Terms used to describe the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community may be unfamiliar, which may make conversations feel awkward. Some people are afraid of accidentally saying something offensive or incorrect. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about LGBTQ+ terms and a glossary to help make conversations feel more familiar and comfortable.

Frequently Asked Questions about LGBTQ+ Terms

What does LGBTQ+ stand for? 

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and more. It is a common acronym to stand in for the full, comprehensive acronym while still attempting to be inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. This shortened acronym is also often seen as “LGBT”, “LGBT+”, and “GLBT”, “LGBTQIA,” and more.

Why are there so many letters? Isn’t there a better way of communicating about this population?

This is a hotly debated topic – especially as we create language for the many sexual orientations and gender identities that exist within human expression. Each of the letters represents a distinct identity.

Where did all of these terms come from? Why are there so many LGBTQ+ people now, but not when I was growing up?

LGBTQ+ people exist in cultures throughout the world.

Throughout history, LGBTQ+ people have experienced varying levels of acceptance and visibility based on culture, geographical location, and time period. Culture is constantly changing. In many cultures throughout history, people who identified and behaved as what would now be described as LGBTQ+ held important and celebrated societal roles. More recently, cultures around the world have embraced more accepting and inclusive views on LGBTQ+ communities. With heightened LGBTQ+ visibility worldwide, more LGBTQ+ people feel safe to live openly than ever before.

LGBTQ+ culture is not monolithic, and is far more expansive and various than language can currently capture.

Human expressions of sexuality and gender are infinite! As LGBTQ+ people become more visible and open, language has evolved to capture these experiences. It is possible (and likely!) that this terminology list will continue to grow.

Click the link below to access the LGBTQ+ Glossary.


*Disclaimer: terms in the glossary may be used in different ways by different people. When it comes to identity descriptors, it is always best to trust the definition of the person who uses them. The best practice is simply to ask a person how they identify, and listen to, respect, and mirror the language they use to describe themselves.