Defining Each Letter in LGBTQIA+
In the 1980s and the 1990s, people (especially in the West) started becoming more accepting of those who found a romantic attraction outside of heterosexual relationships. Sure, it was still a big taboo for people to have different sexual orientations and gender identities. But, there was clearly a movement that showed we were heading in a different direction as a society.
Back then, in the 1990s, they used the term gay community as a common name for all non-heterosexuals. However, as time went by, people within said community realized “gay” was not enough of an umbrella term to cover all community members.
At first, it became an LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). Still, with more and more members seeking clarification and proper terminology, we stapled on additional letters. And now we have people who don’t know what exactly all of it means. What is LGBTQIA+? Many of us are even afraid to ask in fear of coming across as homophobic.
If you’re one of those, don’t worry! We’re here to help out both you and the community members in resolving the lack of understanding. Let’s see what exactly is the meaning of LGBTQIA+, letter by letter!
The first three letters concern people who are happy with the sex they were assigned at birth (cisgender people). That means they’re satisfied with their biological sex and don’t want to change their gender identification. However, some don’t see it that way. For instance, if you’re into women and identify as one, your identification is enough to categorize you as a lesbian.
In short, lesbians are females (and female-identifying people) attracted to people of the same gender or gender identification, i.e., other women. The name comes from the Greek island of Lesbos, which some see as too Eurocentric. However, that isn’t usually the case, and many females of Asian and African descent use “lesbian” as their label of choice.
As we’ve said, back in the day, the term gay was the umbrella term for every LGBTQIA+ community member. Basically, it was a label for any person that didn’t outright identify as heterosexual, regardless of their sexuality, gender, or identity.
Today, the term signifies males (and folks who identify as such) who are into other men. That can be a romantic, emotional, or sexual attraction. The term gay became popular in the late 1960s and the 1970s. At the time, “homosexual” started to seem too clinical, catering to those who saw homosexuality as an illness.
Out of the first “most traditional” three, bisexuals are the ones that are the least understood. Bisexuals are people who feel attracted to people of all genders. Many see bisexuality as “gateway” to being gay. Others see it as an inability to settle down and pick the team you’re playing for.
However, bisexuality is an orientation in its own right. Within bisexuality, you can have preferences for one particular gender and still be bisexual, as long as you feel attracted to others.
In recent times, people have started raising questions about the term itself. In their opinion, the prefix “bi” implies the gender binary (existence of only two genders: male and female). They see it as not inclusive enough for people who identify themselves as a non-traditional gender.
Transgender is the first letter that concerns only non-cisgender people. It’s an umbrella term for all people whose gender identity is different from their biological sex. For example, if you’re born male but feel and identify as female, you’re transgender.
Many trans people take hormones or go through surgeries to change their physical appearance. That way, they look more like other members of the gender they identify with. However, that is not always the case, and it’s not a prerequisite.
Queer people are those who feel they don’t necessarily belong in any of the groups we mentioned above. They’re not exclusively heterosexual, but they also don’t like the connotations that come with any of the LGBT letters. Although the queer community used to be a pejorative term, today queer is mostly used by people within the community.
Another use of the letter Q is for people who are “questioning” it all. They don’t think other terms fully represent them. Questioning people are still on the journey of exploring their sexuality and don’t feel like they belong in any group just yet.
Intersex people are those who biologically don’t fit the description of any other gender. Their bodies may lack some of the distinctive parts that count as telltale signs of one’s sex. Alternatively, they may not lack anything, but actually have something on top. For instance, when you’re born as an intersex person, you can have both a penis and a vagina. Some other biological anomalies may not be physically visible.
Before the introduction of this term, we used to call intersex people hermaphrodites. Today, that’s a pejorative term that many see as stigmatizing and misleading.
Asexual or Ally
This is another letter that can mean two things. Asexuals (also called aces) are people who feel “little to no sexual attraction.” Basically, sex is not a part of their life and their bodily functions. That doesn’t necessarily make them aromantic as well, as many asexuals have romantic relationships.
Ally is another meaning for the letter A. Allies are people who don’t belong in any of the groups mentioned above. Most of them are actually heterosexuals. As the name suggests, they are allies in the sense that they fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. They’re openly against homophobia, heterosexism. Essentially, they’re against any kind of stigma that surrounds this community. They genuinely care and concern themselves with how society perceives our community members and devote their lives to helping us overcome some of the issues they face.
Lastly, we have the plus sign (+). For many, the plus sign doesn’t really signify any specific identity. It’s there more to show inclusion and openness to everybody who doesn’t feel aligned with heterosexuality and normative gender allocation. Some people have unique desires and identifications. As a result, they don’t feel represented by any major group of people and don’t feel like they’re a part of them. This plus is for those people.
Still, there are many terms of identification that do fall under the plus sign. For instance, there are pansexuals, demisexuals, graysexuals, GNC people (gender non-conforming), and the list goes on. If each of them got a letter of their own, we’d be here talking about a twenty-letter community. Although some members feel “bundled in,” these groups represent a minority.