LGBTQIAPK: Let's Unpack the Acronym

LGBTQIAPK: Let's Unpack the

LGBT, LGBT+, LGBTQIA…there have been a lot of variations of the LGBT+ acronym over the years - which seems to be a source of irritation for non-allies. But although the initials are *ever-changing and somewhat controversial among community members, it’s important to remember the purpose of the acronym: to serve as an identifying term for a disenfranchised group of people. Many people in the LGBT+ community experience daily oppression, discrimination, and violence because of their sexual orientation or identity. Coming together as a community helps them advocate and fight for their constitutional and human rights. And, unfortunately, there are a lot of battles left to fight. Here are a few examples:

  • Workplace discrimination

  • Lack of gender-neutral public restrooms

  • Gay conversion therapy

  • Housing discrimination

  • Acceptance in sports, politics, entertainment, business, etc.

  • Health disparities

  • Jury selection

  • Military service

  • Youth homelessness

  • Adoption and foster care discrimination

  • Violence & murder

  • Placement and treatment of trans people in prison

  • Suicide

So, now that we understand the importance of the acronym,

let’s break down what it means:


A female-identifying person who is sexually and romantically attracted to other female-identifying people.


Specifically, this word refers to a male-identifying person who is sexually and romantically attracted to other male-identifying people. Broadly, the word gay means any person attracted to people who have the same sexual identity. 


A bisexual person is someone who is sexually and romantically attracted to both male- and female-identifying people. People identifying as bisexual are not explicitly attracted to 50% male, 50% female people, but enjoy a spectrum of attraction. 


A transgender person is someone whose gender does not correspond with the sex with which they were born. 


The word queer is an inclusive term for someone who does not want to box in their sexual orientation or gender by labeling it. 


An intersex person is someone who was born a specific gender, but their biological sex (chromosomes, hormones, etc.) or reproductive organs are of the opposite sex. 


Someone who identifies as asexual is a person who doesn’t find a sexual attraction or interest in either sex. An asexual person might also have little interest in sexual activities as well, but this does not mean that they lack interest in or desire to foster intimate relationships with others. 


A person who identifies as pansexual is sexually and romantically attracted to people of all sexual and gender identities. 


People who identify as polyamorous engage in open relationships with their sexual and romantic partners. These open relationships are mutual, respectful, and require consent from all parties involved. 


Kink is an all-encompassing term to define those who enjoy participating in kinky sexual behavior. Kinky sexual behavior can involve anything from using a blindfold or tying each other up, all the way to far more painful activities. And while bondage, domination, and submission play a role in kink, there MUST ALWAYS be open lines of communication between consenting partners. 

Understanding the LGBT+ acronym can sometimes be difficult for those who do not understand the experiences of those within the community, particularly since the acronym includes both sexual orientation and gender identifying terms. But, with a little time, some patience, and an open mind, you can easily familiarize yourself with each term and understand the differences.

**Bonus terms**


A person’s sex refers to their biology. Sex is a makeup of chromosomes, hormones, gonads (ovaries, testicles), reproductive units (sperm, egg), and internal/external anatomy. Sex is often discussed on a binary, your sex is either male or female. But we are now beginning to understand that there are many different biological combinations of sex. 

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation, in its most restrictive terms, refers to sexual preference: one is either heterosexual (attracted to someone of the opposite sex) or homosexual (attracted to someone of the same sex). However, in recent years, we recognize that it is more accurate to view sexual orientation on as spectrum rather than a binary.

Sexual Identity

Sexual identity is how one identifies themselves in relation to romantic and sexual attraction which may or may not “match” their sexual orientation. For example, a person whose sexual orientation is “heterosexual” may not consider themselves to be “straight.” They may, in fact, prefer to identify themselves as pansexual, an identification that is not limited to a sexual identity based on biological sex, gender, or gender identity. 

Gender Identity

Gender identity is the most intimate sense of self; it is how one perceives themselves in society. These identifications are male, female, both, neither, or a whole spectrum of other options. Some examples of gender identity are cis-, fluid, queer, trans-, and agender, to name a few. 

Gender Expression

If gender identity is how one perceives themselves in society, gender expression is how they present themselves to society. It is, simply put, the outward appearance of gender. How one dresses, cuts their hair or carries themselves are all examples of gender expression. These styles usually fall into either masculine or feminine expressions but can encompass both. 

*Due to the changing nature of the LGBT+ acronym, this may not be the most up-to-date version and the corresponding definitions may inadvertently leave out terms that are currently in use. 

**If you would like another definition added to this list, let us know


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amy sutherland - founder

Hey all! My name is Amy Sutherland (she/her), and I have been passionate about sexual health since before I hit puberty. I've spent most of my adult life working as a writer focusing on health and wellness. More particularly, women’s reproductive health. 

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