LGBT

And a bunch of queers

By |October 27th, 2016|Asexuality updates, Essays|1 Comment

I found a tweet while browsing through the timeline of Twitter accounts that maaple follows. It came from GLAAD, linking to an article on TIME’s website.

The article explains that GLAAD have released a new guide for media outlets to refer to people or groups whose sexual orientations, sex or gender identities are considered as marginalised or different from the norm. The article itself triumphantly proclaims in its title that ‘LGBTQ’ will replace ‘LGBT’.

The argument for this change is in itself quite interesting. The TIME article uses the reasoning that the word queer has been successfully reclaimed from being used as an insult. They further argue that queer does not have a precise meaning or connotation, which it may have done in the past, and covers a breadth of sexual orientations and gender identities.

But this line of argument brings inherent problems. First of all, queer is being presented here as a catch-all term, which everyone can identify with. But the abbreviation LGBTQ suggests that Lesbian is a different category to Queer (and likewise for Gay, Bisexual and Transgender). Thus queer is now being presented as “etc.” or “and so on” or, perhaps worse, “and the others”. It places the label queer upon those that do not identify with the other terms in the acronym. Thus if you’re asexual, you’re queer. If you’re questioning your gender or sexual orientation, you’re queer. If you’re intersex, you’re queer. You no longer have a choice: to be a part of this community, if you’re not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you must be queer. I can only speak for myself when I say that I feel that these identities are being marginalised within a marginalised group.

Secondly, the “othering” of a large number of gender identities does nothing to bring awareness to identities that are often forgotten or ignored. It places an implicit importance upon the most common identities in the community which, for me, is deeply hypocritical. The counter argument, which I’ve heard often and is mentioned in the TIME article, is that it is impossible to have a manageable abbreviation that covers every identity. This may be true; but in that case, why is it necessary that it must have L, G, B, and T?

The following excerpt from the TIME article is particularly infuriating:

“If five letters seem onerous, it’s worth noting that it’s more economical than longer acronyms out there, like LGBTQQIA: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (or allies). Being exhaustive is nigh impossible, as new labels are born and spread in a minute. Facebook now allows users to input more than 50 different labels for their gender, including bigender, two-spirit and agender. Sexual orientation has just as many spins.”

The way I have interpreted this paragraph is as follows:

  • Having to look beyond L, G, B and T is annoying.
  • We’d rather just save time and ignore the others.
  • What does ‘A’ stand for again?
  • Facebook can manage it, but we’re just journalists.

I have, hitherto, been using LGBT+ when describing the community. For me, a plus is more inclusive than queer, seeing as not everyone identifies as queer if they do not identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. However, I cannot in all conscience continue to use LGBT+ while saying that queer is wrong. Surely, something like MOGII is by fair better. Everyone in the community identifies as a Marginalised Orientation, Gender Identity or Intersex. So I shall use MOGII more often and I shall endeavour to see it spread!

A disappointing response from Labour

By |April 19th, 2015|Asexuality updates|0 Comments

A little while ago, I received yet another email from the Labour Party asking for donations, which I thought was a bit cheeky since the only reason I’d been in contact with them was to ask them about their policy on changing the Equality Act to protect asexuals. This email was from Iain McNicol, who is the General Secretary of the Labour Party. So I replied.

Dear Iain,

It is often very easy to be cynical when it comes to political donations. But I don’t think it is far-fetched to say that individuals that donate to political parties do so because there is something in it for them. That is to say, people send donations if there’s something in it for them.

You may wish to challenge that, as is your right. However, I think it would be far more worthwhile for you, for me and the future of the country if you are able to persuade me that voting Labour is in my interests.

In order to do that, I want to be reassured about one issue. It is an issue that I have raised before with the Labour Party and received no answer. Therefore, my support hinges on your (or your representative’s) response.

I would like to be protected by the Equality Act 2010. Currently I am not. EA2010 is an otherwise excellent piece of legislation that protects British citizens and visitors to the UK. However, it has also created an underclass of people that are not protected when, in my opinion, they ought to be.

Those that do not experience sexual attraction and those sexually attracted to individuals that do not belong to the two prevailing genders are not protected by EA2010.

If you can reassure me that the Labour Party is committed to rectifying this oversight, I will be happy to support them in this election.

I eagerly await your response.

Yours,
Stephen.

It took them a while, but he replied. Well, I say he replied…

Dear Mr Broughton,

Thank you for your email regarding LGBT rights.

Labour is the Party of equality, and we believe that no person should suffer discrimination or a lack of opportunity because of their gender, gender identity, age, disability, race, religion or belief, socio-economic status or sexual orientation. In government, every decision we take will be taken with that in mind.

Labour has a proud record of leading progress on LGBT rights. Between 1997 and 2010 the Labour Government did more for the advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality than any other government in British history, from equalising the age of consent, to abolishing the homophobic Section 28 and introducing Civil Partnerships.

In opposition we have continued this record with Labour votes in Parliament securing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013. Equal marriage is an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain but now is not the time for complacency. We must not go backwards and there remain many areas where we still need to make progress, especially for transgender people. Labour will strengthen the legal rights of trans people by undertaking a review of gender identity law and policy, and we will work with the transgender community in tackling problems with access to gender care services.

Labour will deliver strong action to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools and workplaces and keep up the campaign for equality for LGBT people. Under Labour’s plan, supported by Stonewall, schools will show zero-tolerance of homophobia in the classroom and playground, and require all teachers to be trained to tackle homophobic bullying. And we will do more to protect victims of hate crime by extending legal protection for aggravated offences to hostility based on trans identity and sexual orientation, sending a strong message that hate crime will not be tolerated.

A Labour government would introduce the first international envoy for LGBT rights to champion gay and transgender rights internationally. Labour will continue to back efforts to combat discrimination against LGBT people in Europe and the wider world, and will fight for LGBT people to have the same right for their spouses to live and work in other EU countries, free from legal or any other obstacle.

This election is a choice between a failing plan and a better plan for working families. The Tories’ plan is failing working families because they choose to prioritise helping a few at the top. Labour’s plan is based on a simple truth: that Britain only succeeds when working families succeed. That’s why Labour’s plan offers a better future: for living standards, for the next generation, and for the NHS. You can read more about Labour’s better plan at www.labour.org.uk/manifesto

With kind regards,

On behalf of the Labour Party

So, it wasn’t a reply from him, and it wasn’t a reply about my email. The gist seems to be “we’ve done lots of things and we have plans for other things”.

There is good news for transgender people. I’m really happy about that. But this email was generally disappointing. Nothing about asexuality. Nothing about the Equality Act. And the last paragraph tells me that this issue that’s important to me is an irrelevance: I should be voting based on the economic recovery.

That’s not what this election is about for me. I’ve given each party the opportunity to respond to this issue and none have.

Creating support for change

By |February 7th, 2015|Asexuality updates|0 Comments

Yesterday I visited Loughborough to attend an LGBT staff group meeting. I’d been in touch because I was a little frustrated that they said they welcomed members that were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as identified in the Equality Act 2010. To their credit, they immediately changed their group name to the LGBT+ staff group.

It was particularly reassuring how seriously this group is being taken, with the Vice Chancellor attending the meeting and taking an interest in the issues that had been discussed. For my part, I introduced myself and stated why it was important for me to join.

I said that asexuality is known as the “invisible orientation”. We don’t generally make a fuss and keep ourselves to ourselves. While that works most of the time, it also means that we’re overlooked for things like the Equality Act and leave ourselves open to abuse and ignorance in general. If we’re to bring about change, we have to engage with those that can help us and find common ground.

I’m quite pleased I joined. They were a friendly and welcoming group and there is an intent to embrace more members and to raise awareness. We can help each other out in that regard.

Finding a home within MOGII groups

My feeder alerted me to an article from Inside Higher Ed about student groups that are embracing the inclusion of the asexual spectrum within their MOGII groups, often called LGBT groups or some derivative of that acronym.

While the article itself is a positive piece about including Ace people in such groups, the comments beneath the article display a common problem that asexuals face. There are some that are already within these groups (and outside) that resent the acknowledgement of additional sexual identities within the MOGII umbrella. The sentiment is one of dilution and diversion: that adding more letters (and thus more people) to the LGBT group (presumably) makes the group less of a minority.

Sadly, this sentiment permeates elsewhere, with the idea that acknowledging asexuality would open the floodgates. Unfortunately, it would appear that the politicians are equally hostile to the idea of acknowledging asexuality, lest they are approached by countless other MOGII groups. The status quo of ignorance and ambivalence would appear to be far more preferable.