Sean Bugg of MetroWeekly has delved again into the use of LGBT as an inclusive shortand for the entire LGBT community. In a posting on Bilerico Project, Bugg asks whether LGBT is sometimes being misused and overinclusive, failing to recognize that one of those four letters isn’t really being talked about. In this situation, he looks at the assumption that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell protects the entire LGBT community when it doesn’t provide protection for trans people.
This is what happens when people reflexively use “LGBT” as a synonym for “gay.” (I’m not picking onInstinct, it’s just that this is a particularly telling example.) The move from “gay and lesbian” to “LGBT” is something that sprung from noble motives of inclusion and, in general, it’s been a successful and good change. But language matters and “LGBT” simply isn’t the right term to use in every context. In the case of post-DADT military issues, it’s incredibly important to make that distinction because, again, transgender servicemembers are still explicitly barred from service.
While Bugg was talking about a gay-oriented publication–Instinct–in this instance, I’ve noticed that this problem of using LGBT as a catchall happens more and more in the mainstream press. Notice, I didn’t describe Instinct as an LGBT publication because it clearly isn’t. Its focus is on gay men, something I don’t think they would deny. The Dinah isn’t, strictly speaking, an LGBT event. Neither is the White Party. While there may be a same-sex marriage, there aren’t necessarily LGBT couples.
As they collective LGBT has caught on to describe the entire community, it is important for journalists and editors to remember that the collective is not alway accurate. While LGBT may now be so broadly understood that you see it everywhere, that doesn’t mean it works in every situation. To act like it does diminishes those who are excluded and fails to acknowledge situations that are unique.