Daly: The lost letters of LGBTQ


Alex Daly, Columnist

I worry about the lost letters of LGBTQ. I worry our thoughts about queerness place exclusive emphasis on the first two letters at the expense of the other three. And when we bring the critical microscope into even sharper focus, we’re also inclined to favor some images of queerness over others, leaving many behind in the process.

Several agents are culpable here, and we can’t dismiss our own tendency to pay attention to the most digestible form of queerness: namely an able-bodied, middle-class, young, white, gay man. This is the image we’re most comfortable with, if we’re comfortable with it at all. It’s a matter of political maneuvering, perhaps with the admirable intention of getting a foot in the door of gay rights and cultural acceptance for all who fall under the “queer umbrella.” But in the process, we’re leaving many voices and identities behind to fend for themselves.

I’m thinking of bringing the “B” and the “T” and the “Q” to the forefront here. I’ve heard more than once that bisexuals are in it for equal opportunity sex; that their identity, as a whole, is either nonexistent or a ruse to retreat from the fact that they’re “actually gay.” It’s not in my place to assume their motivations, but it’s even further out of place for the rest of us to assume the nature of someone else’s identity.

Bisexual shaming isn’t a one-way street. All sorts of people have denied its existence and have contributed to the stigma. It’s been said that it’s a matter of dishonesty, or maybe even a matter of not being queer enough. But I sincerely doubt that those who identify as bisexual are sitting on the fence, waiting to make up their minds. And when anyone, regardless of sexuality, speaks of bisexuality in that way, it only furthers the stigma for us all.

The “T,” which stands for “transexual,” tends to be something we ignore completely, and that’s created a vicious cycle of societal alienation. It’s worthwhile to note gender identity is different from sexual orientation, so let this be one of the first assumptions we, as a society, can jettison.

There are many reasons to read Bea Cordelia’s “The Impossibility of Being,” recently published in North by Northwestern, but its articulation of shifts in gender identity is a lived experience worthy of everyone’s attention. Instead of listening to the digestible forms of queerness the media presents us, it’s high time we start reading about experiences from those who have lived it firsthand.

Brian McNaught, in his remarkable book, “On Being Gay,” writes with pride for “those lesbians and gay people of color and disability who struggle to stick with the movement.” Why? Because we often find ourselves forgetting their existence. This is one reason why I’ve begun to consider “queer” the preferred word. The word has started to deflate as a pejorative, and in its vacuum is the potential to encompass the other four letters that often accompany it. LGBTQ gives us a working vocabulary — but let’s not let it leave anyone behind.

Alex Daly is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].