I Don’t Get It: Queerness 101

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Sometimes it can feel like the LGBTIQ+ alphabet is just a jumbled mouthful of ever-growing letters, and we totally understand that sometimes, when you don’t understand keywords in the discussions, it can feel like you’re getting a little bit lost. So if you’re feeling like you “don’t get it” when it comes to queer theory, here is a little guide to the basic queer alphabet:

L is for… Lesbian:

Let’s start with the ones you’ve probably heard of before, the terms which describe a homosexual attraction to a singular gender. The word lesbian comes from the Greek island of Lesbos, home to all-round queer babe and Grecian poet Sappho, and is used to describe women who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to women.

G is for… Gay 

While the word ‘gay’ was initially used to describe a cheerful or carefree feeling, in the 1960’s It became the primary word used by homosexual men to describe their sexuality. Men who identify as gay are those who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to men. It should be noted here that queer women will also use the term gay to describe themselves, however, both communities definitely think you should never use the word gay to describe things you don’t like – that implies that being gay is a bad thing.

B is for… Bisexual+:

Bisexual refers to an individual who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to people of more than one sex, gender, or gender identity. Bisexuality is expressed differently in all individuals, does not have to happen simultaneously, in the same way, or to the same degree. Contrary to popular belief, bisexuality does not solely refer to individuals who are attracted to only cisgendered men and women and therefore is largely considered an umbrella term which encompasses sexually fluid, polysexual, and pansexual identities.

Bisexual+ people tend to face a fair amount of erasure in both heteronormative and queer spaces. It is important to remember that a bisexual person is still bisexual regardless of their relationship being with a member of their own or another sex (just because a bi+ man is in a relationship with a woman it doesn’t make him any less bisexual, and vice versa), and that they should never be required to “pick a side already”.

T is for… Trans+

Trans+ originates from the term transgender, an umbrella term used to discuss individuals whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from that of the sex they have been assigned at birth. The trans+ community includes those who identify external of the binary conceptions of male and female gender identities, and therefore includes genderqueer, non-binary, and agendered individuals as well. In case you were wondering, individuals who do identify with the gender identity and/or gender expression of their assigned sex are referred to as cisgendered.

It is important to acknowledge and respect the pronouns of trans+ individuals and respect their identification with either a binary gender or a non-binary pronoun such as ‘they’. A great way to think about this is to remember that if a person asked you to refer to them as “Bobby” instead of “Robert,” it would be pretty rude to still call that person Robert. The same goes for respecting the pronouns of individuals when informed of them, regardless of whether they are he/him, she/her, or they/them.

I is for… Intersex

Intersex is another umbrella term encompassing several variations in chromosome, hormones, genitalia, and other sexual characteristics. Intersex does not refer to a sexual identity or gender expression, rather it refers to individuals whose bodies exist outside of the binary male and female sexual anatomy. There is no one condition which makes an individual intersex, and intersex as a term can refer to individuals with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), Klinefelter Syndrome, Ovo-testes, or any other recognised condition.

A common misconception is that intersex people are inherently queer, it is important to note that Intersex concerns variations in an individual’s body and does not require those intersex people to identify as belonging to any particular sexual identity.

Q is for… Queer/Questioning+

Queer is used interchangeably with the LGBTIQ+ acronym to refer to the queer community as a collective of individuals. The word was originally used to describe situations or individuals which are seen as strange or odd, however it has come to be accepted and embraced as a collective celebration of the LGBTIQ+ community’s diversity of experience, expression, and identity. For this reason, the use of queer in the acronym allows for the inclusion of many other sexual and romantic identities along the spectrum, including asexual, aromantic, flexibility and fluidity in sexuality, etc.

The Q is also used to acknowledge those who are questioning their identities. Questioning includes those who are still coming to terms with their queer identities, those who are curious, or even those yet to understand why they feel “queer” from society’s enforced gender and sexual norms.

If you’re not really sure if you could be queer, don’t worry because it is a journey to understanding that we all take at our own pace. Identity is a complex and sometimes confusing thing to navigate, but at least until you figure it out you’ve got a handy Q in the acronym ready to accept your burgeoning queerness. If you don’t identify as queer, I hope that this has helped to unpack some of the confusion in what the queer alphabet means and that now you do “get it”.

Until next time,

Grapeshot Scholars x