What does LGBTQ stand for? Breaking down the meaning of each letter in the acronym.

Pride Month is about more than parades and “rainbow capitalism.” It’s also a month for allies to educate themselves on the issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community.

At a minimum, it's important to understand the identities within the community. Each identity is different and experiences different marginalization because of their gender identity or sexuality

The LGBTQ acronym has gone through many makeovers in recent decades and holds important meaning that most are unaware of. For example, the reason the “L” comes first is an homage to lesbian health care workers who assisted gay men in the early days of the HIV/AIDS outbreak when many medical professionals refused to even be in the same room as patients with the disease.

What does LGBTQ stand for?

LGBTQ is an acronym that describes various identities in the queer community. It stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.”

Some letters refer to sexual orientation while others signify gender identity. The “+” symbol is often added to recognize other, diverse sexualities and gender identities within the community, like nonbinary, asexual, intersex, genderqueer and more.

Here’s what each letter in the acronym means:

The “L” in LGBTQ

The “L” in LGBTQ stands for lesbian, or a woman who is attracted to other women. Some nonbinary people, whose gender identities are outside of the gender binary, may also identify with this term.

Read more here about the word’s origins and how the colors of the lesbian flag reflect this community.

The “G” in LGBTQ

The “G” is for gay, or any person who is attracted to members of the same gender. This doesn’t have to fit exclusively within the gender binary either – men, women, nonbinary people and other gender non-conforming individuals can identify as gay.

The “B” in LGBTQ

Someone who is bisexual is attracted to more than one gender, but the term is often used to describe a wide spectrum of identities. Often, the community refers to the duality in “bi” as attraction to genders similar to and different from their own.

Read more to discover where this term comes from and the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality.

The “T” in LGBTQ

While the first three letters refer to sexual orientation, the “T” in LGBTQ is about gender identity – it stands for transgender. Someone who is transgender has a gender identity different from the sex they were assigned at birth. They may undergo a transition process to align better with their gender expression and identity, or they may not. There is no one way to be transgender.

Read more to understand the issues impacting the trans community.

The “Q” in LGBTQ

"Queer" is an adjective used by those who are not exclusively heterosexual. It can also stand for questioning.

The word is often used as a self-identifier for those who don't feel their sexuality fits into other terms like lesbian, gay or bisexual. Someone who is queer may feel the other terms are “too limiting” or don’t apply exclusively to their experiences.

For more than a century, the term was used against the LGBTQ community as a slur. Here, we dive further into how and why the queer community reclaimed this word.

What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?

LGBTQIA+ is an updated acronym that many use because it is more inclusive of gender identities and sexual orientations not represented in the first five letters. The “I” in LGBTQIA+ refers to intersex and the “A” stands for asexual.

"Intersex" is an umbrella term for variations in reproductive or sex anatomy in someone’s chromosomes, genitals, testes or ovaries. Read more about what the intersex community wishes you knew here.

"Asexuality" is also an umbrella term. It describes a spectrum of those who may have little to no interest in sex, although they may desire emotionally intimate relationships. Other identities on the asexuality spectrum include demisexual, gray ace or queerplatonic. Here’s what those mean.

The + can include a variety of other identities that are outside of heterosexual- and cisgender-dominant society like pansexual, demisexual, genderfluid and others. Some prefer the acronym 2SLGBTQIA+, which emphasizes Two-Spirit Indigenous identities.

It's important to remember that identities within the LGBTQ community are entirely personal. Everyone has a different relationship with labeling. Some may even choose not to. The best practice is to ask someone how they identify and respect it.

Learn about each pride flag

Pride Flag | Progress Pride Flag | Lesbian Pride Flag | Transgender Pride Flag | Bisexual Pride Flag | Pansexual Pride Flag | Asexual Pride Flag | Intersex Pride Flag

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LGBTQ meaning: Here's what the acronym stands for