What does LGBTQ+ stand for?

LGBTQ+ or the full anacronym LGBTQQIP2SAA, stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous, and asexual. These categories represent the range of gender and sexual orientations outside of the “straight” or “heterosexual” orientations.

What is Sexual Orientation?

Sexual orientation refers to the emotional, romantic, and sexual manner in which people are oriented towards others. It involves five different components: Thoughts, feelings, fantasies, behaviour, and identity. You may find that how you related to each component is not consistent across the board. For example, you may have fantasies that you’d never care to act out, or you might have thoughts and feelings but not behaviour due to lack of opportunity or experience. You might also identify as one way, such as “straight” but have had same-sex behavior out of curiosity.

Identity refers to how you think about yourself, and the words that you use to communicate this aspect of yourself to others. Identity is based on how you relate to the other 4 components (thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and behaviour). Additionally, sexual orientation is relatively stable and enduring over time, but you may feel more certain about it as you get to know yourself better, and as stigma in society decreases and becomes more accepting.

Sexual orientation is rarely black or white, but more of a continuum, and your place on that continuum is relatively stable over time. Sexual orientation is generally viewed as something that people are born with, and not something that they “choose”. It is therefore best to accept the sexual orientation of oneself and others. Thankfully, discriminatory and harmful practices such as conversion therapy are being replaced by social, political, and legal movements that support things like gay pride, love is love, and legalization of gay marriage.

How do I know if I need therapy for LGBTQ+ concerns?

Therapy can help you sort out complicated, confusing, or distressing thoughts, feelings, fantasies, or behaviours so that you can cultivate clarity, compassion, and self-acceptance.
Therapy may be helpful if you’re…

  • Feeling distressed or confused about your sexual orientation
  • Coping with judgment, discrimination, or internalized homophobia
  • Wanting to discuss emotional, romantic, or sexual concerns in a safe environment
  • Thinking of coming out to others and you have fears about doing so
  • Feeling distressed or unsure about how to support a loved one who is LBGTQ+
  • Seeking therapy services for any concern, and would like to do so in an environment that is welcoming and accepting towards people of all sexual and gender orientations

For additional information, a glossary of some relevant terms is presented below:

Asexual:

Someone who does not experience romantic or sexual desire for others.

Androgenous:

A gender identity (not a sexual orientation) that is not clearly masculine or feminine. It is listed here, because sexual orientation rests on gender identity, and as an androgynous person may not clearly identify as male or female, it can influence how they view their sexual orientation.

Biphobia:

Fear or hatred towards those who are bisexual. It may include denying the existence of bisexuality, viewing it as a “stepping stone” towards being gay.

Bisexual:

Someone who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to male and female genders. This attraction may not be split equally, and may vary over time.

Coming out:

The process by which someone discloses their sexual orientation to others. This is not a one-time event, but happens many times with many people. It should be done by the person themselves, no one should “out” anyone else, as this can violate consent and safety.

D Low or Down Low:

This term refers to men who identify as heterosexual, often in relationships with women, who engage in sexual acts with other men. It is used almost exclusively by men who are Black.

Gay:

Generally refers to men who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to other men, but may also refer to anyone who is attracted to members of the same sex.

Heterosexual:

People who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex.

Homophobia:

Fear or hatred towards sexual minorities (towards people who do not identify as straight or heterosexual).

Homosexual:

It is better not to use this term, as it has negative connotations. It is considered to be a medicalized (illness-based) way to refer to people who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to members of the same sex.

Intersex:

People who are born with both male and female genetic material, which can make their biological sex, gender identification, and therefore their sexual orientation difficult to categorize according to Western society’s categories.

Lesbian:

Refers to women who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to other women.

Sexual minority:

Someone who is not heterosexual or “straight”.

Queer:

This term used to be pejorative, but has since been reclaimed, and is therefore usually used by people who are themselves a member of the queer community. It is a term that encompasses all types of non-heterosexual sexual orientations, in an inclusive manner.

Questioning:

When someone feels uncertain about their sexual orientation, and they start to wonder who they are emotionally, romantically, and sexually interested in.

Transgender:

People whose gender identity does not match the gender that they were assigned at birth. Transgender is not a sexual orientation, but a gender identity. However, it is included in the LGBTQ+ for social and political reasons. However, it is worthwhile to note that when transitioning from one gender identity to another (e.g., from male to female or from female to male) the resulting category of sexual orientation may change. For example, if a male is attracted to females he may identify as heterosexual, but if he transitions towards becoming a female he will go from being “heterosexual” to “lesbian” as the gender identity changes but the focus of sexual attraction does not.

Two-spirit (2S):

In Indigenous cultures, two-spirit refers to people who embody both male and female spirits, which can be reflected in sexual orientation, gender roles, gender identity, and spirituality. These community members are viewed as having a gift, and may serve as spiritual leaders or healers.

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