On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin

LGBTQ+ Awareness and Pride Month

I noted in last week’s column that June is LGBTQ+ Awareness and Pride Month. I have noticed that, although those letters (LGBTQ+) get tossed around a lot, not everyone really know what they mean. So, I went to the website of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (gaycenter.org) to get some authoritative definitions. Here is what The Center says: “LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning”. And, here is a more detailed definition of each term, taken from the same website:

L = Lesbian: A woman whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay 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 sex. Sometimes lesbian is the preferred term for women.

B = Bisexual: 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: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with 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. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures.

Q = Queer: An adjective used by some people whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. Typically, for those who identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel don’t apply to them. Some people may use queer, or genderqueer, to describe their gender identity and/or gender expression. Once considered a pejorative term, queer has been reclaimed by some LGBTQ people to describe themselves; however, it is not a universally accepted term even within the LGBTQ community.

Q = Questioning: Sometimes, when the Q is seen at the end of LGBT, it can also mean questioning. This term describes someone who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And, then, delving into other sources, I discovered that:

+ = “Plus”: The symbol represents members of the community who identify with a sexual orientation or gender identity that isn’t included within the LGBTQ acronym. It’s an inclusive way of representing gender and sexual identities that letters and words cannot yet fully describe.

Sometimes the acronym is expanded to be LGBTQIA+, or even LBGTQQIP2SAA+ (the first “Q” meaning “queer”, and the second “Q” meaning “questioning”), in which case these additional definitions apply:

I = Intersex: A person who is born with differences in their sex traits or reproductive anatomy that don’t fit typical definitions of female or male. There may be differences in regards to genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, internal sex organs, and/or secondary sex characteristics (e.g., pubic hair, breasts, facial hair, etc.).

P = Pansexual: A person who may have a physical, emotional, or romantic attraction to people of any gender. They may not experience these feelings at the same time or in the same way or level.

2S = Two-spirit: A term that traditionally originated from Native American culture that describes people who are male, female, or intersex and have both a male and female spirit within them. It’s sometimes referred to as a third gender.

A = Asexual: A person who lacks sexual attraction or desire for other people. It’s different from celibacy, in which people make a choice to abstain from sexual activity.

A = Ally: A person who actively supports the LGBTQ community. It includes people who are straight or cisgender (a term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth) and those within the LGBTQ community.

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