Not that long ago I felt like I had a mouth full of marbles just trying to get four letters to roll off the tongue — LGBT; I kind of knew what each letter of the acronym stood for but didn’t totally feel comfortable with any of them. To clarify, I wasn’t uncomfortable with the diversity of sexual preference or the fact that as people we all have the right to love whomever we choose. It was more about truly understanding what the letters represented, deep down, to those who identified with one or more of them.
For those who are unsure, I offer a primer:
L = lesbian; G = gay; B = bisexual; T = transgender; Q = questioning or queer (depending on who you are speaking to); A = ally
I will get to the “Q” another time. For now, it’s the “T” that is so significant. A transgender individual is one who identifies as a gender other than the one he/she is born with. So, FTM, is someone who was born with female genitalia but affirms as male. MTF is an individual born with male genitalia and identifes as female. We are so programmed to categorize humans as one of two genders. In trans people, the brain and the body are going in different directions. We are learning that not all of us are fit the two gender world we’ve been brought up in.
OK — enough of the wiki for now.
I have to say, I wasn’t shocked when Hunter came out to me. There were little signs all along that seemed to go beyond the “she’s just a tomboy” phase. What does shock me is when parents confess that they were completely “shocked, blown away, had no idea” when their son/daughter affirmed the opposite gender. How, as parents, can we be so out of touch with our children?
Of course, from the moment they are born, we begin formulating our dreams for their future. Who will they be? Will they find professional success? Fall in love? Give me grandchildren? I need to remind myself constantly that these are MY dreams for the life of another. THE MOST IMPORTANT for me — and I remind myself daily — is that I want my children to grow up to be happy, healthy, productive human beings. We need to look at the whole child emotionally, physically, psychologically — they are more than our dreams, more than a GPA and so much more than we often give them credit. If the path to get there is a little crooked and marred by hurdles and detours, then so be it.
There is the “I” added for the intersexed, and there are plenty of asexuals (people who lack [or mostly] any kind of orientation) who will say “A” is for asexual, not ally. Some groups will add TWO “T”s, one for transgender and one for transsexual, because some see themselves as one but not the other (I have some links on hand if you’re curious as to how), and then some groups will add two “Q”a for both the queer and the questioning. There’s “G” for “genderqueer” and “N” or “NB” for non-binary, people under the trans umbrella whose gender doesn’t line up with their sex identity, but don’t lie on the usual male-female dichotomy; by extension you can add a “p” for pan sexual, people who are not only attracted to both the female and male, but genderqueers, too! (and often will make that distinction from the classical bisexual label.) This is why some have nicknamed us the Quiltbag…or, if I can some old school slang, we’re all just one big “family” 😉
Thanks, Charlie! Personally, I think it should be “p” for people. Do we really need all the labels?
I should have noted that I mention out of sarcasm, but there are those who are serious about getting their letter into the label. It’s often kids in college I have seen who insist on these labels, and usually new and emerging groups, like asexuals and genderqueers, who also insist. And you won’t believe that even major authors, like Dan Savage and Michangelo Signorile, and magazines like the Advocate, dedicate to this topic, too! It is still a big topic of contention for some, unfortunately.
While labels can be limiting, labels are still words that help us find others like ourselves. Words and terms we can use to concisely (or even at least in general but in short) describe ourselves, too, can help us validate our existence, especially as we start our journey, or we still don’t fit the established molds. The problem is when we start overloading the definitions of words; I would figure being gay or lesbian meant you simply liked a member of the same gender, but for several it does also mean a whole lifestyle, including everything from bars and bookstores to music, fashion, and adhering to an established groupthink.
Yes, infighting exists over this. I think it detracts from more important issues, but identity is important to a lot of people, especially marginalized groups. I can see and sympathize with multiple sides of the argument, though I personally prefer we stop it and move on.
Your second paragraph sums it up. Good insight. You are smart and knowledgable — and I will say it again, your son is lucky that you are his parent.
Thank you 🙂