I don’t much use words like “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “queer,” or even “homosexual” in OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, except for when I am quoting other people. Instead, I use “same-gender-loving.”
“Homosexual” comes off rather clinical and distant. People also quibble with emphasizing the sex part of sexual orientation (as opposed to emphasizing intimacy and relationship in a broader way).
“Queer” is a reclaimed slur that still hurts for some and means more than just a sexual of affectional orientation to others. As such, it can be imprecise when talking about sexual orientation and will often carry unintended baggage with it, depending on the reader/audience.
The common acronym LGBT(+) is problematic because some people use it without actually being conscious of how transgender people fit in, in any significant way. It’s usually not clear if someone is actually talking about sexual orientation or more broadly about sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, language around lesbian, gay, bisexual, and LGBT(+) often evokes the values and history of a fairly homogeneous white community (whether intended or not).
Some people of color, especially Black folk, have been using same-gender-loving (SGL) for at least a couple of decades as a way to sidestep the baggage of white-dominated, Euro-centric cultural assumptions that can be embedded in LGBT(+) language.
The new Pride flag(s) with black and brown stripes are also interventions in regards to this racial/cultural dynamic in LGBT(+) community. LGBT(+) communities are in no way immune from white supremacy and Christian supremacy. Sometimes such commitments are intentional and sometimes they are simply an unconscious inheritance from the larger culture. Regardless, these alignments have an impact.
I find “same-gender-loving” to be wonderfully precise phrase. It bypasses the alphabet soup of LGBT(+) variants and says exactly what it means. It is avoids the insider-language trap where you only know what LGBT(+) means if you already know what LGBT(+) is. It also gently signals awareness that LGBT(+) community is diverse in many ways.
I am not offering same-gender-loving as being a better or worse word choice. As always, it is important to use the preferred language of each individual whenever possible. I certainly do not encourage white folk to begin claiming SGL as a identity, but it is the language that I chose in OtherWise Christian in an attempt to speak broadly about sexual and affectional orientation.
Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on July 22, 2019.
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