Happy LGBTQQI Pride Month, everybody! Just in case the news escaped you, the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning is set to declare June 2013 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Questioning and Intersex Pride month.
Whew. I hope I didn’t forget any of the letters in that ever-growing acronym. First, let me commend the county on giving the non-straights a shoutout and further offer a high-five to the concept of inclusiveness on both the county’s part and the worldwide pride movement which continues widening its reach. As the proposed proclamation states, diversity is a great strength and the country strives to promote the principles of equality and justice. In other words, everybody has inalienable rights — life, liberty, pursuit of happiness — not just those who fit the heterosexual mold.
That said, LGBTQQI? Really? The first four letters and perhaps even one of the “q’s” (I’m thinking “questioning”) is pretty clear and widely accepted. But if the entire label hadn’t been spelled out, the other two letters would have thrown me for a loop. The acronym is getting out of control. It doesn’t roll off the tongue; it barely fits on a T-shirt.
Acronyms are supposed to provide a user-friendly shorthand for phrases, groups and labels that on their own are too long and clunky. The acronyms themselves aren’t supposed to be so long one wish the shortened version also had its own condensed version.
Even when short and sweet, some acronyms admittedly still are problematic especially in the world of government. C/CAG — this SWF can never remember if it is the City/County Association of Governments or the other way around? ERAF? Print journalists shudder with every budgetary story requiring the actual spelling out of and definition of educational revenue augmentation fund. Some acronyms become so ingrained in history and culture, they remain in place long after the accepted usage of individual words have passed. The NAACP, for example. Those last two letters represent a label that isn’t palatable any longer yet the organization continues to thrive without full-fledged rebranding.
The expansion of text messaging is only adding to the widespread use of acronyms. People once LOL’d. Then they LMAO followed by ROFL. Now, OMG, they do every sort of X,Y and Z, all of which involve shortened lingo that IDK.
But while this shorthand silliness might work on a smartphone — especially for drivers who refuse to stop texting while driving or those who manage to write novel equivalents with one thumb — a never-ending trail of letters in an attempt to address every known demographic is a little groan-inducing. The desire to be comprehensive is a great goal and one that should be met, particularly when addressing populations that might still feel on the fringe. But LFBTQQI is too much. What happens when another set of individuals with different characteristics needs adding? How many letters is just too much?
Granted, the simple solution is a basic “non-straights” label but that is both inelegant and inaccurate. Who is to say the questioning don’t end up identifying that way ultimately? Why do we assume intersex individuals (once known by the term hermaphrodite) don’t also?
Why not then take a cue from a growing number of school organizations established to promote tolerance and acceptance of everybody along the spectrum. Their answer is GLOW: Gay, Lesbian or Whatever. The catch-all acronym is catchy, it is accurate and it closes up any loopholes or inadvertent exclusions possible with the LGBTQQI moniker.
It also helps stave off the chance people will look at the mysterious acronym and ask WTF?
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.