LGBTQ+ An Educational Series: #1, The Basics

By Sarah Vick

     Navigating the ever-expanding alphabet soup of the LGBTQ+ initialism can be tricky, but we’re here to help! This fall, The Salemite is launching an educational series to explain the different LGBTQ+ letters and how they are defined according to the Gender Equality Resource Center at the University of California at Berkeley and the Student Life Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan.

     This month, it’s all about the first five: LGBTQ.

     L is for “lesbian.” UC Berkeley defines a lesbian as a woman who is attracted to other women.  

     G is for “gay.” Gay is defined as a man who is attracted to other men. Gay is also used as an “umbrella” term; meaning it is used to describe all people under the LGBTQ+ “umbrella.” Though it is less common, “lesbian” is sometimes used as an umbrella term for LBGTQ+ women.

     B is for “bisexual” or “bigender.” Bisexual or “bi” refers to someone who is attracted to two sexes or genders. A bisexual person is not necessarily attracted to two genders or sexes equally or at the same time. Historically, “bisexual” meant someone who was attracted to both sexes or genders, but since there are more than two genders and sexes (we’ll get to that in the future), that definition is rather outdated. The Student Life Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan defines bisexuality as the attraction to both their own gender and another gender.

     Bigender is defined by the UC Berkeley as a person whose gender identity is a combination of man and woman.

     T is for “transgender.” The term transgender or “trans” carries multiple meanings. U Mich describes transgender as an umbrella term for a person who identifies differently from the gender they were assigned at birth or the binary (man and woman) gender system. Included under this umbrella are transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueer people, drag kings and queens, two-spirit people, and several others.

     Q is for “queer” or “questioning.” Queer was once an offensive term used to degrade LGBTQ+ people, but now the community has reclaimed it to refer to anyone under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.

     Questioning refers to anyone who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.  

    Gender and sexuality are complex personal characteristics, and everyone feels differently about them. This article is simply a basic educational overview of terminology. It is important to keep in mind that people are free to identify themselves as they choose, and some prefer not to use any labels at all. Stay tuned for next month’s edition of LGBTQ+ on The Salemite!

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