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Queer folks have been dancing through the threads of time since, well, forever. As long as people have roamed this planet, queer spirits have woven their tales into the rich fabric of human history. The LGBTQ2IA+ acronym is our way of expanding our communal vocabulary, like coming up with names for all the vibrant hues to a breathtaking painting.
Think of all of these terms like poetry– each word we use has a full, rich meaning that goes beyond what might be the literal definition. They are expansive references to realities that go deeper than words ever could. These words are imperfect, and can also be helpful to learn more about ourselves and the world, and to find connection with people both similar to and different than ourselves.
Even still, this acronym isn't a one-size-fits-all magic word. It's an ever-evolving expression of the dazzling diversity within our community. We might never fully capture every nuance of the queer experience with these letters, but the effort is more than worth it. It's about celebrating the unique journey each of us takes and finding unity in our shared quest for understanding and acceptance.
So, let's kick things off by unraveling some of the magic behind each letter in LGBTQ2IA+.
Lesbian, the radiant 'L,' traditionally describes women who experience romantic and/or sexual attractions to other women. However, this term is much more expansive than just that as well! Of course, the word “lesbian” is inclusive of nonbinary and trans folks, and some people even use the term to describe their gender experience. It’s a word to describe where you are in community.
Gleaming with pride, 'G' represents gay, a term often used to describe men who are romantically and/or sexually attracted to other men. Similarly to the word “lesbian,” this word is inclusive of trans and nonbinary people. This word sometimes is used as a synonym for “homosexual,” and some people use it as a sort of catch-all to mean “not straight,” so it’s not always referring to men, colloquially.
Behold the versatile 'B'! Bisexual folks are attracted to more than one gender, creating a delightful symphony of affections that defies binary expectations. Another term that is often brought up alongside bisexual is “pansexual,” which means being attracted to all genders. While some use these interchangeably, others have a strong preference of one over another. Either way, both are a beautiful part of our queer community!
The transformative 'T' stands for transgender people, meaning their gender is different than the one they were assigned at birth. This includes trans men, trans women, nonbinary people, genderfluid people, agender people, and more! Everyone’s experience of gender is unique and awesome!
"Q" serves a double purpose. It stands for "Queer," an umbrella term for non-cis-heteronormative sexual orientations and gender identities. It also represents those who are "Questioning" their own identities. Sometimes the acronym will include two Q’s, one for each term. Whether people are queer and sure of it or exploring themselves and bravely diving into vulnerable mystery, we welcome them with open arms!
For those of us in North America, ‘2’ or sometimes '2S' stands for “Two-Spirit,” a range of culturally specific gender concepts and experiences that exist in Turtle Island’s (also known as North America's) Indigenous cultures, in particular those in so-called Canada and USA. In many of these cultures, there are recognized and respected third genders, and sometimes more than that. It's a powerful reminder of the richness of identity within different cultural contexts globally. If you want to know more, Geo Soctomah Neptune, a Passamaquoddy two-spirit person, does an amazing job of providing context and further explanation in this video!
The enigmatic 'I' stands for intersex, individuals whose natural anatomy/ biology doesn't neatly align with conventional definitions of ‘male’ or ‘female.’ There are many kinds of people who fit under the intersex umbrella, and each one has a different experience! Some have different physical characteristics than non- intersex people, others have different hormonal balances, while others still have different sets of chromosomes. But every intersex person is a wonderful addition to our world just the way they are!
"A" can stand for "Asexual" and "Aromantic." Asexual people experience little or no sexual attraction, while aromantic folks may not experience romantic attraction. People often like to shorten these terms to “ace” and “aro.” As with the other letters, there are many possibilities here! Many asexuals aren’t ever interested in having sex, and many aromantics aren’t into being in relationships, but this isn’t true for all of them! You can never make assumptions– it’s all about leading with curiosity and acceptance.
The '+' at the end is a cosmic invitation to all the beautiful shades of identity that exist beyond these letters. It's a nod to the infinite spectrum of experiences and expressions that make our community endlessly vibrant.
So, there you have it, dear friends! Remember, this is just the beginning. Our shared journey of discovery and understanding is as infinite as the cosmos itself. Keep exploring, keep loving, and always embrace the shimmering beauty of your authentic self.