Whenever I read the term “gay marriage” I get annoyed. The word “gay” has a specific meaning, it is a sexual orientation in this context, so therefore “gay marriage” would be wedding between two gay people. Macquarie dictionary (the Australian dictionary of choice) states that gay is especially of male homosexuals, though also states that it relates to homosexuals in a broader sense, so that may include those who identify as lesbian. The groups that the term “gay” describes does not include bisexuals, trans* and intersex individuals.
So if you decide to use the term “gay marriage”, then you are excluding bisexuals, trans* and intersex individuals from your definition of marriage – which is why I prefer (and argue for) the terms “marriage equality”, “equal marriage” or “same-sex marriage”. If you’re happy excluding the bisexuals, trans* and intersex members of the LGBTIQ community, then I don’t want to be part of your group.
I know I’ve written about this before, but it keeps happening and so I keep pointing it out. It happens in places who should really know better, such as in the Fairfax media, or the Huffington Post, or even at my own workplace. Recently at work, when I called out the person on it, I told them that they should be using inclusive language, and not exclusive language. The guy I addressed my issue to started to argue with me, but then listened to what I was saying, apologised and agreed to correct the language in the presentation pack.
Fairfax and the Huffington Post completely ignore my requests to them to change their language use. Fairfax hasn’t been on my radar much recently, but the Huffington Post has been making me growl regularly. For starters, the section in HuffPo that covers LGBTIQ issues is called “Gay Voices” which really seems quite odd when they have bisexual and trans* content (I don’t know if they have any intersex content). I have asked that they change it to “Queer Voices”, but have not received any response from them. Clearly I am a lone (ish) voice in Australia, it is possible that a concerted campaign might get through to whoever manages that site.
HuffPos’ twitter account regularly refers to “gay marriage” and doesn’t use inclusive terms. Tonight they tweeted about a wedding that had to be moved due to Hurricane Sandy, but they called it a “gay wedding” despite no one in the article using the term. I then argued with people on twitter about orientation – always a fun activity.
All I want, and I don’t think it’s really that hard, is that when referring to issues that affect the entire LGBTIQ community, that attempts are made to use inclusive language. Using umbrella terms like “gay and lesbian” alienates entire sections of the LGBTIQ community, and that’s not cool. Making us invisible because saying gay or lesbian is easier is not cool. We want to be included, we don’t want to be invisible because keeping us invisible makes it harder for us to participate in the wider community, being invisible leads to worse health outcomes for us, being invisible leads to higher rates of violence against us, and generally weakens the community overall. So next time you hear someone refer to “gay marriage” or the “gay and lesbian [insert group here]” ask them if they intend to exclude bisexuals, trans* and intersex people.