LGBT or GLBT is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender. In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of
the initialism LGB, which was used to replace the term gay in
reference to the
LGBT community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s.
Activists believed that the term gay community did not accurately
represent all those to whom it referred.
The initialism has become mainstream as a self-designation; it has
been adopted by the majority of sexuality and gender identity-based
community centers and media in the United States, as well as some
other English-speaking countries. The initialism
intended to emphasize a diversity of sexuality and gender
identity-based cultures. It may be used to refer to anyone who is
non-heterosexual or non-cisgender, instead of exclusively to people
who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. To recognize
this inclusion, a popular variant adds the letter Q for those who
identify as queer or are questioning their sexual identity; LGBTQ has
been recorded since 1996. Those who add intersex people to LGBT
groups or organizing use an extended initialism LGBTI. Some
people combine the two acronyms and use the term LGBTIQ or LGBTQI.
Others use LGBT+ to encompass spectrums of sexuality and gender.
1 History of the term
2.4 Other variants
3 Criticism of the term
4 Alternative terms
5 See also
7 General references
8 External links
History of the term
LGBT history and Timeline of
Further information: Terminology of homosexuality
LGBT publications, pride parades, and related events, such as this
Bologna Pride 2008 in Italy, increasingly drop the LGBT
initialism instead of regularly adding new letters, and dealing with
issues of placement of those letters within the new title.
Before the sexual revolution of the 1960s, there was no common
non-derogatory vocabulary for non-heterosexuality;[dubious –
discuss] the closest such term, third gender, traces back to the 1860s
but never gained wide acceptance in the United
The first widely used term, homosexual, originally carried negative
connotations. It was replaced by homophile in the 1950s and
1960s,[dubious – discuss] and subsequently gay in the 1970s; the
latter term was adopted first by the homosexual community. Lars
Ullerstam (sv) promoted use of the term sexual minority in the 1960s,
as an analogy to the term ethnic minority for non-whites.
As lesbians forged more public identities, the phrase "gay and
lesbian" became more common. The
Daughters of Bilitis
Daughters of Bilitis folded in
1970 due to disputes over their direction: whether to focus on
feminism or gay rights issues. As equality was a priority for
lesbian feminists, disparity of roles between men and women or butch
and femme were viewed as patriarchal.
Lesbian feminists eschewed
gender role play that had been pervasive in bars, as well as the
perceived chauvinism of gay men; many lesbian feminists refused to
work with gay men, or take up their causes.
Lesbians who held a more essentialist view, that they had been born
homosexual and used the descriptor "lesbian" to define sexual
attraction, often considered the separatist, angry opinions of
lesbian-feminists to be detrimental to the cause of gay rights.
Bisexual and transgender people also sought recognition as legitimate
categories within the larger minority community.
After the elation of change following group action in the 1969
Stonewall riots in New York City, in the late 1970s and the early
1980s, some gays and lesbians became less accepting of bisexual or
transgender people. Critics said that transgender people were
acting out stereotypes and bisexuals were simply gay men or lesbian
women who were afraid to come out and be honest about their
identity. Each community has struggled to develop its own identity
including whether, and how, to align with other gender and
sexuality-based communities, at times excluding other subgroups; these
conflicts continue to this day. LGBTQ activists and artists have
created posters to raise consciousness about the issue since the
From about 1988, activists began to use the initialism
LGBT in the
United States. Not until the 1990s within the movement did gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender people gain equal respect .
LGBT community has seen much controversy regarding
universal acceptance of different member groups (bisexual and
transgender individuals, in particular, have sometimes been
marginalized by the larger
LGBT community), the term
LGBT has been a
positive symbol of inclusion.
Despite the fact that
LGBT does not nominally encompass all
individuals in smaller communities (see Variants below), the term is
generally accepted to include those not specifically identified in the
four-letter initialism. Overall, the use of the term
over time, largely aided in bringing otherwise marginalized
individuals into the general community.
Candis Cayne in 2009 described the
LGBT community "the last great
minority", noting that "We can still be harassed openly" and be
"called out on television".
In response to years of lobbying from users and
LGBT groups to
eliminate discrimination, the online social networking service
Facebook, in February 2014, widened its choice of gender variants for
In 2016, GLAAD's Media Reference Guide states that LGBTQ is the
preferred initialism, being more inclusive of younger members of the
communities who embrace queer as a self-descriptor.
2010 pride parade in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, which uses the
Many variants exist including variations that change the order of the
LGBT or GLBT are the most common terms and the ones most
frequently seen. Although identical in meaning,
LGBT may have a
more feminist connotation than GLBT as it places the "L" (for
LGBT may also include additional Qs for "queer"
or "questioning" (sometimes abbreviated with a question mark and
sometimes used to mean anybody not literally L, G, B or T) producing
the variants "LGBTQ" and "LGBTQQ"". In the United Kingdom,
it is sometimes stylized as LGB&T, whilst the Green Party
of England and Wales uses the term LGBTIQ in its manifesto and
The order of the letters has not been standardized; in addition to the
variations between the positions of the initial "L" or "G", the
mentioned, less common letters, if used, may appear in almost any
order. Initialisms related to LGBTQ people are sometimes referred
to as "alphabet soup". Variant terms do not typically
represent political differences within the community, but arise simply
from the preferences of individuals and groups.
The terms pansexual, omnisexual, fluid and queer-identified are
regarded as falling under the umbrella term bisexual (and therefore
are considered a part of the bisexual community).
The gender identity "transgender" has been recategorized to trans* by
some groups, where trans (without the asterisk) has been used to
describe trans men and trans women, while trans* covers all
non-cisgender (genderqueer) identities, including transgender,
transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary,
genderfuck, genderless, agender, non-gendered, third gender,
two-spirit, bigender, and trans man and trans woman. Likewise,
the term transsexual commonly falls under the umbrella term
transgender, but some transsexual people object to this.
When not inclusive of transgender people,
LGBT is sometimes shortened
Intersex and LGBT
The relationship of intersex to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, and
queer communities is complex, but intersex people are often added
LGBT category to create an LGBTI community. Some intersex
people prefer the initialism LGBTI, while others would rather that
they not be included as part of the term. LGBTI is used in all
parts of "The Activist's Guide" of the
Yogyakarta Principles in
Action. Emi Koyama describes how inclusion of intersex in LGBTI
can fail to address intersex-specific human rights issues, including
creating false impressions "that intersex people's rights are
protected" by laws protecting
LGBT people, and failing to acknowledge
that many intersex people are not LGBT. Organisation Intersex
International Australia states that some intersex individuals are same
sex attracted, and some are heterosexual, but "LGBTI activism has
fought for the rights of people who fall outside of expected binary
sex and gender norms."
Julius Kaggwa of SIPD Uganda has
written that, while the gay community "offers us a place of relative
safety, it is also oblivious to our specific needs".
Numerous studies have shown higher rates of same sex attraction in
intersex people, with a recent Australian study of people born
with atypical sex characteristics finding that 52% of respondents were
non-heterosexual, thus research on intersex subjects has been
used to explore means of preventing homosexuality. As an
experience of being born with sex characteristics that do not fit
social norms, intersex can be distinguished from
transgender, while some intersex people are both intersex
Some use the much shorter style LGBT+ to mean "
LGBT and related
communities". LGBTQIA, which is used, for example, by the
"Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual
Resource Center" at the University of California, Davis.
Other variants may have a "U" for "unsure"; a "C" for "curious";
another "T" for "transvestite"; a "TS", or "2" for "two-spirit"
persons; or an "SA" for "straight allies".
However, the inclusion of straight allies in the
LGBT acronym has
proven controversial as many straight allies have been accused of
LGBT advocacy to gain popularity and status in recent years,
LGBT activists have criticised the heteronormative
worldview of certain straight allies. Some may also add a "P" for
"polyamorous", an "H" for "HIV-affected", or an "O" for
"other". Furthermore, the initialism LGBTIH has seen use in
India to encompass the hijra third gender identity and the related
The initialism LGBTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual)
has also resulted, although such initialisms are sometimes criticized
for being confusing and leaving some people out, as well as issues of
placement of the letters within the new title. However, adding the
term "allies" to the initialism has sparked controversy, with some
seeing the inclusion of "ally" in place of "asexual" as a form of
asexual erasure. There is also the acronym QUILTBAG (queer and
questioning, intersex, lesbian, transgender and two-spirit, bisexual,
asexual and ally, and gay and genderqueer).
Criticism of the term
LGBT families, like these in a 2007 Boston pride parade, are labeled
as non-heterosexual by researchers for a variety of reasons.
LGBT or GLBT are not agreed to by everyone that they
encompass. For example, some argue that transgender and
transsexual causes are not the same as that of lesbian, gay, and
bisexual (LGB) people. This argument centers on the idea that
transgenderism and transsexuality have to do with gender identity, or
a person's understanding of being or not being a man or a woman
irrespective of their sexual orientation. LGB issues can be seen
as a matter of sexual orientation or attraction. These
distinctions have been made in the context of political action in
which LGB goals, such as same-sex marriage legislation and human
rights work (which may not include transgender and intersex people),
may be perceived to differ from transgender and transsexual goals.
Another problem associated is that people may not always identify with
the given labels. One study conducted in Australia discovered that all
the participants had experienced microaggressions, bullying and
anti-social behaviours. However, not all of the participants believed
their victimisation to be motivated by anti-LGBTIQ beliefs. What it
did establish is that many of these microaggressions occurred due to
misconceptions and conflicting opinions on what these labels entailed
(in particular, transsexual and bisexual). Evidently, by placing
blanket labels on many people, who all experience difference
narratives, there are inconsistencies.
The inclusivity of the LGBTQ community.
A belief in "lesbian & gay separatism" (not to be confused with
the related "lesbian separatism"), holds that lesbians and gay men
form (or should form) a community distinct and separate from other
groups normally included in the LGBTQ sphere. While not always
appearing of sufficient number or organization to be called a
movement, separatists are a significant, vocal, and active element
within many parts of the
LGBT community. In some cases
separatists will deny the existence or right to equality of
nonmonosexual orientations and of transsexuality. This can extend
to public biphobia and transphobia. In contrasts to
Peter Tatchell of the
LGBT human rights group OutRage!
argues that to separate the transgender movement from the LGB would be
"political madness", stating that "Queers are, like transgender
people, gender deviant. We don't conform to traditional heterosexist
assumptions of male and female behaviour, in that we have sexual and
emotional relationships with the same sex. We should celebrate our
discordance with mainstream straight norms."
The portrayal of an all-encompassing "
LGBT community" or "LGB
community" is also disliked by some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender people. Some do not subscribe to or approve of the
political and social solidarity, and visibility and human rights
campaigning that normally goes with it including gay pride marches and
events. Some of them believe that grouping together people
with non-heterosexual orientations perpetuates the myth that being
gay/lesbian/bi/asexual/pansexual/etc. makes a person deficiently
different from other people. These people are often less visible
compared to more mainstream gay or
LGBT activists. Since this
faction is difficult to distinguish from the heterosexual majority, it
is common for people to assume all
LGBT people support
and the visibility of
LGBT people in society, including the right to
live one's life in a different way from the majority. In
the 1996 book Anti-Gay, a collection of essays edited by Mark Simpson,
the concept of a 'one-size-fits-all' identity based on LGBT
stereotypes is criticized for suppressing the individuality of LGBT
Writing in the
BBC News Magazine
BBC News Magazine in 2014,
Julie Bindel questions
whether the various gender groupings now, "bracketed together" ...
"share the same issues, values and goals?" Bindel refers to a number
of possible new initialisms for differing combinations and concludes
that it may be time for the alliances to be reformed or finally go
"our separate ways".
Many people have looked for a generic term to replace the numerous
existing initialisms. Words such as queer (an umbrella term for
sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual, or
gender-binary) and rainbow have been tried, but most have not been
Queer has many negative connotations to older
people who remember the word as a taunt and insult and such (negative)
usage of the term continues. Many younger people also
understand queer to be more politically charged than LGBT.
"Rainbow" has connotations that recall hippies,
New Age movements, and
groups such as the
Rainbow Family or Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH
Coalition. SGL ("same gender loving") is sometimes favored among gay
male African Americans as a way of distinguishing themselves from what
they regard as white-dominated
Some people advocate the term "minority sexual and gender identities"
(MSGI, coined in 2000), or gender and sexual/sexuality minorities
(GSM), so as to explicitly include all people who are not cisgender
and heterosexual; or gender, sexual, and romantic minorities (GSRM),
which is more explicitly inclusive of minority romantic orientations
and polyamory; but those have not been widely adopted
either. Other rare umbrella terms are
Sexual Diversities (GSD), MOGII (Marginalized Orientations, Gender
Identities, and Intersex) and MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender
Alignments and Intersex).
National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health have framed LGBT, others "whose
sexual orientation and/or gender identity varies, those who may not
self-identify as LGBT" and also intersex populations (as persons with
disorders of sex development) as "sexual and gender minority" (SGM)
populations. This has led to the development of an NIH SGM Health
Research Strategic Plan. The
Williams Institute has used the same
term in a report on an international sustainable development goals,
but excluding intersex populations.
In public health settings, MSM ("men who have sex with men") is
clinically used to describe men who have sex with other men without
referring to their sexual orientation, with WSW ("women who have sex
with women") also used as a corollary.
Androphilia and gynephilia
Gender and Sexual Diversity
Gender roles in non-heterosexual communities
Intersex human rights
LGBT History Month
LGBT people in prison
LGBT retirement issues
LGBT rights by country or territory
LGBT rights opposition
LGBT social movements
List of LGBT-related organizations
List of LGBT-related organizations and conferences
List of transgender-related topics
Racism in the
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expectations is demeaning and insulting.
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