On a stormy Thursday evening in July, my family took a break from our typical nightly marathons of The X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to watch the Democratic National Convention. As I ate my ice cream and listened to speeches, I suddenly heard the acronym “LGBT” instead of “LGBTQ”. It tore me out of my Ben & Jerry’s daze – it sounded awkward, outdated, and exclusionary. You wouldn’t think that a little letter would make that much of a difference, but suddenly, I felt ignored and forgotten.
Because: I’m queer. Sometimes I like girls, sometimes I like guys, sometimes I like people who are non-binary! I don’t know where I fit, exactly. The term gay doesn’t feel right, lesbian is just, well, incorrect, and bisexual isn’t right either. But queer – queer is perfect.
Queer was once used as a negative term for gay people, but it’s been widely reclaimed as the “anti-label label”, or a term for people who aren’t straight or aren’t cisgender (people whose gender and sex assigned at birth align), but don’t fit into other LGBT identities. There isn’t just one definition attached to queer – instead, there are many. Queer allows me to be who I am, while giving me room to change and grow.
By leaving off the Q, we ignore a great community of people who may not be lesbians, gay, bisexual, or transgender, but who aren’t straight and/or cisgender and still need protecting. We still need someone to fight for us, to help protect us in the workplace, in public spaces, in schools.
I fear that, by leaving off the Q, people are saying that they are only willing to fight for the rights of people whose sexual orientations and genders are easy to define. Most people know the general definitions of gay, lesbian, and bisexual, and more and more people are beginning to understand transgender identities. But, many people do not realize that there is so much more to both sexual orientation and gender, in addition to these commonly talked about identities.
“Queer” is home to an infinite number of identities, outside of being straight and/or cisgender. Many people and many gay rights organizations use “LGBTQ” or even “LGBTQ+” so they can be as inclusive as possible and represent many identities, not just the mainstream and popular ones. In the future, I hope that the “Q” is not left out. Queer, or the “Q”, means that there is an entire universe of possibilities for identity, friendship, and love – and this is something that should not be ignored or forgotten.