Does ‘Kink’ Belong in the LGBTQ+ Alphabet?

Rainbow mug with LGBTQ+ connotations

A ‘K’ has been added to the LGBTQ+ alphabet, and not everyone is particularly happy about it.

The ‘K’, added onto the full acronym LGBTQQICAPF2K+, stands for ‘kink’, and while no one is against kinks and fetishes in general (as with anything, as long as it’s safe and consensual then anything goes), there are many that are confused as to why this would be included in a list of sexualities and gender identities.

For those who don’t know or need a reminder, the full acronym as it stands is:

L – lesbian

G – gay

B – bisexual

T – transgender

Q – queer/questioning

I – intersex

A – asexual/agender/ally

C – curious

P – pansexual

P – polysexual

F – friends and family

2 – two-spirit

K – kink

The inclusion of ‘kink’, ‘friends and family’, and ‘ally’ raises concerns because, very simply, these are not exclusively non-cishet identities. There is of course some overlap (queer people who are into BDSM, for example), and kink as a whole is hardly welcomed with open arms in mainstream society – terribly written, thinly-veiled Twilight fanfiction that badly represents the BDSM community aside. Kink-shaming is a real thing, but this would fall more into the category of sex-shaming, which is something anyone regardless of sexuality or gender might experience. The problem people have with including ‘kink’ in the LGBTQ+ alphabet is that they’re uncomfortable that the LGBTQ+ umbrella can now technically include cishet people.

And it’s not just ‘kink’ that stands out on that list. There has long been a backlash in the community over having the ‘A’ stand for ally, as not only does this erase asexual and agender identities, but while allies are important, they’re not LGBTQ+.  In the past, clothing companies have been called out for exactly this – creating products with the LGBTQ+ alphabet, and having the A stand for ally, such as American Apparel’s rainbow tote bag.

Again, members of the LGBTQ+ community are grateful for their allies, but they are not a core part of the community. They don’t face the same issues that queer people faces as a direct result of the gender identity or sexuality, and they don’t have the need for the online and real life safe spaces that are created for the queer community. The same goes for friends and family of LGBTQ+ people – we’re not saying that they don’t face issues, just not the same ones as people who are not cisgender or heterosexual.

Two-spirit is a little more complicated, as it refers to an identity within indigenous North American culture. Very, VERY basically (as in, if you’re ever going to talk about two-spirit yourself, don’t rely on this definition, as I am a white British woman with no in-depth knowledge of Native American culture), it refers to people in indigenous communities who fulfill a traditional third-gender or gender-variant role in their cultures.

What does this mean about its inclusion in the LGBTQ+ alphabet? Well, with even a basic understanding of what it means, it’s definitely not a cisgender identity – therefore, it would belong in the full LGBTQ+ acronym. And unless you’re an indigenous North American or extremely well educated on the topic (in which case, we’d love to hear from you about this!) then I would consider that we’re not knowledgeable enough about it to start making arguments against its inclusion.

“The addition of letters to include people who are into kink, friends and family and allies seems like a strange attempt to include cisgender, heterosexual people in LGBTQ+ spaces.”

There are plenty of identities on this list that fully deserve to be included in the queer alphabet – beyond ‘LGBT’ there’s queer, intersex, asexual, agender and pansexual that should be immediately recognised by most queer people as under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. But the addition of letters to include people who are into kink, friends and family and allies seems like a strange attempt to include cisgender, heterosexual people in LGBTQ+ spaces. Which is completely against the point of creating LGBTQ+ spaces in the first place.

When navigating the world of LGBTQ+ activism, there comes a point where you have to decide exactly how far into that acronym you’re going to go – as you can see, my personal choice is to go for LGBTQ+. For me it’s short enough that it doesn’t take up a whole sentence itself, but tries to be inclusive of identities other than those with a designated letter. It’s by no means a perfect solution (I understand that I’m probably comfortable leaving out some letters because my own identity, the ‘B’, is included), but personally when I see that acronym I automatically assume it refers to anyone who isn’t heterosexual and/or cisgender.

If someone wants to use the full acronym (dropping the not-exclusively non-cishet identities, perhaps), I have no problem with that. At this point though, it might actually be quicker to specify ‘non-cishet people’ than try to remember the long list of letters – and it appears that you’re listing them all and you accidentally miss one off, it could look like deliberate exclusion. For me though, I think I will be deliberately excluding ‘kink’ from my personal use of the LGBTQ+ alphabet.

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