Friday, November 6, 2009

On captions and asexuality [Foul-Up Friday]

1. Reader Alice pointed this out on my Monday morning post regarding Marie NDiaye:
On a more adminny note, I wanted to say that it feels somewhat strange to see captions for images that don't specify who the person is, when their identity is relevant. I know that you did it for the Mad Men post a few days back, but I'll admit that it caught my attention more with this post. (I'm thinking it's because she's a woman of color and a real person, as opposed to fictional characters who are white - dehumanizing characters is less weird than dehumanizing someone real.)
This is an excellent point. Inspired by FWD, I've been captioning photos and illustrations in order to be more accessible to visually impaired readers. When I began this effort, I didn't name characters and actors, though Ouyang Dan's post that specifically spurred me to do it did indeed identify the actor and character. I also forgot to caption my Wednesday cat picture post. The latter post has been rectified, and I will begin identifying people in captions and keep a closer eye on how I describe persons of color. I apologize for these oversights.

2. In my post on not claiming the term ally yesterday, I said this:
When I was in a mostly-lesbian social circle in college, I claimed the label of ally to support my friends.* The term ally was fashionable - enough to be honored in the already-problematic acronym LBGTQ in most of our GSA’s publications.
In the comments, Lottie responded:
This is completely tangential, probably, but I always thought the A was for asexual. It's definitely problematic that allies are included in the acronym, I would say.
And Faye said:
Hi Willow - I agree with everything you've said, but I thought I'd let you know re: I cannot stand it when the A is tagged onto LGBT (or however you choose to expand the acronym) that the "A" is usually meant to include those who identify as asexual, not allies.

Not that I haven't seen it applied that way (often when GSA/LGBTQ organizations on high school and college campuses are trying to emphasize that they would welcome het members ;D), but in my experience that's not the way it's usually used.
Of course, the folks in the comments are right. The "A" in that problematic acronym rainbow usually refers to "asexual". I should have clarified or noted that, and I apologize.

However, talking to some school friends did support part of my memory on said point: "ally" was indeed a part of the acronym used by the organization I reference at that point. Which is and was problematic, for all those reasons I wrote about.


  1. I have seen the acronym LGBTQQAA, the last four apparently standing for "Queer, Questioning, Asexual and Allied".

    How about just calling us all "Perverts", as polyfidelitous heterosexual Arthur D. Hlavaty has suggested?

  2. This is exactly why I've embraced the term queer - the alternatives are WAY more complicated than I want to get into on a regular basis. (Though the questions are important to engage, it's nice to not have to engage them every time you need to use your organization's name for a room reservation.)


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