Gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny branded the gay rights movement before most out gay people were born. He came up with the slogan "Gay is Good!" and carefully considered the marketing techniques that would work best in 1960's America to challenge the status quo.
Have a look at the photograph below from one of the 1965 gay rights protests in front of the White House (that's Frank Kameny in the middle). It was no accident that the men wore suits and ties and the women wore skirts and blouses. And the slogans were all carefully considered before the posters were drawn. Frank took the temperature of the times and responded with a precision that one would expect of the scientist he was.
So what happened on the way to the 21st century? In terms of our "brand," we've progressed from "Gay is Good" to the GLBTQ rights movement. And I can't say that I think our new brand is a good thing for any of us under the GLBTQ umbrella.
I was reminded of what I don't like about our cumbersome moniker when I attended a GLBT (or was that LGBT?) youth conference last week in Westchester sponsored by GLSEN and PFLAG, among others. More than 600 people attended, including middle and high school students, parents, social workers, educators, and school counselors. (I was there to sell copies of my newly released book for teens, What If Someone I Know Is Gay?)
One of the young people I met had led a workshop earlier in the day called "LGBT 101." I asked him what he talked about in his presentation and he said that he explained things like "what LGBT means." That's a good start. But you have to wonder if we've got a problem if we have to introduce ourselves and our cause by explaining that this mouthful of initials stands for the various subgroups within our movement.
We're now so far along in the process of balkanized inclusion that we've been left without a simple way to explain who we are and what we're fighting for. And it's left some of us who don't embrace the tongue-twisting LGBTQ label scratching our heads when asked why we aren't more inclusive. That's what's happened to me on a couple of occasions in recent months because my of book's title. (I don't think What If Someone I Know is LGBTQ? would have had quite the same impact and, besides, it would have been false advertising because my book's focus is on what I know best, which is same-gender sexual orientation).
I don't have any suggestions or answers. I just have questions. Like, why do we have to enumerate every subgroup within our social/political movement? That may make some of us feel good about being inclusive in a very visible way, but what do we gain or lose as a movement by slicing and dicing ourselves into ever more categories? Why do some people say LGBT and others GLBT? (Am I risking my life by pointing out that if we were to consider the alphabet that "G" comes before "L"? And "B" comes before "G"? Although if we take into account population totals and list ourselves in descending order in terms of overall numbers, then "G"--assuming for argument's sake that "G" stands for "gay male"--should come first because there are twice as many gay men as lesbians. Then again, there are probably more bisexuals--male and female combined--than gay men or lesbians, so maybe we should be the BGLTQ movement).
So I'm curious to hear what you think. Am I the only malcontent out on this limb? Am I just an old guy who can't adjust to the LGBTQ new world order? If the alphabet is here to stay, what letter of the alphabet will we be adding next? And can anyone come up with a slogan for our current political and social movement that's as straightforward, alliterative, and powerful as "Gay is Good!"?