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LGBT (or GLBT) is an abbreviation used as a collective term to refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. It is an adaption of the abbreviation 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 acronym GLBT is sometimes used in the United States and commonly in Australia, but to a lesser extent elsewhere.
Meaning of each term
Each term in the acronym 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.
- For more details on this topic, see lesbian.
- For more details on this topic, see gay.
In this context, gay refers specifically to males with a sexual orientation towards males; and the gay male community, though the term can be used without respect to the gender of the person in question in wider contexts. Some aspects of stereotypical gay male culture are seen in, and sometimes said to be the basis of, metrosexual traits amongst some straight males.
- For more details on this topic, see bisexuality.
Bisexual refers to persons who are attracted to both males and females. Bisexuality can fall anywhere between the sexual orientations of homosexuality and heterosexuality.
- For more details on this topic, see transgender.
Transgender is generally used as a catch-all umbrella term for a variety of individuals, behaviors, 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, transvestite and sometimes genderqueers. (See also cross-dressing.)
- For more details on this topic, see intersex.
This term (represented by the letter "I" in the LGBTI and GLBTI initialisms) may or may not be included, and some intersex communities are not inclusive of non-intersex LGBT persons (while some are).
Intersex refers to ambiguous or mismatching sexual characteristics (including levels of sex hormones) and those people who have them. This is distinct from the older term hermaphrodite, which is generally not accurate when referring to vertebrates (including humans). In many cases, the line between intersex and transgender is complex, and some individuals fit into both classifications.
- Main article: LGBT history
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 transgender people also demanding recognition as a legitimate category. However, during the early decades of the gay rights movement, many gays and lesbians were not very accepting of trangender people, and disparaged them as acting out stereotypes; particularly transsexual people. Not until the 1990s did it become common for people to speak of "gay, lesbian and transgender people" with equal respect within the movement. About that same time, bisexuals also began defining their own identity, adding the "B" to the acronym.
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 gay press in most English-speaking countries.
Many variants exist, including variations which merely change the order of the letters; but LGBT is the most common acronym and the one most accepted in current usage. 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); 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 magazine Anything That Moves coined the acronym FABGLITTER (from Fetish, Allies, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Intersexed, Transgender, Transsexual Engendering Revolution). 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 LGBT — 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.
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 acronym when the level of service they actually offer to trans people is questionable. There are also LGB people who don't like the T for the same or similar reasons.
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 acronym.
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/active, element within most part 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 transexuality. This can extend to public biphobia and transphobia.
Many people have looked for a generic term to replace acronyms. 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 hippies, New Age movements and politics (Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition.)
- Bisexual community
- Coming out
- Gay community
- List of LGBT-related topics
- List of transgender-related topics
- List of LGBT organizations
- List of LGBT publications
- Queer theory
- Queer Theology
- Extensive set of short LGBT biographies
- LGBT.com - currently a selection of blogs (or weblogs) for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and their friends
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