So what does LGBTQIA+ really mean? What’s with all the letters? And why do they keep adding more??
Before getting into the complexities, it’s important to define the difference between sexuality, gender, and birth sex. Although society likes to lump all three together and stick a label on someone at birth, they are all separate and independent from each other.
Birth sex can also be called assigned sex, and refers to the sex we’re interpreted as when born. This is what the doctor calls you and then slaps you into a blue or pink blanket. However, even this isn’t black or white. There’s male and female genitalia, but there’s also a third category called intersex, which has a lot of variety within itself. For now, think of intersex as having sex characteristics that are neither completely male or female. It’s everything outside and in between the two sides.
Gender refers to how you feel you identify and it has nothing at all to with your biological sex, your sexuality, or what clothes you choose to wear (also known as how you present). It’s common for people to think that gender is also just male or female, or that it’s just a sliding scale with a confusing mess in between. In reality, gender is a complete spectrum with no right or wrong way to label or identify. You don’t even need any label at all! Gender is for the individual and how you identify doesn’t affect anyone else.
And finally, sexuality refers to who you are attracted to, and you guessed it, it’s not black or white either. There are endless identities for someone to find themself in. Some of the more well known ones are bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. However, there are subcategories such as bicurious, which is similar to questioning if you are bisexual, or greyasexual, which is existing somewhere between experiencing sexual attraction and not experiencing it (asexuality). On the other hand, some people simply identify as queer, to show that they aren’t necessarily straight without having to narrow themself to a specific label.
You could even have a different romantic orientation than your sexual orientation. For example, bisexual is having a sexual attraction to two different genders, so then biromantic is having a romantic attraction to two different genders. For a lot of people, their sexual and romantic orientations lineup, so if you simply say bisexual, it is assumed that you are also biromantic.
Now that the basics have been covered, what does that crazy confusing acronym really mean, and why is it necessary?
The + at the end refers to the multitude of different labels and orientations that exist and are continuing to be created to help identify.
(It’s a common misconception to think that one of the A’s in LGBTQIAA+ stands for Ally. While Allies are very necessary and appreciated, they are not a part of the community and don’t have their own letter.)
The identity you create for yourself might constantly change, or you may find the right fit for you first try. It’s very common however, to evolve your self-identity through the course of your life. Personally, I identify as bisexual and agender, and these revelations didn’t come about overnight. They happened over many, many years to end where I am now. I don’t identify how I did 5 years ago and I might not identify how I do now in another 5 years. What’s important is that new terms and new identities keep being made so that people can find themselves and others who feel the same way, and that they know they aren’t alone in who they are.