Offensive Acronyms and Why I Use Them

rainbow1After a recent discussion on Goodreads with an LGBTQ community group, I have discovered that I may be offending some by using a certain acronym. I apologise for causing offense, it was never intended. I’d like to take a closer look at the reason this acronym is abhorred by some.

The acronym in question is QUILTBAG, which stands for Queer, Unisex/Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bi, Asexual and Gay. I love this acronym! It incorporates the largest variety of sexual preferences into one easy to remember, handy acronym. I’ve used this acronym on numerous posts about gender and sexuality and have never had complaints or comments about it being offensive, until now.

Since I’m pretty thick skinned and do not take offense easily, if ever, I realise I might not be the most sensitive to what others find offensive.

So why would QUILTBAG be offensive? – I asked those who commented about the term.

The answer is the ‘bag’ part, which resembles the term scumbag a little too closely and therefore has the potential to be used in a derogatory manner.

To be honest, I rolled my eyes a little at this. ANY word can be used derogatorily depending on how it is delivered and combined with other words. Put ‘damn,’ ‘bloody’, ‘f*cking’ – in front of any label and it’s going to be derogatory. I never made the connection between QUILTBAG and scumbag until it was pointed out to me. Then I again, I was proudly a ‘fag hag’ for many years (sadly, we now live on different continents so maintaining fag-haggery is tricky) and never considered that offensive, when many others considered both the fag and hag part derisive. I thought it was amusing and cute, and so did the fag to whom I was a hag.

The suggested alternative to QUILTBAG is LGBTQ. Fine, but that leaves out a bunch of sexual preferences and gender identities for the sake of possibly not offending the more delicate in the rainbow community. I find the idea of eliminating nuisance letters for the sake of a less potentially derogatory acronym more offensive than the possible connection that might be made between QUILTBAG and scumbag – who even uses scumbag any more?

The other argument was that ‘I’d never identify myself as QUILTBAG but I will say I’m LGBTQ’ – really? You’re lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer all at the same time? *Mind blown* I have yet to meet anyone from the rainbow spectrum who identifies themselves as anything other than what they are that is gay, or lesbian, or bi, or queer, or couldn’t-care-less.

So what’s the solution? While I’m thick skinned (hey, I’m an author. You have to be thick skinned to survive rejection after rejection) and find most attempts to offend others amusing or sad, I do sympathise with those who may not feel the same way I do. That said, I am still going to use QUILTBAG because I consider greater inclusion in my acronym more important than the potential risk of misuse.

How do you feel about the QUILTBAG acronym? What words do you find offensive?

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  • Kia Zi Shiru

    I’m more offended by people saying “queer is the new LGBT” than the difference between LGBT and QUILTBAG. Sure, if they would like to identify as queer but with that mean that they’re part of the LGBT, fine, but don’t call my characters queer when they’re gay, or me when I’m bi. I’d like to keep my own identity, thank you.

    I personally use LGBT or GLBT simply because it’s better known, I’ve only seen QUILTBAG (which actually sounds really nice, since quilts are usually really colorful) for the past 6 or so months while I know LGBT for over a decade. It’s the connection that I have with the acronym and old habits die hard 😉

    Also, yes, I’ve identified as fag hag a lot in the past, especially with people who actually liked it, as a little joke between people.

    • Suzanne_Writer

      I use LGBT when the four letter tag is more convenient but I also made the positive association between colourful quilts and QUILTBAG.

      ‘Queer is the new LGBT’ ?? I don’t even… to me that just comes across as ignorant and dismissive, especially of those who proudly identify as gay or lesbian or something other than queer!

      Fag hags unite – we should start a group blog 🙂

      • Kia Zi Shiru

        That is how I felt about it too. Plus, it’s confusing between people identifying as queer (as in non-standard idenitfying sexuality or non-standard identifying gender) and queer as being non-cis gendered-straight. Which are two totally different things, plus the second one has a lot of negative connotations when used in that way, unlike LGBT or QUILTBAG.

        I know a lot of faghags who would like to join a blog group like that 😛

        • Suzanne_Writer

          Yes, you make a really good point about the varying definitions of queer – I think queer is one of the least understood tags.

          Yay! 🙂

  • Stephen del Mar

    My two cents: I take issue with the use of the word “preference,” to me that has too much of a connotation of choice. I prefer German chocolate cake to angel food but my attraction to men is just the way it is. For me, there is no other options. I realize other’s experience may vary. I also have never liked lumping everyone into one group because our issues are different. Not to say we should not stand with one another, but gay men and lesbians are more confronted with heterosexism whereas transgendered folk face issues around gender identity. Again I think we all need to be concerned with working for social and economic justice for all but at the same time we need to have a diverse and nuanced social analysis to understand the various form of social oppression we face.

    • Suzanne_Writer

      I know that for some sexuality is a preference and for others it is simply who they are. I agree that lumping everyone into one group isn’t always the best way of addressing the various issues that affect individuals, but at least there’s a sense of solidarity across the spectrum, a unified struggle for equality despite intrinsic differences.

      • Stephen del Mar

        Agreed, solidarity is most important. I appreciate the post. I think these are important conversations we need to have. Thanks! I look forward to following your blog.

        • Suzanne_Writer

          Thank you! 🙂 I look forward to further comments!

  • Erica Pike

    Good post. QUILTGAB? Nah. I use LGBTQ (Q, for me, is “questioning”) but there’s no deliberate intent to exclude the others behind it. It’s just what I’m used to using. QUILTBAG, to me, sounds like a colorfully quilted bag. The “bag” bit is kind of fitting as these groups are chipping in to stand together, so I don’t see it as a negative term.

    At the same time, I agree with Stephen: They need to be allowed to sand together as individual groups. Gays should be allowed to stand together as gays and transgender people should be allowed to stand together as transgender without anyone interpreting that as being excluded.

    I also cringe every time I see the term “preference” as it *does* mean “choice”. In the case of bisexual people and people in between on the Kinsey scale it might be a choice (if they’re not falling head-over-heels for someone), but for a lot it isn’t a choice. For transgender people it isn’t a choice at all.

    • Suzanne_Writer

      Thank you! Nice to see someone else not taking the ‘bag’ bit in a negative way.

      Regarding preference, that’s why I said preferences and identities because for some it certainly isn’t a choice, but for many others it might be and there’s nothing wrong with who you love either way.

  • Mandy Van Rooyen

    I think quiltbag is simply PERFECT! Being a lesbian woman, I am proud and not ashamed and also don’t find the acronym offensive in any way! It’ s a persons intentions and tone of voice behind their comments that make the difference!
    Mandy, Johannesburg, South Africa

    • Suzanne_Writer

      So glad to hear that! It’s definitely more about how something is said 🙂

  • miriad

    I’m of the opinion that when people tell me that they’re offended by something, or that something that I’ve done has hurt them or made them feel bad, the answer isn’t to say, “no, I didn’t” or “you’re wrong”, it’s to say, “I’m sorry” and to stop using the word or doing the action. If I’m a straight person, I don’t get it and I CAN’T get it, so when someone tells me their experience, I need to acknowledge it and not tell them that their experience is invalid, which it kind of sounds like you’re doing here..

    Yeah, there are people who are “more delicate” in the rainbow community but many of them have been through a lot over the years and at this point, if they’re telling you that they don’t want to be called a QUILTBAG, they’ve gotten to the point where maybe they’ve got some delicate feelings but they’ve got enough spine to tell you that they’ve got delicate feelings so respect that, at least.

    But that’s just me.

    • Suzanne_Writer

      I never said that their experience is invalid at all, only that I’d rather include more subgroups in an acronym than omit them at the risk of possibly offending a few. My point was that ANY term can be misused and used as a weapon with the intention of hurting others. My use of QUILTBAG does not come loaded with that intention – if anything it’s about being more inclusive while understanding the risk that the term may possibly offend a few.

      Incidentally, I’ve had far more positive comments about the QUILTBAG term than I have ever received negative.