The Letters Problem (and Just Maybe How to Solve It)

This article is no longer my opinion. I leave it up as a record to what I once thought.

Hi there. I’m Andrew, an 18-year-old Texan-born American expat living in the UK, and I’m pansexual.

Of all the information in that blurb, I think that last bit is the one that the most people will be confused by.

Pansexuality is a lot like bisexuality, except that pansexuality requires us to acknowledge and accept that gender and sex are separate, and that there are more than two genders, and prevents us from putting gender-based limits on our attraction. Bisexuality, by comparison, does not require either of those things, and does not prevent one from limiting themselves to a finite number of genders that one is attracted to. This doesn’t make one better than the other, of course, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the common acronym for the community of people who have faced societal oppression or discrimination due to their sexuality or gender.

News outlets, academic papers, government briefings, laws, speeches, and even our daily conversation seems to prefer the term “LGBT”. This stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. A lot of people think these are all the “non-straights” there are. Not surprising, as this acronym only chooses to include those four groups, and it’s been in use since the 1990s, when people decided that it ought to be brought to the public consciousness that it wasn’t just “the gay community”. If someone’s feeling particularly allyful, they might write LGBT+, to indicate that they know there are others out there, but don’t have the time, the space, or the knowledge to list them all. But for the really hardcore, there’s LGBTQQIAP, or LGBTQQIP2SA, or any number of acronyms that try to include everyone but inevitably miss a few people, or worse, try to include allies (who do not belong in any acronyms for this community. No question. If you liked a sports team, you wouldn’t expect to get your own number even though you don’t play for them, right? More relevant: when has someone been denied the right to marry because they’re an ally?)

The case is made that “LGBT” is the tidiest and easiest to remember and say. Its advocates argue that while it’s sad that it excludes people, there’s really no better alternative. MOGAI and similar suggestions have been put forward, but people who have been oppressed societally but have their sexual orientation and gender recognised and normalised and treated with respect try to claim their way into them, and sometimes people who can’t prove any societal oppression at all but claim they’re oppressed (cough-kinksters-cough) try to get in on some of them as well. Variants of LGBT end up ignoring more people than just LGBT does. Expanded versions are theoretically infinite, and often times include people who have said they don’t feel like they should be, such as many intersex people, or don’t face oppression comparable to others on the list, such as heteroromantic asexual and heterosexual aromantic people. Really, we haven’t had any better options, and it looks like LGBT would never be ousted.

Until now. (cue dramatic sound effect)

AGOId, the acronym I’d like to put forward, stands for Abnormalised Genders, Orientations, and Identities. “Abnormalised” and “Identities” are probably the two most important words here. Abnormalised means that society considers these people’s genders, sexual or romantic orientations, or another part of their identity that they have faced oppression or violence on a societal level for, to be abnormal, and takes actions against them, such as discrimination or violence, to ensure that they remain to be seen that way. This prevents people who have no attraction or gender that they are discriminated against for from being able to claim that they are included in the acronym.

The acronym includes people based on gender and/or orientation, and any other part of their identity that they have been oppressed or endured violence or discrimination for. This means that intersex people can be included, but they don’t have to be — it’s an individual decision. Really, anyone that can be included can decide not to be personally. In addition, the inclusion of the word “Identities” allows the acronym to grow and include other groups in the future without necessarily having to expand the letters.

The acronym also bears resemblance to the Irish Gaelic word “agóid”, meaning “protest” (which is fitting since our community is rather known for that), and can be pronounced like the word.

I know how hard it will be to get people to adopt this acronym, which is why I’m writing this article and will be sharing it as much as I can. If you like this idea, I encourage you to use it! It includes everyone that wants to be in the full LGBT acronym, but lets those who are divided opt out, is specific enough to keep The Straights from wiggling into it, and can gracefully include new people as well. Give it a try!