In Favor of Adding an ‘N’ To the Acronym -or- Removing Gender Identity from It Entirely.

I am an LGBTQQIAAHP activist. I respect and advocate for rights for every facet of our community: lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people, queer people, questioning people, intersex people, asexuals, allies, HIV infected/affected, and poly/pansexuals. This is a wide swath of the population, and each of these ten subgroups have a wide variety of needs that often do not overlap with the needs of the other nine.

In most instances, this is not a problem. We redouble our efforts and do what we can. However, there are many “gay” organizations that feel the need to prioritize the needs of a few over everyone else. These people are the ones who have garnered the most mainstream attention, claiming that LGBT rights ends with gay marriage equality. This is not only shockingly untrue for the rest of the community, but also short-sided in terms of gays and lesbians. No one is more ignored in this scenario than the transgender community.

Speak to any trans rights activist and they’ll be the first to tell you that the common conflation of sexuality and gender identity is a fallacy. Trans men and women are looked at by straight society as freaks, weird gay people who are obviously integrated in the drag subculture, but remain members of their assigned sex. Gender identity and sexuality are very, very different. Gender is internal. Sexuality is external.

The umbrella of LGBT, though a great community that attempts to support both gender and sexual minorities, adds to this common misunderstanding. Straight people see LGBT and think ‘gay,’ and are largely unable to see the difference between gay and transgender unless prejudice can be overcome and education given.

Other obstacles facing transgender people in terms of the integrity of our message come not from cisheteronormative society, but from within the community itself. “Transgender” has become an umbrella term, much like LGBT, that encompasses all people who identify with genders incongruent with their birth sex.

It’s true, the vast majority of people in this world are comfortable with the sex with which they were born. Most people born with XX chromosomes are fine with being women, and with XY being men. However, the gradient of those who aren’t is more colorful than a rainbow. There are people with XX chromosomes who are men, XYs who are women, the most common definition of transgender. However, there are those that fit somewhere in between the gender binary: bigender, agender, demigenders, genderqueer, genderfluid, etc.

The fact of the matter is that binary and nonbinary trans people have different needs in all areas: legally, medically, politically, etc. Binary people require medical transition of some kind to ease their mental health. Both binary and non binary alike need to be able to change their names without undue burden or expense. Nonbinary people need for society to change its understanding of gender and to accept that sex does not equal gender. The constant argument that people need physical dysphoria to qualify as trans (also known as “truscum” in online circles) absolutely applies to binary trans people. Current psychiatry only really accepts binary trans people/this definition of transness, and will only grant people fitting this description the services they need. That’s just the way it is right now.

Cisheteronormative society has not wrapped their minds around the concept of transness yet. It’s an unfortunate reality. They’re not going to as long as all of our online resources consist of us constantly and maliciously fighting each other. The harsh reality of the trans experience is that it won’t be easy to get the things that we need, binary or nonbinary. Binary trans people will probably have an easier time of it because we reside inside the framework of cis-society’s understanding of gender. It will be a much longer, much harder road for our nonbinary siblings. But, as it stands now, we’re a hindrance to each other. 

If the LGBT community would like to stand strong in its support of all sexual and gender “minorities,” we should add an “N” to accommodate our nonbinary members. The constant pissing contests of who’s more trans needs to stop and if there is an entirely separate letter and a new vocabulary, maybe it will.

If you don’t identify with your sex assigned at birth, you are a nonconformer. If you identify with another binary gender, you’re trans. If you don’t, you’re nonbinary. It’s really not hard. Stop fighting each other and start fighting for what we all need.

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7 thoughts on “In Favor of Adding an ‘N’ To the Acronym -or- Removing Gender Identity from It Entirely.

  1. Interesting post. I like how you are trying to find ways to avoid in-fighting and build a better, stronger coalition. I’m not sure I agree, but you definitely got me thinking! I may right a post of my own further exploring adding an “N” to the acronym.

    I am a transsexual man, and I can definitely see how I have different needs from nonbinary folks. At the same time, seeing as society is slamming us all with so much of the same rain, I think it makes sense to share an umbrella. It’s true, neutral pronouns and unisex restrooms may be more of an issue for nonbinary folks, while access to medical treatment may be more of a priority for trans women and men. But we have a lot in common, too–name changes (like you said), changes in the basic understanding of sex and gender, stigma and ignorance, civil rights issues such as ENDA, etc.

    Although in-fighting is a serious problems, especially in certain forums, I feel like on the whole, we are working together and making progress together. I’m just not sure whether it would be a good idea to break-up this little group–it seems like that would divide us further. People outside the community don’t always get it, but in my observation, trans people understand that “transgender” is an umbrella and we’re not all the same. Could be my binary privilege showing, though.

    Thanks for raising this interesting topic!

  2. Like this post a lot!

    In general though, I tend to think in smaller terms, and don’t find where I’m at to fit in with statements that claim large swaths of experiences, such as, “Current psychiatry only really accepts binary trans people/this definition of transness, and will only grant people fitting this description the services they need.”

    It may be true overall still, unfortunately, but if I believed in that, I’d be paralyzed by what others think I should be/do. Instead of perpetuating this message and looking for things that need to change within our community, I try to assert different paths, even if it’s just things I’m doing as one person… And I’m amazed by how easily I’ve been able to access what I need, once I got over the fear that I’m not entitled/eligible…

    I guess what I’m trying to say is: the more positive stores that are out there, the better off we will all be. And there will always be arguments over language, inclusivity, privilege, etc. The most powerful thing, in my opinion, is increased visibility in positive, constructive ways, to drown out all the drama and nonsense…

    Thanks for an insightful post!

  3. last paragraph, I wrote “stores” but meant “stories.”

    But, I suppose I would very much like to see more positive stores out there as well – shopping saps the soul!

  4. Word, shopping is a quite negative experience.

    Honestly, I love that your experience is non-congruent with what I was saying, because that gives me a lot of hope. If only we could make people stop arguing and shed more light on the positive, we’d be much less sad, collectively?

  5. I feel like the acronym is already too long, lol, but I totally get what you are going for here. It makes sense, although I’m not sure I’d see it catching on. I am asexual myself (and cisgender) and feel comfortable enough identifying with “LGBTQ” where the Q can be a catch-all that could include me, lol, I don’t feel like it’s super important for me to have a letter in the whole acronym, and after LGBTQIA I can never remember any more letters – isn’t 7 the maximum number a normal person can handle? Lol. I pretty much always call it the LGBTQ nowadays, excluding the I and the A, though, and anything else at the end. Maybe it would be smarter to switch over to GSRM – Gender, Sexual, and Romantic Minorities, a more inclusive and shorter acronym. Then non-binary awareness could be part of explaining gender minorities, and idk.

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