In October, people in the US celebrate LGBT+ History Month, a time when we reflect on and celebrate the history and achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Unlike Pride Month in June, the month-long observance period was initiated in 1994 by Missouri high school history teacher Rodney Wilson, the state’s first openly gay public school teacher. Wilson chose October because the first and second LGBT marches in Washington, in 1979 and 1987, took place over the course of the month.
It was also during the mid-late 1980s that the language used to refer to the gay community changed, according to PinkNews, when the acronym LGB was first introduced, to refer to lesbians, gays or bisexuals. By the 1990s, the acronym was updated to include the letter “T,” which refers to transgender people.
As awareness has grown around the LGBT+ community, so have the words used to describe different sexualities, and language around the spectrum of sexuality is constantly evolving.
In recent years, the queer community is usually referred to as the LGBT or LGBTQ community.
The acronym is also seen with a + sign at the end, which has its own meaning.
While not everyone in the queer community chooses to subscribe to specific labels, this is the most commonly used list of terms to refer to non-heterosexuality.
LGBT is an initialism for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. Often used as a generic term to refer to the gay community, the acronym first became popular in the 1980s when it replaced the term gay to refer to all those who do not identify as heterosexual.
It has since expanded to LGBTTQQIAAP, to encompass numerous other sexual and gender identities.
What do the extra letters mean?
As the understanding of sexuality and sexual identity has grown, a fifth letter has increasingly been added to the acronym.
The Q often placed at the end of LGBT refers to being queer or asking, according to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.
Previously, Cleo Anderson, an associate of the LGBT rights group GLAAD, told: VSToday: “Queer is everything that exists outside the dominant narrative. Queer means you are one of those letters [LGBT]but you could be all those letters and not know is okay.”
Anderson also said the Q is helpful because it “can be used to convey the nuances of race and culture and how that intersects a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation.”
The acronym has also been expanded with an I and an A at the end, making it LGBTQIA.
According to the LGBT youth support group OK2BME, the I stands for intersex.
Intersex is an umbrella term “describing bodies that fall outside the strict male/female binary,” according to Planned Parenthood.
The A at the end of the acronym also has multiple meanings and is used to represent those who identify as asexual, those who are older, and those who identify as allies of the LGBT community.
What does the plus sign stand for?
As noted by the University of California at Davis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Resource Center (LGBTQIARC) who built a glossary, there are numerous other letters and terms in use by the LGBT community. community as well.
To represent those who do not identify with any of the letters in the acronym, such as those who identify as pansexual, a plus sign is often used.
The plus sign also represents the experiences and realities of those who identify as members of the LGBT community.
Louis Ortiz-Fonesca, Senior Program Manager for LGBTQ Heath and Rights at Advocates for Youth, told Elite Daily, “I explain it simply by saying that the ‘plus’ is a including and on purpose way to represent different identities and experiences.”
As the LGBT community continues to fight for representation and equal rights 50 years after the first pride march, it is important to recognize the different sexualities, groups and identities represented in the constantly evolving acronym.
While many Pride celebrations have been canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are still ways to support and celebrate the LGBT community.