All General LGBT Info

What does the LGBT acronym stand for?

The LGBT acronym has been around for decades, but do you know what all the letters mean? Which acronym’s right? Here’s all you need to know!

Firstly, which LGBT acronym is correct?

There’s no right or wrong, really. People still often use the original LGBT acronym, but other people have replaced it with LGBTQIA, LGBT+, LGBTQ+, etc to be more inclusive. Someone’s preferred LGBT acronym to use can depend on their age and where they’re from, for example.

L is for lesbian:

The word lesbian is often defined as women who are attracted to women. More recently, some people also define it as non-men attracted to non-men to include nonbinary people.

G is for gay:

Being gay is often defined as men who are attracted to men. More recently, some people also define it as non-women attracted to non-women to include nonbinary people.

B is for bisexual:

Bisexual people are attracted to two or more genders. Most people assume that bisexual people like men and women, which is true in some cases, but not all. Bi people can like nonbinary people too. They can be one of the two genders a bi person likes, and it doesn’t invalidate their bisexuality. Bisexuality has never excluded nonbinary people.

T is for transgender:

Trans people have a gender that is different to their birth sex. For example, a trans man is a man who was born female, but transitioned to male. The transition can be physical (like hormones or surgery), social (like changing names or pronouns) or both. You don’t need to transition to be trans- its who you are not what you do.

Nonbinary people come under the trans umbrella as well. They also have gender that is different to their birth sex. Some nonbinary people describe themselves as trans but some don’t.

Q is for queer/ questioning:

Queer is a slur that some in the community have reclaimed. In the early 1900s it meant weird, before homophobes started using it as a slur against LGBT people.

Now, it is both an umbrella term for LGBT people and its own label for an unspecified LGBT identity. This is only for those who are comfortable with the word, though. However, some older LGBT people are much more likely to have had it used against them as a slur, and therefore are uncomfortable with reclaiming it.

Questioning is probably the most self explanatory label in the LGBT acronym. It represents people who are unsure of their identity.

I is for intersex:

Intersex people are born with both male and female characteristics. This can be their physical appearance, hormone levels or chromosomes. Not all intersex people consider themselves as LGBT as being intersex isn’t linked to sexuality or gender. However, they face many similar issues to trans people, and many intersex people aren’t cishet anyway, so the two groups support each other.

A is for asexual/ aromantic/ agender:

The ‘A’ in the LGBT acronym can stand for three identities- asexual, agender and aromantic. Most of the acronyms that people use only have one ‘A’ for all three of the identities, but occasionally it will have more than one ‘A’

Asexual people don’t experience sexual attraction. This doesn’t mean that they can’t experience other forms of attraction or enjoy sex, though. Asexuality is a spectrum.

Aromantic people are similar to asexuals. Both groups don’t experience a type of attraction, which for aromantic people, is romantic attraction. Also like asexuality, it is a spectrum.

Agender people don’t have a gender. A common way they describe their experience is being ‘genderless’. They come under the nonbinary umbrella as they aren’t completely men or women.

The ‘+’ is for everyone else not represented in the LGBT acronym:

There are many more identities than the ones listed here. The acronym would be way too long if they were all included. The ‘+’ comes at the end of the LGBT acronym to acknowledge the rest of the community and represent them.

You will sometimes see very long acronyms like “LGBTQQIAAAP2S” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, agender, aromantic, pansexual and two spitit). I’ll be honest- I’ve never seen a queer person actually use this in a casual way. The only times I ever see this version of the LGBT acronym, it’s normally companies, news articles, or big pride event organisers using it. You aren’t likely to come across it much on a day to day basis. There’s a balance between representing everyone, and having an acronym that is usable.

Doesn’t the LGBT acronym include allies?

Long story short- no. Straight and cisgender allies aren’t LGBT, so they aren’t in the community. Being supportive of any other minority doesn’t make you part of that minority, and the same applies to this too.

Saying that the ‘A’ stands for ally overshadows asexual, agender and aromantic people. LGBT spaces already underrepresent these groups, so it is very important in their fight for equality for people to see them.

That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the support from cishet people though. Allies are so important- they help us get equality and make us feel safe. They also have a lot of power in helping reduce bigotry by showing their support of LGBT people, and calling out other people when they make rude comments.

Why are the letters in the LGBT acronym in this particular order?

The L comes first in the LGBT acronym as a symbol of the respect that gay men developed towards lesbians. The acronym used to be GLBT before it changed. Before the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the gay community and lesbian community weren’t as connected as they are now. However, when the epidemic hit, lesbians took care of the gay men with AIDS. Most people wouldn’t go near an infected person out of fear. This forged a deep bond between the communities that has lasted since, and is reflected in the LGBT acronym.

There is a National Geographic article about the history of the LGBT acronym which is very interesting. I recommend reading it. You can read it here.

This image has the LGBT progress flag and says "what does the LGBT acronym stand for?" on a grey rectangle.

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Stay safe and have a good day.

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