Putting the ‘Q’ in ‘LGBTQ’

This article was originally posted on the website for the book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography. It is the first in a series of two articles, intending to help to answer the questions about best practices when using terms such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. Weddings to the People Couple

When Thea Dodds and I wrote our first book, Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Authentic Weddings, 2013), we knew that we were introducing a brand new (and much needed) guide for understanding the needs of same-sex couples. We also knew that we would not have as many pages to say what we’d like to say. Especially about how our transgender brothers and sisters may or may not fall under the category of ‘same-sex weddings.’

Anyone who has worked with the LGBTQ community knows that that terms we use are important, continue to evolve, and are often a source of disagreement and misunderstanding both within and outside of the larger ‘gay’ community. It is also true that many in the wedding industry (and larger society) are beginning to use terms like ‘LGBT’ without fully understanding what the acronym means.

So, our work in writing the first Capturing Love was challenging. How, we asked ourselves, would we, in a limited number of pages, address a complex, often subjective and frequently misunderstood topic of who is and is not included in the term ‘same-sex weddings.’ How could we address and be inclusive of the needs of the transgender community in a way that, while brief, could feel accessible to a photographer who had never before considered what the terms ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender’ mean? After all, there are entire semester-long undergraduate and post-graduate courses dedicated to understanding gender identity and sexual orientation. This is not a topic to be taken lightly or explained in 140 characters or less.

So what did we do?

We decided that for the sake of the most general, searchable, and commonly used terms (in broader society) for same-sex weddings, we kept the terms ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ in the title of our book, recognizing that individuals who identify as bisexual, transgender or queer might feel left out of the general description. And, then, within the pages of our book, we switched our terms to use ‘same-sex couples’ and ‘same-sex weddings’ as our most descriptive and inclusive terms. We also offered this context:

As photographers make the leap to new ways of thinking about engagement and wedding photography, it’s also important to understand what the LGBT community is and what it isn’t. The community is as broad and diverse as one might imagine, and while the community has many shared objectives geared toward seeking partnership recognition and equality, it’s important to know that being an “L’ isn’t the same as being a “G” and neither of those are the same as being a “T.”

That’s why, for the purposes of this book, we refer to ‘same-sex couples,’ meaning those couples who identify as being in relationship with someone of the same sex. In other words, the individuals in these couples could identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but we’re referring to the ones whose cake toppers will depict two women or two men–albeit with some variation in gender presentation possible.

So, while we talk about being LGBT inclusive, which is becoming an increasingly common practice in the wedding industry, it is important to keep in mind that many transgender individuals are in a heterosexual relationship for which many of the traditional rules of wedding photography for opposite-sex couples might apply just fine!

This approach was incredibly helpful and we did feel as though we could be inclusive and concise, while relying on our appearances and workshops to be able to say more about what we think photographers (and other wedding professionals) need to understand about the terms they are using.

But, when Capturing Love was picked up by Amphoto Books (an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group and Penguin Random House), we felt like kids in candy store. Upon us was an opportunity to expand our book, add new images and couples and go further into depth on this important topic. With the help of a fabulous San Francisco-based photographer, Weddings to the People, and two of her couples, we were able to be just that much more inclusive. Though our focus in The New Art of Capturing Love (Amphoto Books, 2014) remains on same-sex couples, we were also able to say more about supporting couples in which at least one partner identifies as transgender or, in some cases, queer.

What’s that you say? Queer! Queer? How can you use that term? Isn’t that offensive? Doesn’t the ‘Q’ in ‘LGBTQ’ mean ‘questioning?’

Yes, we said Q as in ‘queer.’ Yes, it can be offensive. And, yes, Q can mean ‘questioning.’ Which brings us back to how complex this topic can be and how important it is to have these conversations, to get in tune with the terms that the LGBTQ community is using, and to better understand how individuals and couples–your prospective clients–identify.

Want to learn more? Check out part two in this series at www.capturingloveguide.com.

Photo credit: Weddings to the People

Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com