LGBTQIA2S+ is an abbreviation for a variety of gender and sexual identities. This abbreviation gives a name to the wide spectrum of human gender and sexuality, and provides a sense of community and belonging to its members. On this page, you can learn more about what each letter means, how you can be an ally, access LGBTQIA2S+ resources, and more.
WHAT DOES LGBTQIA2S+ STAND FOR?
L is Lesbian: a woman that experiences physical and/or attraction towards another woman. Some lesbians identify as “gay” or “gay woman”.
G is Gay: Describes someone who is physical and/or romantically attracted towards someone of the same gender. This term is usually used for men but can be used for women.
B is Bisexual: Someone who experiences physical and/or romantic attraction to those of the same and different gender (i.e. woman liking men and women). Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.
T is Transgender: A term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more terms— including transgender or nonbinary. Some transgender people are prescribed hormones 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 is Queer: General term for individuals whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual or straight. This umbrella term includes people who have nonbinary, gender-fluid, or gender nonconforming identities. In some spaces, this term is viewed as derogatory but has been reclaimed in many communities.
I is Intersex: Individuals born with any of several sex characteristics including chromosome patterns, gonads, or genitals that do not fit Western binary notions of male or female bodies. Not all intersex people identify as being part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Learn more about intersex identity here.
A is Asexual: Also referred to as “Ace”, this is an individual who does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality also falls on a spectrum with aromantic, demisexual, and graysexual.
2S is Two-Spirit: Refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. As an umbrella term it may encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described in Western culture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, gender queer, cross-dressers or who have multiple gender identities. The term/identity of Two-spirit does not make sense unless it is contextualized within an indigenous framework. Traditionally, Two-spirit people were male, female, and sometimes intersex individuals who combined activities of both men and women with traits unique to their status as two-spirit people. In most tribes, they were considered neither men nor women; they occupied a distinct, alternative gender status. Read more about the history of Two-Spirit people here.
+ signifies all gender identities and sexual orientations that letters and words cannot yet fully describe.
GENDER VS. SEX
Gender and sex are often used interchangeably, which inaccurately portrays the role that gender identity and biological sex play into our lives. Below, you can learn the differences between the two concepts.
Gender: Refers to an individual’s self-representation. For example, someone with male genitalia that identifies as a woman, is of the female gender. This is also referred to as gender identity, which falls on a wide spectrum that includes female, male, and non-binary gender identities.
Sex: A classification (generally male or female) that is based on the reproductive organs and functions that are determined by the individual’s chromosomes. (e.g. Male sex is based on the presence of a penis and testes with an XY chromosomal pattern and the female sex is based on the presence of a uterus, ovaries, and vagina with an XX chromosomal pattern). There are variations in anatomical sex, which is where the concept of "Intersex" comes into play.
While it is common for people to identify with the gender identity that is conventionally associated with their sex organs (e.g. someone born with XX chromosomes, vagina, uterus, and ovaries also chooses the gender identity of a girl). Recognizing the distinction between the two concepts, provides room for identities that do not conform to the Western binaries of gender and sex, to exist.
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TERMS TO KNOW
Cisgender: Describes someone whose gender identity is linked with their sex. For example, someone who is born with male sex organs identifies as a man.
Coming Out: Describes the process of a person first coming to understand their own sexual orientation and then revealing it to others.
Gender Affirming Surgery: A surgical procedure that enables an individual’s body to be in line with their gender identity. Also referred to as sex reassignment surgery or gender confirming surgery.
Gender Dysphoria: Describes the extreme discomfort that a person feels because their assigned sex at birth does not match their gender identity. This sense of unease or dissatisfaction can cause depression and anxiety and negatively impact an individual’s daily life.
Gender Fluid: Describes a person whose gender expression or gender identity — or both — changes over time. Not everyone whose gender identity or expression changes identifies as gender fluid.
Gender Neutral: Describes concepts that don’t indicate a specific gender. For example, terms like “folks”, “people”, and “they/them” are gender neutral. Gender neutrality can also be seen in bathrooms that can be used by any person, gender non-specific clothing, and all-gender sports teams.
Non-binary: Current Western norms of gender identity and sex divide people into two categories: male or female. Non-binary individuals don’t identify as either male or female and may fall somewhere in between the two categories. Other terms include: genderqueer, gender-nonconforming, agender, or genderfluid. Non-binary is not the same as intersex; intersex identity is associated with anatomy; many non-binary people are not intersex. However, intersex people can still identify as non-binary.
Transgender Man: A person who was assigned female at birth but identifies as male.
Transgender Woman: A person who was assigned male at birth but identifies as female.
Transition: A process by which transgender people align themselves with their gender identity. Transitioning is a multiple-step process that occurs over a long period of time. It can include using a different name, using new pronouns, dressing differently, updating legal documents, hormone therapy and surgery. The exact steps involved in a person’s transition varies.
Pronouns are how you refer to someone in a conversation, without using their name. In Lingit this looks like “hú” (s/he) ”du” (her/his) “hás” (them) and in English, pronouns look like “she”, “her”, “him”, “his”, “they”, and “them”. When it comes to gender identity, pronouns are an important aspect of gender expression and using someone’s preferred pronouns is a way to show acceptance and respect.
How do I find out about someone’s pronouns?
You can start by introducing yourself with your name and preferred pronouns - for example, “Hi! My name is Ana and my pronouns are they/them, what about you?” You can also refer to a mutual friend or simply ask the person what their pronouns are. You can always default to “they/them” pronouns if you are unsure or uncomfortable asking the person.
What happens if I misgender someone?
It can be awkward misgendering someone, especially in public, but it happens to everyone. If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do is to apologize and correct yourself moving forward.
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community often face discrimination, harassment, violence, and homelessness. As a result, LGBTQIA2S+ people have been fighting for equal rights, representation, social resources and respect, for centuries. Allies are an important part of this fight. The role(s) of LGBTQIA2S+ allies can look like educating yourself and others, holding others accountable, listening to members of the community, and assisting in social and political movements. Below are some tips for those looking to be an ally to the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
DO's of Allyship
1. Ask people for their preferred pronouns and use them.
2. Introduce yourself with your preferred pronouns.
3. Be mindful of places where someone's LGBTQIA2S+ identity may not be known.
4. Continue educating yourself about issues impacting the community.
5. Hold those who are being ignorant, accountable.
6. Integrate inclusive language into your daily speech.
7. Listen when members of the community speak about their personal experiences.
8. Reflect on how personal implicit bias has influenced your perspective.
DON'Ts of Allyship
1. Expect to be entirely educated by members of the community.
2. Speak about someone's LGBTQIA2S+ identity without that person's consent. You may accidentally "out" them.
3. Assume someone's gender, pronouns, or sexuality, always ask!
4. Assume that every member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community feels marginalized.
5. Respond poorly to feedback.
HOTLINES & RESOURCES
Having trouble understanding the gender and sexuality spectrum? Click here!
How to Support the Transgender People in Your Life
THRIVE Hotline: A Resource for LGBTQIA2S+ Youth in Crisis
You Are Made of Medicine: A Guide for Indiqueer, Two-Spirit, & Gender Non-Conforming Youth