queer stories

What does the LGBTQIA+ acronym mean? Why do we use it?

An explanation of the LGBTQIA+ acronym, and why we use it at Kalda
Boris Shoalwise (they/them)
May 1, 2023

What does LGBTQIA+ mean?

LGBTQIA+ is an acronym that represents: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual people. The + represents further sexual preferences, gender identities and expressions. We will explore this in more detail in this post.

The way that we discuss sexuality, attraction and gender identity is constantly changing. The language used to describe the way in which we are attracted to someone is in a constant state of flux.

New terms and definitions are being developed all the time, often spreading from individuals to communities to wider usage. The ways in which groups name themselves is important, because as discourse about the topic of sexuality and gender identity shifts, we can only understand each other and engage in or with this discourse when we understand the terms people are using.

LGBTQIA+ is an umbrella term

It’s used for a diverse group, and generally it is most helpful if we think of the people in that group as those with an identity that falls under the LGBTQIA+ descriptors, who have ALSO chosen to also identify as part of the collective group.

Why group so many descriptors and Identities together?Why does LGBTQIA+ cover a group of people with either what are considered ‘minority’ or ‘non-conforming’ genders and / or minority or non-conforming sexualities?Those things are very different, isn’t that confusing?

Well there are a few schools of thought, but here are just two of the more prominent ones:

Oppression in the same/similar ways

People who are not heterosexual have historically been considered and are still discriminated against. There is a perspective that their kind of sexual attraction is somehow deviant or perverse, ‘wrong’ or a mental illness in much the same way that gender nonconforming and transgender people have about their gender.

A rejection of the idea of the gender binary and rejection of discrimination based on the flawed premise of this binary

Think about it, if gender is a spectrum and it’s okay to sit anywhere on it, then there is no need for a label to describe specific sexual alignment. They are just a person with a shade of gender and not a ‘condition’.Similarly wherever your gender sits on that spectrum is also okay too!

More and more definitions are being added as we explore more of ourselves and what we like. This is why we add a + at the end of the acronym.

Each one of these headings deserves their own article going into more details, but this is a first step into these acronyms and what they mean.

L - Lesbian

A woman or non binary person whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women or non binary persons. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay (adj.) or as gay women.

G - Gay

The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions are to people of the same/ similar physical characteristics as their own. Gay, (like ‘Queer’, see below) is also used as a catch-all term by some members of the LGBTQIA+ to self-refer. Note that it is generally not appropriate to refer to someone else as gay unless they self-describe as such, this is because not everyone under the umbrella uses the word as a blanket term. In addition, unless you know someone self identifies as gay, calling them such would mean you had made assumptions about either their gender, OR that of the person/people they are attracted to.

B - Bisexual (often shortened to Bi)

A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.

T - Transgender / Transsexual (often shortened to Trans)

Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms - including transgender.

Transsexual is an older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. Still preferred by some people who have permanently changed - or seek to change - their bodies through medical interventions, including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries. Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term.

Q - Queer / Questioning

Queer is an umbrella term which is divisive amongst our community, but there are people who chose to identify as such. Queer is a term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBT community.

We explore the term ‘queer’ in this blog post.

Questioning is a broad term which refers to someone who is unsure about their sexuality or gender identity.

I - Intersex

A term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female. While some intersex people also identify as transgender, the two are separate and should not be conflated.

A - Asexual / Ally

Asexuals are people who do not experience, or experience at a low level, sexual desire.A person can also be aromantic, meaning they do not experience romantic attraction.

Allies are people who align themselves with the community and fight for civil rights or provide support to those affected by issues, but are themselves not Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning or Asexual.

The +

There are several more sexual preferences, gender identities and expressions which we believe you should at least be familiar with. This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are many different ways that people have been identifying for years, but these are the most common ones outside of the big seven.

P - Pansexual

This is a term which refers to someone who is attracted to people regardless of their gender identity or expression.

eNBie & GQ - Non binary & Gender Queer

Terms used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms.

GNC - Gender non-conforming

A term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.

D - Demisexual

An umbrella term used to describe people who may only feel sexually or romantically attracted to people with whom they have formed an emotional bond.

U - Undefined

An individual may not label an aspect of their sexual or romantic orientation, or gender identity. This might be because they resist the use of labels, or cannot find one which adequately represents them.

Why does Kalda use the term LGBTQIA+?

So, as we have shown, the acronym covers a wide variety of groups of people.There are even broader terms which can be used in conversation, such as GSRM (Gender, Sexuality and Romantic Minority) which includes things like polyamory and non-monogamy.

We use the LGBTQIA+ acronym as a show of solidarity to all of those who fall under that terminology.It is important to note that all of these groups of people are stigmatised for simply being who they are, and as a result we want to group together and provide mental health support for those who need it.

We are a community of many different types of people, and we respect each and every member of our group.

We are open to discussions about the use of this acronym to include people.

There is currently contention around the use of the LGBTQIA+ label to describe people by default. The association of being part of the LGBTQIA+ community is down to the individual, and a person may not describe themselves as any one of these labels. The most important takeaway from this article is to keep an open mind, and be respectful to people.

The best way to be certain about how to describe someone else is to ask them.

Interested in mental health programs? Try Kalda.

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