The Washington Post

Civilities: Steven Petrow answers all your LGBT/straight social dilemmas for the hour (01 24)

Jan 24, 2017

Steven Petrow (the author of "Steven Petrow's Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners") addresses questions about LGBT and straight etiquette in his column, Civilities. In between, join Steven for his chat about everything that's on your mind.

Here's more about Steven's "Civilities" column and what makes him the person to dole out advice.

You can also reach Steven on Facebook at and on Twitter @stevenpetrow.

Welcome to today's live chat. Over the weekend I wrote for the Post about the erasure of the "LGBT rights" page (along with several others from the Trump Administration's site). What really caught my eye were the nasty and mean-spirited anti-LGBT posts on various news stories reporting the disappearance. I'd like to know -- in your day to day lives -- are you seeing greater incidents of harassment, bullying, or worse? Let me know and also let me know how you've been responding.


Here's my column from this past weekend.

Over the past four years as state and federal laws have changed, my husband and I have been blessed to have been a part of weddings for four of our closest friends and their partners. These ceremonies were big, extravagant events and followed all the wedding rules and protocols except for one: the "thank you card." My husband recently pointed out to me that in the six weddings we have attended over the last four years (four same-sex, two traditional), only the "traditional" couples bothered to send formal thank you notes for the wedding gifts. As for the same-sex couples, we didn't even get a text. It's probably a symptom of society at-large forgetting to be thankful for gifts and to express that gratitude accordingly. However, my husband and I are so disappointed and hurt over the fact that four couples / eight people - all of whom we count as our closest friends - could not at the very least reached out and said, "thanks." We continue to remain close with these couples and our friendship has only grown since the weddings, but forgetting to say thanks will always be in the back of our minds. RonB Hillsborough NC

Someone asking a question from my own town! Hello, Ron. I wonder if the distinction is not about sexual orientation but age? Millennials tend to be laxer about such things (I know here we go piling on the young peeps again) ... But there's really no excuse. A gift requires a thank you, and that has nothing to do with someone's sexual orientation.


BTW, here's a language suggestion: The opposite of a "same-sex couple" is an "opposite-sex" one.

At the Women's March, I saw a sign referring to rights for the LGBTQIA. I know what the letters LGBTQ stand for, but not IA. Could you enlighten me? Thanks!

I'd be happy to....


G= Gay

B= Bisexual

T= Transgender

Q=Queer or Questioning (as in one's sexuality)

I= Intersex (“An individual whose biological birth does not correspond with conventional expectations of male/female anatomy or genetics. Some intersexuals consider themselves transgender and some do not. The older term, hermaphrodite, is considered by many to be offensive.”

A=Ally or Asexual



Hello Steven. We had incident in our workplace a couple weeks ago where a male coworker exposed himself to me (erect). I am straight, but apparently I misled him somehow. We cleared the air and everything was fine and professional. HR eventually heard about it and he was reprimanded which I understand, but the company is now putting pressure on me to press charges too! I feel they are only doing this because it was a male-male interaction and that is not fair. We had a similar issue last year between a man and a woman, and although the woman did press charges she did not do so under influence of HR. I believe this is a perfect opportunity for me to stand up for equal treatment of all relationship types, but I do fear some backlash in my career if I do not follow HR's direction. Do you think I am trying to make too big of an example in this situation, or am I doing the right thing? Thanks.

Somehow you've managed to take responsibility for your co-worker's completely inappropriate action ("but apparently I misled him somehow). You didn't do that; he chose to do what he did. And it's wrong.


Now to part two of your question. No, I don't think this is the "perfect opportunity" for you to stand up for "equal treatment of all relationships." HR reprimanded him (which actually seems like he was given a pretty lenient "sentence") and it's up entirely to you about deciding whether to press charges (for exposure, presumably?) If you don't, the HR folks should not punish you--of all people.


What do others think about this situation?

partly because a lot of the social pressure to do them (other than tradition) is from the groom's mother and on the bride. It is seen as the first thing she does as her husband's wife to prove to her mother-in-law and the relatives on that side that she is going to do a good job on, well, everything going forward. Never mind that I know a ton of couples (older than millennials) who split the job as is perfectly correct and preferable to the old method. But in a same sex couple, mothers from another era are going to be confused as to how that works.

Gays have moms and mothers-in-laws, too, you know! (I know you know that.) And I certainly try to please mine (as much as that's possible). Now, many of the same-sex couples marrying are actually older and they might not have moms and MILs (mothers-in-law) breathing down their necks but, by this time in life, we should all know the basics of thank you notes. You should write them as soon as possible, thank the giver for the specific gift, and personalize them.

The plural of anecdote is not data. My experience has been exactly the opposite of yours: opposite-sex couples not sending thank-yous while the same-sex couples did.

Ha! Well, of course you're right about the plural of anecdote. And thanks for sharing your "data."

Can we (and I say that as an Ally) just keep it at LGBT? That seems to be accepted as encompassing anyone who falls outside of the "norm" as far as sexuality and gender and I think four is the maximum number of letters you can use in an acronym. Any more and it needs to be said as a word, like NAFTA, or else it will become unwieldy. Just my word nerd opinion.

My preference is to write "LGBTQ" these days -- with the "Q" specifically intended to mean "queer" (but if someone takes it as questioning, I'm not going to worry). Many individuals who consider themselves "non-binary" or "gender-queer" want to see the inclusion of the Q in the acronym. Others sometimes will write, "LGBTQ+ (with the plus sign referring to the I and the A ...) At the Post, our style is to write "LGBT," which is why you see me use that form in print.

It is lovely - painted on a small oval of Lenox china and even made in the US. I wore it to the March on Saturday and assumed that anyone who saw it would interpret it to mean I support the March and love my country. In fact, I consider the first to be essential to the second. But I find myself hesitating to wear it now because outside of that context, I think it might be misinterpreted. Any suggestions? I can't wear anything overtly political at work.

It does sound beautiful. Even though some take the American flag to belong to one political party, it is--in fact-- a symbol of our one nation. I say reclaim the flag and wear it to work.

I'm a hetero-cis female who has always felt that I had a stereotypically male brain, so I will take that designation.


Trump triangulated (mostly conservative) LGBTs against Islam in the campaign & now everyone thinks he's "gay friendly." He's appointed the most homophobic VP & Cabinet imaginable and with 2 Supreme Court picks he could easily erode marriage equality in probably 3 years. They're already T-ing up cases. Question: How to respond to people who actually believe gay rights are not under attack?

Many organizations in our community are acting as watch guards right now (notably the Human Rights Campaign). They were among the first to call attention to the disappearance of the "LGBT rights" page on and yesterday I saw word from them that former Secretary of State John Kerry's apology about the anti-LGBTQ witch hunts in the 50s and 60s had been removed as well. Not to forget that Trump chose Mike Pence, who is NO friend of the LGBTQ community; ditto for several of his cabinet nominees. In terms of practical strategies, I suggest going with the "true" facts as we know them. There are many examples already (as well as a number of anti-trans bills in state houses that have been proposed by Republicans). Keep your cool; keep adding to your argument; and yes, keep an open mind.

I recently saw this suggested as the new all-encompassing term-- certainly less of a mouthful than other options!

This from Urban Dictionary; I don't think it's well-enough recognized yet.... But it's intriguing.


Top Definition
An acronym to be used instead of LGBTQQ2IA*

Q - Queer and Questioning
U - Unidentified
I - Intersex
L - Lesbian
T - Transgender, Transexual
B - Bisexual
A - Asexual
G - Gay, Genderqueer
"Hey, are you one of the QUILTBAG folk, too?"

"The lesbian community is just one of the many different pockets in the QUILTBAG!"

I've sent three gifts for weddings in the past three years. Two straight (younger), one gay (older) couple...wanna guess who I got a thank you from? I really do think it has something to do with the younger generation.

I'll just repost your note -- and not get into further trouble with my Millennial nieces and friends.

I always thought "queer" referred to both gay and lesbian. How does it differ from either or both of those?

Queer is an umbrella term and I like this definition from the Oregon State Pride Center:


“Originally pejorative for gay, it is now being reclaimed by some gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons as a self-affirming umbrella term. Caution: still extremely offensive when used as an epithet, especially among older Queers.”

Do you have any fears with this new Administration? Especially with a VP like Mike Pence and President Trump, makes me ill just typing it. I think a lot of people have been experiencing a lot fear since the reality of a President...Trump...

I cannot overstate the level of my concern for not only LGBTQ people, but women, people of color, those of different religious background/beliefs.



Steven, can you give us a heads-up on any letters that will be added to this over the coming year? What groups are we not adequately representing? Thanks.

Keep coming back. Although if you want a preview take a look at the 58 choices Facebook allows to describe one's gender.

Thanks very much for joining me today--and for your questions. I'll see you back here in two weeks. SP

In This Chat
Steven Petrow
Steven Petrow is a respected journalist and the go-to source for modern manners. Petrow writes the "Civilities" column for The Washington Post as well as "Manners Hero" for Parade and "Medical Manners" for Everyday Health.
David France
David France is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author who has been writing about AIDS since 1982, beginning in gay-community papers.

Today he is one of the best-known chroniclers of the epidemic, and now is a contributing editor for both GQ and New York magazine.
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