Updated: Dec 14, 2020
The LGBTQ+ movement has seen rapid change and progress in recent history meaning that, for those of us who aren’t directly involved in the struggle for equality, it can sometimes be slightly confusing.
But fear not! With some quick reading you can learn everything you need to know. Starting with the big question:
What does the term LGBTQ+ actually mean?
Women who are attracted emotionally, romantically and/or sexually to other women.
This generally refers to men who are attracted emotionally, romantically and/or sexually to other men, but can be applied to lesbian women as well.
An umbrella term for people who are emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to both men and women. This can include people who identify as pansexual (see below).
An umbrella term for everyone who does not feel that they are the gender they were assigned at birth.
(Tip: some people identify as transsexual which indicates that they’re pursuing medical changes. However, unlike Transgender, Transsexual is not an umbrella term and also has an offensive history and so should be avoided unless someone has explicitly identified themselves as transsexual.)
Some LGBTQ+ people use this term as an all-inclusive term for everyone who isn’t straight and cisgender (meaning that your gender is the same as the sex assigned to you at birth i.e. most people).
However, queer can also be very offensive, having been used as a slur in the past.
What about the + bit?
The LGBTQ+ community is diverse and inclusive beyond a simple acronym and the + recognises this.
People who are born with sexual characteristics (e.g. chromosomes or genitals) that do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies.
People who experience no or little sexual attraction (though they may experience romantic and emotional attraction).
This means straight and cisgender people who support the LGBTQ+ community.
This is a term for anyone who doesn’t fit into the traditional gender system of men and women.
This refers to people for whom gender identity plays little or no role in determining whether or not they’re attracted to someone. This means they may be attracted to men, women or non-binary people.
So, which term should I use?
Unfortunately, there is no agreed answer as there are a range of opinions.
Queer? Some LGBTQ+ people prefer this as an all-inclusive term, but others remain against it due to its use as a slur in the past.
Whilst LGBT+ and LGBTQ+ have advantages in familiarity and ease of learning (compared with longer initialisms such as LGBTQQIAAP), many people feel that an initialism should clearly include all identities.
Safest bet? LGBT+ or LGBTQ+.
Key points to remember
1. No one is defined by their sexuality or gender identity.
Differences in ethnicity, religion, culture and most importantly personality will always create diverse characters and opinions. The key is to be respectful and kind.
2. Although they may wish to, it is not an LGBTQ+ person’s responsibility to educate you on LGBTQ+ matters.
Luckily, this guide can help you instead 😏
3. Gender and sexuality are both spectrums.
Although humans love to place everything into categories to try to simplify and understand them, it just can’t be done with people & identities.
4. Change is inevitable.
Increasing visibility, use of more appropriate terms and more confidence are all signs of progress. This will likely continue in the future – celebrate it!
5. It is controversial.
Of course it is! For LGBTQ+ people, this is more than just an acronym. It is a flag waving for visibility, unity and recognition in the fight for an equal life. So, the most important thing is:
6. Be respectful.
C’mon, it’s really not that hard. Use the terms and pronouns that people prefer and we can all be better allies to one another.
How else can you show your support? Check out our guide on How to Be an Ally!