From L to +: The Full Spectrum of LGBTQIA+ Explained

From L to +: The Full Spectrum of LGBTQIA+ Explained

Happy Pride Month! For those of us in the LGBTQIA+ community or amongst the allies, June is a time of celebration, reflection, and education. As many proudly fly colorful flags, attend parades and parties, or otherwise find ways to express ourselves, we want you to know that there’s rhyme and reason behind the acronym. It’s not just alphabet soup. It’s an evolving glossary that means a lot to a lot of folks all over the world.

Understanding what each letter and symbol stands for can help you see things in better light for yourself or for those around you. Because, even if you’re not in the queer community yourself, chances are you have friends, coworkers, or family that want your support. 

Understanding LGBTQIA+

Most remember the first big change was the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD’s adoptions of the LGBTQ acronym. After a number of reworks, the more familiar version is now LGBTQIA+ which represents a diverse range of sexual orientations and gender identities! Here's a detailed overview of what each letter and symbol in LGBTQIA+ means:

L for Lesbian: Refers to women who are romantically and/or sexually attracted to other women. The term can also include non-binary people who feel a connection to womanhood and are attracted to women.
G for Gay: Generally describes men who are romantically and/or sexually attracted to other men. It can also be used as an umbrella term for anyone who is not heterosexual. Note, “gay” can be used interchangeably with “queer” and has a long history of including bi, pan, and otherwise queer folks, not strictly men attracted to men.
B for Bisexual: Describes individuals who are attracted to more than one gender. This attraction can vary in degree and intensity, and it doesn't necessarily mean being equally attracted to both genders. There’s some overlap between bisexual and pansexual identities, with some people feeling the terms are interchangeable.
T for Transgender: Refers to people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. This includes trans men, trans women, and non-binary individuals. Transgender people may or may not choose to undergo medical transition.
Q for Queer: An umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of sexual orientations and gender identities that are not exclusively heterosexual or cisgender. It can also be used by individuals who feel that other labels do not adequately describe their identity.
I for Intersex: Describes individuals born with physical sex characteristics that don't fit typical definitions of male or female. This can include variations in chromosomes, hormones, or genitalia. Intersex people may identify as male, female, or non-binary.
A for Asexual: Often shortened to “ace”, “asexual” refers to individuals who experience little to no sexual attraction to others. Asexuality is a spectrum, and some asexual people may still experience sexual attraction under specific circumstances (aka demisexual or graysexual folks) and/or have a desire for romantic relationships. It’s the absence of sexual attraction that makes asexuality stand out.
+ for Plus: Represents other identities that fall under the broader spectrum of gender and sexuality, such as pansexual, demisexual, genderqueer, and many more. The plus sign acknowledges the diversity and complexity of human experiences beyond the initial letters.

The OG Acronym: LGBT
Before the origin of “LGBT,” the language used for queer folks was just the “gay community.” But 1969 made waves in politics and attitudes both with movements like the Stonewall Riots spotlighting injustice and demanding long-overdue change. The term “gay” didn’t fit, and by the 1980s and 90s, “LGBT” not only became popular but was readily embraced by many queer organizations.

Though this newer “LGBT” acronym was much more inclusive, it didn’t encompass the many who didn’t identify with the four markers: lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Enter “Q”. As mentioned earlier, big organizations took the lead in adopting the new acronym in 2016 and since then, it’s evolved. Why? I pose, why not? Even now, we continue to learn about language from other eras and regions that help people feel more comfortable in their own skin. The queer community has and will always be about inclusion and welcoming all. As others have put it, everyone deserves a seat at the table.

If you haven’t heard of this expanded acronym, know that it adds “2S,” which stands for two-spirit. An authority on the subject, Sarah Hunt defines two-spirit as a cultural and spiritual identity for Indigenous people who “embody both female and male spirits.” It’s a term that’s both umbrella and individual and is sometimes referred to as a third gender. This identity is not only recognized by but also honored by Indigenous nations, with defined roles in societies of those cultures. It’s worth noting that two-spirit isn’t necessarily tied to sexual orientation or gender but has been adopted by many trans and/or queer Indigenous people.

Understanding acronyms and terminology at the heart of the queer community is a crucial step in building a more inclusive and accepting society. By educating ourselves and others, we can ensure that everyone feels seen, respected, and valued. This Pride Month, let's celebrate the diversity that makes our world so vibrant and commit to learning more about the experiences and identities within the LGBTQIA+ community. Happy Pride!

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