Thursday, November 3, 2011

LGBTQQAAI2: Excessive acronymization?

Columnist questions effectiveness of a few too many letters

By Alex Domine, A&E Columnist

Inclusivity is a great thing when we don’t forfeit our own pledges, movements and basic sentence structure for it. The lesbian, gay, bi and transgender community, or LGBT community, has welcomed some new members. As a member of this community, I regret introducing you to our reformed title.

Meet the LGBTQQAAI2 community. This irksome serving of alphabet soup stings our cause. Furthermore, complexity of the acronym makes it too difficult to use in normal conversation.

It is the official acronym that is used in LGBT alliances such as the National Center for Culture and Cultural Competence and Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health.

The new monster of an acronym stands for: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and two-spirited. Questioning refers to adolescents who are searching for their sexual identity. Intersex is a rare occurrence in which physical characteristics that distinguish male from female are not normally pronounced. Two-spirited is a Native American term that identifies one whose body is inhabited simultaneously by a masculine and feminine spirit.

Adding four new characters to the acronym dilutes the overall goal of equality in more ways than one. More official parties in the institution means more issues, issues that the LGBTQQAAI2 institution fails to follow through on. Furthermore, segregation within a community can lead to counterproductive results. The primary goal is equality, the last thing we need is more “separate but equal” in the debate. It’s just too long of an acronym.

When we add a new letter to the title, we have to take responsibility for that demographic. One of the most widely recognized LGBTQQAAI2 issues in media is the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell movement.

The DADT repeal recognizes lesbians, gays and bisexuals. However, it doesn’t speak much for those who identify as transgender in the military. How does DADT impact intersex or two-spirited? If we want to recognize these people in our title, we have to talk about them in our campaigns.

Is it not the main goal to promote equality between the LGBTQQAAI2 community and the rest of the world? It is infinitely important to identify the oppressor and the oppressed. However, the underlying issue is oppression, not whether you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, allied, questioning, intersexual or two-spirited.

How can we preach equality to the oppressors if we take steps to prompt oppression among ourselves? Racial justice didn’t evolve by identifying what realm of African descent black people came from. Skin color resulted in enough persecution for the movement. The same should go for non-straight sexual orientation.

Acronyms serve a very specific purpose: to get rid of unnecessary repetition. It can be pretty tiring to say “Pacific Lutheran University” every time you want to address the school in passing. It takes more diction to express LGBTQQAAI2 than it does to say what it stands for.

We’ve taken an effective acronym and refashioned it as a useless mnemonic device that only exists to help us remember the components of the convoluted population we hope to advocate for.

Progressive thinking has been reduced to a trend, especially in collegiate atmospheres. In other words, inclusion is fashionable and the more parties you identify, the trendier you are.

I was in a staff meeting listening to a guest speaker talk about LGBTQQAAI2 issues and micro-aggressions. Micro-aggressions are seemingly harmless choices in language that are counterproductive to equality. For example, derogatory slang for those who don’t identify as straight and using those terms improperly.

A lot of my colleagues couldn’t bring themselves to add nine syllables to every sentence when trying to say LGBTQQAAI2, myself included. This difficulty automatically made the most progressive thinker in the room the guest speaker. Almost everyone on the staff is a supporter but that meeting displayed how we’re victim to our own micro-aggressions.

What we strive for in the LGBTQQAAI2 community is not inclusivity. We strive for equality. Just because we don’t identify every facet of the community does not mean we don’t want the same for those who suffer the same oppression. The best thing anyone can do is to speak for him or herself.

Practice advocacy using your own experiences as ammunition. Advocating for a population’s needs when you weren’t invited to do so or aren’t qualified to do so doesn’t accomplish anything but internal struggle.

Keep the universal goal in mind and include a community when you are asked to. Our representation will carry much more merit if we allow ourselves to embrace a case-by-case guideline. Needlessly adding sub-cultures to every cause calls our integrity into question.

Inclusivity has its own place in the pursuit of social justice but that mission has no room for paradox. The tenacity required for harnessing our ideas of inclusivity and equality can easily betray us. Integrity, productivity and effective sentence skills are too high of a cost to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.