Understanding the LGBTQ+ Acronym

National Coming Out Day

What Does LGBTQ+ Mean?

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a glaring problem I see both within and without is a sheer lack of education on what it means to be a part of said community. This series will shed some light on things I’ve learned and hopefully be a part of banishing that problem. This specific article is about the acronym used to identify it, but above all, denote the idea that existence in the first place is something to be explored, not assumed and easily defined.

The acronym LGBTQ+ like most social trends can’t be easily traced to a singular source, but most predict that it started with activists of this community trying to adopt a name that wasn’t entrenched in mockery (over the past two decades or so, terms like homosexual and gay had become more of a slang term meant to ridicule rather than identify) and denoted inclusion of others who were socially ostracized for their sexual orientations and gender identities.

It has since evolved from its original LGBT to so much more: GLBT, LGBTQ+, LGBT2SQIAPKQ etc.; no one term has been settled upon. It can be confusing but is impossibly beautiful in it’s chaos:  we as a society are finally recognizing that identity doesn’t have to be restricted to pre-determined terms and instead, is an ever evolving concept. For the sake of avoiding as much confusion as I can for people who are new to this ideology, I will speak in terms that often have exceptions and can be entirely wrong in other cases:  be prepared to have most of what I show you be turned on its head. Like teaching someone math, you never start with calculus, you want to start with addition. Even though in some extreme cases two plus two can equal five, you never impart that knowledge on a burgeoning student, you give them a set of rules that they can get a basic understanding out of before you begin talking about exceptions and outliers.

The ABC’s of the LGBT

For this article we will use the acronym LGBTTQQI2SADPA.

A lot of people recognize the verbosity of using so many letters, but struggle with excising them because that would imply exclusion. That is why people put a plus sign at the end of a smaller amount of the letters in the acronym: both to make it easier to express the acronym and to signify that there are so many more identities left to recognize and discover.

L is for Lesbian– Defined as a woman that is romantically and/or physically attracted to another woman.

G is for Gay– Defined as a man that is romantically and/or physically attracted to another man. It sometimes doubles as an umbrella word for both Gay  and lesbian individuals.

B is for Bisexual– Defined as a man or woman that is romantically and/or physically attracted to both members of the traditional (man and woman) binary. Bisexuality is also used as an umbrella term for individuals who are attracted to anyone regardless of where they exist on or off the binary.

T is for Transgender– Defined as someone born with an assigned gender that is not what they actually identify as. Although many individuals under this identity take physical steps to become their authentic selves (hormone therapy, top surgery, wearing clothing typically associated with their gender etc.) this doesn’t invalidate anyone who doesn’t take these extra steps.

T is for Transsexual– This is a term that has evolved to mean different things for different people. In the literal sense, it means someone who changes their sexual orientation from what is was originally. It can however mean someone who is transgender ( most transgender individuals have stepped away from using this term because it is both not encapsulating enough of their experience and is often used as a derogatory term), and it can mean someone who is romantically and/or physically attracted to transgender individuals.

Q is for Queer- Defined as an identity that doesn’t fit into one specific norm. Sometimes these are individuals whose orientations or identities change between specific ones, or individuals that feel defining their gender isn’t appropriate and/or take comfort in ambiguity.

Q is for Questioning– Defined as an individual that is vacillating on what their identity is.

I is for Intersex- Defined as an individual who is born with biological aspects of both men and women. This doesn’t necessarily mean just hermaphroditic individuals, this can happen when someone has what is considered out of the norm of the genetic make up for specific sex (chromosomes, estrogen, androgen, etc.)

2S is for Two Spirit- This is an umbrella term that was created to identify individuals in Native American communities that exist as a gender that isn’t male or female. Most Native American communities recognize the existence of five genders, but what these genders are varies from tribe to tribe; this is a term that can only be truly understood if you exist in said communities and therefore erroneous to try and define with another language/culture.

A is for Asexual– Originally defined as someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction, this term has since evolved to express a spectrum of identity that implies a specific absence of attraction:  it can mean someone who experiences no sexual attraction at all, only romantic, vice versa, or someone who only experiences sexual and/or romantic attraction on occasion etc.

D is for Demisexual– Defined as someone who only experiences physical attraction to someone after they develop a romantic attraction to them first. What gender identities they can be attracted to can vary.

P is for Pansexual– Defined as someone who experiences romantic and/or physical attraction to any and all gender identities.

A is for Ally– A coin termed for heterosexual individuals who affirm the LGBTQ+ community.

Limitless Understanding

I cannot stress enough that I am incapable of defining the existence of others: gender identities and sexual orientations are very personal and as limitless in possibility as the souls and consciousness that experience them; and every single one, worthy of respect and validity. If I have somehow offended someone in any way in trying to explain an existence other than my own, I am truly sorry. Please take the time to educate me on anything I did incorrectly; one attitude that I wish everyone would adopt in trying to understand other people ( not just with their identities) is that you need to ask people how they exist; never assume anything.

In the next part of this series, I will explain gender identities and sexual orientation more thoroughly and demonstrate how they differ. I hope this leaves you more informed and having a fantastic day!