The Guide to LGBTQ Acronyms: Is it LGBT or LGBTQ+ or LGBTQIA+?

Like our LGBTQ community, the LGBTQ acronyms and definitions are always growing and changing. This growth is a good thing and is indicative of the increasing inclusivity of the variance of gender, sexuality, and identity within our community.

But what do all these LGBTQ acronyms and letters stand for and mean? Some are historic terms that are returning into fashion, some are words that used to be derogatory but now have been reclaimed, and some are brand new to better identify the nuances within the LGBTQ community.

While this is by no means a definitive list, it will explain the more frequent and commonly used LGBTQ acronyms.

A diverse group of seven individuals from the LGBTQ community smiling at the camera

LGBT Acronym: The Classic 

Although no longer seen as fully inclusive, the classic four-letter LGBT acronym has become internationally synonymous with the queer community. The letters stand for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. This is the most well-known of all the acronyms, debuting back in the mid-1980s as a way to unite the community and move away from the often derogatory-laced “homosexual” (among other words). Originally, it began as just LGB, with the transgender “T” coming in later. 

LGBTQ Acronym: The Question of Q

The “Q” in the LGBTQ acronym is probably the most confusing to allies of the LGBTQ community (and sometimes within the community, too). This is because there is no “official” agreement as to what the “Q” stands for.

It joined the LGBT acronym around the turn of the millennium in the early 2000s and is sometimes understood as Questioning, meaning those are still exploring their sexual and gender identity. However, it is most often understood as Queer, a word that was once a slur but is now a reclaimed word of empowerment when used within the community. This modern reclamation of “queer” is used as an umbrella term that covers all people who do not identify as straight or heterosexual and those who prefer to not be categorized by singular labels.

Because of the open-ended inclusivity of the Q, we officially added it to our name’s acronym and became the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert back in 2020.

LGBTQIA+ Acronym: The Variations with I, A, +

LGBTQ acronym has become the new standard over recent years, but it’s not uncommon to see supplemented variations of the LGBTQIA+ acronym, most commonly with I, A, and +. The “I” stands for Intersex, which is not descriptive of sexual orientation or gender identity, but rather of individuals who are born with variations of anatomical sex characteristics that do not fit with binary definitions of male or female bodies. 

The “A” (much like the “Q”) can stand for a couple different things depending upon whom you ask. Some recognize it as Allies, but mostly people recognize it as Asexual (often abbreviated as “Ace”), those who have little to no sexual attraction to others regardless of gender expression. 

As for the “+”, it is similar to the “Q” in Queer in that it represents the totality of possibilities that exist beyond all acronyms whether it be LGBT+, LGBTQ+, LGBTQIA+, and any other combination of letters.

Zoomed in shot of a row of dices spelling out LGBTQ+

LGBTQ Acronyms are Ever-Evolving

It’s worth noting that these acronyms are not set in stone. Language and definitions, like ourselves, constantly evolve and are deserving of being recognized and validated, and can help us realize all the possibilities available to us. Ultimately, unifying terms like LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBTQIA+, and others can help people feel connected to a larger group of people with shared experiences.

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