Last weekend was Pride weekend in Newcastle upon Tyne (where I live). A time to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of the LGBTQIA+ experience. To continue the fight towards equality and acceptance.
Over the last couple of months I seem to be experiencing a lot more discussions around sex, gender and sexuality. Recently I’ve read comments from a friend about the Asexual experience, spoken to colleagues about Trans and non-binary issues. A completely separate Facebook discussion around the extension of the LGBT acronym finally gave me a concrete jumping off point for this post.
There’s so much I want to say on this that Facebook comments and discussions just aren’t enough. (Plus, FB decided to reload the page while I was in the middle of a long reply and wiped the lot – so stuff you Facebook!)
I’m going to start with the acronym. When I first came out there was still a lot of pushback about adding the B and the order of the letters (GLB vs LGB was a genuine argument in the college Gay & Lesbian Society). It was already kinda decided and pretty ubiquitous, yet the discussion was still held. Repeatedly. But, with time, we realised that it didn’t really matter what the order was – it just had to be consistent. And we moved on to the actual stuff that needed to be fought for.
When I first came out the age of consent for two men was 21. Shortly after coming out it was dropped to 18. Small victories. We had the fight for legal recognition of our relationships, equal age of consent, protection from discrimination & hate crimes. Pride marches felt more geared towards the politics and equality.
It was a similar fight (similar – not the same before anyone things that the comparison is offensive!) to the ones that the Womens’ and Black rights movements had fought for. This meant that the Gay rights movements had a couple of advantages – they knew what worked and what didn’t. I think we all knew that things would move at a glacial pace (we’ve not even reached true equality on the grounds of gender or race yet – we’re closer, but not there).
The changes weren’t as glacially moving as I expected. I’m genuinely both surprised and happy that legal equality has moved as quickly as it has for the LGB community. (The gender of the person to whom you’re attracted has become less of an issue than ever before.) But, in the meantime, the umbrella term has expanded. No longer just addressing a person’s sexual orientation, the acronym has grown to encompass gender and gender identity as well as other forms of sexuality and sexual preferences.
I’m now in a position of privilege. As a Middle-aged (sorry to those people who disagree, but with an average lifespan of 70-80 years old, late 30’s – early 40’s is middle aged!) White, CIS, gay man in a long term relationship I have it a lot easier than I ever have (or expected to have). I also have a much easier life than so many others. I recognise that, and this is the underlying reason for this post.
There’s a lot of discussion about the alphabet soup, what should be included, and what shouldn’t. Particularly after President Trump’s recent announcement on Trans people in the US military. I’ve seen people asking why Trans is included in the alphabet soup umbrella as it’s not a sexuality issue. To me, it’s quite simple – in the UK the fights that Trans people are currently facing are the same as the ones we’ve fought over the last 50 years. We’ve started to win, and we’re getting there slowly but surely.
We need to support the others now. We need to band together as a community and use what we’ve already learned. The shock tactics of Pride Marches and being the one who stands out as clearly “other” as they walk down the street need to be balanced with the more traditional “wife and kids” type families and the people who are just “one of the lads/lasses”.
We need to show differences as well as similarities. And those of us who’ve got the rights that we have need to help the others who don’t. Personally I prefer Queer as the umbrella term, because it doesn’t exclude anyone. But it also doesn’t specifically include everyone. So, at the moment, I think that my preference is LGBTQIA+ as it includes the ones who are still fighting, in particular the trans/intersex/asexual folk.
YMMV and that’s fine. Just remember that we still have a long way to go, even those of us with privilege.