It’s only a matter of time before one of my sweethearts gifts me a label maker. It will be a joke, but also not. I really love labels. The sense of security they give, that concrete feeling that you know a thing. The blunt definition thrills me like a seamless translation of a complex text or a Tinder profile that includes the self-descriptor ‘feminist’.
Having said that, when it comes to something as tricky as sexual and gender identity, it’s a little strange we’re still being told to pick a letter or three. And even as we include more of the alphabet, not all bases are being covered – trans is there, obviously, but not genderqueer/fluid/non-conforming. Does one ‘Q’ cover ‘queer’ as well as ‘questioning’ or do we need two? Not everyone agrees that the ‘A’ hidden behind that ‘+’ should stand for asexual or ally or both or neither. (Though, in my opinion if you’re the kind of ally that needs queer spaces to constantly accommodate you, you’re doing it wrong). Like I said, tricky business.
Diverse Sexuality and Gender (DSG) is a term coined by StartOut Austraila, an organisation that seeks to support gay, bisexual, trans and queer youth. The motivation behind ditching LGBTIQ+ is to create a more inclusive umbrella term that acknowledges all expressions of gender and sexual identity. One of the founding pair, Brendan White, also acknowledged that “it’s also a lot less complicated”. He’s not wrong. Simpler isn’t always necessarily reductive though. DSG is not about assimilation, but aims to more accurately embrace what falls through the cracks of sexual and gender binaries. Are you a genderqueer pansexual Backstreet Boys fan? That’s sweet. A gay trans guy whose passion is oral sex? Come on down. No idea what the fuck is going on? That’s alright too. You will be counted.
It may be hella optimistic, but I also feel there is a potential here for some of the real and imagined barriers within the LGBTIQ+ rainbow to be softened by a focus on similarity rather than difference. Biphobia happens, y’know, even in the queer community, and it would be super cool if it stopped happening. A lot of the flack copped seems to hinge on the misconception that they’re ‘only half gay’, ‘undecided’ or ‘greedy’. The first two things are tangled up with wanting to trade in absolutes; they stem from a desire for people to dig only one gender or another, which is defs not for anyone else to determine. But if you’re already dealing in a framework of diversity, the need to relegate things to binaries disappears. This is a very good thing.
You’ve gotta set some healthy boundaries though. One legit concern the LGBTIQ+ community have with DSG is its potential to be co-opted. For example, non-monogamous people technically have a diverse sexuality. But let’s be real, they don’t have the history of oppression everyone under the current label faces, both historically and in 2015. The inclusion of cishet (read: cisgender and heterosexual) polyamorous folk would open up safe spaces to straight, cis men just because they choose to date multiple people. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Having said that, the current umbrella isn’t immune either – just check out all the different variations on the Wikipedia page, with more recent ones in particular seeking representation for poly and kinky peeps. The acronym FABGLITTER is something I’ll let you look up yourself.
There’s also obviously nothing wrong in identifying strongly with a particular label. It’s something to celebrate. I’ll even make you a badarse sticker if you want. Actively choosing the language that describes you is often a very empowering process. Especially for those of us who grew up as – for example – queer girls in a heteronormative world, figuring out where you fit is kind of a big deal. Without diminishing that, DSG may be a way to translate a complicated thing and make it more all-encompassing, while erring on the side of simplicity.
However, whenever we talk about language and identity it’s crucial to remember this business doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The social progress we make towards accepting LGBTIQ+ folk as equal to straight cis dudes and ladies is what really counts. Labels don’t have the power to enact cultural change – they reflect or aspire to it. The catch-cry ‘diversity’ will ring hollow if we aren’t constantly striving to actually achieve it. Non-cishet people need representation in all aspects of life, not just an acronym.