By Rowan Flood
The google definition of an acronym is an “abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word.” In a sense, acronyms are bits of words that become words themselves. Words have power and meaning, they change alongside our world.
LGBTQ+ is an acronym formed from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and the plus represents everything else in sexual orientation and gender identity. As Andrea Houston, a long-time activist, journalist, and professor says, it isn’t easy to trace back the exact history of this acronym. Yet, what can be better understood is how this acronym is different across the world and the history behind these differences.
SOGI, formed from the term Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, is the most common term worldwide. SOGI is recognized globally due to its general inclusivity. SOGI is used in the formation of protective bills. For example, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) wrote that in 2011, South Africa submitted a request to the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner to document violence, unjust laws, and practices against individuals based on their sexual orientation. This request produced the first UN report to use the expression “human rights violations against people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities.” Despite its relatively recent creation, it is possible to see the evolution of this expression and how it allows for growth when used as an inclusive term.
The acronym LGBTQ+ is mainly used in the UK and North America, said Houston. In Canada, 2S for Two-Spirit is often also added, said Houston. “Two-Spirit” is a term used within some Indigenous communities, encompassing cultural, spiritual, sexual and gender identity. The acronym’s additions and differences change regionally, including in Toronto, which is known for its diverse and sizeable Queer community. For instance, Pride Toronto uses the term 2SLGBTTQIA .
Houston explained that the acronym has primarily been created by young people “in an effort to be represented.” The use of the word effort shows how the community continues to push for change when it needs to. Change won’t simply happen, it must be understood and worked towards, and as Houston points out, it’s often young people doing the pushing.
St. James Town is located near the Gay Village in Toronto, a vibrant neighborhood and home to a loving community. Houston emphasized how important having this neighborhood is within Toronto. “They come to The Village because they know Toronto has a gay village, and its stands as a beacon to people who are escaping persecution, “explained Houston.
The acronym is only a tiny portion of who and what the Queer community is, yet it can play a role in how we view the community. The diversity of the acronym itself reflects the diversity within the community.
In a way, the acronym has come to symbolize the ever-changing community it represents, and society can expect the future of the acronym to grow.