LGBT is not Synonymous with Gay

It really annoys me when people say LGBT when what they mean is gay, specifically. There are a whole 2 (or 3) letters you’re leaving off when you do that. And guess what? The letter I identify with in LGBT is the T–the one that gets left off the most. It’s… aggravating. It makes me feel invisible, erased, like no one cares. Even worse, there’s been this recent petition to formally drop the T from LGBT (I’m not even going to link to this–I can’t find a good link without reading through a bunch of transphobic, cissexist bullshit, and I can’t deal with that right now, ok? It’s not like it’s hard to find on google, anyway). The reasoning for the petition is insulting, transphobic, and mirrors some of the ridiculous objections to transgender rights that I’m used to seeing from the conservative Christian right. Granted, the counter-petition against it has a lot more signatures, and more than one of the organizations the original petition was aimed at have spoken out against it. But… fuck.

…This was not supposed to be a rant about that idiotic ‘drop the T’ petition. As disturbing as it to see that sort of transphobia coming from within the LGBT community, what I really wanted to talk about is how a lot of people (most commonly people outside of the LGBT community) keep using LGBT as a synonym for ‘gay’, and that’s not ok. I suppose the charitable assumption would be that people just don’t know any better, and that a lot of people are accustomed to seeing the acronym used that way. That’s… probably a pretty accurate assumption, in most cases. It doesn’t make it stop being hurtful, though.

I’m not trying to say that every single time someone uses the acronym LGBT, they need to talk about lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people. It’s fine to talk about the LGBT community as a whole without explicitly addressing every single facet of that community every single time the acronym LGBT is used. I mean, that’s the reason the term exists, isn’t it? So there can be an umbrella term, a shorthand that people can use to refer to the community as a whole, to the distinct but related and overlapping groups that make it up. This is not what I’m objecting to.

What I am objecting to is people using the term LGBT when they explicitly mean gay (or gay and lesbian). For example, when I was taking a class on the psychology of prejudice, my professor had a power point slide listing examples of prejudice against LGBT people… except every single example was about gay or lesbian people. There was not one single example about bi or trans people. This would have been okay… if she hadn’t explicitly used the term LGBT in the slide heading. But she did. And as a trans person in her class, it made me feel erased, and very uncomfortable.

That one incident by itself wouldn’t be so bad, except that it is part of a much broader pattern. This isn’t just people occasionally leaving out the L, G, B or T when using the acronym LGBT. This is people leaving out the B, and especially the T, so frequently that I wonder if there aren’t a lot of people who literally think LGBT is synonymous with gay (or gay/lesbian). After all, it’s readily apparent that a lot of people think LGBT refers to sexual orientation (hint: trans is not a sexual orientation). How many times have I seen ignorant articles talking about sexual orientation, and only sexual orientation, and still using the acronym LGBT? You know, you can use the acronym LGB to talk about sexual orientation*. In fact, that’s better than using LGBT. Because trans is not a sexual orientation.

On that note, I really wish that people who design survey questions asking about sexual orientation would not put transgender as an option. I feel like I’m repeating myself here, but trans is not a sexual orientation. It’s really, really frustrating to run into this. I am trans, and I also have a sexual orientation. As it happens, I am asexual. Which I am really particular about wanting to put on any questionnaire or survey that asks for sexual orientation, because I want people to know that asexuals exist. One of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had with this was when I volunteered to help with a research survey, and when they asked about sexual orientation, the only options were straight, gay, lesbian, bi, unsure, and refuse to respond. None of these options remotely describe my actual response. I am not straight, gay, lesbian, or bi. I am not remotely unsure; I know I’m asexual. I certainly didn’t refuse to respond. I immediately told them I was asexual. But the person who was doing the interview had to put down ‘refuse to respond’ anyway, even though they listened to and entirely understood my complaints about the question, fully acknowledged the issue, and gave the impression that they themselves would be passing on my complaints, and that I was not the only one with this issue.

…I might be getting a little off-topic here. Have I ever mentioned how awesome it is that the LGBT+ people on my campus explicitly include asexuals? Because it’s really awesome.

*Please note that this entirely different to the ‘drop the T’ petition I mentioned earlier. The petition was a transphobic effort to exclude trans people from groups campaigning for LGBT rights. Using LGB instead of LGBT when specifically talking about sexual orientation is about realizing that trans is not a sexual orientation.


7 thoughts on “LGBT is not Synonymous with Gay

  1. I’m glad that you made me aware of this topic. I take LGBT rights VERY seriously, getting into many arguments because for some reason, to some people, transgender people “aren’t real.” It makes me sooooooo mad honestly. I will always fight for LGBT rights. Btw, have you seen Fox News? They are SOOO unbelievably transphobic. Ugh!!! Hopefully the world will accept soon.


  2. Thank you for posting this article. So much information. As a christian (not conservative nor far right) I am sorry for the lack of knowledge and acceptance. I’ve probably done what you mentioned myself, not to be mean but for lack of knowledge. Writing an article like this is the best thing you can do to get information out so others (like me) can learn and understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t gotten a chance to read this all, and I certainly hope to come back to it (my memory sucks…) but I did read to the part of the transphobia in the LGB community. In my personal experience, I’ve found more transphobia from the adult GBL community then I have from the straight community, and I live in a pretty conservative area… It really sucks

    Liked by 1 person

    • That does suck. I haven’t personally run into much transphobia from the LGB community, except for occasional stuff like this on the internet. But, most of my interaction with LGB people in meatspace has been on a college campus, so it’s not surprising that my experiences would be different. The LGBT group on my campus is also really welcoming to ace folks, which is really awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you haven’t run into it, that really makes me happy for you. ^.^
        That’s so good that thy are welcoming to ace individuals. I know it’s incredibly difficult for a lot if people to wrap their head around, myself included. Unfortunately, too often, a lack of understanding leads to fear and intolerance, so, very cool. I’m truly happy that you have such a welcoming space

        Liked by 1 person

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