together with folks (even though I am queer and trans), I do not want to be guilty of reinforcing associations that intersex and asexual folks are trying to distance themselves from. However, in the end I decided that it was important to acknowledge the intersex and asexual folks who do want to be included and resist the efforts of some gay and lesbian folks in the mainstream who deny that intersex and asexual folks have common cause with those of us who are gay, lesbian, or queer.

What is our common cause? We are all in some way dominated by the heterosexual hegemony, the system that enforces the following dogmas:

  1. There are only two proper sexes—male and female.

  2. Everyone should be assigned to one of the two proper sexes.

  3. The two proper sexes are discrete.

  4. The two proper sexes are readily identifiable at birth.

  5. Males should be attracted to females and females only, and females should be attracted to males and males only.

  6. Females should be subordinate to males.

In one way or another each identity represented by ITAPBLGQ challenges the dogmas of heterosexual hegemony. Our oppressors know that if one dogma fails, the entire system falls, and so they fight to defend each one. This is why we need to work together.

Before I close I would like to point out that I have deliberately left allies out of our alphabet soup. I do this, even though I have seen variations such as LGBTA with the A representing allies and even though I have known queer folks who want to expand the definition of queer to include allies. The problem is that there will always be a difference between those of us who are oppressed by the heterosexual hegemony and the people who benefit from it. ITAPBLGQ folks have insight into the system that no one else does, because our lives depend on it. Therefore we cannot raise a banner that is equally inviting to our own and self-declared allies and must instead take an active role in identifying our allies. True allies understand that they already occupy a privileged position, thanks to the heterosexual hegemony, and will not attempt to gain prominence by assuming a false queer identity.