Say, that was a long acronym! Just what the heck does ‘LGBTQIA+’ mean? Let’s break it down! Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual. The ‘plus’ is to acknowledge that there are people who may not be represented by all the terms here but are still part of the broader community.
To break it down further:
Lesbian: a person who identifies as a woman and is romantically and/or sexually attracted to other women.
Gay: typically, a person who identifies as a man and is romantically and/or sexually attracted to other men.
Bisexual: a person who is attracted to two or more genders. Alternately, a person who is attracted to both men and women.
Transgender: a person whose gender (internal sense of self) does not match the gender typically associated with their assigned sex; not cisgender. Check out our Trans 101 page for more info!
Queer: this term means something a little different to everyone. Queer is a word that used to be pejorative and has been reclaimed by many people in the gender and sexual minority community, but others in the community may still find it offensive. Some people describe their sexual orientation as queer, while others may use it in relation to their gender, such as the term ‘genderqueer.’ Readers may find P-Flag’s definition helpful.
Intersex: Courtesy of the Intersex Society of North America: “intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside.”
Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction or desire. However, they may still have romantic feelings, attractions, or desires. Here’s some further reading on asexuality!
A critique of the acronym is that it does not include all identities [despite our best efforts with the plus sign]. An alternative that some use is gender and sexual minorities, or GSM. It is also worth considering what happens when we conflate terms related to gender identity and sex assigned at birth with those that describe one’s sexual orientation.
Check out this video for an introduction to the differences between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, and sexual orientation:
(Please note that although this video uses terms like “biological sex,” we recommend using language centered on the “sex assigned at birth.” Click here for more information.)