What Does LGBTQIA+ Stand For?

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You’ve heard of LGBTQ, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning or Queer. But the acronym is constantly evolving in order to be more inclusive, with new letters being added to represent all genders and sexualities. In short, LGBTQIA+ is a way for someone to describe their sexual orientation or gender identity (if they choose to, FYI). If you’re still asking yourself, “what does LGBTQIA+ stand for?”, we’ve got you. Here’s everything you need to know about the term.

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What Does LGBTQIA+ Stand For?

As mentioned, the acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning or Queer. Here’s a breakdown of what each term means, according to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center:

  • Lesbian: women attracted to other women
  • Gay: blanket term used to describe a person attracted to the same gender
  • Bisexual: someone who is attracted to both genders
  • Transgender: someone whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth
  • Questioning: someone who is exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Queer: non-exclusive term for sexual orientation and gender. Cleo Anderson, an employee of the LGBT rights group GLAAD, told USA Today: “Queer is anything that exists outside of the dominant narrative. Queer means that you are one of those letters [LGBT], but you could be all of those letters and not knowing is OK.”

The IA+ are more recent additions to the acronym. Here’s what they stand for.

What Does IA Stand for in LGBTQIA?

  • Intersex: Per GLAAD, intersex is “an umbrella term describing people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that can't be classified as typically woman or man.” However, it also reflects someone who doesn't identify with a specific gender.
  • Asexual: describes those who don’t feel sexual or romantic attraction to others.

OK, What About the Plus Sign?

This symbol is used to represent those who do not identify with one of the letters in the acronym (for example, those who identify as pansexual or gender-fluid). The plus sign also includes agender, non-binary, polyamorous and a few more identifications that don't fit the original letters. At the end of the day, the term sets the tone for widening the spectrum and making it welcoming for everyone.

And What Does LGBTQ2 Stand For?

While LGBTQ stays the same, the 2 stands for two-spirit. It’s a term used by indigenous communities to represent gender and sexual orientation. In 1990, Elder Myra Laramee proposed the name and incorporated it into the Indigenous language moving forward.

Got It. And What Does LGBTQQIP2SAA Mean?

This acronym is a more spelled-out version of LGBTQIA+, enumerating on terms covered under the plus sign. Here’s what the additional letters mean. (The second Q is Queer or Questioning, as described above.)

  • Pansexual: someone who is attracted to any gender
  • Ally: someone who supports the LGBTQIA+ community; it applies to those inside and outside the community

Other Community Terms to Know

Here’s a short list of other terms used in the LGBTQIA+ community.

  • Ace: short for asexual
  • Bi: short for bisexual
  • Cis: short for cisgender (gender assigned at birth)
  • Closeted: refers to keeping one’s sexuality or gender identity private
  • Coming out: used to describe sharing one’s gender identity or sexual orientation with their community
  • Deadnaming: calling a person by a name they no longer use
  • Fluid: term that indicates someone’s gender identity may change over time
  • Gray-a: short for graysexual (gray asexuality, in which someone may intermittently experience attraction to other people)
  • Pan: short for pansexual
  • Per: short for “person” (used to describe those who identify as nonbinary)
  • Poly: short for polyamorous

Why Did the Original Term Change?

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, gay and lesbian were predominately used until the ‘90s when bisexual and transgender was added to the acronym. As such, LGBT was originally conceived as a more acceptable way to describe all the individuals that were previously referred to as the “gay community.” And yet, this acronym was leaving various sexual orientations and gender groups out.

The term LGBTQIA+ lends itself to being more inclusive to everyone. (It's why the term BIPOC, which represents Black, Indigenous and People of Color, is also gaining momentum as a more appropriate way to refer to all people of color.)

What If I Don’t Identify with Any of the Letters?

Firstly, know that our identities are always evolving. There’s no one size fits all and you don't have to be pigeonholed into one group. Heck, you don’t even have to label yourself if you’re not ready or comfortable. And it’s also important to understand that these aren’t the only letters and terms in use. In fact, the abbreviation is constantly evolving, because sexuality and gender can be as fluid as you want them to be.

For more information, check out the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Resource Center (LGBTQIARC) at the University of California at Davis for an extensive glossary.

I’m Worried I’ll Say the Wrong Thing. What Do I Do?

It’s always helpful to ask someone first how they self-identify. You should never try to assume someone’s gender or sexual orientation. GLAAD  also has a helpful list of terms to avoid (and preferred terms), so you can continue educating yourself on the LGBTQIA+ community.

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