Most people seem to use the word ‘gay community’ or ‘LGBT’ when they talk about people that don’t fit in the heteronormative standards of society. Personally, I prefer the use of the (English) term LGBTQI++, because this one shows the various possible identities better. When I use this term I often get questions like “What does it stand for?”, “What does it mean?” and “Why do you use it?” I’ll do my best to explain all this, but please keep in mind that definitions don’t always include everything and that you can discuss about what to include and what not to include within this definition. So please think about this after this informative column!
Let’s start at the beginning. The L stands for lesbian, the G for gay and the B for bisexual. I assume that most of the readers do know about these concepts. I would say that in the Dutch community these are the identities that are most accepted (next to heterosexual), but it could always be better.
The T might cause more difficulties and problems. T is for transgender. Transgenders don’t feel (completely or partly) comfortable with the gender role that fits with the exterior sexual characteristics that are given at birth. This basically means that a person with the sexual characteristics of a woman can feel as a man inside (or the other way around). This person can choose to change his sexual characteristics, but this is a personal choice and not at all necessary to be considered a transgender. Transgenderism is relatively unknown and is less accepted than the LGB-community. While I’m typing this column, this gets very clear because Word is underlining all the words ‘transgender’ with a red line.
The Q, which is probably my favorite letter in LGBTQI++, stands for queer. Giving a definition of queer is a very difficult task and there are many ways to explain it. I prefer using the definition of queer being ‘everything but hetero cisgender’. Hetero means that you’re attracted to somebody of the other sex. Cisgender implies that you’re biological sex coincides with your gender, the way you feel on the inside. So, queer is a really broad term, an umbrella term. You might wonder why this should be included in the abbreviation of LGBTQI++, since you could argue that LGBT are already implied by the Q… Well I would say, because Q is way more than only LGBT. A rainbow consists of a certain number of colors: red, yellow, green, orange, blue, purple. But there are a lot of shades between these colors as well, that are sometimes very difficult to name. Queer is a term that includes all these shades, all these identities and therefore should be included in the LGBTQI++.
The last letter, I, stands for intersex. In this case, the human body has both female as masculine characteristics. These can be externally visible (like having a vagina and a penis), internal (think about ovaries for example) or genetic (having but X and Y chromosomes). Although intersexuality is often considered as a physical thing, it often also brings gender issues with it. In the past, people used to call intersex hermaphrodite, but in our society and time it is often considered offensive, because it leaves out the aspect of gender.
With all these letters a lot of identities are covered, but to keep the abbreviation and the definition open, we add a + or two ++. Everyone who doesn’t feel comfortable with any of the letters still can be included. What identities are left, you might wonder? Identity is a hybrid, fluid phenomenon that is always moving and therefore there are innumerable shapes and forms. In identity there are a lot of grey areas and in my opinion you can capture most of them with LGBTQI++. That’s the most important reason why I use this term. Although, I like LGBT as well, because Life Gets Better Together!