What do the letters mean?
LGBT or LGBTQ most commonly refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people. But there are a host of other “flavors” to the mix, sometimes called the “LGBT Alphabet Soup.” In our personal journeys, we often feel we don’t fit neatly into a single box because when you get down to it, gender, gender identity, and sexuality are complicated.

Back in the stone ages, “gay” just referred to anyone who was attracted to people of the same sex or who had a non-normative gender presentation or identity, but nowadays things have gotten a little bit ‘cray. It seems like there’s an identity for pretty much everything, and the marvelous global community of same-sex-loving and gender-non-conforming individuals has spiraled into a gloriously confusing rainbow of identities and communities. ~ Jacob Tobia, blogger


The video below presents a short summary of the LBGT “Alphabet Soup.” If you prefer the written descriptions, read on.

Sexuality concerns the aspects of a person that include their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual practices. Gender is a social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Gender is fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth. Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people. Simply put, sexual attraction is about whom we have sexual feelings for.

Gender identity is one’s sense of “being” male, female, genderqueer, agender, or something else. For some people, gender identity is in accord with physical anatomy. For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate and that you cannot assume how someone identifies in one category based on how they identify in another category.

Gender expression is a term which refers to the ways in which we each manifest masculinity or femininity. It is usually an extension of our “gender identity,” our innate sense of being male, female, etc. However, some males feel most at ease with more feminine expressions, and some females naturally express themselves in masculine ways. Each of us expresses a particular gender every day – by the way we style our hair, select our clothing, or even the way we stand. Our appearance, speech, behavior, movement, and other factors signal that we feel – and wish to be understood – as masculine or feminine.

Now to the letters…

L – lesbian: a woman who is attracted to other women

G – gay: a man who is attracted to other men or used more broadly as people who identify as homosexual

B – bisexual: a person who is attracted to both men and women

T – transgender: a person whose gender identity is different from the sex the doctor put down on their birth certificate. Please note: Transvestite is an outdated and problematic term due to its historical use as a diagnosis for medical/mental health disorders. Cross Dresser has replaced transvestite.

Q – queer: originally used as a hate term, some people want to reclaim the word, while others find it offensive. It can be a political statement, suggest that someone doesn’t want to identify with “binaries” (e.g. male v female, homosexual v straight) or that they don’t want to label themselves only by their sexual activity

Q – questioning: a person who is still exploring their sexuality or gender identity

I – intersex: a person whose body is not definitively male or female. This may be because they have chromosomes which are not XX or XY or because their genitals or reproductive organs are not considered “standard”. Hermaphrodite is an outdated and inaccurate term that has been used to describe intersex people in the past.

2S – two spirits: a North American Indigenous person who carries both male and female spirits and expresses those natures in sexual attraction, gender, and gender roles

A – ally: a person who identifies as straight but supports people in the LGBTQQI2sAAP community

A – asexual: a person who is not attracted in a sexual way to people of any gender

P – pansexual: a person whose sexual attraction is not based on gender and may themselves be fluid when it comes to gender or sexual identity