Alex Blaze

LGBT vs. gay, at my own risk

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 04, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: AmericaBlog, bisexual, DNC, It's Friday, John Aravosis, john genet, lesbian, LGBT, marriage, mishima, queer, transgender

John "what I as a gay man have in common with a man who wants to cut off his penis" NotGay_Queer1.jpgAravosis started the perennial conversation, and it wouldn't be a perennial conversation if I didn't jump in. Here's the title, and you can fill in the rest of his arguments:

I'm not an 'LGBT American'

Ayo my life is like Brokeback - it's a true story. It's too gory for them televised fables on cable. I'm a beaten down homo running to SF, bruises on my forearm, running with a gun on my palm.

I'm a gay man, never was an LGBT American. Gayer than gay, I take it back to my origin. Same cock-sucking hated by the fundamentalists, big colors and flame, big rainbow flag wavin', what.

But don't call me queer, because I'm no faggot.

I'm not an 'LGBT American'

No one called anyone that. That's John Aravosis responding to a particularly annoying DNC email, touting DNC accomplishments that aren't really accomplishments or accomplished by the DNC (like how Americablog is taking credit for long-term health care benefits being extended to same-sex partners of federal employees) that said:

LGBT Americans have helped build the Democratic Party into what it is today.

I'd disagree too, since it's not just Americans who helped build the party (something they could note now that immigration exploded onto the scene as a big midterm issue). But come on. The DNC was calling a population "LGBT," not individual people. It'd be like if they emailed "Donors, volunteers, and supporters" and someone posted that on the internet and said "I'm just a donor and supporter, not a volunteer, so this doesn't describe me."

Jeez, come on. Give these people a break.

I'm not an 'LGBT American'

Wasn't it Lysiane in Querelle (the film) who sang "Each man kills the thing he loves"? I'm working through the Jean Genet novel right now, but let's just say that Querelle, the manly, virile, put-his-cock-in-anything sailor, was anything but a modern-day LGBT American. Genet's world of homo sex and man-lovin' wasn't aseptic and clean and full of shiny, happy PC gays just wanting to get married. And, almost as clear as the spit the patron used to open... excuse me, got ahead of my gay self there.

Anyway, it's that sort of history that's been cleaned up for Western, third millennial gays. The B and the T, well, let's just say they're not as easy as we've made ourselves out to be. You see, we don't transgress gender anymore, we don't ever have sex before marriage or multiple sexual partners, and we just want to keep our sex in a little separate world, not a threat at all to straight people.

It's a big irony, then, to argue that including bisexual, queer, and transgender people in the community is a "cop out," a way to say gay without saying gay. The whole backlash against inclusiveness led by folks like Aravosis is about cleaning up gayness, to take away the gender transgressiveness and sex of being a homosexual. He pleads in this same post "We want to get married," to stress the fact that we're about love, not sex.

Speaking of sailors, remember the chief's little speech about how much he hated fathers in Mishima's really-but-not-explicitly-but-come-on gay Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea? You know, the one he uses to justify killing Ryuji, who was an awesome, masculine, virile, liberated sailor, in the company of men, going from port to port, doing what sailors do, until he decides to settle down with Noboru's mother and live a decent straight life?

I asked my old man a question: "Dad, is there any purpose in life?" You know what I was getting at, don't you, what I really meant? Father, can you give me one single reason why you go on living? Wouldn't it be better to just fade away as quickly as possible? But a first-class insinuation never reaches a man like that. He just looked surprised and his eyes bugged and he stared at me. I hate that kind of ridiculous adult surprise. And when he finally answered, what do you think he said? "Son, nobody is going to provide you with a purpose in life; you've got to make one for yourself."

How's that that for a stupid, hackneyed moral! He just pressed a button and out came one of the things fathers are supposed to say. And did you ever look at a father's eyes at a time like that? They're suspicious of anything creative, anxious to whittle the world down to something puny they can handle. A father is a reality-concealing machine, a machine for dishing up lies to kids, and that isn't even the worst of it: secretly he believes that he represents reality.

Mishima wasn't a gay American or an LGBT American either. The tea tasted bitter. Glory, as anyone knows, is bitter stuff. Indeed! And then Ryuji's skin got ripped off so his viscera could shine brilliantly in the sun. As Bjork sings, there's more to life than this.

I'm not an 'LGBT American'

No one is an no one was calling him that, but the opposite — that everyone who's part of the "LGBT population" is really just a gay person in a prom dress — isn't true either. "LGBT" isn't a fancy word for "gay," as Aravosis seems to think. It's a different term with a different meaning.

There's a debate on this topic because people want to be able to define themselves, but at some point we're going to have to use a common language. It's a lexical tug-of-war between the individual and the community, except instead of one team falling in the mud and dropping the rope really fast so the ostensible winners all fall back on the hard ground and everyone laughing and taking a shower together afterwards, this one's more like people keep on pulling and can't stop so they just think of England.

Of course, when it comes to self-determination, he's way ahead of us there. He's not just self-determining his own identity; he's ready to self-determine everyone's identity! Bisexuals are now gay, and so are all trans people. Don't want to define yourself? Rejecting labels? Queer? Whatever, you're gay now! Don't know your sexuality because you're young (i.e. "questioning")? Don't worry, Uncle John's got it all worked out for you, homo.

Pam jumps in and says the reason there's debate about this topic is because it's like a conversation that "challenges people to admit white privilege." What privilege is being questioned when someone says: "I want the DNC to write to me and me alone, not these other people who usually get ignored"? That seems like the opposite to me.

I'm not an 'LGBT American'

Last comes the complaint that there are too many letters. So why don't we agree on a new word that includes everyone? A word that isn't about men who are sexually attracted to men, that's now starting to more regularly include women who are sexually attracted to women, but a word for everyone who transgresses the basic gender roles we're assigned at birth because we realize that it's just not for us?

What about "queer"? We can't blame that one on the kids anymore - it was popularized in the 90's and the people who were on the cutting edge with that word, the kids who were dismissed to trying to "reclaim" a term that was so hurtful it just couldn't happen, are in their 40's now. It's ready for the mainstream.

Anyway, I'm a Judith Martin acolyte, and she's a feminist tasked with coming up for rules of how to address people. Dear Miss Manners, When writing an invitation to a married couple, how does one address the envelope if the woman didn't change her name when she married?

She usually replies with a concrete answer to the specific question, and then goes on to tell people that the world we live in is complicated, no one title works for everyone, and we're all going to have to get a sense of humor and just be patient when we're referred to with someone else's language (this all assumes everyone has the best of intentions).

I don't think Martin would ever address this question, so I'll answer it here: Use a term that accurately describes the group you're referring to (e.g. "If DADT were repealed, LGB people in the military could come out."). If you're referred to with a term that you maybe don't like, that includes you but isn't your favorite, acknowledge the other person's intent and correct them politely if you're going to keep on talking with them. Realize that there are millions of queers in this country and no term is going to be universally accepted. The world isn't perfect and clean and simple, people will refer to you with a term you don't like, so get over your gay self.

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"I don't think Martin would ever address this question, so I'll answer it here: Use a term that accurately describes the group you're referring to (e.g. "If DADT were repealed, LGB people in the military could come out.")."

And if you're talking about John when he gets all sulky and sticks out his quivering bottom lip with a tear in his eye - steal a term from Atrios:


Argh! Got dyslexic.


That's our Johnnie when he's not the center of the universe.

Urban Dictionary Time:

WATB 306 up, 39 down

abbreviation for Whiney Ass Titty Baby; "new one from Atrios -- coined for Harris of the WaPo and Keller of NY Times," i.e. someone who makes excuses instead of doing the courageous thing.

2. watb 271 up, 24 down

for Whiny Ass Titty-Baby. Primarily refers to right-wingers who routinely bully others but whine vociferously at the mildest criticism directed their way.

JonathonEdwards | June 4, 2010 6:34 PM

I hear your frustration. I read that blog post and was just curious about where the energy was coming from. I will say that I stopped adding letters at T because the acronym, I think, ceases to be useful for anyone after 4 letters and the form I've seen it in that's most ridiculous is LGBTIQQA. WTF? Totally useless for actually human communication.

I do think that it would be nice if we could come up with one non-sexist, gender and orientation inclusive word that captures it all and I was rather fond of queer when it tried to make a comeback (I was one of those "kids" advocating for that back in the day) because, lets face it, everyone in the acronym is 'queer' to mainstream society. But, alas....

I will agree with John on one point, though. I am not an LGBT American. I'm a gay American. That's not an attempt to universalize gay to describe the whole coalition of communities that make up our moevement, its just that, well, I'm a homosexual man. So I'm either a gay American or I'm a queer American. I'm not B. I'm not T. I'm not L.

So there is a bit of insensitivity on the part of the DNC in this (surprise?). How hard would it be to key their data base to pick a term based on gender identification? I could do that in an MS Word mail merge and I'm sure they have more sophisticated software than I do. Still wouldn't be perfect but I bet most of the mailing would have picked the right letter of the acronym to apply in the salutation.

Steven Garrett | June 4, 2010 9:30 PM

I understand why you are so frustrated. Here you have this cis man blogging away, freely expressing views that are different from yours. And you have no way to ban him. It is outrageous. It is a trans right (and rite) to isolate, mock, demean, and exile anyone who opposes them. See Gold, Ron.

Yet this privileged white man, with his own blog and full time employment, is beyond your tentacles. Moreover, none of his many gay readers care one bit if you call them names, since trans activists have already rendered all of these epithets meaningless through overuse, if not rank dishonesty. How are you all going to keep the gay "folk" in line w/o intimidation and vilification?

Anyway, I enjoyed perusing yet another overly long, meandering post on TBP, even if it had very little to do with what John A. originally wrote. Keep venting! That is what makes this site as entertaining as Peter LaBarbera's site or, alternatively, a train wreck.

Who's trying to silence anyone here? I love John Aravosis! He's doing great work. Federal employees wouldn't have long-term health care right now if AmericaBlog hadn't brought the Obama Administration to its knees.

Plus, we're not the site saying that people who say racist things should be fined by a court (of course, homophobes and transphobes should get off the hook):

As for "meandering," heard that one before, and I promise to keep my posts under 400 words, keep those words under two syllables, stick to an 8th grade reading vocabulary, avoid modals, structure sentences in SVO with no frills, etc., etc., just as soon as we can all get married.

Kate @ TUNE Kate @ TUNE | June 6, 2010 5:55 AM

While John has done a lot of good work Alex, he's done just as much that can be considered as being bad. I've never heard a single thing from him that's trans-positive, while he's quite willing to manipulate history to suit his own political needs or to lay a swift boot into hard-working trans-folk who have helped his causes if it advances his agenda. For example, did you see anything Trans-related in the "long-term health care" that Americablog campaigned for?

I don't like him and I think that people like him are what's holding everybody back from getting real equality. If you don't like some people, fine. It doesn't mean that you should lay yet another boot into them however.

Good for you! Keep up that whole I don't care what you say bit of denial going. The more you say it, the more you undermine it.

Oh - and really - full time employment. You must be very special.

I used to be a member of a great queer theory listserv, QStudy, until I just didn't have time any more to engage in all of the microdebates taking place on every conceivable queer issue. I remember that one of the major objections to the term "queer" was that it is too individualistic. It allows people to have any identity that they want and still identify as part of the group. You don't have to be gay, and that was a problem for some people. They wanted a clear identifier that grouped together people based on their sexuality, both for political purposes, and because they themselves identified themselves based on their sexuality, and didn't want to be identified with other sexualities or genders.

Queer really is a revolution, and there are a lot of people who don't want to be revolutionaries. I'm not sure assimilationist is the right term, but it does seem to fit.

battybattybats battybattybats | June 5, 2010 12:35 AM

I like the new acronym SS&GD. Sexuality, Sex and Gender Diversity. It covers everyone by the related factors not by the identity label. That way it's more inclusive and by having diversity in the very definition is less homogenising.

R. Conrad | June 5, 2010 12:44 PM

the problem with using "diversity" like this is that it also includes pedophiles, bestiality and a myriad of other diverse sexual practices that you may or may not want to lump together.

just saying, the one big tent, diversity, rainbow family liberal rhetoric has got to go. cause really, you only want certain kinds of diversity that match certain kinds of moral codes of acceptability.

not trying to be agro, but this kind of liberal inclusion/diversity rhetoric is awful and misguided.

battybattybats battybattybats | June 5, 2010 10:01 PM

Except that bestiality and pedophilia are not sexualities so are not part of sexuality diversity! And the only people who class them as such are irrational hate-groups who count both as part of Gay anyway no matter what.

So your suggested problem is not really a problem.

TonySoprano | June 5, 2010 2:14 AM

Ode to the commenter who questioned the acronym 'LGBTQQIA'. I coined that term of inclusion, and endearment: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed, Androgynous/Asexual.

My wife is a Transgendered Woman (post-SRS). What is she? What am I? I am not LGBTQQIA. But, we both have a stake in, and an obligation to comment about, the Rights struggle that everyone who reads these posts shares.

You can't have equaliTy without the T. And ALL the other 'letters', too. We won't win unless we agree to give up this BS about 'who I am', or 'who I am not'.

They want us all dead.

So, get over the in-fighting, and FIGHT, already!

My wife is a Transgendered Woman (post-SRS). What is she?
Ask the Concerned Women for America and the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.

You'll get the same answer from both.

Stuart Wilber | June 5, 2010 10:51 AM

What I like about 'Queer' is that it can include 'SA'; letters too often left out of our alphabet soup and without whose inclusion we'll never see equality. Like Phil Reese and many of our straight allies, I'm totally queer.

Alex, as an LGBT American thank you. I get tired of people calling me gay especially gay people doing it and telling me that it is ok because they intend a denotation which is inclusive. This, of course, disregards the prominent social connotation which is what people think when they hear or see the term gay. So the speaker intends to include lesbians, bi and trans people but the listener just thinks fem, skinny, white male.
My biggest problem with it is that it denies the right of the person to self define. When someone groups me in with gay I am offended. If it is unintentional or done from ignorance I inform and educate. When it is done from arrogance and with intention I tend to also educate but in a much more aggressive and loud manner.
Just this week one of my 8th graders really started coming out and he uses bi. And one of my college kids and I had a discussion on the term bi which he will not use because he feels that it reinforces gender binaries and so he uses pan-sexual. I on the other hand use bi because I am attracted to only two genders though I acknowledge that there are other approaches to gender only two appeal to me. It was a complicated and interesting discussion.

Oh I love acronym games. I vote for Lovers versus Haters. Haters = Hate All That Equal Rights Stuff. Lovers = Let's Openly Value Equal Rights Stuff.

Then it is simply a matter of asking.."Are you a Lover or a Hater"?

I like that Deena. It cuts through the B.S. quite nicely!

We should all just start referring to ourselves as "Ragnar." Nothing behind it. No previous history to give us baggage. It can be worked in all sorts of ways.

Are you ragnar?
It was a ragnar bashing!
I'm a ragnar man/woman.
I know! She's such a big rag.
I'm so in touch with the rags, I have ragdar.
The Best XXX Ragnar Movies in Town!

All sorts of possibilities.

And it makes us all sound like big Nordic Viking warriors so the Religious Right will shake in terror at our Ragnar Rage.


Everyone can start using it immediately.

Gee Bil I was with you right up to that point where "it makes us all sound like big Nordic Warriors".

Total nerd moment for me reading that. First person I thought of was Ragnar of Dragon Quest IV ( ) And, y'know, just cause a man wants to wear pink armor doesn't mean anything.

Personally, I think it's okay to tell the difference when someone says LGBT, and you only identify as one part of the acronym, which would be most, not all, of them. But maybe that's my bias as both bi and trans.

I must point out that many African American TBLG peeps hate the term 'queer' (and I'm one of them).

There are some in the community who use the term 'same gender loving' or SGL people.

Rick Sours | June 6, 2010 10:08 AM

For some of us, the term "queer" brings up memories of some rather unpleasant past situations.

Tab Hunter’s Ghost | June 6, 2010 5:11 PM

Hmmm. One way of looking at this is to point out that many here in the comments (and in the postings) argue that everyone deserves the right to self-identify and name their grouping. Would that be except for John Aravosis or the “fem, skinny, white males” or other gay men?

Is this a privilege hierarchy argument? Gay white wealthy men have more privileges therefore they don’t have the right to self-identify and name themselves, or something like that. Or in their privileged self-identifying they imply disrespect and dismissal of those not in their self-identified group?

Another way of looking at this might be that maybe John has a point about the ever-growing acronym and its awkwardness, pointing out it is being used as a catch-all term to court money and votes from a bloc of marginalized voters and that is problematic on a few levels.

Although there are other political and social coalitions in America I’m not aware of any that have chosen an ever-growing acronym as their preferred mode of address.

There are hundreds of religious groups (bringing to mind our biggest enemies and some of our best supporters) and the DNC does not address their fundraisers to RCEMPCoCBL Christians -- the acronym would too long to type.

Yet somehow Christians manage to divide pretty evenly into those who embrace conservative Republican politics and those who embrace liberal Democratic politics and those who are apolitical. And the disparate groups seem to manage to raise billions of dollars, succeed at passing legislation favorable to their goals, and enjoy a level of influence that we have never managed.

Some of us are even part of those Christian groups. Perhaps we could take a look at that paradigm or some other sometime and talk together about making things work for us all.

It’ss always easy to get offended by someone else who we disagree with and point out their failings and faults (Get Equal comes to mind here). It’s a lot harder to work on strategies that will help us see a common goal and get us to work together towards that goal. I know -- I’ve been at it for nearly 35 years now. Building and maintaing viable coalitions is hard work and takes a real commitment to rising above personal ego.

I support full equality for all Americans, however they self-identify. Perhaps we do indeed need to have this conversation as our coalition grows?

I'm surely not the only person here who can recognise an Oscar Wilde quote, am I?