At Scotch Oakburn Belonging and Inclusivity are two of our College Values, Inclusive and Ethical are two of the Learner Attributes and Appreciation of Diversity is one of the Round Square Discoveries. These dispositions that we promote demonstrate how important it is to the Scotch Oakburn community that we are always learning to embrace and celebrate difference. Differences in our community that are related to ethnicity, cultural and social background, religion, language, ability and gender provide for a richer learning experience for all of us.

Part of our teaching and learning about understanding difference involves using the correct language and sometimes we need to explicitly learn what that is. Using the correct terminology can make individuals and groups feel valued and respected. Inclusive language acknowledges everyone and treats people equitably and with the sensitivity and respect to which they are entitled. Exclusive language on the other hand can discriminate against people if they are different from you because of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender, level of education or if they have a disability.

In the College’s soon to be released Inclusion and Diversity Policy it states clearly that Scotch Oakburn is committed to providing all students with access to high-quality schooling that is free from discrimination based on: ability (of all kinds), culture, ethnicity, faith or lack thereof, religion, race, sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

As part of us all learning to honour our stated policy and celebrating the rich diversity in our community this article aims to focus on the language of gender identity which has been ever evolving over the past 15-20 years, as society learns and understands important differences between the various sexual and gender minorities. As times and attitudes have changed the language used to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity has also changed, all in the interests of inclusion.

There are many iterations of the abbreviations used to describe the gender and sexuality spectrums, depending on which source you refer to. I have chosen to use The New York Times, who in 2019 asked readers to share how they identify when the World Pride celebration was held in New York. The abbreviation used by them is LGBTQIA+. It is acknowledged that this by-no-means includes all possible vocabulary, but for our purposes here we will explore what these letters refer to so that we can all improve our understanding of this important inclusive terminology.

L refers to Lesbian and G to Gay. The term gay became the mainstream term referring to same-sex attraction in the late 1960s. Later the phrase ‘gay and lesbian’ became popular as a way of highlighting issues faced by women in the fight for tolerance. Gay is still sometimes used as an umbrella term, but it is common now that it refers specifically to men, as in ‘gay men and lesbians’.

B refers to Bisexual and refers to those who are attracted to people of their own gender or other gender identities. Advocates emphasise that this term does not only refer to a male/female gender binary but includes attraction to people across the gender identity spectrum.

T refers to Transgender which is a wide-ranging term for people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the biological sex they were assigned at birth.

Q is widely accepted as standing for Queer, a term that no longer has derogatory connotations and may now be used as a catchall term by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There are some who insist that it stands for questioning and represents people who are uncertain of their sexual orientations or gender identities.

I refers to Intersex, a term used for someone born with biological sex characteristics that are neither traditionally associated with male or female bodies. Intersexuality does not refer to sexual orientation or gender identity.

A refers to Asexual and describes people who experience low level or no sexual attraction. People of different sexual orientations and gender identities can be asexual.

The + sign at the end of the abbreviation acknowledges that there are many individuals who may not fall into the groups encompassed by the previous letters.

So why is it important for us to understand the meaning of these words and to use the terminology correctly? Everybody in our community has the right to be respected for who they are and to be recognised with the appropriate inclusive language. In order for all of us to show the respect that others deserve it is important that we expand our own understanding.

Stuart Walls
Head of Senior School

References:
The ABCs of LGBTQIA+, Michael Gold, New York Times, June 2019
Inclusive Language Guidelines, Department of Education, Tasmania, 2020
Scotch Oakburn College Inclusivity and Diversity Policy (DRAFT), 2021