Metaphors and Acronyms

Human brains love metaphor. Clever comparisons allow us to see things in a new way. They’re tasty snacks for our senses, and we devour them with delight. When Shakespeare asks, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” our minds shout “Yes!” and we begin generating possibilities even before he continues his love sonnet.

We also gravitate toward acronyms. We love words like SCUBA, RADAR, and SNAFU. Clubs and companies strive to find that perfect combination of initials that will yield acronyms that are easy to pronounce, and if they somehow convey meaning as well, all the better. It’s way easier to talk about the USA PATRIOT Act than the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.”

Which brings us to QUILTBAG. I’m pretty sure I first heard this term from my friend Robin, a brilliant youth librarian in Boston. Then I encountered it in the book The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne. My limited research tells me the term QUILTBAG was coined way back in 2006 by Sadie Lee, writing in Diva magazine.

In any case, it’s a more inclusive, easier-to-say acronym for the LGBT community:

  • Q – queer / questioning
  • U – undecided / undeclared
  • I – intersex
  • L – lesbian
  • T – transgender / transsexual
  • B – bisexual
  • A – asexual (and ally?)
  • G – gay / genderqueer / genderfluid

I like the many metaphors “quiltbag” suggests: a patchwork of identities; a soft and cozy, flexible container with many pockets; a beautiful, multifaceted landscape stitched together from pieces not previously seen to have value. It works well as an acronym, too — easier to say than LGBTQIA+ and certainly less clunky than the latest mega-inclusives like LGBTTQQIAAP or LGBTQQIP2SAA.

I also like that it puts the Q right up front. Queer, a hurtful slur not so long ago, has been reclaimed and functions as an umbrella term in a world where we are increasingly seeing gender and sexuality as a broad spectrum rather than a this-or-that binary. Which means that other Q, questioning, is more important than ever — less “I haven’t come out yet” and more “I’m still figuring it out.”

I don’t know if the term will catch on or not. Perhaps it will get lost in the quagmire of political correctness where no term is ever quite complete or correct enough. Or maybe it will be abandoned because “anything-bag” is almost always an insult.

But I like it. And I’m using it.

Welcome to QUILTBAG Books. Here’s where I’ll talk about books with QUILTBAG characters and themes, and I invite you to join the discussion with your questions and comments. Stay tuned….


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