Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Open Letter to Arianna Huffington: "Queer Voices" Has Got to Go

Ms. Huffington:

In recent days, The Huffington Post has unceremoniously re-branded its LGBT news section, "Queer Voices." Its previous name, Gay Voices was deemed to be too exclusionary, as not everyone under the sexual minorities umbrella considers themselves to be gay.

Yes, ma'am, I'm talking to you.
The problem is, "Queer" as a word carries a lot of baggage, most of it quite negative. To many--and I'm one of them--it's plainly offensive, particularly if used by others to define me. If a person wants to identify as "queer?" Knock themselves out. Don't assign it to me. If a gay organization or publication wants to use the word or a "Q" or a variant (such as Queerty)? It doesn't bother me. It's from the community, for the community. There is no hint of malice. But when it's a section of what is essentially an online mainstream newspaper? No. No.

I understand the impulse to change the name, and it is doubtless true that you've probably received criticism from trans people, bisexual people and anyone else who doesn't identify primarily as "gay." I also understand that coming up with a short, succinct heading is quite difficult, because by its nature, a short name has a difficult job being inclusionary. Somebody is bound to be left out of a lot of the options out there.

My own gay section doesn't try to solve the riddle, since it's
just little old me here. I'm not LGBT, I'm just "G."
This is borne out by the history of the most common identifier of LGBT. We've gone from "Gay" to "Gay & Lesbian," to "Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual," to "GLBT," (which is pronounceable as glibbit, and includes trans-, whether transsexual or transvestite), to LGBT (ladies first, but unpronounceable). That pretty much stuck, but it started to gather barnacles of other letters and symbols, because it still didn't include everybody. And though that seems only natural, it also starts getting unwieldy, and begging your pardon, quite ridiculous.

The entire point of an abbreviation is that it be shorter, and succinct. LGBTTQQF*GPBDS? doesn't do that. And, invariably, it's still going to leave somebody out. So, I can appreciate HuffPo's dilemma. "Gay" doesn't cut it, what are the succinct alternatives?

- LGBT Voices, probably nixed for the reasons listed above
- Pride Voices, reasonable, inoffensive, probably in use somewhere else
- Lambda Voices, probably too obscure
- Rainbow Voices, probably too vague
- Alternative Lifestyles, nearly as bad as Queer Voices for a lot of reasons

So, again, I understand your dilemma. I happen to think you blew it, royally. You'd have done better by inventing a word, and sub-titling it with a description. You could've done something plain like, "Huffington Post Pride Page," or something more vague like, "Our World: Huffington Post's LGBTetc. Pride Page." Ultimately, it's not up to me. That's why you, Ms. Huffington make the big bucks. But changing "Gay" to "Queer" to be more inclusive and less divisive utterly misses the mark.

I wrote this as an open letter for the simple reason that this little dark corner of the internet was inspired by The Huffington Post, though my sights weren't nearly as lofty (thank goodness). Along with John Aravosis' AmericaBlog, I decided to start my own blog because of HuffPo some nine years ago. I've continued to read it daily, and have used it many times as a source for articles and links. I haven't loved everything, and am utterly lost as to why your entertainment writers are seemingly obsessed with the Kardashians to the point of absurdity. But I've always felt included in the Gay Voices section. Queer Voices doesn't feel remotely as welcoming.


James L. Greenlee, Editor
Greenlee Gazette

1 comment:

  1. I thought the word "Queer" went out of style 20-30 years ago. I don't even recall hearing the word for several years now.
    I guess everything is retro nowadays.


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