I’m taking a deep breath as I write this because I suspect it’s going to expose me to some criticism. But here goes: today I came across the acronym LGBTQIP. Now, most of us are familiar with LGBT; it’s an alternative to saying ‘gays and lesbians’ whilst including bisexual and transgender folk. So far so good. But this train gets ever longer with more and more coaches being added; hence ‘Q’ for ‘gender-queer’ which I think means people who don’t conform to one gender or another, and ‘I’ for ‘Intersex’. OK fine. But what about the P? Well, this is where it gets complicated because according to OH, the ‘P’ stands for Paedo-sexual which if correct is obviously problematic, to say the least. (OH prefers the much more elegant ‘GSM’ – Gender and Sexual Minorities.)
But leaving that aside, there is an issue here. I have no problem with saying that people are acceptable in themselves no matter who they are or how they ‘present’. Hate crimes are wrong no matter what the context. But whilst as a society we have had the debate about sexuality, feminism and racial equality, and as a result of these debates have come to an agreed position, this is not the case with gender. Yes, there will always be haters and yes, those haters are coming more confidently out of the woodwork since Brexit and, worse, last week’s election; but the position of tolerance, acceptance and equality is enshrined in law and upheld as reasonable by a vast majority in this country.
However, no such debate has been had about the issue of gender and specifically, whether it is possible for a person to ‘change sex’ – or, to look at it another way, whether a person who feels they have been born in the wrong body can legitimately be considered to be a full and authentic member of the opposite gender. (I am aware that this begs the question of how many genders there actually are, but I can only deal with so much in one blog post.) The position of many has simply been to tack the T onto the end of LGB and basically tell people to accept it without question. This I do not like.
It is not a healthy situation when a person is labelled a TERF or transphobic simply for questioning whether a change of gender is real or possible. Yes, I understand that these questions can hurt, but take it from one who knows, there is hurt on both sides and until we are able to debate this topic respectfully and without fear of labels, those of us who are baffled and confused will remain so.
This is a complex and nuanced issue with implications for people beyond those transitioning or wishing to transition. How many partners or spouses have been faced (as I have) with the impossible choice of leaving or putting up with the situation? It may be that people have the right to define themselves as they wish, but these definitions have implications for their relationships and for society as a whole. There are no rights without responsibilities.
We have not begun to touch on these issues and it’s hard to see how any kind of nuanced debate can occur in the current climate. Debate is polarised on just about every topic and gender is no exception: if you are not wholeheartedly in favour of a person’s right to transition you must be a transphobic TERF. End of story.
I welcome respectful debate on this topic (that’s the point!) but please note that rude or abusive comments will be deleted.
5 thoughts on “All Aboard the Acronym Train!”
As we’ve just seen, the inelegant letter train used to label gender and sexual minorities can easily become derailed. This is why I use GSM – Gender and Sexual Minorities. It does include paedophiles but that’s because it’s value-neutral. It neither condones nor condemns anything it covers. Another option might be L+ – lesbians and others.
Oh, and also basically nobody at all is going to agree with the acronym TERF, for various reasons. Firstly people who are called TERFs hear it as an insult, so it doesn’t conduce to dialogue, insofar as dialogue is possible. Secondly, many people described as TERFs are not feminists. Some of them are men, who can’t be feminist (they can be pro-feminist or feminist allies of course), and some of them are religious fundamentalists who support traditional gender roles and so are not feminists. Some people dislike the description “gender-critical”, but it seems to me that they would prefer to be called that so why open a discussion with no initial diplomacy or tact?
I’ve never understood the human need for labels at all. Why cant we all just be people and accept each other, whatever. Women in trouser, shirt and tie…..men in skirts, dresses…….women in love with women, men In love with men, men in love with women and vice versa, men wanting to be women, women wanting to be men, people not wanting to be one gender the whole time. Just love. Just be people. Labels serve to separate, and that’s never a good thing
Sorry Steve, I missed this before. I think I’d say that once you lasso a bit of reality with a word, it can be useful as a way of hauling it in. If one did reject the gendered terms in your sentence, it would turn into “people wanting to be people”. If we didn’t have a word for diabetes, I think it would make it harder to address the issue. OTOH my view of gender is that it’s a mass noun, not a count noun. There are not “genderS” plural, there’s just “gender”. But that’s a work in progress because I also see gender as class, so I have to work out how there can be a continuous variation in power relationships, and it would mean there was just class, not classes, as well.