Read: Selfishness is killing liberalism
None of this would matter much if today were, say, 2015, when identity politics seemed like a low-cost enterprise. Now, however, we see its price. So long as the libertarian right and the progressive left fail to speak to the country’s yearning for a transcendent identity, and majorities feel they are being ignored or disfavored, someone is bound to fill the resulting political vacuum. Political analysts and researchers find that resentment of political correctness and identitarian excess drove a lot of voters, including a lot of nonbigoted voters, toward Trump’s toxic version of national identity. When Steve Bannon, one of the Trump movement’s leading strategists, said, “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats,” he knew what he was talking about.
No, I am not blaming Trump’s presidency on LGBTQ (or even LGBTQIAA+). Trump himself uses LGBTQ. But the term has become symptomatic of the parochialism that is alienating white, straight, male America from the claims of the civil-rights movement. Every time lesbian and/or gay and/or bisexual and/or transgender and/or QIAA+ activists demand the recitation of a string of initials, they implicitly tell a story about seeking equality and betterment for groups, not for individuals, and not for that other set of initials, U.S.A.
In short, if there ever was a time when sexual minorities were served by reminding the world of their factionalism, that time is past. Kameny’s preference for a single, simple, overarching designation was well founded. It deserves to be rediscovered.
Today, however, that designation can no longer be gay, which, apart from being gendered, won’t do for transgender people. Queer is inclusive, but its radical baggage and derogatory undertones have precluded its mainstream acceptance. And so, herewith, my modest proposal: Q.
If you like, you can think of it as short for queer. Or, if you don’t like, just Q. Give it any etymology you wish. Regardless, the term would be understood to encompass sexual minorities of all stripes. When we speak of ourselves as individuals, we would use gay or lesbian or transgender or whatever applies. When we need a blanket term, we would simply call ourselves Q. As in: the Q population and Q equality. Q is simple and inclusive, and carries minimal baggage. When we speak of Q equality, we are saying that discrimination against sexual minorities—or for that matter sexual majorities—is not the American way.
In that respect, although I am not LGBTQ, I am certainly Q. I think Frank Kameny might have been, too.
This article appears in the January/February 2019 print edition with the headline “Don’t Call Me LGBTQ.”