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LGBTI

The terms we use to label ourselves and others both help and limit us.


The National LGBTI Health Alliance uses “LGBTI” as a recognisable acronym to collectively refer to a group of identities that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/transgender and intersex people and other sexuality, and gender diverse people, regardless of their term of self-identification.


Identity labels are useful to communicate who we are talking about, especially to those who have little understanding of issues around sexual orientation, sex and gender identity. At the same time, no one term or acronym will never truly reflect the wide range of ways of being that differ from commonly accepted heterosexual and gender norms. Definitions and terminology related to sexual orientation, sex and gender identity are contested and draw strong views from community members and professionals working in the field.  The meanings of terms tend to change over time and even at a given time, they are often used or interpreted differently depending on the individual or context.

So – no matter how many letters it contains - no acronym will ever be truly reflective of the diverse identities and communities that comprise the Alliance and that we work with and for.


This was a challenge we faced when naming the Alliance and is a tension we acknowledge and try to take into account in our work.


In its Sex and Gender Diversity Project, the Australian Human Rights Commission used the phrase “sex and gender diversity” as a celebration of and recognition of variations in sex and gender. This found resonance with large parts of the community, and we also use this where we can, expanding it to “sexuality, sex and gender diversity”, in order to be as inclusive as possible. Rather than trying to be entirely consistent, we try to mix use of this phrase with use of LGBTI and identity labels, depending on the context, to reflect the different preferences of our members.


We aim to work across identity labels and to consider sexuality, sex and gender diversity in all their facets and communities. We call on lesbian, bi, gay, intersex, trans and queer people, queens, sistergirls, fa’afafine, femmes, transsexuals, takatāpui, bois, bears and toms, all those with an interest in sexual orientation, sex identity and gender identity and how these relate to health and wellbeing to be part of the National LGBTI Health Alliance. As an Alliance we are better able to achieve our shared objective of improved wellbeing for all sexuality, sex and gender diverse people.

 

LGB & T & I

 

A further challenge lies in working across issues relating to sexual orientation, sex and gender identity. A person's sex or gender identity says nothing about their sexual orientation, and there are very real differences in the issues faced by 'LGB' & 'T' & 'I' people. At the same time there is a long history of members of these different communities working together to pursue their respective interests and their common aims. We seek to differentiate where appropriate, and to ensure that when we speak of "LGBTI" we really are being inclusive of not only lesbian, bisexual, gay people and their issues but also of trans and intersex people and issues.

 

I for Intersex

 

Initially called the National LGBT Health Alliance, at it's first Annual General Meeting, held in November 2010, the Alliance added an 'I' to its name. 'I' for Intersex.


Intersex is used by many as an umbrella term for people born with any of a number of physical variations that means they do not clearly fit expectations of a male-female binary in physical sex. While there are some significant overlaps between trans and intersex issues there are also some very clear differences between sex diversity and gender diversity.


When the Alliance was being established, those intersex people consulted said they did not identify as part of the LGBT community and did not wish to be represented by the Alliance, but were happy to stand side by side in coalition on shared issues. Given the lack of a clear mandate to work on intersex issues and a initial lack of intersex members, the Alliance decided to tread a middle path: We tried to ensure that Alliance structures and profile allowed space for the inclusion of intersex issues should intersex people wish to participate, and we sought opportunities to engage with intersex people and be supportive of their work. In consultation with an intersex organisation, we decided to use the term “sex and gender diversity” in our constitution, to ensure that space was there for intersex issues. However, we were clear that we could not and should not present ourselves as representing intersex issues until such time as intersex people were actively engaging as part of the Alliance. We saw it not as the Alliance's decision to include intersex but intersex people's decision as to where they identify and which organisational frameworks they see as appropriate to represent their interests and pursue their objectives. In our work we sought to flag that there are specific issues faced by intersex people where it seems appropriate, refered to work by intersex organisations and recommended direct consultation rather than implicitly representing these issues without a clear mandate.


We were pleased that intersex groups did choose to participate and soon joined the Alliance, working collaboratively with other Alliance members to pursue our shared goals. By the time we held our first AGM in November 2010 all three specific intersex organisations in Australasia had become members of the Alliance (OII, AISSGA and ITANZ) and our members unanimously and proudly changed our name to reflect this. We now strive to represent intersex issues in our work just as we strive to represent trans, lesbian, gay and bisexual issues, reflecting the interests and expertise of our members.


We acknowledge that there is great diversity of perspectives and circumstances among intersex people, just as among other people within the LGBTI 'umbrella' - some strongly identify with the LGBT(I) sector and use it as a framework for solidarity and working towards common goals, while others strongly differentiate themselves from it. Indeed many intersex people do not identify with the term 'intersex' at all. As in all other areas, the Alliance represents the perspectives of its members, who have chosen to work collaboratively and in solidarity - using the acronym 'LGBTI' - to pursue our shared goals. We do not claim to speak on behalf of every single L, G, B, T or I person in Australia, but for our members.