What do all these letters mean?
A good question that no one can confirm!
In the good ole days, I joined the LGB social group at university. Since then it has grown to the commonly used acronym LGBTQIA+. There are a load of other acronyms that are now used too including my favourite QUILTBAG, then others such as MOGAI, and LGBTQQIP2SAA SAGA. So what on earth do all the letters mean, who decides on the acronyms and what should you use?
So what do they mean?
Good question, and whilst not 100% agreed on across the globe (I mean what is 100% agreed on nowadays?) here is a rundown for you:
L – Lesbian
G – Gay
B – Bi-sexual
T – Trans
Q – Queer
I – Intersex
A – Asexual
+ – anything else that is not classed as Cis-gender heterosexual
QUILTBAG coined by Sadie Lee in a 2006 Diva Magazine interview (so the internet says) is an acronym that aligns with my sense of humor (hey hunni are you a QUILTBAG too?) and basically means the following:
Q – Queer or Questioning
U – Undecided
I – Intersex
L – Lesbian
T – Trans or 2Spirit
B – Bisexual
A – Asexual or Allies
G – Gay or Genderqueer
The other letters in the longer acronyms often used mean the following:
P – Pansexual
2 – Two-spirit
SA – Straight Allies
P – Polyamorous
H – HIV infected
O – Other
N – Non-binary
And finally, MOGAI stands for Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex, for all those wondering.
Who decides what the alphabet soup is?
The answer is simply no one. It is whoever is writing, talking, marketing, and so forth at the time. There is no overarching organisation or person in charge that decided the letters and their meaning. This of course causes an incredible amount of debate about what should be included or excluded and what the letters themselves mean and if the right terminology or definition is used across Quora, Reddit, and other similar places on the web and beyond.
For me personally, I like the term Queer as an overarching term for all gender and sexual minorities. I do however acknowledge it is a loaded term due to historic usage and still has negative connotations as a consequence. I also like the acronym QUILTBAG. Once again I acknowledge it does not include a P for Pansexual or Polyamorous, 2 for 2spirit, etc etc etc and some people may object to being referred to as a quilted bag, but hey, no acronym is perfect it seems!
MOGI on the other hand seems to be perfectly descriptive of everyone in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and is not problematic. It is not used regularly enough for most people to know what it means at this moment in time though, so I’m happy to publicise the term in the hope that it spreads.
So what should you use?
Well as someone who does not get offended easily, or well hardly at all, I don’t really care what you use. I don’t care what you identify as and what term you use to describe me or my fellow LGBTQIA+ humans. The reason I don’t care is that for me it is all about intention. You call me queer with a negative intention with homophobia, hate, and anger behind it then that sucks and will potentially cause myself and others harm. If you call me queer and it is done with a warm, loving, kind, or humorous intention then that’s cool in my view.
I also don’t care how you identify. I have been bullied for being bi-sexual by people identifying as straight, gay, and lesbian. A gay person could easily use the term bi-sexual in a hate-filled way the same as a straight person. It is not the words, but the intention it is used with that counts.
This is slightly problematic as how can you know what my intention is unless you can read my mind? (sure hope you can’t – very weird in here!). So in the interest of world harmony, I would recommend you use the standard LGBTQIA+ as that is currently what people tend to use around the world – it is easily identifiable and seems to be mainly inoffensive and accepted. However please ensure your intent is always positive and not derogatory or hate-filled in any way – that way you and others are more likely to feel much better about the words that you speak, type, and act upon.
For more information on this subject check out the references.