“I did not order this alphabet soup”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in August 2022 that Canada will commit $100 million in federal funding for Queer community groups over the next five years, calling it the first Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan. This statement also officially streamlined a longer acronym that he used the previous October, 2SLGBTQQIA+, moving the “2S” that refers to two-spirited Indigenous peoples in order to honour them as among Canada’s First Peoples and to reflect beliefs like those of Albert McLeod of Two-Spirited People of Manitoba, who said in 2016 that the gender binary is a part of colonization. A two-spirited identity, creating a third space between masculine and feminine, challenges that split in a different way than the broader LGBT community and deserves cultural recognition.
Not everyone appreciates the rearranging of letters. What began as “the gay community” in the 1970s was soon dubbed “the gay and lesbian community” and then a B was added for bisexuals. During the horrors of the AIDS crisis, when lesbians took on more leadership roles in defence of their gay friends, the GLB community slowly became the LGB community but when transgender and “queer or questioning” people got added to the chain in the 90s, however, a backlash began.
“Waiter, I did not order this bowl of alphabet soup,” complained gay FOX News contributor Deroy Murdock in June 2022, “The identity-politics Left has dragooned every non-heterosexual onto the “LGBTQIA+” bandwagon. Gay men never debated nor voted on this.” A disturbing number of straight and gay people alike have joined “Drop the T” campaigns calling for the separation of trans and non-binary people from what’s been dubbed in the UK, “the LGB Alliance.” Such moves are frightening at a time when transgender people are suffering massively disproportionate physical and emotional harm. We at Breakfast Culture, among many others, have long used LGBTQ+ (the plus including two-spirited, intersex and other identies) and have lovingly referred to the growing list as “Alphabet Soup” as we work to heal these divisions with our #SafeSpace Discussion Facilitation and our Alphabet Soup edition of Ally is a Verb.
Adding T’s and I’s and Q’s was important, said University of British Columbia sociology professor Amin Ghaziani in 2011: “It’s when trans and nonbinary visibility could really come to the surface…and opened the floodgates for young people to be authentic.” While older queer people fought for legal recognitions and protections, assimilating for safety, younger people are more comfortable, even enthusiastic, about the multifaceted 2SLGBTQI+ identities now possible to proclaim openly. In 2018, a full 30% of Canada’s queer population were under the age of 24 and prepared to treat all identities with understanding.
“Because there are so many different identities that involve gender and sexuality,” writes Toronto PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), “it can be challenging to select a word or acronym that makes everyone feel included, though that is the intent…The most important thing is to listen if someone tells you how they identify, and to believe that they know themselves.” After all, the one thing we should all be ordering, waiter, is basic respect and empathy.
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