The LGBT+ Acronym Explained

LGBT. The name brings about different emotions for everyone, be it pride, fear, or even simply a sense of freedom, as this empowering movement makes its way across the globe, opening doors for those who had previously known none. Yet, what some aren’t aware of is the fact that there are more than four letters in this equation, the fact that this group of minorities isn’t restricted to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but instead has over 13 letters and counting. Though many might know this, it is doubtful most know what the majority of the letters stand for and even less likely they know how much these letters mean to each member. Without further ado, here is a list explaining every letter I’ve seen considered part of the LGBT+ community, though the list is ever growing and changing, so it is likely I missed a few, and for that I am sorry.  


  1. L: Though most are familiar with the term lesbian, it still has a rich history that isn’t seen often. Lesbian feminism first arose in the 1970s, when the movement began to split from the gay pride movement due to sexism within the community. Lesbian groups were established to challenge not only heteronormativity but the continued ignorance in regards to female homosexuals. In that decade, they managed to create an independent lesbian community and through it built a legacy that would live on, helping so many girls and women throughout the years, though even still female couples are often imagined with different connotations than men, are sexualized and are forced to endure so much discrimination. This movement has progressed greatly in the past few decades and will continue to inspire for many to come.
  2. G: Perhaps the most famous initial, the G in this acronym stands for gay. Men have loved men and women have loved women since the dawn of time, but thanks to the gay rights movement, on June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states of America. The word gay is often used as a derogatory term, as an insult and form of emasculation, but the Pride community has begun using it more positively to combat these constant attacks.
  3. B: This stands for bisexual or bi and refers to someone who is sexually attracted to more than one gender. While this commonly means two genders and those are commonly male and female, with the growing acceptance of other genders, it can also refer to more than men and women and sometimes even neither of the two. Quite often, we hear stories and watch films involving a woman either going through an “experimental” phase or “becoming a lesbian,” and though this might refer to a bisexual woman, one’s gender is their own choice and if they feel looser about it, change is possible. Additionally, bisexual is often seen as an umbrella term for pansexual and polysexual, though there are some differences between the two.
  4. T: Though this letter refers to the word transgender, there is very little changing involved. A transgender person is one born with the gender, or rather sex, of a different gender. Many think that being transgender only begins after an operation, but in actuality, it is something that occurs from birth. In 2014, Medicare terminated their ban on transgender and the rise of surgery spiked, but people have been born of a different gender for hundreds of years and simply forced to conform. Famous transgender people include Caitlyn Jenner: reality TV star, Andreja Pejic: model and the first transgender on the cover of Vogue magazine, and Christin Jorgensen: one of the first transgender people to come out of the closet.
  5. I: Often forgotten or unknown, the I here refers to intersex. This describes someone who was born with both male and female genitalia and often endures significant amounts of discrimination for being considered “different” after reaching puberty. While in rare cases, some intersex people are allowed to choose their preferred gender, most are forced to keep the one they had known about since birth due to familial or peer pressure. An ironic result of this is that many of this group are forced to undergo the same sex removal operations that a lot of transgender people beg for. Some intersex people do not wish to be included in the LGBT+ area as it makes people assume they are transgender or homosexual, which though is sometimes the case, is not always true. To those people, I am sorry. I included it here because there remain some that do want to be part of the community, and I don’t feel I have the right to say that they cannot be.
  6. Q: This means queer, a word with a complicated history to say the least. The dictionary definition of queer is “different from the ordinary in a way that causes curiosity or suspicion,” but in the LGBT+ community, it means so much more. There is no strict meaning of this word as everyone uses it in different ways. It could mean that you are gay, that you don’t specify which part of the LGBT+ community you are a part of, or generally however you choose to define it. In essence, it describes someone’s sexual orientation as a sexual minority. Like the word gay, the use of queer was turned into a derogatory statement in the late 19th century and stayed that way until it reverted back to its original use in New York in the 1990s. This term is still one not all members of the community are comfortable with though, so like with all of these, asking for one’s preference before labeling them is imperative. Moreover, because of this discomfort, it is typically more appropriate to simply say LGBT+ instead of LGBTQ+ as that could offend those who have experienced the word queer used against them in a derogatory fashion.
  7. Q: The second Q in this acronym is not complicated. It means “questioning” and represents the multitude of people that are still unsure of what exactly they are or do not believe in defining themselves in this manner. Sometimes, one’s sexuality or gender changes over time, often making them questioning while in between.
  8. A: Asexuality is still a concept not fully comprehended by many, more so than a lot of the other terms on this list. It simply refers to someone who feels no sexual attraction towards anyone, but a lot of people dismiss it as a “phase” or clump it in with celibacy, the chosen absence of sexual activity (different in its being deliberate). Asexual people are not loveless either, as is so often assumed. They can love people, they can kiss people, and while they can still have sex, it just doesn’t provide the same pleasure as it does others. Similarly, one can be aromantic. This is someone who, though feels sexual attraction, is not romantically inclined towards any individual, no matter their gender. This too is disregarded as a “phase that wears off eventually,” a thought process extremely detrimental to the people who subscribe to this group. Some believe that because one can be asexual and still be cisgender (the gender they were born with) and heterosexual, it should not fall under the category of LGBT+, but because others choose to look at this community as one simply of sexual minorities, I included it, as it is a sexual minority (and one that faces copious amounts of discrimination).
  9. P: The P in this acronym means pansexual. Someone who is pansexual doesn’t prefer any one gender over another. There are a lot of misconceptions about this concept, as many mix it up with bisexual. Bisexual refers to attraction towards two or more specific genders, while pansexuals simply do not consider one’s gender to be relevant. This is not to say that they feel desire towards everybody; they just do not choose based on gender.  It is difficult to say when pansexuality became an official title but, when looking at Google Trends data, you can see that while it was definitely a term people researched in 2004 and before, its biggest spike was in 2012.  There remains little to no pan representation in books and movies, but like most sexual minorities, that will hopefully change soon.
  10. G: Far less used, though just as important, this second G stands for gender non-conforming, essentially meaning someone who doesn’t relate to the traditional ideas of common genders, specifically male and female. This too is a loose term, so one can relate to any gender as much as they want (especially because gender is, by some, considered no more than a social construct) and still be gender non-conforming. Someone who is gender non-conforming does not go by the traditional pronouns but instead typically uses a gender-neutral pronoun, such as ey/em/eir and ze/hir/hirs. Some simply use they/them, but as that is traditionally rejected by teachers due to grammatical inaccuracy, you might want to use the other ones for your essays.
  11. N: Non-binary is commonly considered an umbrella term for all people that do not associate as male or female. A very typical misconception in this regard is that transgender people are,  by definition, non-binary. This is very not true. Transgender people are whatever gender they prefer, and while that sometimes means a non-binary gender, that is not always the case. In fact, the less than 30% of the transgender community is made up of non-binary individuals. The pronouns above also apply to non-binary people, and as self-acceptance in this regard grows, it becomes increasingly important to ask for one’s pronoun, no matter what gender you assume they are. States such as Oregon, California and New York have begun to embrace this movement more recently and now offer the gender-neutral option of X on drivers licenses, only further proving our continuous progression in this area.
  12. F: The F here refers to gender fluidity, a concept often confused with gender nonconformism. If one is gender fluid, it means that their gender preference is ever changing, that it depends on how they are feeling, while gender nonconformism represents those neither male nor female. Gender fluidity should not be mistaken for indecisiveness either. There is no necessary decision in this matter, and if some days you feel one way and other days you feel another, that should be perfectly acceptable.
  13. P:  Finally, there is polysexuality. This is similar to bisexual in that it means one can be attracted to multiple genders. On the other hand, polysexual is different than pansexual, as poly means many not all. Like bisexuality, polysexuality has been depicted in the media for a multitude of years, though nowhere near as often as homosexuality or (obviously) heterosexuality.

Many include the term ally in this mix. An ally is someone who is not a sexual minority but supports those who are to the best of their ability. While all the effort is, most often, extremely appreciated, allies are not technically sexual minorities and do not face the same strife as everyone else in this community. It is for that reason that I did not include it in the acronym.

As stated above, this acronym is ever growing and changing, so if I missed your or anyone else’s label, please comment below! Furthermore, it is important to note that these terms are completely opinion. Your definition is what you choose for it to be, and so these titles should not be accepted as strict labels. My attempt was at trying to put the general LGBT+ population’s opinions into this article, but I am aware success in this regard is all about the way each of you feel, so I hope that I at least provided more insight into the matter.

Photo: Tony Ross 



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