Labrys

Gallery

This gallery contains 6 photos.

A labrys is a symbolic double-headed ax found in ancient Minoan and Hellenic culture. Due to the abundance of labryses in Minoan ruins on the isle of Crete, and labryses featured with women in Minoan images, speculation by scholars linking … Continue reading

Ladies of Llangollen

Gallery

This gallery contains 7 photos.

The Ladies of Llangollen were two upper-class women who left their families in Ireland at the end of the eighteenth century to settle together for fifty years in Llangollen, Wales. The couple gained renown for their hospitality, charm, and their eccentricities, which included wearing elements of men’s clothing with an abundance of large brooches, and refusing to ever spend the night away from home. The Ladies are of particular interest to scholars of Gay folklife because of the ways in which they have been portrayed. Their contemporaries describe them as amusing oddities, virgin recluses, and steadfast friends. Almost 200 years later, LGBTQ writers would reinterpret those same records and transform the Ladies into Lesbian icons in a lifelong same-sex marriage. Continue reading

Leather

Gallery

This gallery contains 17 photos.

Leather refers to a community that favors leather clothing (including chrome and denim gear), sexual experimentation, and dominant-submissive role-playing. Although most often used in terms of the Gay male community, Leatherfolk include Straight, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex. Continue reading

Lesbian

Gallery

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Lesbian refers to romantic and sexual desire between women, indicates an identity (a woman who loves women who considers herself part of the Lesbian community) and to erotic-romantic activities that may occur between female same-sex partners. The term “lesbian” is derivative of Lesbos, an island in the Aegean Sea, which was home to Sappho, an Ancient Greek poet known for her homoerotic poetry. Continue reading

Lesbian Avengers

Gallery

This gallery contains 8 photos.

The Lesbian Avengers is also highly critical of the stereotypes against Gays and Lesbians. The group’s signature slogan, “We Recruit,” is an appropriation of an anti-homosexual stereotype (that LGBTQ people recruit children) deployed by the Christian Right. This appropriation is very closely linked with the act of eating fire, a symbolic expression first performed by the New York Lesbian Avengers that became an important part of many Lesbian Avengers events. Continue reading

Lesbos

Gallery

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Lesbos is an island in the Aegean Sea near the coast of modern-day Turkey. The third largest Greek island, Lesbos (also known as Lesvos, Mitylene, Metelin, and Midili) is a site for Lesbian pilgrimage because it was the home of Sappho, a sixth-century BCE poet whose writing fragments include romantic verses dedicated to women. Due to the association of Sappho the Lesbian (citizen of Lesbos) with same-sex romantic-erotic attraction, women with same-sex orientation have been called sapphists and lesbians regardless of their places of origin. Same-sex orientation for women was pathologized in late nineteenth century medical discourse as lesbianism and sapphism. Since Gay Liberation, Lesbos has become a site of pilgrimage for Lesbians around the world. Continue reading

LGBTQ

LGBTQ is an initialism (an abbreviation made from initials) created to give a name to people with atypical sexual orientation, gender expression, or sexual physiology.

campushealthmedia.arizona.edu/mental.htm, April 2012. Top image: uasasonoma.org/teensite/home_lgbtq.html, April 2012

Origins: The Challenge of Naming

The LGBTQ initialism was created in an effort to be as inclusive as possible without recklessly collapsing distinct identities under a single moniker. More letters have been added over the years, along with the original four:

G – Gay
L – Lesbian
B – Bisexual
T – Transgendered or Trans,

then

Q – Queer or Questioning
U – Unsure or Union
I – Intersex
A – Allies or Asexual
P – Pansexual or Polyamorous
2S (TS) – Two-Spirit
O – Omnisexual or Other

There is no consensus of what the initials should be. The effort to apply a blanket name to the entire community of Gay-related groups has proven difficult. For much of history, many names applied to Gay people have been in-group code that was inaccurate, overly medical, politically charged, and pejorative. Using the acronym also suggests compartmentalizing various groups apart from each other without recognizing that people may belong to more than one category.

From University of Missouri-Kansas City's LGBTQI website (umkc.edu/lgbt/LGBTQIA/Home_Blog/Home_Blog.html, April 2012)

The potential for the initialism to become unwieldy has been an issue for the community. In Gay folk speech, one of the names for the acronym has been alphabet soup, referring to an almost indecipherable mass of seemingly random letters that is not understood outside of a few politically correct activists. As such, the acronym may do the opposite of what it was designed to do: its opaqueness may render the entire collective invisible.

Sequence

The sequence of the letters created its own controversy. People are not in total agreement whether the order should begin with a gender-neutral term (Gay) that has not always been gender-neutral (after Stonewall, “gay” became equivalent to “gay male”), or with Lesbian, a group that faces double discrimination of sex and orientation. Because the history of Gay Liberation includes marginalization of women, L comes before G in most forms of the acronym.

etsy.com/listing/82852526/tlgb-translesbiangaybi-pin-125-from, April 2012

Some groups place “Gay” further down the sequence in favor of other identities. That practice is usually a sign that those groups identify “Gay” with “born male,” and are striving to minimize patriarchal discourse and heteronormal dichotomies within the community.

Letters of Reference

Some disparate groups identify using the same letter. Transgendered, Transsexual and Transvestite are closely related, though not synonymous – nevertheless, the term Trans has been used to represent all three. “Questioning” is sometimes represented as distinct from “Queer” by use of a question mark, in the process causing confusion for the reader (“I just donated to the local LGBTQ? civil rights organization.”). Straight Allies are sometimes referenced with an S followed by an A, but that could cause confusion if the A is taken to mean “Asexual.” The all-inclusive O for Other creates the most ironic of problems for an effort to include as many people as possible. Although O has been used for those who are isolated and alienated for being different, it also resembles a nameless “miscellaneous” category. In addition, “other” is often used in reference to detrimental marginalizing, as in a group being “Othered.”

A playful take on the LGBT acronym: "OKay To (2) Be Me" (ok2bme.ca/content/glossary-symbols, April 2012)

Common Usage

LGBT and LGBTQ are the most commonly used variations (perhaps for their brevity), however other variants can be found, particularly among organizations. This list includes GLBTA (University of Iowa), LGBTQA (University of Vermont), LGBTQI (University of California-San Diego), and LGBTTIQQ2S (Toronto Pride) in the year 2010. LGBTTTQ?UIASAP2SOOU has yet to catch on anywhere.

– Bowen Riley and Mickey Weems
QEGF Authors and Articles
QEGF Introduction
Comments? Post them on our Encyclopedia facebook page.

Further reading:

National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association Stylebook. http://www.nlgja.org/resources/stylebook.html, accessed July 2010.

GLBT Student Pride Network Directory of Campus Organizations. http://www.glbtstudentpride.com/United%20States%20Colleges/unitedstates.htm, accessed July 2010.

LGBTQIA Glossary – UC Davis LGBT Student Resource Center. http://lgbtcenter.ucdavis.edu/lgbt-education/lgbtqia-glossary, accessed July 2010.