We are now LGBTQ (depending who you ask)

Just when Americans were starting to understand what the term “LGBT” meant — it’s the new term for the gay community — the organization formerly known as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has now changed its name to “The National LGBTQ Task Force.”

According to a piece written by NLGBTQTF (I guess?) executive director Rea Carey, this is part of a larger move by the Task Force to focus on other progressive issues that aren’t necessarily L, G, B or T.

Carey doesn’t explain in the piece what the Q actually means. Traditionally it has meant either “queer” (an umbrella term for gay and other things) or “questioning.”

Queer bothers some gay people, as it was (still is) used as a slur against us. Still, the term doesn’t really bother me, personally.

Questioning is an interesting one. It’s become popular in the past several years on college campuses in the US. The way it’s been explained to me is that Q is an effort to include people who aren’t sure if they’re gay, or bi, or trans. So we call them “questioning,” and add the Q to make them feel welcome.

For example, Oregon State University uses LGBTQ.


But check out the university’s full definition of who the LGBTQ office caters to:

Welcome, our office serves to meet the needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Allied communities, as well as those who identify as Same Gender Loving, Two Spirit, Asexual, Pansexual, and Poly-Amorous.


Actor John de Lancie playing the character “Q” on Star Trek – The Next Generation. (Q always struck me a bit gay.)

Same gender loving,” you ask?

SGL was adapted as an Afrocentric alternative to what are deemed Eurocentric homosexual identities (e.g. gay and lesbian) which do not culturally affirm or engage the history and cultures of people of African descent. Specifically, the term SGL affirms Black homosexual and bisexual men and women through its African American conceptual origins, African inspired iconography, philosophy, symbols, principles, and values[2][not in citation given] The term SGL usually has broad, important and positive personal, social, and political purposes and consequences. SGL is anti-hate and anti-anti-Black.

Back to “questioning.” I’m not sure I entirely understand the argument, as I was definitely queer in college — though I wasn’t out, I knew by then that this gay thing wasn’t going away — and I’d have not been caught dead at the local gay group meetings, Q or no Q.

I also don’t particularly understand how gay, or bi, or trans groups need to add a Q, but no other group out there does. You don’t, for example, see women’s groups adding a Q to their name, to welcome men who are questioning whether they might in fact be trans women. And, I’d be curious if bisexual and trans groups (not LGBT, but groups particularly devoted to those communities) are adding Q to their names as well. I’ve not seen it.

I get the intent, to be welcoming. I’m not however sure that the name-change is effective, particularly after the American public has yet to fully comprehend the last name change, when we became LGBT.

And it’s more problematic than that. The Task Force now uses LGBTQ. Whereas our largest national gay group, the Human Rights Campaign, uses LGBT.

And guess what foreigners use? Typically, LGBTI (I for “interex“), or LGBTIA (the A often means asexual, but I just googled it and sometimes it means “ally”). Then why don’t other progressive groups have allies too? I’m an environmental ally. And I care about women’s issues, and race. Why is it always the gay groups that keep adding letters?

And it’s not just abroad. Here’s a conference last year in San Diego, devoted to “LGBTQIA youth.”

Star Trek star George Takei speaks at a conference devoted to "LGBTQIA" youth in San Diego in 2013.

Star Trek star George Takei speaks at a conference devoted to “LGBTQIA” youth in San Diego in 2013.

And ILGA, “the” international gay group, uses LGBTI, but not Q or A.

Now, one could argue that the ever-expanding abbreviation is a sign of our forward-looking-ness. That gays add it because we “get it,” and perhaps other groups don’t as of yet. And I suspect that’s exactly the intent. And as gays are on the cusp of getting everything they/we want, it’s perhaps understandable why gay rights groups want to reorganize themselves, lest they be put out to pasture by their own success.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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