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LGBTQIA+ Acronym: Explained

Pride season raises awareness and builds safety for marginalized sexualities, gender expressions, and relationship styles. It additionally inspires the creation of safe spaces for members of the community to deepen self-love amongst their peers. Look for Pride events in your area at this time of year to get involved!


Herbivore is home to many members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In honor of our favorite time of year, we’ve outlined the acronym as it currently stands. Words are powerful! Brush up on the following to use each term appropriately and confidently!


Lesbian - This word is etymologically derived from Lesbos, the Greek island and home to Sappho, who built her legacy as a poet and lover. the word “lesbian” gained popularity during the second wave of feminism as women sought more visibility in the gay community. It generally refers to women or femmes who are attracted to other women or femmes.

Words that hurt: It is important to inquire before referring to anyone as a “lesbian.” This term is not universally preferred. It is also incorrect to assume that masculine women are lesbians.


Gay: This word refers mostly to men attracted to men. It is also used as a blanket term to mean anyone who doesn’t identify as straight.

Words that hurt: The word “homosexual” should be avoided in casual conversation, as it is too clinical and verges on sounding dehumanizing. It is also hurtful to assume that anyone who is expressive or flamboyant is gay, or visa versa.


Bisexual: This word classically refers to folks who are attracted to both males and females. However, with growing awareness of gender fluidity, this term now refers to folks who are attracted to more than one gender.

Words that hurt: It is hurtful to refer to bisexual folks as transitioning from straight to gay. It is also hurtful to assume that bisexual people are sexually promiscuous, or can’t be monogamous—both are untrue stereotypes.


Transgender: Refers to folks whose gender is different from that which was assigned to them at birth.

Words that hurt: This word doesn’t define a person’s sexuality, so do not assume that a transgender person is automatically attracted to any certain sex or gender. “Transexual” and “cross-dresser” are both outdated terms that mislead and should be respectfully avoided. Drag queens are not considered transgender unless self-identified.


Queer: Once a harmful slur, this word was reclaimed in the 1980s and ‘90s as a blanket term that includes the entire LGBTQIA+ community. It can also sometimes refer to not-exclusively-monogamous or non-monogamous relationships. The letter ‘Q’ in the acronym has alternatively been defined as those who identify as “questioning,” or undefined but not straight.

Words that hurt: While this term is considered mainstream for the most part, it should still be used with permission only (or utmost caution) by those who aren’t part of or enmeshed in the LGBTQIA+ community.


Intersex: This term is used to describe folks whose bodies straddle or defy definitions of male and female. An intersex person might be born with an extra-large clitoris and no vaginal opening, as a singular example among many.

Words that hurt: It should be well-noted that “intersex” and “transgender” are not to be confused. One does not imply the other.


Asexual: This word is defined as a person who feels little to no sexual attraction to others. The letter ‘A’ in the acronym has alternatively been defined as “ally,” which refers to someone who actively supports and fights for justice for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Words that hurt: This term is not to be confused with “aromantic,” which refers to those who feel little to no romantic attraction to others, nor is it to be confused with chosen celibacy, or those with health issues that lead to low or absent sexual drive. It is additionally incorrect to assume that asexual people do not have sex—solo or otherwise—or have no libido.


+: The plus sign in the LGBTQIA+ acronym makes room for additional identities that do not align with “straight.” This is where the term “pansexual” might fit, meaning attraction to humans regardless of sex, gender, or sexuality. “Nonbinary” and “genderqueer” are other words that fall under the ‘+’ category of the rainbow acronym. This category allows for expansion as awareness of the depth of human expression increases.

Words that hurt: It is hurtful to assume that anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community is trying to convert others. Social adversity and oppression have made coming out of the closet a considerable feat in many circumstances, and anyone who has done so deserves support and celebration, not scrutiny or superstition. The same goes for those who support community members in coming out.

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