Social Question

AstroChuck's avatar

Why is it LGBT and not just GBT?

Asked by AstroChuck (37461points) June 3rd, 2010 from iPhone

LGBT is the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. But why not just GBT? Aren’t lebians considered gay? Isn’t it a bit redundant to use LGBT instead of just GBT?

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36 Answers

perspicacious's avatar

Yes, seems to me to be so.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I have often wondered this myself. I think it’s because the labels “lesbian” and “gay” are often used exclusively even though “gay” can refer to both men and women.

arpinum's avatar

actually, it needs to be LGBTTQIAA: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, ally, asexual.

tinyfaery's avatar

Because in the beginning of the gay rights movement women were held as the second class. Lesbian rights took a back seat to the rights of gay males. Feminism hadn’t even taken a great hold on society yet. Classic story.

chyna's avatar

Okay, I don’t get out much, I thought this question was going to be on gigabytes.

DominicX's avatar

If anything it should be “HoBT” because then it uses all the technical terms, rather than the colloquial terms.

The word “gay” is falling out of usage to mean “homosexual woman”. It almost exclusively refers to “homosexual man” now. I’ve been on LGBT forums and very few of the girls there refer to themselves as “gay”; they always say “lesbian”. I also hear “she’s (a) lesbian” vs. “he’s gay”.


A lot of people use “LGBTQ” because the “Q” covers anything that isn’t “LGBT”.

tinyfaery's avatar

Also because the lesbian experience is not the same as the gay experience. Including lesbian includes that experience.

eden2eve's avatar

Thanks, I wondered about that. Heterosexual women, even those who are feminists, have not required a special designation for themselves, and it did kind of confuse me.

zenele's avatar

I thought it was about hamburgers.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Yes, it’s confusing. The acronym doesn’t even include all sexual minorities who are allied in the cause.

Fyrius's avatar

“actually, it needs to be LGBTTQIAA: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, ally, asexual.”
I’m starting to wonder if non-straight wouldn’t more conveniently cover them all in one word. It seems to be the one thing they have in common and the one reason why such diverse groups would unite into a community.
Although some straight people might take offence.

filmfann's avatar

@arpinum You left out butt-curious.

Kayak8's avatar

As a Lesbian, I would be very much unhappy if I was not represented under the GLBTQ umbrella. When I first came out, I told people I was gay (it was easier to eek out a single syllable than a three syllable word). Once I worked through my own internalized homophobia, I was able to choke out the three syllable “lesbian” moniker and have been one ever since.

Just in the ways that my elementary school textbooks talked about “mankind” and all the accomplishments of “man,” the word “gay,” as in “gay rights” etc. was used to embrace men and women, but times have changed.

I was so struck when I watched the Indian movie “Fire” when one of the women says to the woman she is in love with, “Do you know that there is no word in our language to describe who we are to each other?” that I realized how important it is to me to own the word. In my language there is a word to describe me very precisely. That word is Lesbian.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I’m not sure, but the term “Oueer” might be a more accurate term for the umbrella movement. The cause is allied with heterosexuals into “nonstandard” sexuality, such as fetish and BDSM practitioners. The main objective after all is the promotion of rights, safety and self-esteem of sexual minorities.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Since a kid, I was always told gay was male, you called homosexual women lesbians. For me it’s easier to use homo- bi, etc. and not get tied up with the gender.

MissA's avatar

Since I am heterosexual, perhaps I don’t understand fully. But, the problem with all the labels, for me, is that it further separates us as individuals. I hope in my lifetime, we stop with all the group deals. Maybe it lets like be with like. But, can’t we be accepting and loving…will it ever not matter? I don’t have an agenda…I’d like to get to what matters in life.

Fyrius's avatar

Oh shoot, I linked to the wrong user. I was quoting @arpinum.

Kayak8's avatar

@MissA While I don’t disagree with what you said at all, there is an additional element that, as a lesbian, is important to me. When the day comes that labels don’t matter, I will be an enthusiastic supporter. In the meantime, those of us who have experienced discrimination for whatever reason (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) have to rework through our own sense of pride in the very thing that causes hate from others. An element of owning that pride is to identify as part of the group, to draw strength from those who have experienced the same or similar discrimination and actively work to reframe our experiences.

It is entirely possible with each successive generation of folks (from a group that was historically discriminated against), the need for labels will be less and less. As someone of a generation who felt the brunt of discrimination back in the 70s and early 80s (particularly with the advent of AIDS), it may take me a bit longer to work through my “stuff.” For me this is exacerbated by having grown up in a church that wasn’t (isn’t) thrilled with females in general and GLBTQ folks in particular.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Because it is sexist to assume that the word designated for men can also cover categories of same for women like so often happens in our English language – I can do away with the whole acronym all together but I am in a community that is quite progressive and can move beyond that – the heteronormative world still needs to label us otherwise.

MissA's avatar

@kayak8 “to rework through our own sense of pride in the very thing that causes hate from others”,,,that’s a great way to describe it. Thank you for explaining in a way that I understand.

My mother was gay…not bisexual. She died before I met her. I keep trying to understand her world…what it must have been like. She wasn’t an activist…grew up in the 30s…had the same partner for decades. I wish that I could have known her. It hurts to think that she thought I wouldn’t have loved her because of her lifestyle.

Why do so many people assume that when two people are gay, that they’re automatically going to be attracted to each other? Gay folks are not any more promiscuous than heterosexual…quite possibly less.

Kayak8's avatar

@MissA Being a lesbian in the 30s would have been something altogether different than my experience in the 70s and even more so today. My grandfather has a first cousin who came out in the 40s. I have been fortunate enough to know her in my lifetime and to hear her tell all the stories of how things were VERY different then. For a time, she dated a woman who was in the military in WWII. It seems life was a bit easier for lesbians than for gay men as it wasn’t so unusual for two “spinster” teachers or nurses to live together (safety, you know)—for men, such a living arrangement was not regarded as kindly.

Curiously, my ex and I hosted a gay rights event at our home a number of years ago and my grandfather’s cousin attended. At one point in the evening, she pulled out a picture. I did a double take. It was a picture of her in the 1940s. What really caught my eye was the background of the picture. She was standing on the front porch of a Victorian home. The curious thing is that it was the home my ex and I had purchased—the very place where we were hosting the event. The cousin took me back inside my own house and explained the space to me in a very different way (apparently, it had been broken up into apartments from the 40s through the 60s). She and her girlfriend lived in what was our parlor and living room. She showed me where a gay male couple had made an apartment in the basement, etc. Apparently it was a gay rooming house and the men and women covered for each other when dates were needed for collegiate social events, etc.

Fyrius's avatar

“Because it is sexist to assume that the word designated for men can also cover categories of same for women like so often happens in our English language”
For one thing, the word ‘gay’ isn’t designated for men.
For another, if it were, why would it be sexist to extend that word to also cover women?

Fun fact: in Dutch there are various words for jobs loaned from French, that technically do have female versions; directeur and directrice, chauffeur and chauffeuse, et cetera.
But it’s considered more politically correct nowadays to use the male versions for both men and women, because to distinguish between whether it’s a man or a woman fulfilling the job, why, that would be sexist.

Haters gonna hate.

tinyfaery's avatar

That is in no way the same thing.

Fyrius's avatar

I think it’s the same thing in several ways. And something else in several others, of course.
Is there a very important way in the latter group that makes it a bad comparison?

At any rate I think when “gay” is used for women too, it stops being a male-specific word and becomes gender-neutral, just like the profession names.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Fyrius Language is inherently sexist and has always been so – the fact that that you feel ‘it’s no big deal’ to use words that cover both men and women is a sign of your inability to see the deeply ingrained value of neutrality placed on words that generally mean men…for example a group of people composing of the both major genders can be addressed as ‘guys’ but the same group can’t be addressed as ‘chicks’. Players gonna play.

Fyrius's avatar

You still haven’t explained to me how using the (allegedly) “male” word gay for women too is sexist. Why would it be?

“Language is inherently sexist”
Inherently? Give me a break. Of course it isn’t.

“for example a group of people composing of the both major genders can be addressed as ‘guys’ but the same group can’t be addressed as ‘chicks’.”
You know what this little fact reminds me of? Pants.
In the old days, men wore pants and women wore dresses. Nowadays, women can wear pants too, and can generally wear any kind of clothing men wear without being looked at funny. But men who wear dresses still look just as silly as they did centuries ago.
I think the first women who would wear pants saw it as a sign of emancipation, as a statement against sexism. We can wear pants too. We’re equal to the men.

In general, I think the dawn of feminism has started a gender-neutralisation of the male gender role. Because there’s nothing men can do that women can’t do. But there are still things women are allowed to do but not men.
Hence too why girls can be addressed as “guys” with no problem, but guys being called “chicks” is an insult. It’s the equivalent of wearing pants or a dress.

Is it more sexist for a woman to wear pants, or is it more sexist for her to wear a dress?
Does anyone give a damn?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Fyrius When I say ‘inherently’ I do not mean out of nature/ ‘god-given’ – I mean historically language has been used to explain and denote power structures within each culture and generally speaking men were always placed above women and therefore language reflected that, esp. in the Western world…in that first came words that described what men did like policeman, fireman and then women could enter those fields and then language made merciful adjustments to change it to policepeople or fireworkers and even that is considered ‘too PC’.

And I completely agree with you on the second point – men should be able to wear clothing generally thought of as belonging to women without any ridicule. I don’t think the ‘dawn of feminism’ (whatever that is) gender-neutralized the role of men…if anything feminism crystallized and reiterated which are men’s domains and which are women’s (in an effort to encourage people to see that this separation and subsequent assignment of power/value are sexist)...I don’t think you understand what feminism is about (for me, anyway) – it’s about women doing what men can do and men doing what women can do (if that’s what everyone wants to do) without either putting more value on what men do or taking less value away from women do. For example if a woman wants to wear pants, she shouldn’t be seen as ‘wanting to be like a man’ and if my husband wants to be a stay at home dad, he shouldn’t be called ‘mr. mom’ by construction workers who have to bend over backwards to assert their ideas of ‘proper masculinity’.

You’ve inverted a bunch of things again. The fact that guys can’t be called chicks is because it is seen as inferior to be called women. That’s why gay men (who are seen as threats to straight men because they don’t want to participate in patriarchy) are called ‘effeminate’ as an insult because what’s the worst thing you can call a man: a woman.

As to your last question, well it makes no sense…it shouldn’t matter what she wears…but it only becomes sexist when she’s told what to wear according to a power structure between the genders.

Fyrius's avatar

“When I say ‘inherently’ I do not mean out of nature/ ‘god-given’ (...)”
All right, fair enough.

“the ‘dawn of feminism’ (whatever that is)”
The onset of feminism, the birth of feminism, the moment the first feminists got widespread recognition as a political force. I couldn’t find the right word at the time.

I agree by the way that it would be nice if all clothes were available for men and women alike, and if women could be manly and men could be feminine with no weird looks, and in general if people would stop whining about what other people do (within reason).
Buggers gonna bugger, et cetera.

Abandoning my fashion digression and getting back to the subject: Are you content with words like “policepeople” and “fireworkers”?
If you would rather that we talk about “policemen” and “policewomen”, like we talk about “gays” and “lesbians”, remember that there are genderqueer people who would be happier if we wouldn’t accentuate so much that people have to be either masculine or feminine.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Fyrius: All right, I’m going to weigh in on this debate. First I would just like to say that you are correct in some respects. There are some ways in which women have greater advantages in the United States than men. For example, 85% of custody battles in the US are won by women. I do not believe that only 15% of divorced fathers are competent parents.

However, the kinds of disadvantages that females in this country experience are rarely noticed by males. I bet no female assumes you want to have sex with her if you smile at her or give her a hug. I’d also bet that you are not assumed to be incompetent in your chosen job or hobby because of your genitalia. This is true in some ways for males male nurses are looked down upon, for example but it is much rarer for males.

As for language, even if you do not mean certain words and phrases to be sexist when you use them does not mean they aren’t. Language is a subtle way to enforce certain ideas. I did not think that “gay” was originally meant for homosexual males only but as I grew up and started talking about these kinds of things with someone other than my mother, I realized that homosexual females are very, very rarely called “gay.” They are called “lesbians” which, apparently, has a different meaning than “gay woman.”

Also, something I think is worth noting is that the word “lesbian” is derived from the word “Lesbos” which is a Greek island where the female poet Sapphos supposedly lived. Sapphos was not a lesbian, however, and engaged in sexual acts with people of both sexes. I think “lesbian” would more appropriately describe bisexual/pansexual women in that case.

Fyrius's avatar

I think you might have a wrong impression as to what I’m trying to say. I’m not here to argue women have it better than men.
There are surely many forms of inequality left, some of them limiting men and others limiting women, and in either case it’s a bad thing. I think we can agree on this.
The subject I was talking about was whether and how it’s sexist to use the word “gay” to describe women too. I was also talking about it in the form of a question, rather than a statement.

“even if you do not mean certain words and phrases to be sexist when you use them does not mean they aren’t.”
I think it does, actually, to some extent. It’s all rather subjective.
Some words may be very clearly sexist, but other words – including the one we’re talking about here – are only ambiguously sexist. They can be sexist to some people and perfectly PC to others. And this sort of thing has a tendency to change over time.
I think the criteria for sexism can only be in the intentions of the speaker and/or the interpretations of the hearer.

“I think “lesbian” would more appropriately describe bisexual/pansexual women in that case.”
Well, the word “lesbian” (notice also the lower-case L) has got a life of its own now, regardless of its origins, like so many words.
Incidentally there still live people on the island of Lesbos, and these people are still called Lesbians.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Fyrius Yes, there are genderqueer people like myself and we would want it all to be policepeople and the like – we’d want less emphasis on gender categories, period. But, as I always say, my identity as genderqueer will not prevent me for fighting against sexism in the world where people still think there are only two genders.

AstroChuck's avatar

I do believe it was the actresses who decided they now want to be referred to as actors.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@AstroChuck Whether or not that’s true (link?), it is the reason why that interests me.

breedmitch's avatar

I’m glad you brought that up, Chuck ( <—oh so necessary comma). I remember reading an article in The Times back in the late 80’s. A drama teacher read it to our class. It was about the theater industry, as a whole, deciding to refer to both women and men performers as “actor”. The article specifically stated that is wasn’t just female performers who initiated the change. Strangely enough, the American Theater Wing’s Tony Awards still uses the term “actress” in their nominations and awards.

spykenij's avatar

This may be a stupid/silly answer, but I always heard that “it’s because lesbians just aren’t happy people.” I always found that saying somewhat offensive, yet funny; however, if you’ve ever walked into a stuffy lesbo bar that charges men extra for beer and ignores them (gay or straight, and I can tell you how to get there – it does exist), you will feel it too. I am so glad for the game “I Never.” Brightened the whole damn bar up, as did winning free shots for my table for karaokiing to the Village People at 17 yrs old :)

breedmitch's avatar

Dude, run for cover…

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