The LG/LGBT/LGBTQ/LGBTQIA/ LGBTTQQIAAP+ community has a fair number of initialisms which encapsulate itself.
Some are more general while others are very specific, at times leading to disagreement over whether the general ones seem exclusive or if the specific ones seem too narrow.
Once an initialism starts looking like the offspring of complex mathematics and Langdon street porches, most can’t keep track. This article offers no “answer” for which initialism should be used, if everyone should use the same initialism, what each letter should stand for or whether a given identity “belongs.” LGBT will be used as the stock initialism in this instance since it is the most frequently used to refer to the understood community including all the other identities discussed.
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The purpose of this article is to summarize what each letter stands for to those who happen not to know and explain the variations in choice regarding which letters to include.
First, we can explain why there are initialisms in the first place. In the 1980s, many people in the community felt the title “gay community” didn’t encapsulate the groups that it was referring to, so they created the LGB initialism.
The more catch-all alternative “queer community” fell out of usage since the word “queer” is often used as a slur against non-heterosexual/cisgender people, so its usage or reclamation by certain members of the community is disputed by other groups.
In the 1990s, adding the T became commonplace, and LGBT is still the most widespread initialism. Letters have been added (or dropped) at different times by different groups with varying degrees of acceptance and usage.
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Here’s a rundown of the more commonly included letters and what they can mean:
L: Lesbian (homosexual woman)
G: Gay (homosexual man)
B: Bisexual (a person who is not attracted to a single gender)
T: Transgender (a person who identifies as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth)
Q: Queer (a person who is not heterosexual or cisgender)
Q: Questioning (an individual who is unsure of their sexuality or gender identity)
I: Intersex (people whose sex characteristics at birth are neither exclusively male nor female)
A: Asexual (a person who does not experience sexual attraction)
A: Ally (a cisgender heterosexual person who supports the community and their fight for rights)
P: Pansexual (a person who experiences attraction to others regardless of their gender)
+: Plus (every other possible gender identity or sexuality that may fit into multiple or none of the categories above)
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Many disagreements exist about which letters should be included and what their specific meaning should be. One example of disagreement surrounds the inclusion of T with the argument that transgender people are fighting for their right to identify as their preferred gender while LGB people are fighting for the right to love and be attracted to the people they are.
Opponents to trans-exclusion argue that anyone deviating from the cisgender-heterosexual norm belongs in a community fighting for their collective rights.
Another involves the aforementioned reclamation of the word “queer” to be an umbrella term covering all people who are part of the community.
Since it has been used as a word so connected to hatefulness against the community in the past, some experience hesitation using it as a self-identifying term.
The last specific disagreement this article will mention regards including Ally as a part of the LGBT initialism since allies are, by definition, heterosexual and cisgender. An argument by analogy used is that a white person may support the Black Lives Matter movement, but this by no means includes them as a member of the black community.
This article was written for anyone who has been confused or hesitant of which initialisms to use since there are so many with differing meanings for the individual letters.
Also important to remember — LGBT is an initialism because you say acronyms out loud (like SCUBA). While “legbutt” may be fun to say, it is never appropriate.