What’s in a Name? Variations of LGBT!
Many variants exist including variations that merely change the order of the letters;
LGBT or GLBT are the most common terms and the ones most frequently seen in current usage.
Although identical in meaning, “LGBT” may have a more feminist connotation than “GLBT” as it places the “L” (for “lesbian”) first. When not inclusive of transgender people it is sometimes shortened to LGB.
LGBT may also include additional “Q”s for “queer” or “questioning” (sometimes abbreviated with a question mark and sometimes used to mean anybody not literally L, G, B or T) which can then look like e.g., “LGBTQ” or “LGBTQQ”.
Other variants may add a “U” for “unsure”; a “C” for “curious”; an “I” for “intersex”; another “T” for “transsexual” or “transvestite”; another “T”, “TS”, or “2” for “Two‐Spirit” persons; an “A” or “SA” for “straight allies”; or an “A” for “asexual”.
Some may also add a “P” for “pansexual” or “polyamorous”, an “H” for “HIV-affected”, and/or an “O” for “other”.
The order of the letters has not been standardized; in addition to the variations between the positions of the initial “L” or “G”, the mentioned, less‐common letters, if used, may appear in almost any order. Variant terms do not typically represent political differences within the community, but arise simply from the preferences of individuals and groups. The terms pansexual, omnisexual, fluid and queer-identified are regarded as falling under the umbrella term “bisexual”. Likewise, the terms transsexual and intersex are regarded by some people as falling under the umbrella term transgender though many transsexual and intersex people object to this (both for different reasons).
“SGL” (“same gender loving”) is sometimes favored among black Americans as a way of distinguishing themselves from what they regard as white-dominated LGBT communities.
“MSM” (“men who have sex with men”) is clinically used to describe men who have sex with other men without referring to their sexual orientation.
A phrase introduced in the 2000s, “minority sexual and gender identities” (“MSGI”), and the similar “gender and sexual minorities” (“GSM”), are intended as more inclusive identifiers, but have yet to find their way into common usage
The magazine Anything That Moves coined the acronym “FABGLITTER” from Fetish (such as the BDSM lifestyle community), Allies or poly-Amorous (as in Polyamorous couples), Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Intersexed, Transgender, Transsexual Engendering Revolution or inter-Racial attraction; however, this term has not made its way into common usage.
Another acronym that has begun to spread is “QUILTBAG” from Queer or Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual, Gay; again, this is not a common term.
Similarly, in some areas people are starting to simply use “LGBTQetc” or “LGBTQ+” to be more inclusive.
The initial A for Allies comes from straight (heterosexual) allies who are in support of the GLBT community, and sometimes they form an alliance in sociopolitical affairs to further represent the umbrella initialism “GLBTA” (Gay Lesbian Bi Trans Alternative or Allies). The A may also be used to represent asexual people. “LGBTQIA” has some use among transgender American college students and their contemporaries.
Criticism of the term LGBT families, like these in a 2007 pride parade, are unlikely to label themselves non-heterosexual although researchers do so for a variety of reasons.
The initialisms LGBT or GLBT are not agreeable to everyone that they literally encompass. For example, some argue that transgender and transsexual causes are not the same as that of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people. This argument centers on the idea that transgender and transsexuality have to do with gender identity or a person’s understanding of being or not being a man and or woman irrespective of their sexual orientation. LGB issues can be seen as a matter of sexual orientation or attraction. These distinctions have been made in the context of political action in which LGB goals may be perceived to differ from transgender and transsexual goals like same‐sex marriage legislation and human rights work that is not inclusive of transgender and intersex people.
Similarly, some intersex people want to be included in LGBT groups and would prefer the initialism “LGBTI” while others insist that they are not a part of the LGBT community and would rather that they not be included as part of the term.
In Australia, where LGBTI is increasingly used and organisations representing cross-community interests have a history of collaboration including through a National LGBTI Health Alliance, anti-discrimination legislation recognises that intersex is a biological attribute distinct from both gender identity and sexual orientation.
A reverse to the above situations is evident in the belief of “lesbian & gay separatism” (not to be confused with the related “lesbian separatism”), which holds that lesbians and gay men form (or should form) a community distinct and separate from other groups normally included in the LGBTQ sphere. While not always appearing of sufficient number or organization to be called a movement, separatists are a significant, vocal, and active element within many parts of the LGBT community. In some cases separatists will deny the existence or right‐to‐equality of non‐monosexual orientations and of transsexuality. This can extend to public biphobia and transphobia.
In contrasts to separatists, Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage! argues that to separate the transgender movement from the LGB would be “political madness”.
Many people have looked for a generic term to replace the numerous existing abbreviations. Words like “queer” and “rainbow” have been tried but most have not been widely adopted.
“Queer” has many negative connotations to older people who remember the word as a taunt and insult and such (negative) usage of the term continues. Many younger people also understand “queer” to be more politically‐charged than “LGBT”. “Rainbow” has connotations that recall hippies, New Age movements, and organizations like Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in the United States.
The portrayal of an all-encompassing “LGBT community” or “LGB community” is also disliked by some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Some do not subscribe to or approve of the political and social solidarity, and visibility and human rights campaigning that normally goes with it including gay pride marches and events. Some of them believe that grouping together people with non-heterosexual orientations perpetuates the myth that being gay/lesbian/bi makes a person deficiently different from other people. These people are often less visible compared to more mainstream gay or LGBT activists. Since this faction is difficult to distinguish from the heterosexual majority, it is common for people to assume all LGBT people support LGBT liberation and the visibility of LGBT people in society, including the right to live one’s life in a different way from the majority. In the 1996 book Anti-Gay, a collection of essays edited by Mark Simpson, the concept of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ identity based on LGBT stereotypes is criticized for suppressing the individuality of LGBT people.