Lesbi Reasonable: What’s with the plus?

Caitlin Saunders 28 May 2014

You might have noticed that the LGBT acronym has about as many endings as Lord of the Rings. Nobody can agree: is it LGBT+ or Q? Does it even matter? Actually, it really does.

When I wrote about coming out, I mentioned how important it was to me that some of my favourite celebrities were gay too. It’s about visibility; recognition of the existence of a whole spectrum of people. Maybe some of us don’t need it, but those people are few and far between – it’s normal to want some form of validation, even if it’s simply someone serving as a reminder that you’re not alone.

The problem is that, if heterosexuality doesn’t fit for everyone, then why would homosexuality, or even bisexuality? If the gender someone is assigned at birth doesn’t feel right to them, then why would a different set of arbitrary norms be any better? If we’re trying to widen the narrow boy-meets-girl life model, there’s no reason to stop after the first step or two.

There are so many layers to the equation.                                                                  Credit: Ivan T  

One thing the plus of LGBT+ allows is a distinction between romantic and sexual feelings, so that people can more accurately describe who inspires which feelings in them. I might be sexually attracted to redheads while being unable to resist a candlelit dinner with a blonde. This way, people might be able to put into words the fact that they’re bisexual, but only heteroromantic.

In terms of gender, there’s arguably even more reason for nuance. We’re all beginning to see that the differences we’re taught to expect between boys and girls are little more than generalisations and socially-conditioned behaviour. Instead of identifying strictly with our birth-assigned gender (which is being cis), we might fluctuate between a number of genders (genderfluid), or not identify with being exclusively male or female at all (genderqueer, agender).

The specificity of some labels can make people sceptical – really, what does it matter if you rarely feel sexual attraction (greysexual) or if you only feel it when you’ve developed a strong bond with someone (demisexual)? If you’ve never felt like you’re missing something – like you don’t quite fit how you should, and there’s no way to describe why – then this is an understandable question.

Gender and sexuality can't be compartmentalised.                                                    Credit: mxmstryo

But does it matter how many different labels make up the spectrum of ‘alternative’ orientations and genders? Giving people the chance to be as specific, and thus as comfortable, as possible with how they describe themselves can’t really have a negative impact.

My favourite comedian, Mae Martin, once compared ‘the gay thing’ to the case of blue lobsters: there’s only one in every two million, so they’re prized above all others. There’s definitely more than one LGBT+ person in every two million of us, and knowing who’s who isn’t as easy as spotting a blue shell amid a swarm of red.

It’s cheesy, I know, but if we can make sure the plus of LGBT+ is not only validated every now and then but consistently included, it might just help a few more lobsters to find their colour and feel better in their shell.