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On LGBT, gay, queer, etc.

* The term LGBT and other longer acronyms describing the "gay community" are inventions from decades
after the Stonewall movement. "Gay" was the accepted term of the time, which in the years after
Stonewall unfortunately came to denote gay men only. The terms "Transgender" and "Intersex" had not
been coined yet. Many younger, college-educated people today describe themselves as "queer," saying
they're "reclaiming" a term of abuse, but the term for that reason is largely rejected by older people in the
community, especially Black people, according to a 2002 joint NGLTF / National Black Gay and Lesbian
Leadership Forum study, "Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud."

While debates over language are often tiring and sometimes diversions from other more important issues,
the language we use is important because it's a major vehicle by which we transmit ideas to change the
world. Descriptions we employ, distinctions we make, make a difference in how we view ourselves and
each other; they are not just ‘words,’ they can empower as well as disempower us.

The term "Gay" had the virtue of proudly, clearly and unabashedly communicating to the world that we
were out and happy to be so, whereas “LGBT” and other acronyms are often a bit obscure except to the
already-initiated. As the energy of the post-Stonewall movement dissipated in the late 1970s and 1980s,
the use of acronyms and euphemisms more often than not reflected the growing conservatism of the
movement. For example, Chicago's gay community organization started as an all-volunteer, grassroots
outfit named "Gay Horizons," but soon became simply "Horizons" – a form of self-closeting – and now is a
loathsome, very corporate adjunct of the local Democratic Party dubbed simply "The Center on Halsted."
Not coincidentally, the "Human Rights Campaign Fund" (later simply "Human Rights Campaign") was the
euphemism chosen to name the group which sprung up in the conservative 1980s when the also-
loathsome National Lesbian and Gay Task Force was deemed too radical.

In my occasional meetings with Honduran LGBT activists I learned that in many respects their movement
is politically much more advanced than ours. One respect in which this shows is how they refer to
themselves: "Sexual Minority Communities" is their common term for what we'd call "queer," "LGBT," etc.;
they forthrightly and openly say who they are, without embarrassment and without pigeon-holing
anybody, particularly those who share multiple identities.

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