It’s time for a new queer acronym

Originally published on DailyXtra

Pride Toronto’s release of a strategic plan with no explicit mention of lesbians, gays or bisexuals (and only the briefest mention of trans folks) seemed almost satirical when I first heard about it.

“Members of the queer and trans* community” appears once at the end of a list touting who the executive director consulted, and the trans community is mentioned once more for having its relationship with Pride Toronto enhanced.

Other than these two mentions of queer and trans, the only description of the community served by Pride Toronto is the vague yet encompassing phrase: “people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.”

I get it. I’ve sat through agonizing meetings where we wrestle with how to express who the event/organization represents without offending or excluding anyone.

But I’m not convinced that the entire identity of this community-that-shall-not-be-named can be adequately represented in a single name that isn’t an unruly mouthful or vague to the point of meaninglessness.

So I think we should focus instead on a key part of our experiences.

Sort of like Canada, the community formerly known as LGBT is extremely diverse, and it often seems like we don’t have that much in common. But one unifying experience we do share is our deviance.

Of course, what’s considered deviant has changed over the years. Women wearing pants and gay people simply existing are no longer extraordinary things. Parts of the LGBT narrative are even becoming accepted as normal, leading to increased inclusion in broader culture for some of us.

Those of us closer to power in other parts of our identities (like being white, wealthy and able-bodied) and more normative in our gender and sexual expressions (like being outwardly monogamous and fitting neatly into the gender binary) have been able to take advantage of these changes to lead safer and more comfortable lives.

This shift has deepened a divide that has always existed in our community has grown. On one side are those who can downplay their deviance and can participate in the institutions of mainstream culture. On the other side are those who live their deviance every day, celebrate it, and challenge dominant culture simply by existing.

These categories are not mutually exclusive. Many of us find ourselves between the two poles, and move between different points day to day or throughout our lives. I definitely find myself in this position and consider it both a frustration and a privilege.

However, some of us are never able to leave the deviant category. These are almost always the members of our community who most need our support because they experience the worst of society’s discrimination and oppression. And while I may be able to access many of the institutions of dominant culture, they do nothing to support the deviant parts of me.

Which is why I want the focus of our community to celebrate and support those who stand further from the societal norms of gender and sexuality.

I’ve even got a new acronym ready to go: DTFSB. Dykes, Trannies, Faggots, and Slutty Bisexuals. (It’s easy to remember with the handy phrase: “Down To Fuck Sexy Babes.”)

These are the people in my community:

Outrageous dykes. Butch dykes with shaved heads, sturdy union values, and rock solid feminist critiques. Femme dykes with big hair and bigger personalities, power clashing neon animal prints while crushing the patriarchy under their six-inch heels.

Multidimensional trannies. Tranny cyborgs, tranny witches, genderfucking genderqueer transfabulous beings who know that life isn’t an either/or but a yes and — and then some! In between and completely outside and all of the above, sometimes all at once.

Ferocious faggots. A blur of glitter and leather, soft and hard simultaneously. Faggots with all the feelings that men say they don’t have, who love each other, love themselves, love their virus, love the beauty of fine art just as much as the beauty of messy drag.

Slutty bisexuals who will sleep with your husband and your wife. Sexually empowered ethical sluts who want all the babes and don’t care if that makes you feel insecure. Slutty bisexuals who have twice the options and twice the game to back it up with. Who aren’t there just to be your unicorn, even though they are fantastic creatures.

The idea for DTFSB comes from the question: “What are the deviant parts of L, G, B, and T?” — and the knowledge that there’s more to our community than just those four letters. My vision of community doesn’t exclude the other letters often connected or appended to LGBT; on the contrary, it warmly welcomes people from all parts of the LGBT-plus community who choose to emphasize our shared celebration of deviance.

My community includes asexual faggots, non-binary dykes, slutty intersex bisexuals. Not to mention people often relegated to the edges of our LGBT community, like hijab trannies, deaf faggots, Métis dykes, and slutty working-class bisexuals.

I’d be proud to thrive in a community focused on celebrating our deviance and centring those on the edges.

Now, I don’t expect everyone to rush out and change their organizational letterheads from LGBT to DTFSB overnight. I can’t imagine that learning yet another acronym is particularly high on anyone’s list of things they want to do.

Fortunately, we may not have to. There is another option. Many of us have already adopted another term, one that proudly boasts our deviance in its roots.


The word queer is often used simply as a convenient synonym for LGBT, but it’s much more than that.

Mainstream society once called us queer as it recoiled from our beautiful genders and sexualities, calling us odd, unnatural and deviant. Over time, the association with deviance has waned but we can reinfuse it with the meaning we already once reclaimed. Deviant, beautiful and proud.

You don’t need DTFSB if you can say “queer” and really mean it.

You Can’t Say That

Over the holidays, my extended family all got together and something interesting happened. One of my cousins said “that’s so lame” and my dad called her on it.

“Andrew says you can’t say that anymore,” he said.

She asked why not and I explained how just like “that’s so gay” it paints a group of people negatively by using them as a shorthand for something that’s undesirable. We then talked about what sort of things she could say to express what she wanted to, without it being at the expense of a group of people. The conversation moved on.

However, I kept thinking about it, playing it over and over again in my head. The whole experience just didn’t sit right with me. I felt like I should’ve been pleased: oppressive language had been used, someone (other than me) called it out, we had a discussion about it, and I think my cousin got it. That’s what’s supposed to happen, right?

“Andrew says you can’t say that anymore.”

I was stuck on this phrase. Was there a list of what was permissible to be said? Why did I seem to be the arbiter of it? Was this just excessive political correctness, something that only activists were concerned about? Most importantly, was it how I wanted her to remember the experience?

“I shouldn’t say this because Andrew says we’re not allowed to.”

That’s not what I want her to think. I don’t want her to think that some words are inherently forbidden, nor do I want her to base her language use on the apparent moral high ground I have from being one of those social justice types.

It’s also not what I want to think. I want to understand the power and meaning of words, and make conscious informed decisions about how to use them. Instead of not saying something because we’re “not supposed to say it,” I choose not to say “that’s so lame,” “that’s so gay,” or other oppressive words and phrases because I don’t want to cause hurt in someone else, nor perpetuate negative beliefs about certain groups of people.

At the same time, I will continue say words like queer and faggot, which are most certainly on the Official List Of Words Not To Say due to their histories of use as oppressive slurs. I will continue to say them because they are powerful words that I can use to describe myself. Powerful because of their oppressive history. “Yes,” I am saying, “that which was seen as negative in me is something I am proud of.” This is a complex situation because while making those outside my group uncomfortable is arguably part of the intention, potentially making those within my group uncomfortable is a less desired side effect.

When I first started to explore my queer identity and the complexities of the word, I though that older gay and lesbian folks just had to get with the times and get over whatever they didn’t like about it. Then, an older gay man told me a story of how when he was brutally assaulted simply for being gay, “queer” was the word being shouted at him. Perhaps that isn’t something that one could just “get over.” This drastically changed how I engaged with language. While I didn’t stop reclaiming these words for myself, I did make a shift in how that looked around my gay elders in recognition of histories with these words that I do not share.

In a situation where words are forbidden, critical thought and individual agency are lost to political correctness and powerful words are unable to be reclaimed by groups. I strive to educate myself on the meanings and histories of powerful words so I can make conscious choices about what impact my use of language will hopefully have. When similar situations arise in the future, my focus will be on exposing oppressive meaning and histories of words and concluding not with a prescription of prohibition but instead with an invitation to join me in consciously engaging with language.