A blog about (hidden) Amsterdam

Why We Use LGBT+

Why do you use LGBT+? Why not LGBTQIA+, LGBTQ, or LGBTQ+? It’s a good question – and one we’ve thought about a lot. We believe that language is important, and we want to use the most inclusive terms. Unfortunately, it’s a challenging question with fierce advocates on all sides and no clear consensus.

Gay rights activists evolved the term LGBT in the 1980s and 1990s in order to stop using “gay” as a catch-all to describe the whole community. Over the past two decades, the usage has expanded to include Q for queer or questioning, I for intersex people, A for asexual or ally, and a plus to cover other people in the community who don’t see themselves reflected in the other letters.

There’s a lot of disagreement about these additions. Some intersex and asexual people don’t see themselves as sharing the same community or concerns. Others within the community feel that while allies are welcome and needed, they don’t share the same challenges or experiences. For example, if you’re talking about employment discrimination or coming out, it doesn’t make sense to use a term that includes people who don’t experience either.

Queer, meanwhile, has different meanings across the Western world that vary by both area and demographic. Many Americans use queer to mean anyone that is not completely heterosexual and cisgender. They would use queer to refer to a cisgender lesbian, a trans man, or a nonbinary person. For a lot of Western Europeans, queer refers to living outside of homonormative capitalism and nationalism. So, someone exploring relationship models in a commune might identify as queer, but a monogamous lesbian couple raising children and working for the defense department probably wouldn’t.

The main challenge with using the word queer, however, is its long use as a slur. For some, that can feel like it was long ago. Many millennial and Gen Z Americans, for example, have never heard queer used in a derogatory way. For some, the word is part of the violence and hate they experienced or are currently experiencing. There are places where queer is still a powerful slur today. In the places where its usage as a slur has faded, there are still many people who have experienced its violence.

When Badass Tours was founded in 2017, we faced the same difficult choice many groups face. Do we use LGBTQIA+, knowing that the term is complicated and queer is a painful word for some of the people we want to reach? Or do we use LGBT+, knowing that it would feel like exclusion for some of the people we want to reach?

As we were struggling with an answer, we had tour guests and friends tell us about the violence they’d experienced around the word queer. Some might argue that personal experiences shouldn’t set business policy, but our effect on people is the whole reason that Badass Tours exists. We felt that there is a huge difference between reclaiming a slur within a community and using a reclaimed slur in general communications. This is especially true for the kind of faceless international communication that happens on the internet.

We decided to use LGBT+ in the hope that everyone in the community would see themselves in either the letters or the symbol. It’s not an ideal solution and plenty disagree with it. If you’re one of them, we absolutely understand why you do. In fact, we’d love to hear your thoughts. But until language and cultures evolve a little more, we hope you can see the entire community reflected in the term LGBT+.

Ready for one of our tours?

Public Group Walking Tour

Plantage Storytelling Walk

Forget canals and piles – Amsterdam is a city built on stories. Some of its most interesting, though, have been overlooked by history. We stroll through the spacious Plantage neighborhood and stop to hear the untold stories of Amsterdam’s layered history.

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Public Group Walking Tour

LGBT+ History Storytelling Walk

When the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage, four couples were married by the Mayor of Amsterdam. But did you know that the city’s LGBT+ history stretches back to the medieval ages?

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Private Group Walking Tour

Customized Private Storytelling Walk

See Amsterdam through the stories of the hidden badasses who helped create it. You choose one or several of the themes: women, Jewish people, LGBT+ people or BIPOC. You can also ask for an interest area, such as artistic, academic, leaders or warriors. The tour can be up to three hours and customized by pick-up/drop-off location.

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