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The Words We Choose

LGBTQIA+. What do these letters mean? Do I have to use all of them? Is there a definitive acronym that everyone can agree on?

The History of an Acronym

Back when I first became involved in the queer community, I was familiar with the term as GLB, for gay/lesbian/bisexual. Soon after came LGBT (T for transsexual/transgender). Then the Q was added, for queer, the another Q for questioning. Letters kept getting added with increased frequency as more and more people wanted visibility. I for intersex, A for asexual/agender, P for pansexual. Later, a + was added (after as many letters as you want to include) to be inclusive without being cumbersome.

Ever the pragmatist, I prefer the term "queer." It's succinct, and to me it covers everything on the sexuality spectrum. You can identify as not straight without having to get specific. When talking about gender, you can say "nonbinary." Done.

But not everyone is so comfortable with umbrella terms. No one wants to be left out. Can there be a happy medium?

Another Acronym

Switching gears: On the cultural front, here's another term that's taken off: BIPOC.

I admit, I had to look that one up. BIPOC stands for "Black, Indigenous, and people of color." Without going too far back, the term I knew for a specific group of people was "black." Then we wanted to be polite, so it became "African-American." All dark-skinned people, regardless of their nationality or where their ancestors actually were from, were African-American. Then "people of color" to be more inclusive, to show that people were more than just black or white.

Not too long ago, I actually did a deep dive to see whether I should use African American or Black. As a white person, is it okay to say "black" when referring to another person's race? The general consensus I found, from actual Black people, is that "Black" is the preferred term.

So back to BIPOC. I started seeing "BIPOC" a lot, so I had to look it up. Again, I was familiar with the term "person of color" as an umbrella term, so why the need for specificity? Especially when you're referring to two specific groups of people and then putting the rest in a bucket?

Isn't This Just Continued Political Correctness?

I don't like the term "political correctness." It's mostly used by people who don't care if they're being offensive, so they don't understand why others might want to choose their words carefully.

But there is an amount of truth in calling out political correctness. Sometimes we make too much effort to be polite. Sometimes we try too hard to be specific, and in doing so we miss the point.

LGBTQQIAAP+. BIPOC. Visually impaired. Hearing impaired. Male/female. Person with autism.

What it boils down to is this: You are referring to another person or group of people. What label do they choose for themselves?

Do your research. Find out the term someone chooses for themselves. Then be considerate enough to use that term. It's the least you can do.

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