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LGBT, an In-Depth Analysis of the Meaning of the Letters

Updated on March 13, 2020
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Robert Odell has traveled extensively and has come in contact with a variety of cultures, gaining invaluable life experiences as a result.

LGBT covers more than just four letters.
LGBT covers more than just four letters. | Source

A New Word

Around 1921 a new phrase was coined in Germany. The term "akronym" (a·kroo·nühm) referred to a word made up of the initials from a group of sentences. In the 1940s, the German name "akronym" became incorporated into the English language with the revamped spelling and pronunciation "acronym" (a·kruh·nuhm). NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) are well-known acronyms.

The initial letters of a phrase create an initialism. The term came into vogue in the late 19th century. Initialisms look like acronyms, but they are different. Not pronounced as words, we say each letter of an initialism separately. LGBT is an initialism, not an acronym. Unlike most initialisms, LGBT is growing, evolving, and covers far more than many people think.


We say each letter of an initialism separately. LGBT is an initialism, not an acronym. Unlike most initialisms, LGBT is growing, evolving, and covers more than many people think.

The Addition of the "T"

In the 1990s, the initials LGBT sprang up from the root 1980s initials LGB. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) became a palatable description of the gay community. The addition of the "T" included transgender people. The LGBT initialism is in a continuous state of revision and includes more than many people may fully understand.

The "Q"

Once considered an insult, the letter "Q" (which stands for Queer) resides beside the "T" in the LGBT initialism. LGBTQ, a term coined around 1996, is used to include individuals who are queer or put another way, questioning their sexual orientation or gender.

There Is More to the Term

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) seems to be a quick and straightforward definition of the initialism. The actual description of the lifestyles that the letters delineate is closer to but not limited to LGBTTTQQIAA. The two Qs stand for Queer and Questioning. Even the eleven initials mentioned here do not cover all of the different orientations within the LGBTTTQQIAA community.

A 2010 pride parade in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, uses an initialism of LGBTIQ.
A 2010 pride parade in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, uses an initialism of LGBTIQ. | Source

The First "T"

The first "T" stands for transgender. Sometimes referred to as trans or tranny, a transgender person is someone who was born one sex but wants to be another. Also called transvestism, the practices of a transgender person include adopting the dress, manner, and in some instances, the sexual role of the opposite sex. The word is an umbrella term that refers to those with identities that differ from the sex they had at birth.

Pride weekend 2016, the day after President Obama announced the Stonewall National Monument.  The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar located on Christopher Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.  A June 28, 1968, police raid of the bar led to rioting.
Pride weekend 2016, the day after President Obama announced the Stonewall National Monument. The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar located on Christopher Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. A June 28, 1968, police raid of the bar led to rioting. | Source

The Second "T"

The second "T" stands for Transexual. A Transexual person does not identify with the sex given to them at birth. They often feel that a physical error has occurred and will adamantly wish for corrective surgery.

The actual description of the lifestyles that the letters LGBT represent is closer to but not limited to LGBTTTQQIAA.

The Third "T"

The third "T" stands for Two-Spirit. The term Two-Spirit is a twenty-first-century phrase rooted in the customs and beliefs of native North Americans. Those with different sexual orientations or gender identities were said to have male and female spirits within them.

The "I"

Created by German-born American geneticist Richard Goldschmidt in 1917, the term intersex refers to the various physical anomalies of the human reproductive system. Intersex individuals are not easily identifiable as male or female. Before the twenty-first-century, intersex people were called hermaphrodites or "congenital eunuchs."

The First "A"

Asexuality is also called nonsexuality. Although characterized by a low sexual attraction or no interest in sexual activity, some asexuals still seek romantic relationships.

The Second "A"

Ally connotates a friend. Any friend of the LGBTQ community is called an Ally.

The Plus (+)

The Plus (+) covers anything else within the vast array of gender identifications and sexuality found in the LGBTQ community.

Those variations include but are not limited to:

  • Pansexual
  • Agender
  • Gender Queer
  • Bigender
  • Gender Variant
  • Pangender

Many organizations are striving to bridge divides between society at large and the LGBT communities.
Many organizations are striving to bridge divides between society at large and the LGBT communities. | Source

Pansexual

People who are attracted to all types of genders are called pansexual. Pansexuals have a wide range of gender attractions that are not limited to gender identity. A Pansexual may have romantic and emotional inclinations toward any sex or gender.

Agender

Agender people think of themselves as having no gender. Their other references include being genderless, genderfree, non-gendered, or ungendered.

Gender Queer

Gender Queer refers to people who identify themselves as not being masculine or feminine, but some of both.

A 2007 LGBT pride parade in Boston, Massachusetts.
A 2007 LGBT pride parade in Boston, Massachusetts. | Source

Pangender

Pangender people consider themselves as being all genders. Gender queers exhibit pangender characteristics.

Bigender

Bigender people move between feminine and masculine identities. In some instances, they identify as two genders at the same time.

Gender Variant

Gender variant people express themselves in ways that are not considered normal for males or females. Their other references include gender non-conforming, gender diverse, or gender atypical. Transgender people and intersex people display gender-variant behavior.

The Order of the Lettering

The order of the lettering that represents the LGBT community has experienced wavering standardization. Many differences have existed. Some variances have altered the sequence of the letters. Different groups and individuals have preferred different initialisms for various reasons. The one thing each sector of the community has always agreed on is the desire for dignity and respect.

Bologna Pride 2008 in Italy.  LGBT pride parades are steadily doing without the LGBT initialism. Omitting the letters altogether avoids having to add new initials and deciding where to place them in the overall title.
Bologna Pride 2008 in Italy. LGBT pride parades are steadily doing without the LGBT initialism. Omitting the letters altogether avoids having to add new initials and deciding where to place them in the overall title. | Source

Statewide Directives

Many organizations are striving to bridge divides between society at large and the LGBT communities. The United States has issued many statewide directives in this effort. The guidelines ensure proper treatment toward LGBT individuals. The instructions state that regardless of their birth gender, LGBT individuals should receive treatment in a manner that agrees with how they identify. The guidelines take effect even if the person's official identification shows another gender.

This six-band rainbow flag represents the LGBT community.
This six-band rainbow flag represents the LGBT community. | Source

Sources

Grinberg, E. (2019, June 14). WHAT THE 'Q' IN LGBTQ STANDS FOR, AND OTHER IDENTITY TERMS EXPLAINED. Pride Progress.

Maddox, M. (n.d.). Acronym vs. Initialism. Retrieved from https://www.dailywritingtips.com/acronym-vs-initialism/.

Martin, J. (2018, March 5). Father James Martin: Lessons for all Catholics from six L.G.B.T. parables. America The Jesuit Review.

McClatchy. (2019, November 22). NJ police to get new training on interacting with transgender people. Retrieved from https://www.policeone.com/police/news/.

Serano, J. (n.d.). Transgender vs Transsexual - Differences Explained (incl. video). Retrieved from https://www.diffen.com/difference/Transgender_vs_Transsexual.

What Does LGBTQ Mean? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ok2bme.ca/resources/kids-teens/what-does-lgbtq-mean/.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Robert Odell Jr

Comments

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    • Muchsuccess profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Odell Jr 

      3 months ago from Memphis, Tennessee

      You're welcome

    • Michelle Cross profile image

      Michelle Cross 

      3 months ago from Midwest, USA

      Thank you very much for the correction!

    • Muchsuccess profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Odell Jr 

      3 months ago from Memphis, Tennessee

      Thank you for your comments, Michelle. I have noted them and have updated the explanation of Pansexualism.

    • Michelle Cross profile image

      Michelle Cross 

      3 months ago from Midwest, USA

      Hi, as a Pansexual™️ I would like to make a correction to your description of the sexuality. We are not "gender blind" as that insinuates that we don't recognize or acknowledge gender which is quite opposite. It's not that we are gender blind, but that a wide range of gender or lack there of does not determine our attraction. Just as with any multisexuality, Pansexual folks can have preferences but we find ourselves attracted regardless of gender identity.

    • Muchsuccess profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Odell Jr 

      6 months ago from Memphis, Tennessee

      I can understand that. I was very surprised when I discovered how fair the initialism went. I feel that LGBTQ+ may be the symbols that will be commonly used.

    • Cheryl E Preston profile image

      Cheryl E Preston 

      6 months ago from Roanoke

      Interesting and informative but too confusing to try to remember or figure it all out.

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