Recently updated guidance from the Associated Press Stylebook now advises writers to use ‘LGBTQ+’ when describing homosexuality.
The Associated Press now says we should write LGBTQ from now on as LGBTQ+. This one makes me feel old in a way. I’m old enough to remember when it was just referred to as “LGB” and then “LGBT” when transgender issues became more commonly discussed. (They’re definitely more commonly discussed these days, but I don’t still don’t get the impression many people are actually trying to listen to what’s being said.)
The Q stands for one of two things: either “queer” or “questioning.” Queer has become a blanket term for homosexual people. But you must use caution with that word. Because queer has been used for decades as a slur, it has become one of those words a marginalized group uses for themselves to try to “reclaim” the word. That never works particularly well. Just ask African Americans how well their use of the N-word has removed its stigma. (Spoiler alert: It hasn’t.)
Questioning, on the other hand, refers to those who are not certain about their sexual orientation or their gender identity (or both). You can consider it an in-between stage for people who are trying to find their path.
The plus sign covers a lot of bases
Dave Nelson, who tweets as “The Grammar Geek,” notes the suggestion to add the plus comes from the Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
When you do add that plus sign, you are creating more inclusive language. The plus stands for more types of people than most people would ever take the time to consider. So it seems a way to force inclusivity into the equation even when some people just won’t be inclusive.
What all does the little + include? It includes quite a list, according to True Colors United:
- Intersex: People whose sexual anatomy or chromosomes do not fit with traditional “male” or “female” markers.
- Pansexual: People who are sexually or emotionally attracted to people of any sex or gender identity.
- 2-Spirit: A tradition in many First Nations that considers sexual minorities to have both male and female spirits.
- Asexual: People who do not identify with any sexual orientation.
- Ally: A straight and cisgender person who supports equality for all, including members of the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s worth noting that cisgender refers to people who feel they identify with the gender they were born into.
The plus can cover even more ground. About nine years ago, Facebook rolled out a list of 58 gender options for people as they filled out their profile. In almost a decade, some of us still haven’t been able to figure out why we need that many. After all, there has to be at least a little duplication among those dozens of terms.
No one can reasonably be expected to remember them all. If changing LGBTQ to LGBTQ+ will serve to add inclusion, it’s probably the best change for everyone.