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The initialism LGBT (or GLBT) is used to refer collectively to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. The acronym is an adaptation of the initialism LGB. While still controversial (see Controversy below), it is considered less controversial than the terms queer or lesbigay and is more comprehensive than homosexual or simply gay. The initialism GLBT is sometimes used in the United States and commonly in Australia and Brazil, but to a lesser extent elsewhere.

Many variants exist. The most commonly used involve adding a Q for queer or questioning (some variants, in fact, use two Qs to represent both of these groups), an A for asexual or allies (and sometimes 'S' for straight ally), an I for intersex, or a P for pansexual or polyamorous. Some even add an O for omnisexual or other.

Meaning of each term[edit]

Each term in the initialism is used to refer to members of the specific group and to the community (subculture) that surrounds them. This can include rights advocates, artists, authors, etc.


In this context, lesbian refers to females with a sexual orientation exclusively towards females.


In this context, gay refers specifically to males with a sexual orientation exclusively towards males.


Bisexual refers to persons who are attracted to more than just one gender. While traditionally bisexuality has been defined as 'an attraction to both males and females', it commonly encompasses pansexuality, 'an attraction where the gender of the partner is of little or no relevance' (i.e. to male, female, and any other gender identity). Bisexuality covers anywhere between the sexual orientations of asexuality, homosexuality, and heterosexuality.


Transgender is generally used as a catch-all umbrella term for a variety of individuals, behaviours, and groups centered around the full or partial reversal of gender roles as well as physical sexual reassignment therapies (which can be just hormonal or involve various degrees of surgical alteration). A common definition is "people who feel that the gender they were assigned (usually at birth) is a false or incomplete description of themselves." Included in this definition are a number of well known sub-categories such as transsexual (albeit some postsurgical transsexuals prefer to not be identified as transgender but as their new assigned gender), transvestite and sometimes genderqueers (see also cross-dressing).

They often are unsatisfied with their bodies, albeit this is not a rule and many genderqueers do not seek hormonal and surgical intervention, and may reject or adapt non-heteronormative gender roles.


Up until the sexual revolution of the 1960s there were no widely known terms for describing the people in these groups other than the derogatory terms used by the straight community; third gender, in use before the second world war, fell out of use after it. As people began organizing for their sexual rights they needed a term that would say who they were in a positive way (compare heteronormativity).

The first term used, homosexual, carried too much negative baggage and was replaced by gay. As lesbians forged their own identity, the term gay and lesbian became more common. This was soon followed by bisexual and transgender people also asking for recognition as legitimate categories within the larger community. owever, after the initial euphoria of the beginnings of the Stonewall Rebellion wore off, starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a change in perception and some gay men and lesbian women were not very accepting of bisexual or transgender people, and disparaged them.

They accused transsexual people of as acting out stereotypes; and bisexual people of actually being gay men or lesbian women who were simply too afraid to "come out".

Not until the 1990s did it become common for people to speak of "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people" with equal respect within the movement.

LGBT became increasingly common from the mid 1990s and as of 2005, LGBT has become so mainstream that it has been adopted by the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community centers and the LGBT press in most English-speaking countries. Although still today it is often questionable as to whether someone or a group using the term is doing so in a tokenistic manner, and is actually only committed to lesbian & gay issues (or even just gay men's issues).


Many variants exist, including variations which merely change the order of the letters; but LGBT is the most common term and the one most accepted in current usage.[unverified] When not inclusive of transgender people it is shortened to LGB. It may also include two additional Qs for queer and questioning (sometimes abbreviated with a question mark) (LGBTQ, LGBTQQ, GLBTQ2); a variant being LGBU, where U stands for "unsure", an I for intersex (LGBTI), another T for transsexual (LGBTT), another T (or TS or the numeral 2) for two-spirited people, and an A for straight allies or asexual (LGBTA). At its fullest, then, it is some permutation of LGBTTTIQQA, though this is extremely rare. The order of the letters is also not standardized; in addition to the uses which reverse the initial L and G, the extended letters, if used, may appear in almost any order.

The magazine Anything That Moves coined the acronym FABGLITTER (from Fetish, Allies, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Intersexed, Transgender, Transsexual Engendering Revolution), although this term has not made its way into common usage.

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). Gay-straight alliance (GSA) organizations often use LGBTQA for LBGT, questioning and allies.

Some variants are local alterations that are used to the exclusion of others by virtue of being commonplace in a region. For example, in Minnesota the term GLBT is more prominent.

SGL (for same gender loving) is often favored by African-American homosexuals as a way of distinguishing themselves from what they regard as white-dominated LGBT communities.

LUG (for lesbian until graduation), GUG (gay until graduation) and BUG (bisexual until graduation) are facetious terms for young people (most commonly female) who experiment with same-sex relationships on a temporary basis, particularly while attending college or university.


The term LGBT is controversial. For example, some transgender and transsexual people do not like the term because they do not believe their cause is the same as that of LGB people; they may also object when an organization adds a T to their initialism or acronym when the level of service they actually offer to trans people is questionable. There are also LGB people who do not like the T for the same or similar reasons.

Many people also believe that a sharp distinction should be drawn between sexual orientation and gender identity. GLB concerns the former; TTI concerns the latter.

Similarly, some intersex people want to be included into LGBT groups and would prefer LGBTI; others insist that they are not a part of the LGBT community and would rather not be included in the term.

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 organisation to be called a 'movement', this group persists as a significant, and often vocal and active, element within most parts of the LGBT community. This is particularly noticeable in UK political and campaign organisations. People of this opinion will commonly also deny the existence or right-to-equality of non-monosexual orientations and of transsexuality. This can extend to public biphobia and transphobia.

Many people have looked for a generic term to replace the initialisms, acronyms, and 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, a usage of the term which has continued. Many younger people also understand "queer" to be more politically charged than "LGBT". "Rainbow" has connotations that recall the hippie, New Age, occult, satanic movements and politics (Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition.)

Other gay people also do not care for the term as the lettering comes across as being overly "politically correct", or as an attempt to categorize the various groups of people into one grey area word.

It is also worth noting that there are some lesbian, gay, and bi people who are against an "LGBT community", or "LGB community", including the political and social solidarity, and visibility and human rights campaigning that normally goes with it (including 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 than other people. This fraction of gay/lesbian/bi people are often not very visible compared to other LGBT people, as most of them blend into the general population showing few or zero external or social indicators as to their orientation, apart from interest in the same gender.

See also[edit]

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