Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu Sep 16 14:01:26 UTC 2010

On Sep 15, 2010, at 7:26 PM, Larry Horn wrote:

> At 10:07 PM -0400 9/15/10, Mark Mandel wrote:
>> Just sent to my synagogue discussion list in response to an announcement
>> forwarded by our rabbi:
>> ========
>>>  Representatives from numerous area organizations and programs serving
>>> *LGBTQQ/SGL* youth and young people
>> I can't keep up with this ever-growing initialism. I think i know LGBTQ --
>> lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered/queer -- but after that I'm lost. What
>> does the final "Q/SGL" stand for?

the Q is for "questioning" -- one of the possibilities you suggest in your next posting.  this is an extension of the category, to take in a set of people not in the historical core.  the historical conceptual development is from G&L or L&G (the homo core), to take in B, and then T.  at every stage there are questions about whether the extended category is socially and psychologically real, and those questions continue with suggested additions, of Questioning people (exploring their sexuality and puzzling about it), Intersex people, Eunuchs, Friends and Family, PWAs, and an assortment of people with non-normative desires and/or engaging in non-normative sexual practices (BDSM folk, leatherpeople, furries, and much much more).  to some extent the addition of Queer to the mix is intended to take in some of these conceptual extensions -- but it's also to some extent a labeling or identificational matter, as in the choice of "homosexual", "gay", or "queer" for same-sex-desiring !

> I'd have guessed "single", but I'd have been wrong. According to the
> info at the YES! Coalition (Philly) site,
> it's "Same gender loving".  I'm not sure how that's different from
> the other categories.  Seems like maybe it's a question of
> identificational rather than referential distinction.

yes, one of the motives for messing with the initialism is to give something for everyone in the category in question to latch onto, regardless of the labels they prefer for themselves or others.  this can be a self-defeating strategy, since people who use one label may reject being associated with people who use another (self-identified "queers" might refuse to have anything to do with a "gay" group, for example -- and might argue that this isn't just a preference for a different name but a different social identification).

there's also the incredibly important question of the *purpose* of all this categorization and labeling.  in Mark's original example, the purpose is providing social support services to a particular target group picked out by sexual desires.  in other social-service settings, the target group is of people engaged in particular sexual practices -- notably in providing health and medical services to men who engage in or are likely to engage in sex with other men: G and B men, plus MSMs ("men who have sex with men"), who typically reject the label G or B for themselves (i've written about them on Language Log on several occasions).

there are other contexts, of course -- groups formed for political action or representation ("speaking for" the mumble-mumble-mumble community), groups formed for mutual support, groups formed for socialization with one another, etc.  typically, such groups have mixed and shifting purposes.

>> =======
>> (And what's the difference between "youth" and "young people"?)
> I'd guess one of the groups is younger than the other, but I can't guess which.

i believe that the intention is to take in "teens" and "young adults", respectively.  but the category divisions -- though socioculturally real, i think -- are vague, and the sociocultural divisions tend to get mixed up with legal distinctions, and in any case the ordinary-language labels for the groups are unsettled (no matter what technical vocabulary the professionals settle on for their own uses), so that if you want to offer social services to these people, you'd do well to offer a variety of labels.


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