learning the queer alphabet

When it comes to the LGBTQIA alphabet soup of sexuality my interest begins and ends at the G. It is how I identify and who I am. The other letters are just that, letters. I imagine I am not alone in my selfishness. For many lesbians I’m sure it begins and ends at the L; for bisexuals, the B; and for those in the trans community, it’s all about the T.

Not that I am completely ignorant. I have done the occasional bits of homework in an attempt to familiarize myself with the LBTQI and A-s of this sexuality shorthand. In college, I briefly flirted with bisexuality. Once upon a time I read Jeffrey Eugenides’ intersex novel Middlesex. More recently I cheered on Felicity Huffman as she rode her magical penis to an Oscar nomination in Transamerica and I applauded as Jeffrey Tambor embraced his inner vagina on TV’s Transparent. I even dated a lesbian once in high school. Surely those collective experiences meant I was now exempt from the LGBTI portion of the final exam.

(I will submit to the Q and A portion, however.)

Yes, I’m being facetious. There is much more to these letters than a single book or movie or TV show or any of my misguided attempts at being heterosexual could ever sum up. Despite my personal explorations the truth is I know next to nothing about the daily struggles of the LGBTQIA community. What does it actually mean to be trans? How is questioning different from being bisexual? If someone is asexual is that the same as being celibate? And what exactly is intersex?

I should know these things, but I don’t. It’s a personal failing. Although if I had to guess, it’s a personal failing I share with many others in our ever-expanding queer community. And that’s a shame. Because we are so much more than a single letter; we are more than what others perceive us to be. The truth is we are in this together — one for all, and all for one. My gay sisters embrace your lesbian brothers!

LGBTQIA.

I know it’s confusing and a bit overwhelming, this initialism that just won’t end. Before long our gender identity banners will span the length of a city block, reading like a Snellen eye chart. I, for one, celebrate this inclusivity. And while it’s refreshing that everyone is invited to the party, shouldn’t we know a bit about exactly who it is we’ve invited?

Someone recently posted an article on Facebook about cis gender. I have no idea what that is. Faced with yet another term in this roulette wheel of sexuality I had a near-meltdown and briefly considered divorcing my husband and marrying a woman. The straights keep it so vanilla.

But not wanting to give back my free toaster, I turned to the Google gods for some basic answers. (Don’t judge me. It’s a start.) I learned that transgender is the state of one’s gender identity or expression not matching one’s assigned sex. It is independent of sexual orientation. As for questioning, it is just that – the questioning of one’s gender, sexual identity, or sexual orientation. I also discovered that the Q sometimes stands for queer. Celibacy is a choice. Asexuality is not. To be intersex is to be unable to biologically identify as exclusively male or female. As for cis gender, well, I’m still a bit at sea on that one.

I realize all of the answers to my (or rather, I hope, our) questions will not be found on the internet or in the pages of a well-written book. I know how we identify is far more complex than a Google search. I believe each identity is a person and each person is a story and each story is unique. If we want to learn, we need to listen to one another. We — all of us in this LGBTQIA Scrabble-fuck — are stewards of this movement. Inclusivity and understanding must begin with us. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves so that when we stand, we stand together.

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