Ever felt worried about saying the wrong thing and suddenly (and unintentionally) causing offense? Have you ever asked, “What does that mean?” or “Is that offensive?” or “Why do they do that?” but have been too afraid to ask? Well, if you missed part one of Gay Lingo 101 (the first ten things you should know…in no particular order other than alphabetical), check it out here. Hungry for more? Greg strikes again! Here’s his take on the next 10 things you should know:
LGBTQQI Is Not a Federal Agency: Part Two
By Greg Cassatt
1. EX-GAYS/CONVERSION THERAPY – The ex-gay movement and, namely, conversion therapy are among the most volatile and intensely abhorred topics in the homosexual community. The term “ex-gay” was first coined in 1980, and refers to a person who was once considered to be LGBT, but who no longer retains that identity due to conflicting personal or religious views. The ex-gay movement has been spearheaded by an interdenominational Christian organization called Exodus International since its founding in 1976. Exodus International and groups like it maintain the idea that the “sin of homosexual behavior” can be overcome and reversed through the use of prayer, counseling, and conversion therapy (sometimes called reparative therapy) – a highly refuted form of therapy that seeks to change sexual orientation through the use of intense psychological methods, and even in some cases, the use of electroconvulsive (electroshock) therapy. Since its beginning, mainstream health organizations have opposed the use of conversion therapy, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the World Health Organization. However, the problem arises when it comes to statistical evidence. Study upon study has been done on conversion therapy with varying results causing even more confusion. The truth is that sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Some argue that conversion therapy only achieves change in behavior rather than truly re-orienting sexuality. Others disagree. I think the reason why this becomes such a hot button issue is that, for most of us in the LGBT community, our parents either threatened us with, or actually put us in conversion therapy as a response to our coming out to them as adolescents. And for many of us, this caused additional pain and/or confusion in coming to terms with our sexuality.
2. GAY LIFESTYLE – The term “gay lifestyle” is a phrase that gets used quite a lot, and may come across offensive without actually meaning to be. What I’ve seen happen with this most often is that the Church or many fundamentalist groups will reference something negative as being a part of the “gay lifestyle” like promiscuity, serial monogamy, prostitution, child molestation, drugs, alcohol, etc. and how it is a destructive force in a certain person’s life. The problem here is that all of these qualities exist in the heterosexual world too, so attributing them to a gay lifestyle is derogatory and immediately creates a double standard. Similarly, “gay agenda” is a phrase to avoid as well for its pejorative origins.
3. GAY PRIDE – On June 28, 1969, a series of violent demonstrations broke out against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village district of New York City. The Stonewall riots marked the beginning of the American gay rights movement; and on June 28, 1970 the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York celebrating their anniversary. Each year since Stonewall, late June and early July have been host to a growing number of Gay Pride celebrations around the world in recognition of the riots. In addition, the Gay Pride events not only seek to provide a place where the gay community can come out and celebrate as one unified culture free of discrimination, but also to provide a place where straight allies and inquisitive heterosexuals can intermingle with the gay community to learn more about it.
4. GENDER EXPRESSION – Gender expression is the external method a person uses to express their gender identity, such as clothing, speech, movement, etc.
5. GENDER IDENTITY – Where gender expression is the external interpretation of a person’s gender, gender identity is how that person internally understands their gender. A person’s gender identity does not always correspond to their biological sex. Gender expression and gender identity are the key factors in understanding the transgender and transsexual communities.
6. GLBT/LGBT/LGBTQQI – Regardless of the various orders in which you may see these letters, they are all referring to the same groups, so the key is to understanding what the letters are. “L” is for Lesbian, describing female homosexuals. “G” is for Gay; Gay can be a gender universal term, but in this instance is representing male homosexuals. “B” is for Bisexuals. “T” is for the Transgender community. The double “Q” is for Queer and Questioning. This use of Queer is the subculture previously referenced. The Queer community consists of a group of individuals who believe that the gender specific terms of gay, lesbian, and bisexual are too restricting and opt for a term that is gender neutral. Questioning in this instance is referring to those still in the exploration and experimentation stages of their sexuality. The “I” is for Intersex individuals. Intersex is used to describe individuals born with genitalia and/or alternate sexual traits that make the determination of gender impossible, or those with genitalia that combine features of both genders. (Hermaphrodite is a term now considered offensive and is no longer used to describe intersexual people.)
7. LOVE THE SINNER, HATE THE SIN – This phrase has been used in modern society to describe everything from abortion to homosexuality. Typically, I hear this phrase from those people who actually don’t intend any harm, and are generally trying to reconcile support for their homosexual friends without trampling on any of their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality. The problem that arises here is not the intent behind it, but the actual phrasing of what is being said. Generally, there are three aspects of an individual that are fundamentally innate: race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This phrase defines homosexuality as a sin which, depending on your religious views, may be the case; however, this statement implies that a definitive, unchangeable part of who these people are is corrupt or wicked. So to love somebody as a person, but hate a part of them that they view as ultimately inseparable from them creates a conflict within itself. Aside from the well-meaning people that use this phrase, it has taken quite a hold in fundamentalist evangelical circles, strangely enough, and developed into more of a scapegoat phrase. Nevertheless, this concept actually does not exist anywhere in the Bible or any other Christian spiritual texts ever found. In reality, it is an overly misinterpreted quote from Mahatma Gandhi.
8. PRIDE FLAG/RAINBOW FLAG – Created in 1978 by California artist Gilbert Baker, the rainbow flag has become the international symbol for the LGBT community. There are six stripes from top to bottom: Red (Life), Orange (Healing), Yellow (Sunlight), Green (Nature), Blue (Serenity), and Purple (Spirit). Occasionally the pride flag will appear with an additional black stripe representing those in the community lost to AIDS.
9. PROPOSITION 8 – Proposition 8 (or the California Marriage Protection Act) can effectively be described as DOMA on a state level. By defining marriage as only a heterosexual union, Proposition 8 overturned the California Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in the state.
10. THAT’S GAY – The statement “that’s gay” has become a rampant colloquialism used to describe something stupid or disliked. Obviously, this type of use can have a negative impact on people coming to terms with their sexuality and the negative connotations they may incur as being identified as “gay” in that context. The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN, pronounced “glisten”) has launched a massive campaign against damaging language and the use of careless anti-LGBT speech called “ThinkB4YouSpeak”. Part of their web-initiative has been to place counters on their website that monitor the use of anti-LGBT speech across Twitter, with the goal of reducing the counts to zero.
Hopefully this has provided some insight and understanding into our community. If you’re ever unsure, honesty is always the best policy. The LGBT community is more than willing to explain something about our culture you may not understand or know about. Save yourself the stress and guesswork, and just go ahead and ask one of us; you’ll probably make a friend in the process.
Big thanks to Greg for sharing his perspective with us and helping us avoid some potential pitfalls! Feel free to leave questions and comments on any of the lingo here or in part one.