Edge Effect’s Use of SGMI and SOGIESC

Phrasing and acronyms in this topic area are contested and evolving. The use of some variation of LGBTIQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer (or Questioning) with the + denoting identity groups including but not only non-binary (enby), asexual, agender, polysexual and pansexual) is common. This acronym has critics however.

In many countries there are local configurations and terms used by people who have intimate, affective and physical relationships with people of the same gender, or whose gender identity is not the same as that assigned at birth, or whose gender expression does not accord with norms or whose sex characteristics do not fit neatly into a medical binary. LGBTIQ+ does not include these, for example there is no V for Vakasalewalewa, a Fijian third gender category. Additionally, some of these configurations are more about behaviours than stabilised identities and not all are direct synonyms for L or B or G or T and so forth. Further complexity arises as local configurations change over time and as global and local cultures intermingle. And not only does LGBTIQ+ render some people invisible, in adopting terms from the Global North as universal, some critics view LGBTIQ+ framing as  a neo-colonial extension of the erasure of diverse gender and sexual identities that resulted from the imposition of  Western European laws, religion, and socio-cultural norms. A separate strand of argument is that LGBTIQ+ identity categories highlight difference and effectively ‘other’ people who don’t live heteronormative, cisnormative and binary lives and that some people reconcile discriminatory behaviour on the basis of that difference.

Edge Effect tends not to use LGBTIQ+, except where referring to documents or activities from organisations that use the acronym, in which case consistency is maintained with the source and its use of LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTIQ and so forth.

The various alternatives that are used as alternatives to LGBTIQ+ framing all have limitations.  Edge Effect tends to use ‘sexual and gender  minorities’  (SGM) or ‘sexual, gender and intersex minorities’ (SGMI) when the discussion is actually inclusive of intersex people.* This minority politics framing could also be critiqued for othering and for encouraging the stagnation of identity politics.In using minority politics framing, it is is important to remember that minority is not numerical, it refers to power imbalances. We see minority politics as a context for agency, creativity and resistance; and our objective is a world in which diversity is embraced, and in which minority politics become irrelevant.

We also use SOGIE or SOGIESC which acronymises sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, and in the latter acronym, sex characteristics. SOGIESC is used only when characteristics of intersex people are explicitly included.* Other organisations sometimes use SOGI, which is inclusive of gender identity concerns, but not necessarily gender expression.

Such language and acronym  complexity may seem  a barrier and a frequently expressed concern is ‘what if I get it wrong?’ A respectful strategy is to follow the self-identification of people you are engaging with. It may sometimes be appropriate to ask, discretely, for guidance. However not where safety and protection issues may arise, including public, community, workplace and family contexts. If in doubt, consult a local CSO with expertise working with gender and sexual minorities or intersex people.

*The 2017 Darlington Statement is a useful starting point for designers of future research projects.