Monday, June 4, 2018

The Queerlphabet

It's Pride Season! Yay for Pride! But, I also thought this was as good as time as any to talk about the identity problem that LGBTQAI+ people have. And that problem is that we don't have any good way to refer to our selves. LGBTQAI+ is kinda clumsy. Worse, it doesn't even include everyone! Where are the aegender and non-binary people for instance? Are they supposed to be under queer? Won't that bother people who identify solely as queer? And what about the flag? Sure it's a rainbow, but it represents gay people. What about straight transgender people? Are they included in that rainbow?

So yeah, there's quite the issue. We want to be inclusive, as inclusive as possible, because we are all in the same fight and facing many of the same issues. So let's tackle this name issue first. Let's dissect LGBTAI+. What do those letters stand for? Who do they include? Here it is broken down:

  • L for lesbian
  • G for gay
  • B for bisexual
  • T for transgender
  • Q for queer
  • A for aesexual
  • I for intersex
  • + for everyone else we haven't mentioned yet. 
Okay, so as I said this is clumsy. It doesn't work as an acronym. Because it's so clumsy, it's generally shortened in regular use. But that leaves more people out. There have been a few attempts to make this more user-friendly. One commonly proposed idea is shuffling these letters around to make the pronounceable word QILTBAG, generally pronounced as "kwilt-bag" and not as "kilt-bag." Though, to be fair you could use either. This has one major issue in that no one every calls anyone an anything bag in a positive way. There's shit bags and douche bags, but no helpful bags or smart bags. So, I'm not a big fan of QILTBAG.

To maybe help come up with an alternative, I first started by adding some new letters in. We need really need new letters. So the ones I came up with include: 

  • E for exploring. Many of us in the pride world spend a while in this exploring phase before figuring out who we really are. 
  • N for nonbinary because you can't leave out non-binary and they should have been included earlier.  
  • U for unsure. This is fairly similar to exploring. But I really needed a U to go with that Q. Scrabble players will understand. 
With these new additions the best thing I could come up with was BAGELQUINT. Now, while this does conjure up a fun image of the famed Dionne quintuplets eating New York's signature boiled bread breakfast, it's not a great word. BAGELQUINT is not a term around one can enthusiastically rally. In my opinion it's way better than QILTBAG, but that's not saying much. 

So, if these letters are never going to spell anything really good, then maybe we should ditch the initialisms and acronyms and just come up with a new term that's fully inclusive of everyone. Historically queer has been this word and I have used it this way too sometimes. But, like we said previously, people who identify queer might not like their specific term being hijacked to describe everyone. Thus, I spent a little it of time trying to come up with a singular word to describe our diverse community. 

Some of the ideas I came up with are Spectra, which is the plural of spectrum. Rainbows are made up of the visible spectrum and so we are all many spectra. Spectra. I like it. It does have the slight issue of being similar to specter which is creepy and spooky. When I try and think up new terms, I do like many a Westerner and look back to Latin and Greek. But I thought it would be more interesting and inclusive to look at some non-Western words. Avana is the Malagasy word for rainbow. I really like Avana. Then I thought let's be really universal and look to the artificial language Esperanto. Senti is the Esperanto word for "to feel." But, I think Avana is my favorite. The Avana community. I'm Avana. Let's go to Avana pride!

Beyond our name, there's also the issue of the flag. There's the familiar rainbow flag of course.

But do any tiny bit of research on the internet and you'll discover that there are many, many, many more pride flags. You've probably seen me fly a transgender pride flag a few times. But there so many more than just these two. Here's a helpful infographic someone made:  

That's a lot of flags. And while vexillologists might different designs, it also makes it a little harder for the Avana community (#AvanaPride) to rally around one symbol. So, being a bit of an amateur vexillologist myself, I decided to design my own Avana Pride flag for our entire community. Here's the first design I came up with:

This design takes all the colors from all the flags and puts them all in one symbol. It's on a white background because it's already fairly colorful and also because I didn't want to offend any one group by making someone else's color the "main" color while there's was relegated to the circle. Okay, this is a little plain. I don't love it. So I set about making some modifications to snaz it up a bit.

This new design fills up the image field by duplicating the main circle multiple times. But, while I kinda like this, I have to admit it's way too busy. So I went back to the simpler circle and tried to think of ways to change it up a little.

This is an alternate of the one above, but blurry to help show that all the different colors really can and do overlap. I, for an example, am transgender and gay, so I'm a mix of two flags. There are also intersex people who identify as intersex, transgender, and gay. It can get complicated and so this wheel lets it all get a bit blurry. Because life is blurry. But still it's kind of a simple design. back to the drawing board. 

Here's an attempt to add another design element to help fill up all that white. I chose a pink bar because historically pink has been the color associated with the gay rights movement. I also added 1969 in recognition of the Stonewall Riots. But then I realized this is rather an American design. Sure, Stonewall kicked off the American gay rights movement. But what if you're French or Guatemalan or something? Your own country has it's own history. Plus pink has its connotations because the Nazis made gay prisoners wear pink triangles. And do we really want to stick with a color the Nazi's assigned us? But that got me thinking.
This flag includes the pink triangle in honor of all those who have suffered for being Avana. But to balance that I also included the equality symbol. Thus the pink triangle represents past struggles, pain, repression, and deaths, while the equality symbol represents our more hopeful future where we have full equality. The is still a little too simple for me though.

The above design is my favorite. It involves the blurry wheel of flags, the symbols representing our past and our future, and a different color pink bar to help unify the design. I'm not sure what the bar represents, but let's say it's unity since it unifies the three design elements. So, we have one flag with all of us. It features symbols for our past, our present, our people, and our unity.

Happy Avana Pride everyone!

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