Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-08-15
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Journalist explains history of LGBTQ acronym at event
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Liz Baudler
2018-02-27

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


"I'd like to apologize on behalf of my entire generation," longtime journalist E.J. Graff told the audience who attended her lecture "LGBTQ: How the Amazingly Awkward Acronym Got Foisted On You" at Northwestern's Institute for Sexual and Gender Minorities in Health ( ISGMH ). The Feb. 21 talk was part of ISGMH's Current Issues in LGBTQ Health Series.

Before beginning, Graff admitted that her history of "LGBTQ" was personally slanted. "The reason we have this acronym is that the identity is always changing," she explained, before launching into a brief history of social perception. In beginning an often humorous talk—"They have actual words with vowels!" Graff joked about the labels of other identity groups—Graff set up an x and y axis, one of which represented sexual orientation and one of which represented gender presentation. Originally, the two concepts were viewed separately and had very different levels of societal acceptance. "Once upon a time, it wasn't who you desired, it was what you appeared to be," Graff explained, pointing out that the historic label "invert" was derogatory and that people who took on the behaviors of the "opposite" sex were considered the dangerous ones.

But around 1920, according to Graff, the script flipped for multiple reasons. Birth control suddenly made sex more about desire than procreation, and capitalism opened up new venues of work for women. Suddenly, who one desired was the suspect category, and by the 1950s, the word "homosexual"—invented, as Graff said, "to connote desire without judgment"—became nearly synonymous with evil, although laws enforced ideas of gender-appropriate presentation.

The community's "secret word" was "gay" and Graff explained that, to mainstream it, it became an act of defiance. "'Gay is good' was a really radical slogan," said Graff. As feminism blossomed, it became clear that the "L" needed equal time, and Graff even recalled fighting to put the L first in the 1980s. Yet that was only two groups, and as Graff pointed out, "the problem with claiming absolute identity is what do you do with the people on the borderline?"

Graff also dissected the mid-'70s move towards androgyny among lesbians. "It was a big breakout when I got myself a purse!" she joked. As kids, she said, "many of us first noticed not our attraction but our gender expression." Not feeling like there was an option that provided a release from gender, people, including Graff, "looked back and reinterpreted our youth" to view their early discarding of gender norms as a sign of their queerness. But, at least among lesbians, Graff said, "all of us started realizing that rejecting gender is just as constricting as a gender that just doesn't fit."

Touching on trans history, Graff explained early trans individuals needed to fit the "born in the wrong body" narrative in order to receive surgery, and that the trans community was able to find each other with the explosion of the internet in the 90s. Across all identities, kids today, Graff said, become aware of their differences earlier and much more organically. "People today are more aware that gender and orientation are woven together," said Graff, stressing that she wants new generations to have their own reactions to "the old boxes" of identity. She pointed out that today's "nonbinary" could be considered and analogue to the historical "invert."

Graff preferred discussion to a Q&A session, answering questions about inclusive health care and how the identity spectrum might recognized in the future by asking the questioners what they thought. A few questions addressed spots of tension when it comes to the acronym, such as trying to get identities that have become more privileged to assist those "left behind", and the idea that inclusion might have limitations. Graff expressed both the desire to cultivate good allies and to be one herself, saying she personally felt called to educated people outside the community.

"When I realized I was gay, I realized I didn't understand it, so my job in life became to help other people understand it," Graff explained.

Both Graff and ISGMH postdoctoral fellow Dennis Li, who introduced the speaker, favored including identities that were vitally important to those who had them. "There are things you need to talk about because that's what's going to be visible about you," said Graff. And Li added, while acknowledging that ISGMH's intentionally broad name tried be inclusive, "When you don't have words, you don't know how to talk about your experiences." A later audience comment pointed out that named terms are vital when it came time to allocate resources to communities, including money and social power.

To Graff's delight, LGBTQ historian John D'Emilio was in the audience, and offered his perspective that while embracing individual identities created a sense of belonging, activism preserved a minority identity. "It's hard for me to imagine retaining identities and having the oppression disappear," said D'Emilio. "Who's oppressed will keep changing, but we'll still have the oppression."

Li closed Graff's talk by pointing out that while these conversations don't affect people's daily lives, they still matter. And before opening up the floor to discussion, Graff expressed that while she believes future individuals will devise better ways to discuss LGBTQ identities, at some point, identity itself, being slippery, will prove the ultimate barrier to definition.

"As important as it is to find language that is ineffable, the task will always fail," Graff said.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Almost $130K raised for gay student 2018-08-08 - Seth Owen—the openly gay valedictorian of his senior class at First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Florida—will be able to attend his choice ...


Gay News

Youth activist Mack Guthrie talks 'My Body, My Story' campaign 2018-08-08 - In the months after the November 2016 election, Mack Guthrie decided he had to get involved with issues he was passionate about. That ...


Gay News

Lurie study seeks LGBTQ youth 2018-08-08 - Lurie Children's Hospital and Northwestern University are partnering with IL DCFS to learn more about LGBTQ youth in DCFS care. The study ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Mishea' Davinae's Chronicles 2018-08-01 - Someone kidnapped me, took me from my home planet and placed me on earth. At 10 years of age, I was learning ...


Gay News

Lurie study seeks LGBTQ youth 2018-08-01 - Lurie Children's Hospital and Northwestern University are partnering with IL DCFS to learn more about LGBTQ youth in DCFS care. The study ...


Gay News

Buffalo Grove girl plans for 2019 Pride Parade 2018-07-30 - A Buffalo Grove student has been working to bring a Pride parade to her Northwest suburban community. The idea came to 12-year-old Molly ...


Gay News

Florida School District Ordered to Allow Trans Student In Men's Restroom 2018-07-27 - ( Jacksonville, July 26, 2018 ) —Today a federal court ruled in a Lambda Legal lawsuit that St. Johns County School Board in ...


Gay News

Protestors challenge youth intersex surgeries 2018-07-25 - About 100 persons, among them activists from as far away as Texas, Georgia and California, gathered July 19 at Ann & Robert H. ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Conversion therapy, service members, judge withdrawn 2018-07-24 - The National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) released two toolkits for child welfare and juvenile justice agency employees on how to ...


Gay News

Study says mental health of young adults with lesbian parents same as peers 2018-07-18 - The mental health of young adults with lesbian parents is the same as their peers, study finds New findings from the 32-year U.S. ...


 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.