Modern Life What is LGBTQQIAAP2S? by David Jenkins
SEXUAL inclusivity’s a fine thing, and one can only be delighted that Jilly Cooper’s going to write a lesbian sex scene on the grounds that ‘there seems to be a lot of it about’. But however au courant they may be with gender alignments, most Oldie readers are probably unable entirely to parse the erogenous alphabet soup that is LGBTQQIAAP2S – a set of letters that’s increasingly used to convey sexual identification. The abbreviation LGBT may seem good enough for them, and indeed last April President Obama appointed the splendidly named Randy Berry as the first-ever US (and indeed world) special envoy for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
By September, though, Mr Berry, a fifty-year-old career diplomat who was latterly consul general in Amsterdam and is married to a man he met while serving in South Africa, was addressing a forum at Chatham House as the US Special Envoy for LGBTI rights. The letters are on the march and it might be as well to comprehend them. Transgender, for one, can be a slippery concept: Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic decathlon champion and one-time stepfather of Kim Kardashian, now has breasts and has had her Adam’s apple seen to, but she still has a penis and testicles; she is, as it’s known, ‘transitioning’.
I, though, is for intersex, the condition of those born ‘into bodies that are
not definitively male or female, including those born with ambiguous genitalia’, as Gayexplained.com puts it. Dawn Langley Simmons was one such: born with an engorged clitoris on the Sissinghurst estate in 1922 and classified by the doctor as male, he/she lived a miserable childhood, became the adoptive son of Margaret Rutherford, was taken up by Isabella Whitney and made her heir, had a sex change, married a black man in South Carolina when such things were violently frowned upon, lost her money, befriended the young Mike Tyson and ended up writing for the Sunday
Telegraph. All very mouvementé, but her legal status was never clear. In 2014, though, India’s Supreme Court ruled that hijras – those born male or intersex who lead lives as women or something more ambivalent – have legal status: bureaucratic forms now boast tick boxes labelled M, F and O for Other.
It’s with the Qs that eyes begin to roll. One Q is for questioning, as many unsure of their tastes are; it’s also for Queer, as in radical homosexuals who want to embrace the term, just as the rap band Niggaz With Attitude did for the word ‘nigger’. Closer to home, Wadham College, Oxford, has its Queerweek, culminating in Queerfest, a frolicsome party that’s one of the highlights of the university’s social scene. This is stretching gender assignment to the limit, and even more so are the two As: asexual, as we all thought Edward Heath to be, and allies, which is anyone supportive of the LGBTI community. P is more action-packed, standing for polysexual, which means being open to any form of sexuality to which Cupid’s bow might point you – i.e., not just bisexuality but also T and I. I’ve read no mention of bestiality, but who knows?
Exhausting, but not exhaustive: 2S has now been added to the mix – standing for two-spirit, a term employed by Native Americans who believe their body manifests both a masculine and a feminine spirit; a leading light is Kent Monkman, who has a drag queen alter ego he calls Miss Chief Eagle Testickle [sic]. So LGBTQQIAAP2S it is – and quite a mouthful, as Kenneth Williams might have put it.
I is for intersex, the condition of those born ‘into bodies not definitively male or female’
Dawn Langley Simmons, right, in 1971