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LGBTQ+ Labels and Language

By Austin Horne, LGBTQ+ Outreach Specialist

The labels used by the Q+ community are meant to help people find connection with similar people. While many Q+ people feel more in community with other queer people than with cisgender heterosexual people, many still hope to find groups of people with similar identities as a way to share experiences and support – an experience that cishet people regularly have in most spaces.

Click here for a glossary of frequently used terminology from the Human Rights Campaign. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you a good baseline of knowledge.

Encountering new language

As people grow and discover more about themselves, language grows along with us. Even in my trainings we can’t define and explore every identity covered under the Q+ umbrella, so it’s alright if you run into language that is new to you. As long as you bring respect, patience and a willingness to learn, most people will be happy to tell you about their uncommon identity. If they’re not, simply respect the boundary and refer to the person by the name they give you. You can always learn more online afterward.

Definitions differ

Keep in mind that while dictionary definitions exist for each identity, the application of those identities can be very different. Every person makes these identities their own, and this can cause some confusion when we’re trying to understand a person’s identity to take the best steps as an advocate. Generally speaking, follow the person’s lead on language they use themselves unless they use slurs. What words are and aren’t slurs is hotly debated within the Q+ community, so if you aren’t sure about a word just play it safe.

Contextualizing mistakes

LBTGP, LTEBP, LGTQ … plus! One of the most common minor errors I see is a mixing up of letters in the acronym. Accidental misgendering, deadnaming on forms, calling queerness a lifestyle or a choice – these are all examples of small errors that build up. It’s important to recognize that the frustration Q+ people feel toward these mistakes is resulting from a lifetime of enduring them. Getting the “little” things right shows Q+ people that they’re safe and valued.

Want to learn more?

Family Service of the Piedmont offers trainings on LGBTQ+ issues for businesses and organizations. Email communityoutreach@fspcares.org.