In October, people in the US will observe LGBT+ History Month, a time during which we reflect on and celebrate the history and accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
The month-long celebration period, which is different from Pride Month in June, was created in 1994 by Missouri high school history teacher Rodney Wilson, the first openly gay public school teacher in the state. Wilson chose October because the first and second LGBT Marches on Washington, in 1979 and 1987, took place during the month.
It was also in the mid-to-late 1980s that the language used to refer to the gay community changed, according to RosaNews, as the acronym LGB was first introduced, to refer to those who were lesbian, gay, or bisexual. In the 1990s, the acronym was updated to include the letter “T”, which refers to transgender people.
As awareness of the LGBT+ community has grown, so have the words used to describe different sexualities, with the language surrounding the spectrum of sexuality constantly evolving.
In recent years, the queer community has been commonly referred to as the LGBT or LGBTQ community.
The acronym is also seen with a + sign at the end, which has its own meaning.
Although 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-heterosexual sexualities.
LGBT is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Often used as an umbrella term to refer to the queer 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 straight.
It has since grown to LGBTTQQIAAP, to encompass many other sexual and gender identities.
What do the extra letters mean?
As understanding of sexuality and gender identity has increased, a fifth letter has been added to the acronym more often.
The Q that is often placed at the end of LGBT refers to queer or questioning, depending on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.
Earlier, Cleo Anderson, an employee of the LGBT rights group GLAAD, said USA Today:: “Queer is everything that exists outside of the dominant narrative. Queer means you are one of those letters [LGBT]But you could be all those letters and not knowing is okay.”
Anderson also said that the Q is useful because “it can be used to convey the nuances of race and culture and how that intersects with an individual’s gender identity and sexual orientation.”
The acronym has also been expanded to include an I and an A at the end, making it LGBTQIA.
According to the LGBT youth support group OK2BMEthe I stands for intersex.
Intersex is an umbrella term “describing bodies that fall outside the strict male/female binary,” according to Family planning.
The A at the end of the acronym also has multiple meanings, and is used to represent those who identify as asexual, genderqueer, and those who identify as allies of the LGBT community.
What does the plus sign mean?
As pointed out by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual Resource Center (LGBTQIARC) at the University of California at Davis, which has created a glossary, there are also many other letters and terms in use by the LGBT community.
To represent those who do not identify with one of the letters of 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.
speaking to daily eliteLouis Ortiz-Fonesca, senior manager of the LGBTQ Health and Rights Program with Advocates for Youth, said, “I explain it simply by saying that the ‘plus’ is a inclusive Y intentional way of representing 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 ever-evolving acronym.
While many pride celebrations have been canceled this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, there are still ways to support and celebrate the LGBT community.