The Ever-Growing Acronym: Helpful or Harmful?

When I was a kid, there was a tidy little four-letter acronym that was thrown around quite often. To represent a group of people who were vilified and discriminated against because of their sexuality, because of who they loved and shared their intimate time with. That acronym was LGBT. Most people are aware that it stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (or Transexual). Over the years, this acronym has grown and seems to continue to do so to include people who identify in many different ways and it varies from country to country. The most recent version I have seen is LGBTICQPAN; the additional letters representing Intersex, Curious, Queer/Questioning, Pansexual, Asexual and Non-Binary. Some have argued even this acronym is not enough and further letters should be added to include Transvestites, Polyamorous, HIV affected and Unsure. More controversially, some have suggested inclusion of Straight identifying people as Allies, however this has not been widely added.

But I can’t help wondering if this acronym is a good or bad thing. I feel like every time another letter is added, we are merely being presented with another way to label someone. Of course people have the right to identify themselves however they choose, but should we be encouraging this kind of thinking? To me, whether someone is LGBTICQPAN or TPHUSA, they are all…people. People who deserve love, respect, dignity, freedom and equal rights. No matter which letter a person considers themselves, their rights and protections should be the same as for everyone else.

It seems this acronym only serves to call attention to how people are different, offering up an excuse to divide, to segregate, to exclude. I have no doubt that this is not its intention, that it is in fact aiming to include everyone. But is that what it’s actually doing? The increased use, political correctness and popularity of the acronym almost obligates people to identify as something. But why should they? Isn’t being human enough?

I don’t have the answer to these questions. All I do know is the last thing this world needs is another way to divide us all. I encourage everyone, regardless of how you identify, to think about what the use of this acronym really means and achieves. I am hopeful it will remain a beacon of hope and serve only positive means for everyone.

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