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Alphabet Soup History Month: Labelling Communities

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So, is February LGBT History Month? LGBTQ History Month? LGBTQQIA History Month? Queer History Month? GSM History Month? GAM History Month? Or something else altogether?

While special days and months such as LGBT History Month are great for awareness-raising, they can also be a challenge for other reasons. No community is monolithic and thus no community can be accurately described by a particular single label. In order for that to be the case, labels would have to be so broad as to be virtually meaningless. What does it mean to be, say, English or Jewish or elderly or disabled? What does that label actually tell us about a person?

For the LGBTQ community, this is even more complicated by the fact that the community is meant to be open to so many different people. The number of letters tacked on to the word "community" keeps increasing, from just L and G (lesbian and gay) to also including the B (bisexual), then the T (transgender), and now the Q (queer), too. Some also add a second Q (questioning) or an I (intersex) or an A (asexual) or even other letters. Some might even add a second A for the allies, thus including heterosexual, cisgender people who are LGBTQ-friendly.

This alphabet soup is arguably more of a murky, heavy stew than a clear broth, and it does more to confuse people than to be an inclusive, overarching umbrella.

I often just say "queer" but some dislike this word because of its negative or derogatory connotations, and they believe you can't reclaim it (I disagree, obviously). Many people seem to want a term that covers a range of identities, as queer does, but that can only be construed as positive. Still others don't identify as queer, even if they are LGBT.

The Harry Potter Alliance, an organisation which "fights the Dark Arts in the real world by using parallels from Harry Potter, [and which] works for human rights, equality, and a better world just as Harry and his friends did throughout the books," has, in a recent video posted to YouTube suggested another option to our growing list of letters: a simple, short GSM.

For the HPA, this stands for gender and sexual minorities, and can cover all of the letters mentioned above, and then some.

In the video, Lauren Bird from the HPA goes on to suggest GSRM, where relationship minorities (asexual or aromantic folks) are included as well. Or, perhaps, GAM, for gender and attraction minorities, would be even better.

Eventually, Lauren Bird points out in the video that what's more important than the specific label is being respectful towards people and referring to them the way they wish to be referred to.

We can definitely tie ourselves in knots in our attempts to use language that is as encompassing and polite as possible, and, inevitably, we'll leave someone out or use the wrong term now and then.

My fond and rather idealistic hope is that one day we won't even need to have such labels, because all people will be accepted for who they are. Why do we have such a desperate need to put people in boxes? And why does it even matter who someone is attracted to or what their gender is or what sexual or romantic practices they enjoy?

Unfortunately, however, we're not even close to the stage yet where we could move away from labels. Our society is still so iniquitous in its treatment of non-norm sexual and gender identities that we have to use labels in order to speak up and to claim our space and our rights.

And that's exactly why we need LGBT History Month. Or is it GAM History Month? Or whatever it is we call it...

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