LGBTQIA+ is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic[1]/Agender,[2] plus additional subsects.[1] It is an inclusive term used to unite a population of people who have a wide array of gender identities and sexual orientations that differ from heterosexual and cisgender.[1][3] LGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBT, and GLBT are also used for similar meanings.[4] QUILTBAG is an alternative with additional meanings for each letter.[5] Acronyms such as 2SLGBTQ+ or LGBT2SQQIA* additionally highlight indigenous Two-Spirit people.[6]


L: Lesbian

The L stands for lesbian.[1] Lesbian is a sexual orientation[7][8] or romantic orientation[8] most often defined as a woman who is attracted to other women, with many variations in definitions.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16] Although lesbians are frequently defined as women who are attracted to women exclusively/solely,[9][10][13] they are also defined as women attracted to women primarily/mainly.[7][10][13] Some prefer to use or additionally use "gay" or "gay woman" as an identifier.[17]

Lesbians have debated who shares their identity and is part of the lesbian community for over a century.[18] They have variously been defined based on sexual attractions, romantic attractions,[7][9][10][11][17] sexual behaviors,[7] or self-identifying with the label.[19] For instance, women who self-identify as both bisexual and lesbian[note 1] would not be included in a definition that specifies lesbians are only oriented toward women, but would be in a broader definition that encompasses other labels.[9][13][19] Definitions also vary in whether or not they use expanded language regarding gender with phrasing that explicitly includes people who do not identify only as women, such as non-binary people[17][21] who are woman-aligned[17] or feel a connection to womanhood, or genderqueer people who feel a connection to womanhood.[21]

Lesbians may be cisgender or transgender;[9][22][23] since gender is a separate concept from sexual orientation, someone may be both trans and lesbian.[note 2][9][22] Based upon their assigned gender at birth and attraction to women, and prior to realizing their gender identity and transitioning, some trans women (assigned male at birth) formerly identify as straight and some trans men (assigned female at birth) as lesbian. Trans women attracted to women may subsequently understand themselves as lesbian women. As lesbian communities tend to be more accepting of masculine and gender non-conforming people who were assigned female at birth than straight communities, trans men often initially identify as lesbians before transitioning; however, this does not mean that all butch or otherwise masculine lesbians are transgender. Depending on individual circumstances, some trans men maintain their lesbian identities and community involvement as men.[24]

Certain lesbians have used the label to describe their gender in addition to their attractions.[25] In the Gender Census, an annual online international survey of people who do not strictly identify with the gender binary, participants indicated their personal identifiers; the item "lesbian (partially or completely in relation to gender)" was selected by 12.9% of the participants in 2021[26] and 13.8% in 2022.[27]

G: Gay

The G stands for gay.[1] Gay is an adjective referring to those with an enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to people of the same gender.[28] This is most commonly associated with gay men,[29] as a gay woman may prefer to use the term "lesbian" instead.[4][30] Queer and bisexual are also among the terms used for those who are attracted to members of the same gender.[31] In a broader sense of the word, gay can also be used as an umbrella term to identify any LGBTQIA+ individual,[32] though some note that doing so excludes other sexual orientations and gender identities and should thus be avoided.[33]

"Gay" as an identity is defined by the attraction and self-identification as such rather than having had any sexual experience with people of the same gender.[34] Thus, having had sexual intercourse with someone of the same gender does not make anyone gay by definition. There is not just one way to experience same-sex attraction, nor is there a set period in life for a person to discover that they experience it. While some may know that they experience same-sex attraction from a young age, it can take others decades to figure it out or be comfortable enough with their identity to acknowledge it to themselves and others.[35]

Being gay is also referred to as "homosexuality" and thus forms the counterpart of "heterosexuality", the sexual attraction to individuals of the opposite gender.[36] However, controversy has arisen surrounding the use of the word "homosexuals" to refer to gay people, as it has been considered an outdated term that is derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people due to its usage by anti-LGBTQIA+ individuals to imply that gay people are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered.[4]

B: Bisexual

The B stands for bisexual.[1] Bisexual, also abbreviated as bi, is a sexual orientation encompassing attraction to multiple genders and/or sexes,[37][38][39][1][40][41] with the attraction being sexual, romantic, and/or emotional.[41] Bisexuality is not limited to the gender binary, but it is often misunderstood as that.[39] The term does not have a single, universal definition or strict rules as to who may identify as bisexual. The many definitions include the following:

  • Attraction to women and men,[37][38] sometimes phrased as "both sexes"[37]
  • Attraction to people of the same gender as one's self and to people of other genders[38][39]
  • Attraction to more than one gender[38][1][40][41] or more than one sex[41]
  • Attraction to two genders[39][1]
  • Attraction to all genders[40]
  • Or definitions may be based on engagement in romantic or sexual relationships instead of attractions[41]

Bisexuals may experience attraction regardless of gender[40] or regardless of sex,[37] feel equally attracted to the genders they are attracted to,[1] or may have a preference for and be primarily or more strongly attracted to one (or more) gender compared to the other(s).[37][1] Some bisexuals are attracted to different genders in different ways.[37][1] Others feel attracted to one gender or sex at some times and not others.[37]

T: Transgender

The T stands for transgender.[1] Transgender, often shortened to trans, is an umbrella term that describes an individual whose gender identity differs from their assigned gender at birth (AGAB).[42] Infants are assigned a sex based on the appearance of their external genitalia,[42][43] usually only on that basis,[43] and that assignment is recorded on their birth certificate.[42] The birth assignment—generally defaulting to assigned male at birth (AMAB) or assigned female at birth (AFAB)—assumes that the individual's gender identity will correspond to their assigned sex.[43] A person's gender identity—their sense of gender—usually develops when they are very young. The realization that their gender is different from what they were assigned can occur as early as three years old or in childhood prior to the onset of puberty. It may also happen later in life.[44]

Transgender people can be binary[note 3] or non-binary[note 4]. Some transgender individuals may experience at least one form of gender dysphoria during their life, usually manifesting as an intense distress with their assigned gender. However, not all transgender people experience gender dysphoria. Conversely, some transgender individuals may experience what is known as gender euphoria, a term used to describe a "positive and exciting feeling of one's gendered self".[45] Transgender people might transition socially and/or physically from their assigned gender to their actual gender identity.[44]

Q: Queer (or Questioning)

The Q most often means Queer but can also stand for Questioning.[4][1]

Queer is an identifier for individuals who are not exclusively heterosexual in their sexual orientation,[4] who use it in reference to their gender identity and/or gender expression (as a standalone term or part of another like genderqueer),[46][47] or who are fluid in their identities, as well as an umbrella term for the entire community.[34] It is also used instead of lesbian, bisexual, or gay by some people who find those terms too limiting or loaded with connotations that do not apply to them.[46] As a reclaimed word, it has been used in fights for LGBTQIA+ rights and liberation[48] as an inclusive and sometimes defiant term.[34] PFLAG and GLAAD are two of the organizations that recommend only using it for people who self-identify as queer because it has varying meanings and is not universally accepted.[4][34] In addition, the term may be used in preference to other identifiers by members, for a variety of reasons.[49]

Questioning is a term used to describe individuals who are exploring, learning, or experimenting with sexual or romantic orientation, gender expression, and/or gender identity. It is often associated with youth and can describe both the person and the process.[50]

I: Intersex

The I stands for intersex.[1] Intersex is an umbrella term for people who are born with or develop sex characteristics that differ from the binary notions of a "male" or "female" body. The dissimilarities between individuals in terms of their hormones, chromosomes, external and internal reproductive organs, or secondary sex characteristics are commonly referred to as variations. An individual's intersex traits may include variations in one or multiple of the aforementioned types. These variations can be noticed at birth or later in life.[51][52]

A: Asexual, Aromantic, Agender

The A stands for multiple things.[1]

Asexual refers to people who do not experience sexual attraction toward others,[53] as well as people who experience limited or conditional sexual attraction[54] and relate to the label asexual more than other sexual identity terms.[53] They may experience other forms of attraction, such as romantic, sensual, or aesthetic attraction. Asexuality is a sexual orientation,[55] not a behavior, choice, or medical condition. Some asexual people choose to engage in sexual activities for various reasons despite not experiencing sexual feelings and desire toward any particular person.[53][54] Asexuality is part of the asexual spectrum (abbreviated "ace spectrum"), an umbrella term and a broad community of identities that are closely related to asexuality when placed on a spectrum ranging from asexual to allosexual.[53]

Aromantic, often shortened to aro, describes people who do not experience romantic attraction,[1][56] or experience little-to-no romantic attraction.[57] One of the meanings of the A in LGBTQIA+ is Aromantic.[1] Aromanticism is a romantic orientation and may involve forms of attraction that are not necessarily romantic, or interests in relationships that are intimate in other ways. There is no singular experience of aromanticism.[57]

The aromantic spectrum, also known as "aro-spec", ranges from aromantic to alloromantic, referring to people who regularly and consistently experience romantic attraction.[1] People within the aromantic spectrum are part of a community that has much in common. They may use the label aromantic as a close fit for their experiences or use other labels that further describe them.[57]

Agender, also known as genderless,[58][59][1] can be one of the A terms in the acronym LGBTQIA+.[58][59] It is a gender identity that has been defined multiple ways, including:[1]

While agender is typically considered under the transgender and/or non-binary umbrellas, different individuals may or may not identify with those terms; those who do use them do not need to transition physically, legally, or socially to be agender.[59][60] Some agender people are genderfluid, meaning their gender identity is not static and changes from being agender.[59] Agender individuals can have any type of gender expression and use any set of pronouns or no pronouns at all just like any other individual can.[61] Agender identities are not exclusive to certain assigned genders at birth or sexual orientations and romantic orientations[62] and the orientation terms used by individuals who are agender may potentially challenge the idea of "same" and "opposite" gender attraction.[59]

2S: Two-Spirit

The 2S stands for Two-Spirit.[6] Two-Spirit refers to a strictly Native identity[63] that describes a person who identifies as having both a masculine and feminine spirit. It is an umbrella term used by some Indigenous people as a way to describe their sexual, gender, and/or spiritual identity.[64] Two-Spirit is all-encompassing of LGBTQIA+ identities.[63]

While some use the term specifically as it relates to the cultural roles of individuals who embody both spirits, Two-Spirit is also used to describe Aboriginal LGBTQIA+ people. It reflects traditionally Aboriginal gender diversity, including the fluid nature of gender, sexual identity, and other identities and how it connects with spirituality.[65]

Two-Spirit is also an ancient teaching among Indigenous people. According to Elders' teachings, some people were gifted by carrying two spirits; that of a male and female. These members had roles in their community that were not traditionally that of their assigned gender. For example, women engaged in tribal warfare, women married women, and men married other men. Two-Spirited people were revered in the community and respected as fundamental components of these cultures and societies.[65][66][67]


The + stands for all other members of the community.[1]


Gilbert Baker's designs

Gay flag Baker

An eight-stripe pride flag by Baker

The original pride flag was designed by Gilbert Baker for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day celebration. It had eight colors: pink stood for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit.[68][69][70]

Gay flag seven stripe

A seven-stripe pride flag without pink

Due to a lack of fabric when the demand for pride flags soared after the assassination of gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978, the pink color was removed and in years 1978 and 1979 a seven-stripe version of Baker's flag was used. This started with the Paramount Flag Company using fabric with seven stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet; soon afterwards Gilbert Baker himself removed the pink color as well from his flag.[71]

Rainbow Flag1

A six-stripe pride flag without pink and turquoise

In 1979, Baker intended to decorate streetlamps with rainbow banners. To make the process easier, he decided to remove the turquoise color from the flag, so he could have a design with an even number of stripes flanking each lamp pole along the streets. His third and most famous version of the pride flag has six colors and is a widely used pride flag to this day. It has six stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.[71]

Gilbert Baker Lavender

A nine-stripe pride flag with a lavender stripe.

In 2017, Baker created one more version of his rainbow pride flag, shortly before his death. He brought back the pink and turquoise stripes, and added an additional lavender stripe to the top of the flag. The lavender stripe represents diversity.[72][73]

Philadelphia Pride Flag

Philadelphia Pride Flag

An eight-stripe pride flag with black and brown stripes at the top

In 2017, the Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs led by civil rights activist Amber Hikes redesigned the flag to include two new stripes: black and brown. Those stripes were added to include and honor queer people of color. This flag is known as the Philadelphia Pride Flag or Philly Pride Flag.[74]

Progress Pride flags

Progress Pride Flag1

A six-stripe pride flag with a triangle to the left comprising of white, pink, blue, brown and black colors

In 2018, Daniel Quasar modified the Philadelphia Pride Flag and included the colors of the transgender pride flag, as well as expanded the meaning of the black stripe to represent those who are living with HIV and AIDS. The arrow-shaped hoist is meant to symbolize a progressive community that continues to evolve and move forward, and those colors are separated from the rest to emphasize what is currently important in the LGBTQIA+ climate and to recognize that those experiences must be put to the forefront by the wider community as we work toward progress. This flag is known as the Progress Pride Flag.[3][75][76]

However, not all people agree that this pride flag is more inclusive. Some trans individuals and people of color have expressed that they already felt included in the original pride flag, and that this new flag can lead to "othering" within the community.[77]

Sex Worker Inclusive Progress Flag

A six-stripe pride flag with a triangle to the left comprising of white, pink, blue, brown and black colors and a red umbrella placed at the top of the triangle

In 2020, Jason Domino, a sex-worker rights advocate, modified the Progress Pride Flag by adding the red umbrella symbol which is used by sex-workers to include them and honor those LGBTQIA+ rights activists who were also sex workers.[78]


A six-stripe pride flag with a triangle to the left comprising of yellow with a purple circle, white, pink, blue, brown and black colors

In 2021, Valentino Vecchietti of Intersex Equality Rights UK adapted the Pride Progress flag design to incorporate the intersex flag, creating this Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag 2021.[79]

However, not all individuals within the Intersex community identity as queer. In some cases, they do not use the LGBT+ moniker when referring to themselves, but urge others to "be allies to the LGBTQ, disability, Indigenous, anti-racist, and women’s movements."[80]


  1. Examples of labels used to self-identify as both lesbian and bisexual include bisexual lesbian, bi-lesbian, and lesbian-identified bisexual.[20]
  2. While transgender people are generally implied in definitions, trans lesbians are explicitly noted here to make clear that lesbian identity is not limited to cisgender women.
  3. "Binary gender" refers to "man" or "woman".
  4. Non-binary is an umbrella term for genders that are not exclusively man or woman.


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  62. "What Does It Mean to Be Agender?" by Ferguson, Sian on Healthline(no backup information provided)
  63. 63.0 63.1 "What it really means to identify as Two-Spirit in Indigenous culture" by John Garry on <>. Published 2020-08-21. (no backup information provided)
  64. "Two-Spirit Community" by Re:Searching For LGBTQ2S+ Health on <>(Archived on 2022-01-20)
  65. 65.0 65.1 "An Introduction to the Health of Two-Spirit People: Historical, contemporary and emergent issues" by Dr. Sarah Hunt on <>. Published May 2016. (no backup information provided)
  66. "2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations" by 2-Spirits on <>(Archived on 2021-11-26)
  67. "Osh-Tisch The Warrior and the Crow Nation" by Making Queer History on <>(Archived on 2022-01-25)
  68. LGBTQ PRIDE: Gilbert Baker, creator of rainbow flag, shares story of strength and pride
  69. How The Pride Rainbow Flag Came To Be
  70. Gilbert Baker - The Gay Betsy Ross
  71. 71.0 71.1 Unsung Heroes of the Gay World: Vexillographer Gilbert Baker
  72. "Rainbow (Lavender Update)" on Library.LGBT(Archived on 2023-06-05)
  73. "Our Enduring LGBTQ Symbols" by Carney, Patrick on Published by San Francisco Bay Times. (Archived on 2022-06-14)
  74. The Philly Pride flag, explained
  75. What Do the Colors of the New Pride Flag Mean? Learn about meaning of the colors of the Progress Pride Flag
  76. Paper Mag: Inclusive Pride Flag Campaign Represents Those With HIV/AIDS and QPOC
  77. "Why I Dislike This Flag" by Shaaba. on <>. Published May 26, 2020. (no backup information provided)
  78. This new pride flag aims to be the most inclusive ever
  79. Why I redesigned the Pride Progress flag to include intersex
  80. "Darlighton Statement" on <>. Published March 10, 2017 by Intersex Human Rights Australia. "Line 49, "We call for intersex people, and the intersex human rights movement, to be allies to the LGBTQ, disability, Indigenous, anti-racist, and women’s movements."" (no backup information provided)