When I participate in Oakland Pride this weekend, I am announcing, “I am a proud member of the LGGBTQQIAAPPK community…” I’m sorry. What??

The long format LGBT acronym can be a challenge for communicators today, but a thoughtful engagement strategy for readers can help focus a version that is most appropriate.

Good communication is about conveying the most compelling content in the most efficient way possible. In the case of the above acronym, I think we’re moving away from clarity. While I can understand the additive evolution of the moniker is meant to embody inclusion and increase accuracy, the acronym is unwieldy and could use some parsing. But it depends on the communication needs of an audience. There are too many messages at once, and for many, it may be hard to grasp while trying to focus on a particular topic.

L Lesbian: A woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender.
G Gay: A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender; can be used as an umbrella term for men and women.
G Gender Fluid: A person whose gender identity and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations. Being fluid in motion between two or more genders.
B Bisexual: A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender.
T Transgender: A wide range of identities and experiences of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. [See this new style guide for more tips on how to write about trans people.]
Q Queer: Some people have reclaimed the word queer and self-identity as such. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into norms/being “abnormal.” Manifestations of oppression within the gay and lesbian movements such as racism, sizeism, ableism, cissexism/transphobia as well as assimilation politics, resulted in many folks being marginalized, thus, for some, queer is a radical and anti-assimilationist stance that captures multiple aspects of identities.
Q Questioning: The process of exploring one’s gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some folks may also use this term to name their identity within the LGBTQIA community.
I Intersex: People who naturally (i.e., without any medical intervention) develop primary or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society’s definitions of male or female.
A Asexual: A sexual orientation characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexual people do have sex. There are many diverse ways of being asexual.
A Ally: One who works to end oppression through the support of, and as an advocate with and for, a group other than one’s own.
P Pansexual: Person who has romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes.
P Polyamory: Consensually being in/open to multiple loving relationships at the same time. Sometimes used as an umbrella term for all forms of ethical, consensual, and loving non-monogamy.
K Kink: those who practice bondage and discipline, dominance-submission and/or sadomasochism, as well as those with an incredibly diverse set of fetishes and preferences.
Source: LGBTQIA Resource Center Glossary

So, You Are…
Out of what looks like what my cat might type walking on my keyboard, I identify most with the “G.” That said, there are so many subcultures of the “G” community, and I wonder how come these don’t factor into the formula. Apply appropriate subdivisions to the other letters, plus the infinite potential intersections and combinations, plus additions to include relationship structures or other alternative lifestyles, and all of a sudden we have nesting doll syndrome. But where did it all start? A while back some people got together and wanted to be recognized as a group, based on the injustices and discrimination because of their sexual orientation: GLB. It was a response to hetero-normativity/bias. Continuing with this bucket of oppressed “Other,” gender was introduced: LGBT. Since then, additions have been made to honor those whose affiliation to this group didn’t quite match sexual or gender identities of the charter members. Lyla Cicero, who identifies as pansexual, described the “queer” community exploring the diversity of human sexual and gender expression. I’m all for that. It’s just that the layers are becoming complicated, and there is a point where better groupings might help. What is the header? How do we name the buckets best? In the effort to consolidate, I wonder what it would look like if we kept the sexual groupings separate from the gender groupings, nevermind that they would likely support each other? Would that help the focus?

It’s About Pride
The word here is acknowledgment. I love that this overall community of “Other” is inviting everyone who has been ostracized to join. And while we can look at the long line of letters and feel most of them do not apply to us, there is still an unwritten permission to add to the list. (See Margaret Cho’s tongue-in-cheek bit on “Where’s My Parade” 3:30.) Being part of the “out group,” we do want to support each other and encourage awareness, justice, equality, and positive change. On some level, we wear our persecution like a badge of honor.


You Talkin to Me?
So how do you talk about one thing within a large population of diverse profiles? You break it down. Communications are designed to inform, educate, entertain, or invoke action. It’s much easier if your audience is defined, and you know what motivates them, is important to them, and you use messages that speak to them.

Okay with the Accordion
We should all write with specific people in mind. And if the point of your writing is addressing specific members of the long acronym, use those only and keep it focused rather than use a blanket term. Considering the more overt sexual expression and gender fluidity today, it can be challenging. It’s also important to take yourself out of the equation—if you are part of these communities but your audience is not, you may be doing your communication a disservice because you are speaking to them in terms they do not, or do not care to, understand. How would you solve this problem?

Image credits: Type Collage [Design by Spike Lomibao; Gilbert typeface courtesy of Type With Pride]. Pride In Window [Image: Ben_Kerckx | Pixabay]

Spike Lomibao knows a little bit about a lot of things, which only backfires once in a while. He makes his mark in the world through a combination of graphic design, sustainable practices, compassionate mindfulness, and a healthy dose of humor. He’ll be the one with glitter at Oakland Pride…