Saturday, September 01, 2012

LGBTQQIA et al



Michael from New York City wrote that a friend of his used an acronym new to him: LGBTQQIA community.  Most people know that LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, but this represents a significant expansion.

It turns out that LGBTQQIA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Allies. [For a thoughtful definition of Intersex, go to The Intersex Society of North America.]  I fully understand that this is an attempt to be sensitive and all-inclusive in a community that is often marginalized by others, but it is in danger of being called a macronym instead of an acronym.

A minor distinction: while both are abbreviations, there is a useful distinction between acronyms and initialisms. Acronyms can be pronounced as if they were words: UNICEF, RADAR, BATA, NASA, etc. Initialisms cannot be pronounced as if they were words; each letter must be spelled out: FBI, TGIF, TNT, AC/DC, etc. So I would rather call LGBTQQIA an initialism.

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