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LGBT vs LGBTQIA+: Tracing the Journey of Queer Acronyms

Robyn Exton

Nov 07, 2023

LGBT vs LGBTQIA+: Tracing the Journey of Queer Acronyms

Ever tried to untangle a necklace chain? It can be intricate and challenging but ultimately rewarding. Now think about the labyrinthine journey of understanding sexual identities and expressions—specifically deciphering the transition from LGBT to LGBTQIA+. Much like that tangled necklace, it’s complex but equally fulfilling when we finally comprehend.

You’ve probably seen these acronyms around—on social media, in news articles, or in resource centers—but do you really know what each letter stands for? Or why do new ones keep getting added?

Join us as we delve into the shared experiences within this diverse community that build a sense of unity.

Understanding LGBT vs LGBTQIA+

The queer community has long used acronyms to represent its diverse identities. Two common ones are LGBT and LGBTQIA+. But what do they mean, and how did they evolve?

LGBT, representing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals, is a term that was adopted in the late 20th century to unify these communities. Each letter represents a distinct sexual orientation or gender identity.

In contrast, LGBTQIA+ is an expanded version of the original acronym that emerged as our understanding of sexualities grew more nuanced over time.

This umbrella term includes Queer or Questioning (Q), Intersex (I), Asexual or Ally (A), plus (+). The ‘+’ symbol acknowledges the existence of countless other orientations and identities not explicitly named in the acronym itself.

A notable shift was from ‘lesbian’ to ‘gay,’ sparked by Sappho’s works; her love poems between women gave rise to this label associated with female homosexuality.

The evolution of queer terminology

‘Homosexuality,’ coined by Karoly Maria Kertbeny in 1869, evolved into these varied terms we use today – including straight people who experience romantic attraction towards opposite-sex partners. Language changes as societal attitudes shift, creating more inclusive spaces where everyone feels seen.

The journey of inclusive language in the queer community has been remarkable. From an era where ‘gay’ was a taboo, we now proudly use acronyms like LGBT. This shift started with gay liberation movements in the late 1960s.

From gay liberation to trans acceptance

The term “gay” was reclaimed by activists who sought to shake off societal expectations. They wanted it to symbolize pride rather than shame. Their success sparked a chain reaction leading to more inclusivity.

In the same spirit, trans acceptance gained momentum as well. Thanks largely to contributions from pioneers like Virginia Prince, whose relentless arguments paved the way for gender expression beyond binary definitions.

This led us to understand that sexual orientation is not just about being straight or gay but includes a wide variety – hence birthed LGBTQIA+. It signifies that no matter how people identify their sexual attraction or romantic inclination, they are valid and respected members of society too.

Transgender, added in the 1990s, underlines this message beautifully: Your sex assigned at birth doesn’t have sole control over your identity.

Unpacking the LGBTQIA+ acronym

The acronym LGBTQIA+ serves as a wide umbrella term, capturing a vast array of sexual and gender identities. Each letter signifies a different identity within this spectrum.

The “Q” stands for ‘queer’ or ‘questioning.’ The former is an encompassing term for non-straight and/or non-cisgender people, while the latter refers to those who are exploring their sexuality or gender identity.

Exploring queer, intersex, and asexual identities

Diving deeper into the alphabet soup of identities – we have “I,” representing intersex individuals. These are folks whose sex characteristics don’t align with binary definitions of male or female at birth. Medical intervention is often involved, but it’s important to note that not all intersex people identify under this label.

Moving on to “A”. This can signify either ‘asexual,’ referring to individuals who do not experience sexual attraction, or ‘allies’, straight and/or cisgender folk supporting the community.

In conclusion, each letter in LGBTQIA+ represents diverse experiences within our queer community – from questioning one’s own orientation right through to advocating for others as an ally.

The shared experiences of people within the LGBTQIA+ community foster a sense of belonging, regardless of individual identities. A wide variety of sexual orientation and gender identity is celebrated here.

Embracing queerness and gender diversity

The NIH’s strategic plan on gender and sexual minorities details how this acceptance has evolved over time. Inclusivity goes beyond simply recognizing different orientations or identities; it requires an understanding that these differences create unique experiences for each person.

Inclusion was boosted significantly when ‘queer’ became embraced by the gay rights movement in the 1990s. This term provided a unifying umbrella for diverse expressions of sexuality and gender identity.

To further promote inclusivity, some organizations have started using terms like “gender and sexual minority” (GSM). Such terminology aims to cover all possible variations under one broad category, fostering more unity among members with a diverse range of identities.

Intersectionality and the LGBTQIA+ community

The term “Intersectionality” has been buzzing in discussions about identities. It’s not just a fancy word; it’s a crucial lens to understand how different aspects of our identity overlap.

In the context of the LGBTQIA+ community, intersectionality is key because everyone doesn’t share identical experiences. Each letter stands for distinct tales that oftentimes intersect with other aspects of a person’s identity, like race, religion, or economic standing.

We find strength in shared experiences, but acknowledging diversity within these narratives adds depth to understanding each individual’s journey. For instance, an intersex person may have faced medical intervention without their consent, while non-binary people may struggle against societal expectations and binary definitions.

Similarly, trans people might deal with discrimination due to sex assigned at birth – all diverse scenarios under one umbrella term: LGBTQIA+

Facing discrimination for your sexual orientation is tough enough; adding racism or classism can be overwhelming. Intersectional theory helps us recognize these overlapping struggles, which allows for more inclusive solutions.

Peeling back the layers of LGBT vs LGBTQIA+ is no easy feat. Yet, with every letter unraveled, we step closer to understanding this vibrant community.

We’ve journeyed through history, from lesbianism and homosexuality’s origins to the reclaiming of ‘gay’. We dived into how societal expectations shape our perceptions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Every expansion in the acronym – be it bisexuals finding their voice or transgender people gaining recognition – marks a stride towards inclusivity. Intersex issues are given space; asexual identities are acknowledged.

LGBTQIA+, at its core, reflects shared experiences that make us feel connected within this diverse group. So remember: Each letter stands for someone’s truth; each addition makes our world more inclusive!

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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