Out & About: Why ‘LGBTQIA’ Just Doesn’t Work For Us
My friend recently titled her Honours thesis Queers: They’re Fucking Everywhere. It’s true. We are. We’re in your pubs, clubs, cafés. We’re fucking in your back alleys, backyards, back rooms. And now, we’re in the BRAG.
This weekly column will be written by me. I’m a queer, I’m here, get used to it (et cetera). It will cover issues that are broadly relevant to the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual) community and its allies. And herein lies my first problem. The acronym. The alphabet soup.
It’s incredibly difficult to describe, represent, encapsulate, or speak to a community as diverse as that which is grouped under the LGBTQIA (or variation thereof) umbrella term. The umbrella is simultaneously incomplete and too broad, pigeonholing and ill-fitting.
While sexual identities and gender identities might seem related – and can face similar modes of discrimination – really, they’re pretty different. One concerns how you relate to other people, the other concerns how you view yourself. The experiences of trans and intersex people are vastly different to the experiences of a cisgender (meaning those who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth) gay man, for example. To lump these identities together is reductive, and erases the individual experiences and struggles that these different groups face.
The alphabet soup also reduces people to a label, one that might not fit. The spectrum of sexual and gender identities is far broader than the labels we’ve given them – like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, sometimes there are gaps, and sometimes you just need a lot of lube to make it work. Either way, it’s not great.
Although not often a problem we experience in the Sydney rain, sometimes umbrellas are too big. Not every issue affects every letter of the acronym, so to use LGBTQIA when you’re only talking about the L or the G misrepresents the experiences of every other letter/person/identity you’ve lumped in to your discussion by accident.
Some people use ‘queer’ as an umbrella term, over and above the alphabet soup. I identify as queer, because as well as fucking women, I try to fuck the system. To me, queer is a label that describes someone who consciously objects to the way society has organised itself, and behaves differently as a result. Not every LGBTQIA-whatever person is like this, and that’s fine. I don’t want to marry into a rigid, normative institution, but if someone else wants to, then more power to them. But for that reason, I don’t think queer works as an umbrella term. It’s also possible for heterosexuals to be queer – think kink, poly, anything that society doesn’t really expect or talk about. You het queers are welcome in my world.
LGBTQIA is cumbersome, and mostly just wrong. Queer doesn’t work either. We need a new term. I’ve spoken to a few people who don’t like to define themselves in opposition. But really, the only thing that unites this diverse group of sexual and gender identities is exactly what we’re not – we’re all not heteronormative. Not straight. We’re bent. And that’s awesome.
Being such a diverse group of interesting, bendy, colourful folk, I can never hope to speak for everyone, and nor should I. I can best represent my own experiences as a queer, cisgendered woman in (the Inner West of) Sydney. I may be able to adequately reflect the experiences of those closest to me, but ultimately everything I write will be my own thoughts, rants, and shout-outs to events I like and I think you’d like too.
Birdcage, Sydney’s resident weekly Wednesgay lez-fest, is turning three this week. Head up to The Sly Fox this Wednesday May 27 for an Animalia-themed bash to celebrate this weekly staple. From 10pm, there’ll music from KLP, Love Club and Birdcage regulars. There’s also a performance from surreal showgirl Betty Grumble – if you’ve ever needed to see a shit-covered dildo removed from a woman’s arse onstage, you should probably get there.
Vivid Sydney is happening for gays and straights alike. My highlight for this weekend is the Goodgod Minceteria on Friday May 29. Goodgod and queer party legends House Of Mince are bringing out House Of Ladosha, a collective of queer rappers from Brooklyn, to sass out the Studio, Sydney Opera House. Prepare your body for voguing.
Shout-outs for this Saturday May 30 to the opening of the 2015 Sydney Roller Derby League season. Buff and tough women will be bashing into each other in lycra under the bright lights of Luna Park. Also on Saturday, the Red Rattler in Marrickville is hosting a Sniff Off party – the anti-drug dog campaign run by the NSW Greens. As queers are often routinely vilified by cops, and queer events unfairly targeted (who remembers Mardi Gras, every year) by drug dogs, this is a campaign I can get on board with. Paul Mac is headlining.
Lastly, next week sees the opening of Debby Doesn’t Do It For Free – an exhibition at the Tap Gallery by a collective of sex worker artists, activists and performers. Opening night is Tuesday June 2, and the show runs until the 6th.