Acronyms and Accuracy

I’ve got a few pet peeves and this one developed last semester during a Gender Issues class. We were talking about (hyper)masculinity and its affects on students who are gay. We were talking about how that sense of masculinity was tied into the homophobia that we see on campus. The conversation diverged for a moment when someone used the GLBT acronym and we had a small conversation about how that particular acronym isn’t always the correct term to use. In this case we were talking specifically about homophobia of men which does not always apply people who identify as transgender.

LGBT and GLBT are both commonly used acronyms within higher education and student affairs. One of the things that I have noticed is that when people use the term GLBT, they are talking about people who identify as gay or lesbian. I recently saw a tweet asking about recent LGBT identity development, which doesn’t define much about what that person was looking for. Being Lesbian, Gay, and/or Bisexual is usually described as a sexual orientation (although there is research suggesting that might be a little different) whereas the term Transgender is an umbrella term that applies to many different gender expressions. The identity development of sexual orientation and gender expression are vastly different and I don’t think the two should be lumped in together.

The support for gay and lesbian students is very different than support for transgendered students. It’s even different for bisexual students (which in the Cass Identity Model, is a “stage” before synthesizing gay or lesbian identity into the whole person)

As student affairs educators, it’s obvious that we need to be aware of the language we use. I think we should expand this awareness to our acronyms. It’s important that we say what we mean. If we’re talking about sexual orientation we should do that. If we’re talking about gender expression and identity then we should do that. Being supportive of our students means being cognizant of the language we’re using and being accurate in using that language.

4 thoughts on “Acronyms and Accuracy”

  1. Great Post Aaron! I think we do need to be more aware of the acronyms we use, and this is the first time I have ever actually made the connection with bisexual being a stage in Cass instead of a destination.

    Very eye opening post, and I am taking some time to reflect on my own use of these acronyms in my daily work.

  2. That point was brought up to me by a colleague who identifies as bisexual. Bisexuality is one of his research foci because he feels like bisexuality has been left out of the conversation.

  3. Great post. I never thought about the use of acroynms like this before. one question i now ponder: how do those who identify with ‘one of the letters’ feel about it? Something I know I need to think about

  4. That’s why I really like Queer as an identity. It’s an identity that can be broader and less limiting than L, G, or B. Models that box people into categories can be very constricting. Binaries generally fail at defining people. Nice post Aaron.

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