All the Colors Rainbow Center

Understanding the alphabet soup beyond being gay

All the Colors Rainbow CenterWhen it comes to being inclusive, it’s better to get in as many letters as you can.

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, or questioning. You may also see LGBTQQIA2: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and two spirit.
It can get a little cumbersome to say out loud, so don’t worry about saying it perfect each time. Sticking with LGBTQ should cover a lot of bases. Adding the Q sends a signal that you appreciate the nuances and differences, especially if some folks are still on their journey and still questioning their sexual identity or orientation.

Some older gays and lesbians may bristle at the word queer, since it was used against our community as a slur for so long. It was meant to stigmatize and “other” someone.

During the AIDS epidemic, years before retroviral drugs, the word queer became a shield and not just a sword. The community reclaimed it as a political battle cry against an establishment that was turning a blind eye to a deadly outbreak just because it was branded a “gay cancer.”

Cisgender means presenting as the gender identity that matches your gender at birth. Some folks are born intersex, meaning that they have the presentation of both genders chromosomally, reproductively and/or genitally. Folks used to use the term hermaphrodite, but that can be stigmatizing so intersex is preferred when it comes to humans.

Several animals are considered hermaphrodites, as are most plants. So thinking it’s not normal is just wrong.

All the letters are part of the entire sexual identity and/or gender identity spectrum, which also includes terms like genderqueer, pansexual, nonbinary and gender non-conforming. Bisexual is more binary, while pansexual means you are attracted to all types of people. Nonbinary can describe a gender presentation that exhibits both gender expressions or more. You are not a man and you are not a woman, and he or she doesn’t quite cut it for your gender identity.

Gender identity and sexual orientation can be similar and completely mutually exclusive. For example, a lesbian may be very feminine, yet a lesbian can be very butch too and also on the trans masculine spectrum but still married in a same-sex relationship.

A trans man could be out as queer because though he may look like a cisgender man, he still identifies with the community he came out in. He may have been a lesbian first and though gender has changed, sexual orientation has not. They still like women and they want the world to know they are not “passing.” Or a trans man could be living as a gay man and exclusively dating other trans men or cisgender men.

Some trans folks live their lives totally stealth, which means they present cisgender and don’t want anyone to know they are transgender.

Two spirit is what Native Americans called non-heterosexual people. Most tribes considered these folks to possess special powers and they were often thought of as shaman like.

During the Holocaust, gay men were forced to wear the pink triangle and lesbians were forced to wear the black triangle. Just this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on LGBT discrimination cases.

Be careful whom you hate, because it might be someone you love.

Jack Rednour-Bruckman is the executive director of the Rainbow Center serving the LGBTQ community in Concord. Send questions and comments to

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