Metro Weekly

Say What We Mean

Seeking to be inclusive by using ''LGBT'' rather than ''gay'' can sometimes exclude the reality of transgender issues

That’s not the type of action you’d expect from a military deeply opposed to the repeal of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

But embedded in the story is a perspective that is becoming problematic for our community. Instinct nodded approvingly in its blog coverage of the Fort Benning case, saying, ”[W]e have to say, we’re impressed by the steps the US Military [sic] is taking to make it an LGBT friendly environment.”

Here’s the problem: The military isn’t taking steps to make it an LGBT-friendly environment – it’s taking steps to make the armed services a gay- and lesbian-friendly environment. There is a significant difference there. As much of an accomplishment repealing DADT was for gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers, it did nothing to change the situation of transgender servicemembers. Trans people in the military still live under threat of expulsion and harassment, with no recourse.

This is what happens when people reflexively use “LGBT” as a synonym for “gay.” (I’m not picking on Instinct, it’s just that this is a particularly telling example of a fairly widespread problem.) The move from “gay and lesbian” to “LGBT” is something that sprung from noble motives of inclusion and, in general, it’s been a successful and good change. But language matters and “LGBT” simply isn’t the right term to use in every context. In the case of post-DADT military issues, it’s incredibly important to make that distinction because, again, transgender servicemembers are still explicitly barred from service.

Saying that the military is making itself “LGBT friendly” obscures that fact, encourages complacency, and, in a somewhat ironic way, uses an “inclusive” term in a way that excludes the people actually represented by that “T.”

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. Email him at Find him on Twitter at @seanbugg.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.