March 19, 2013
Queer, bicurious, pansexual: how we love to hate labelling ourselves
Are you lesbian? Gay? Queer? Bisexual? Nonstraight? Questioning? The BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (BFI LLGFF) have decided that maybe it’s time they changed their name, and they’re looking for suggestions for what it could change to.
LLGFF is not the most elegant of names, and as well as being rather a mouthful, it’s not particularly accurate. It’s not just a festival of lesbian and gay films, because people don’t always fit into those two neat categories.
Sexuality is a spectrum, and it’s as difficult to divide and categorise as the spectrum of light. Where does blue end and green start on a rainbow? There certainly aren’t just 7 colours – just take a look at Crayola names, or the amusing and slightly insane colour survey from XKCD.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, or LGBT for short, is often used a catch-all for people who don’t fit into the box marked ‘heterosexual’. But not everyone fits in that either. What about people who feel ‘bisexual’ is too binary, or ‘lesbian’ too permanent? Or the people who don’t consider gender particularly important – either their own or other people’s?
‘Queer’ is heralded by some as the magic word that ends all these problems – a wonderful umbrella term that encompasses everyone who isn’t 100% heterosexual. Many people love it and use it quite happily, but for a significant minority it will always be a term of abuse, and no amount of reclamation and rehabilitation will make it fit back into polite society.
The LLGFF have got a real challenge on their hands. All organisations that speak to non-heterosexual audiences face the same problem – Lesbilicious included. We took the decision early on to use ‘lesbian / bisexual’ to refer to all women who don’t consider themselves to be straight, but we do sometimes say ‘lesbian’ instead – and in doing so accidentally exclude readers who don’t identify as lesbian.
So what’s the solution? An alphabet soup of acronyms, which may include more people, but may enrage others who feel it’s empty politically correct posturing? Or a random word that excludes everyone and no-one, explains nothing and confuses everyone?
Whatever LLGFF do about their name, most people will probably think it’s the wrong decision. In a way, that’s positive. People are complex, and so, inevitably, if there are an infinite number of ways that people can define themselves, there will never be one category big enough to fit us all.
What label do you use to describe your sexuality? And what do you think the LLGFF should change its name to, if at all?
Shit straight girls say to lesbians
The lesbian version of the ‘shit girls say…’ meme that’s been doing the rounds.
April 17, 2012