One of the most common things I hear (well, read) when someone is talking about asexual, aromantic, agender and intersex people is that the LGBTQIA acronym has too many letters. It usually goes like this: someone doesn’t know what asexuality (aromanticism or any letter beyond the T) is, ends up knowing thanks to some ongoing conversation and then says something along the lines of well, I think that’s too many letters, it’ silly or what if we change the community’s name to ABCDEFG+? lol or even this is going too far. Mentions of “alphabet soup” might also be made.
Some people might think these comments are harmless, but they are not. Throughout the queer community’s history, many groups have fought to be acknowledged and respected within the community: lesbians, bisexuals, trans people and now ace, aro, non-binary and intersex people (note: bisexuals and trans people still fight to be respected within the community). The acronym is constantly evolving. That’s a fact. But some people think we should just stop with the T. The others – aces, aros, intersex people, non-bisexual multisexual people, non-binary people who don’t identify as trans – should just accept being, maybe, the + in LGBT+. That is, when the “+” is added at all.
In other words, if you come after the T you’re a nuisance. You are a Tumblr thing, PC gone mad or whatever. It’s also clearly a hierarchy of importance – gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (binary) people get their own letters, the rest of us get a + maybe. But when we protest this erasure we only get mocking comments or silence. Some express exasperation when we say, hey, maybe don’t exclude us because acknowledging our existence is seen as too much of a bother and no one wants to remember to use LGBTQIA instead of LGBT.
It feels like us asking for this – for us to not be erased – is too much and that we should just keep quiet, be grateful that we are (somewhat) allowed in the community and just accept it.
So it might seem like it’s just an acronym and that we shouldn’t be upset about it, but it’s not just that. The acronym is just a symptom of a larger issue. Non-binary, asexual, aromantic, non-bisexual multisexual and intersex people are almost completely erased from everything. There isn’t much in our society – in books, movies, and in the media in general – that allows for the possibility of us existing. Our existence is challenged constantly and it seems like many people don’t realize how awful it is. We have little to no visibility and most people are completely unaware that yes, some people don’t feel sexual attraction, and yes, some don’t feel romantic attraction and yup, some aren’t a woman or a man.
When we come out there is the added pressure that we have to explain what we are to our friends, family and even strangers, and most of time we are met with laughter or aggression because the mere concept of our identities – people who aren’t solely men or women, people who don’t feel sexual or romantic attraction – is seen as something absurd, as something that clearly isn’t really real because it goes against what our society says it’s the norm. What society says it’s our only option.
It’s not just because of what we are – it’s because we aren’t even allowed to exist.
Invisibility is not the only issue aromantic, asexual, non-binary, non-bisexual multisexual and intersex people face, obviously. But it is important. As genderqueer/non-binary asexual & aromantic person, I grew up knowing something wasn’t quite right but I lacked the words and the communities that would’ve helped me realize who I am way sooner. Many others are growing up right now feeling the same – feeling like there is something wrong with them and not knowing that there are other options. That you don’t have to be a man or a woman and you don’t have to feel sexual or romantic attraction. That that’s completely okay and normal.
So when you mock and ridicule the LGBTQIA acronym because there are too many letters you’re saying our experiences don’t matter, that our struggles don’t matter, that we don’t matter. We are the disposable ones – the ones you can just drop off the acronym because who cares, right? We are too “new”, too unknown, too obscure, and fighting for us, helping us, isn’t worth it.
There is also another side of this – of people complaining that the LGBTQIA acronym is too long, that it’s too much, it’s silly, it’s an “alphabet soup” – and that side is: what are we supposed to do instead? If LGBTQIA has too many letters, if you think all these “new” sexualities, genders, etc, are “going too far”, what is our other option? To stop being asexual, aromantic, intersex and non-binary? To accept being always a last minute addendum, a + or just plain nothing?
To shut up so we won’t bother you?
Because that’s what you are offering us: silence when we desperately need our voices to be heard.
This is not to say that LGBTQIA is a perfect acronym. It is a mouthful (which can be an issue for Twitter, for example) and it still excludes people. Some use QUILTBAG or MOGAI instead. That’s fine. My issue here is not the acronym itself – like I said above, acronyms are always changing. My issue is the blatant acephobia, arophobia, intersexism and enbyphobia in saying we are too much or that remembering we exist is too silly. It’s how we are deemed too weird even by other queer people. It’s how easy it is to just pretend we are not here and how many people, how many “allies”, are comfortable in doing so. It’s the dismissal of our experiences, of our lives.
Asexual and aromantic people exist. Non-binary and intersex people exist. Pansexual and polysexual people exist. People with unknown or “obscure” sexualities and genders exist. We have voices, lives and experiences that are our own.
And we deserve to be heard too.