Register free for an accountJoin now and unlock all features & functionality
Free learning guides co-produced by young people and mental health professionals.
Find useful resources from your peers, and share your own!
Save your favourite resources and training material for quick access when you need it most
Certificates and CPD evidence for completing our learning guides
What does LGBTQIA+ mean?
Let’s do this.
Welcome to our latest learning guide. This is technically the first in a series of guides focused on the experiences of LGBTQIA+ young people. But here at Crisis Tools, you take what you need when you need it, so however you’re joining us, and in whatever order, we’ve got your back.
Before diving in, let’s introduce ourselves—or more specifically, our acronym: LGBTQIA+
We’ll go into more detail in the video, but here’s a quick snapshot:
- “+” Everyone who doesn’t identify above but doesn’t fit into heterosexual or cisgender categories
Please keep in mind that we’re creating this learning guide at a fixed point in time, and things may change. What feels appropriate today might not be so in the future.
We also recognize that terms we use on this website, like “queer,” have been reclaimed by some in the LGBTQIA+ community (including those involved in creating the learning guides), but are still considered offensive by many. It’s important to check with us that we’re comfortable with you using that term, and also be aware that many professionals, parents, and carers who identify as LGBTQIA+ might not have reclaimed it.
We’ll do our best to keep updating this guide as times change, but if it feels like we haven’t got it quite right, you can let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jenny: Hi. My name is Jenny. My pronouns are she/her.
Chris: Hi. My name is Chris. My pronouns are they/them.
Mali: Hi. My name is Mali. My pronouns are they/them or she/her.
Twyla: Hi. My name is Twyla. My pronouns are she/they.
Chris: We’re going to begin by looking at the letters LGBTQIA+ so you can feel confident if a young person talks about any of the words they represent.
Twyla: LGB are used to describe different kinds of sexual identity.
L is for Lesbian, a woman who is attracted to other women.
G is for Gay. Traditionally this word has meant a man who is attracted to other men. Today, people of other genders use this word too, so the word ‘gay’ describes a person who is attracted to other people of the same gender.
B is Bisexual, a person of any gender who experiences attraction to people of their own gender and other genders.
T is for Trans or Transgender and describes a person whose gender identity is in some way different to the gender they were assigned at birth.
Q is for Queer which some people use as a collective term for LGBTQIA+ people, and some use it to explain their gender, sexual or political identity.
Q also stands for Questioning – a person who is uncertain about and/or exploring their own sexual orientation (and/or gender identity).
I stands for Intersex. Intersex people may identify as male, female or non-binary.
A represents different identities, for example Alosexual, who is anyone who experiences sexual attraction.
Aromantic, a person of any gender or sexual orientation who experiences little, or no, romantic attraction. Aromantic people may still experience other types of attraction, such as sexual or physical attraction.
Asexual, a person of any gender or sexual orientation who experiences little, or no, sexual attraction. Asexual people may still experience other types of attraction, such as physical or romantic attraction.
Twyla: The plus sign (“+”) encompasses other terms that you may come across, such as Gender Fluid, which is a person who feels that their gender is not static and that it changes throughout their life. We’ve included more detail about the plus sign in the text below.
Mali: However the young person chooses to identify, it is really important that you respect the confidence they have put in you by telling you and take them seriously.
Jenny: As the words and meanings included within LGBTQIA+ are likely to continue to develop and evolve. We’ve included resources below to ensure you can access the most up-to-date information.
Alright, so you’ve seen the video and heard from Jenny, Chris, Mali, and Twyla about what LGBTQIA+ means. Now, let’s dive a bit deeper and make sure you’ve got a solid understanding of the terms, so you can confidently support young people in crisis.
Lesbian: A woman, either cisgender or transgender, who is attracted to other women. This term applies to all women, regardless of whether they were assigned female at birth or identify as female.
Gay: Historically, this term referred to men attracted to other men. Today, it’s used more broadly to describe a person who is attracted to others of the same gender. In the video, Twyla mentioned that people of various genders now use the term “gay” to describe themselves. It’s crucial to remember that and ensure you’re using the term accurately when supporting young people.
For the rest of the terms, we’ll provide some more context and details that weren’t covered in the video:
Bisexual: A person who experiences attraction to their own gender and at least one other gender. Bisexuality is a diverse and fluid identity that encompasses a wide range of attractions and experiences.
Transgender: A person whose gender identity doesn’t align with the gender they were assigned at birth. We are usually assigned the same gender, at birth, as the sex that we are assigned. However, sex and gender are different. The term ‘sex’ relates to the individual’s physical/biological aspects, specifically female,male and intersex parts.
The term ‘gender’ on the other hand is an individual’s personal identity. This relates to the idea of roles and relationships in relation to masculinity and femininity. It is also important to remember that gender expectations differ due to different cultures and society at a given time. We recommend Stonewall’s List of LGBT+ terms as a great place to get more detailed information in this area. and ‘The Conversation’.
Queer & Questioning: Queer is an umbrella term that some people use to describe the LGBTQIA+ community. It can also represent an individual’s gender, sexual, or political identity. Questioning refers to a person who is uncertain about or exploring their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It’s important to recognise that these terms are closely linked but have distinct meanings.
Intersex: A biological variance that means a person’s sex doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes of “male” or “female.” Intersex individuals may identify as male, female, or non-binary.
Asexual: A person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Asexuality is a spectrum, and other identities on this spectrum include:
- Allosexual: Anyone who experiences sexual attraction.
- Demisexual: People who may only experience sexual and/or romantic attraction to someone with whom they have formed an emotional bond.
- Aromantic: People of any gender or sexual orientation who experience little or no romantic attraction. Aromantic people may still experience other types of attraction, such as sexual or physical attraction.
The + sign: This encompasses any other sexual orientations or gender identities that aren’t heterosexual or cisgender. It’s a crucial part of the LGBTQIA+ acronym and represents the diverse identities and experiences within the community.
We know you’re eager to learn more and expand your knowledge. Check out these resources to keep learning and growing as an ally:
We loved this article from Them magazine (https://www.them.us/story/what-does-queer-mean), which explores the term “Queer” with different people within the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Proud Trust have loads of accessible resources and clear information around gender identity and sexual orientation. Speaking of gender identity, we recommend this read from the National Geographic, which explores society’s evolving understanding of diverse sexual identities and gender expressions.
Want to learn more about what intersex means and how to better support the intersex community? Health.com have a great introduction here https://www.health.com/condition/sexual-health/what-is-intersex
The Pride flag is now a familiar sight, and it can help us to identify safe spaces and safe people. If you want to learn more about the flag, what it represents and the importance of the different versions, Inclusive Employers has compiled this resource An Introduction to LGBTQ+ Flags
Remember, language evolves, and so do our understandings of identity. It’s vital to stay informed and open to change, so you can continue to support young people in the best possible way.