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Unraveling the Letters: LGBTQIA+

Unraveling the Letters: LGBTQIA+

When reading the title of this blog some thoughts may be “why are there so many letters?” or “what do all of the letters mean?” First and foremost, the letters matter. The title of this blog is an acronym that is used to not only bring awareness to gender identities and sexual orientation, but the letters also provide a space of representation for all individuals in however they choose to identify.

Evolving Inclusion

Beginning in the 1990’s the first four letters “LGBT” have been used to represent individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. The addition of QIA+ shows that the journey of inclusion is ever changing. I am writing this blog to bring awareness, to provide meaning behind the letters to those who may not know the and continue to contribute to the acknowledgement of gender identities and sexual orientations by society as a whole.

Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

One of the best resources I can recommend to anyone reading this blog is GLAAD- Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. A statement I’d like to share from their website that I think is beneficial in understanding the meaning of sexual orientation:

“The scientifically accurate term for an individual enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex.”

In essence, one’s sexual orientation is their personal experience and how one refers to self in relation to sexual orientation and/or gender identity is theirs. The purpose of the acronym LGBTQIA+ is for people to have a choice in the matter of how they self-identify and that others (society) acknowledge that identity. I also think a common misunderstanding is the difference between sex and gender. Sex is the biological package that you came into the world with. Whereas gender is a social construction- we all have an inner sense of gender and our own gender identity (self-label).

The Terminology

I will be referring to sexual orientation below based off the definition of sexual orientation provided by GLAAD “an individual enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction.” The definitions provided below are from the official GLAAD website.

Lesbian: An individual who identifies with the female gender who is physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to other individuals who identify with the female gender.

Gay: This term is often referred to as an individual who identifies with a masculine gender identity who is physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to another individual who identify with a masculine gender identity. It’s important to note that this term has also been used to describe an individual who is attracted to someone of the same or similar gender. Also, very important to note that using the term “homosexual” is incredibly derogatory and offensive, it’s an outdated term and needs to stay that way.

Bisexual: This term describes an individual who may be physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to those of the same gender and another gender.

Transgender: This is an umbrella term! This is one’s identity that is not the same as the gender that is associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Queer: This is also an umbrella term for individuals who feel that the terms lesbian, gay and bisexual may feel too limiting to them. Historically this term has been used as a slur, so if you are someone who identifies as cisgender and heterosexual only refer to someone as queer if they have provided you with this specific identity for themselves.

Intersex: Remember when I mentioned above the difference between sex and gender? This is important here. Individuals who were born with variations of sex characteristics that do not fit with the definition of a male or female body. Also, an umbrella term that encompasses people born with sexual anatomy that isn’t “typically” a male or female.

Asexual: An individual who identifies as asexual may have little to no sexual attraction- important to note that this does not mean they do not experience romantic attraction.

The +: The plus sign at the end of the acronym represents the everchanging growth of language and experience of individuals with their sexual orientation and gender identity. The list below of words again does not encompass everyone’s experience, although I think it’s important to note some of the vocabulary that does fall into the “plus.”

Nonbinary: A person who does not identify entirely aa woman or a man, remember again gender is a social construct. Some people do not feel that they fit into either of the definitions of gender that society has created!

Gender Non-Conforming: Again, gender is a social construct. Individuals whose gender expression or identity does not follow the traditional norms set by society- specifically masculinity or femininity.

Pansexual: An individual who identifies as pansexual may feel that their emotion, physical and/or romantic attraction is in regard to the qualities of the individual rather than their gender identity.

Gender Fluid: Individuals who identify as gender fluid may feel that their gender expression or identity is more masculine on one day and then the next it is more feminine.

Gender Neutral: An individual who prefers to not be described by a specific gender.

Why This Matters

As someone who identifies as bisexual, educating myself on the vocabulary has been incredibly important to me, my family members, and my dearest friends. The idea that we can continue to add letters to the acronym excites me, because I think that means that as a society, we are moving towards understanding that we are all ever changing. Trust me, I think we have a long way to go as society in terms of acceptance. I hope that after reading this blog you are intrigued, want to continue to educate yourself and others, and work towards the inclusion we all deserve including our sexual orientation or gender identity.

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