Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Hopefully you can answer this because I'm confused. I'm a small-town gay gal and I guess I don't get out much but when the hell did Gay Rights become GLBT or whatever the hell it is and what's up with GLBTXQBI and all the rest? And please tell me what on earth is "intersexed." Confused but happy old lesbian.

First of all, you're not old, baby, you're mature.

To answer your questions, Dr. Bill himself is not exactly certain when "GLBT" -- which means Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender -- came into being and replaced Good 'ol "Gay." I would guess it came into early use twenty years ago and become popularized about a decade ago (and in some cases has become inaccurately retroactive). There's a GLBT or LGBT center not far from my door in Manhattan which I sometimes call the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato center. I do know that when people speak of the GLBT pride parade the year after Stonewall or in the seventies, eighties and even nineties, they're inaccurate. These were Gay Pride parades, plain and simple. Even today many people simply use "Gay Pride" as an umbrella term. Less unwieldly and more recognizable, for one thing. Plus the fact that gays and lesbians constitute the majority of GLBT members.

The early Gay Rights movement certainly did not automatically exclude lesbians (who are gay, of course), bisexuals or the transgendered (some of whom are gay), but I imagine some activists -- Dr. Bill was not consulted -- thought it would be more democratic to give all sexual minorities (although not all are actually included) equal billing. It was also thought that lumping all of us together -- the idea being that whatever group we belonged to we were all "queer" -- would add up to greater numbers and hence greater political power.

The sad truth is that a united GLBT -- outside of the world of political activists -- may be more of a concept than a reality. GLBT political activists are more likely to know and intermingle with members of the other groups, which is not true of the average, non-political gay person, so this idea of GLBT "togetherness" may be entirely artificial. What I mean is that being transsexual is a very different experience from being gay, and that many, many (mostly but not always non-political) gays still remain cynical about the very notion of bisexuality, believing -- rightly or wrongly -- that most bisexuals are just gays who for one reason or another can't come all the way out of the closet. [More on this on another post. Save your letters for later.]

For instance, political gays were quick to insist that trangenders be included in the ENDA non-discrimination bill, while the average gay person, if they knew about the bill at all (and without suggesting that they're all transphobic bigots) probably didn't give that much of a damn, not relating to transsexuals or even necessarily knowing what one was.

The feeling among many politically correct gays is that, being discriminated against themselves, they don't wish to discriminate, or even be thought of as possibly, accidentally, inadvertently discriminating, against anyone else (including heterosexuals, even the bigoted ones). Therefore we have some queer people who expand GLBT into GLBTQBI and so on and so on.

The "Q"stands for questioning, which I frankly think is pretty silly. Most gay people go through a questioning period, for Pete's sake; I doubt if genuinely heterosexual people really spend a lot of time wondering if they're gay or they're bi. I mean, you either get hot for your own sex or you don't; it's a given that most gays go through a certain period of confusion. (Oops, now we'll have to add a "C" for "confused.") I assume some gay groups don't want to scare off gay or transgender youths (and older people) who don't yet identify as gay or transgender.

The other "B" stands for Bi-Curious, which means someone who at least identifies as straight but may have some homosexual leanings or a certain curiosity about our sexuality or lifestyle. Again, this is a phase many gays go through. I hardly think of the "bicurious" as a legitimate minority group, but who knows?

"I" stands for Intersexed and brings us to the last part of your question. Intersexual is the modern term for the out-dated "hermaphrodite," but intersexed people do not have both male and female sexual organs; rather they have a commingling of the two. Parents of intersexed children choose a sex for their babies through surgery, but when these children are grown they can switch -- again, via surgery -- if they want to. There are a couple of hundred intersexed people in the US, and maybe a thousand or more worldwide. It's a question if this is a minority group or simply a group of people who have the same medical condition. Intersexed people aren't necessarily homosexual, but as I've said many activists don't want to exclude anyone and of course no one wants intersexed people to be discriminated against, although if they are it may be because they are perceived as being gay or transsexual -- since most people don't know what "intersexed" means any more than you do.

The premise of being all-inclusive, while possibly noble, can get a little ridiculous at times. On one gay -- I mean, GLBT -- message board, someone actually suggested that "F" for "furries" be added to GLBT .... ! "Furries" are people who like to dress up as animal cartoon characters. Some of them feel marginalized and therefore think of themselves as being a put-upon minority group.

A certain percentage of "furries" are undoubtedly gay, transgender etc. but on this same message board I suggested that if we added "F" to GLBT we should also add an "H" for fans of The Honeymooners TV show who attend conventions (like furries do), who are gay, and who may feel marginalized because they eat too much or because people tell them they should have more productive ways of spending their time. [Don't get me wrong. I love Jackie Gleason and The Honeymooners but I can't see going to a convention ... oh, well.]

But my dear mature lesbian friend, don't fret too much over all this. Many of these people who are adding all these letters to GLBT are very young and will learn in time. In the meantime, I think it's kind of nice that they don't want anyone to feel left out, eh?


CupidsReviews Heidi said...

Wow really? I always knew glbt, but the newest appendage I had yet to see till today. I think its getting a little out of hand. Why don't we just throw in an O for 'other' or something before we have to spout out the whole alphabet?!

Bill Samuels said...

LOL -- I think that's an excellent suggestion!