Queer identities have evolved significantly, as has the acronym used to describe the community. This post is designed to help people become aware of what all those letters mean. I am including definitions for each letter from our book's glossary "coming out" in 2017 from the American Counseling Association.
Most people are aware of what the first part of the acronym, LGBT, indicates.
Lesbian – (adjective, noun) a female-identified person who is predisposed to emotionally, physically, sexually, psychologically, and spiritually bond to other women.
Gay – (adjective) a person who is predisposed to emotionally, physically, sexually, psychologically, and spiritually bond with someone of the same sex and/or gender. It is most often used to refer to males who are predisposed to emotionally, physically, sexually, psychologically, and spiritually bond with other males, as in “gay men”.
Bisexual/ Bi – (adjective) a person who is predisposed to emotionally, physically, sexually, psychologically, and spiritually bond with more than one sex or gender. Some use this identity to indicate bonding with both males and females, while others use this identity to indicate bonding with other gender identities beyond a male/female binary, including third gender, genderqueer, and transgender persons. The attraction or interest is not necessarily equally split among these sexes or genders.
Transgender – (adjective) 1) a person whose gender identity does not match their designated sex at birth. 2) an umbrella term for both binary (male/female) and non-binary (genderqueer) identities whose gender identity and designated sex at birth are incongruent. Some transgender persons will identify as genderqueer, whereas some may identify as a transman or transwoman. Some others will identify simply as a male or female.
Q has become the umbrella term to refer to the community as well. So rather than saying "the gay community" people more often say "the queer community" or communities.
Queer – (adjective) (1) a person whose gender identity and affectional orientation are not reflected in traditional heterosexual or gay labels and categories. (2) an umbrella term, used to describe the entire community of LGBTQI+ persons, as in the “queer community”. It reclaims a once derogatory term as an affirmative identity. Be aware, however, that some persons still find the term queer offensive.
The rest of the acronym may be less clear to people. There have been some new terminology as well as recognition of identities that have had little attention in the past. The order of letters in the acronym is also different depending on the context or community using it.
Ally – (noun) a person who 1) has empathy for LGBTQI+ people, 2) provides support to a person or people who are LGBTQI+, and 3) identifies with a privileged category compared to the individuals or groups for whom they are supporting or advocating. (verb) as a member of a privileged category in relation to those whom they are advocating by 1) actively confronting bias and privilege both personally and within others, 2) believing that bias, prejudice, and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ population are issues that require social justice advocacy, and 3) participating in active advocacy for individuals and/or groups who identify as LGBTQI+. For example, a heterosexual or a gay male could both be an ally for a transgender person.
Asexual – (adjective) a person who feels little or no sexual desire and/or attraction to other people and experiences a lack of interest in having a sexual relationship. It is recognized as an affectional orientation. Also known as “ace” within the asexual community.
Genderqueer – (adjective) a person whose gender identity is not reflected by the binary of male or female. It is also used as an umbrella term, similar to third gender and transgender, to reflect people who are gender non-conforming and/or non-binary identities. Genderqueer persons may think of themselves as a combination of male and female (e.g., bigender), no gender (e.g., agender), multiple genders (e.g., pangender, omnigender), genderfluid, or third gender. Similar to the identity of queer, it reclaims a once derogatory term as an affirmative identity. Be aware, however, that some persons still find the term queer offensive.
Intersex – (noun) a person whose sex development in utero differs from the expected sex presentation at birth, resulting in ambiguous or both male and female chromosomes, hormones, internal/external sexual organs, and/or secondary sex characteristics. A synonym of Disorders/Differences of Sex Development.
Pansexual – (adjective) a person who is predisposed to emotionally, physically, sexually, psychologically, and spiritually bond with others, regardless of sex or gender. A synonym with omnisexual.
Two-Spirit(ed) – (adjective, noun) an indigenous/ Native person to the Americas who embraces a third gender, which represents both masculine and feminine spirit within one person. Their identity can involve both affectional orientation and gender variance. Historically, two-spirited persons were valued, respected, and honored for their spiritual and social roles within a tribe.
Questioning – (verb, adjective) a person who is not sure or is actively exploring their affectional orientation and/or gender identity.
There are about a thousand other terms, but these represent the most commonly used categories. If you have a question about a specific term, write a comment and we'll respond!