Very good question Trish. Perhaps we should have started the course with a basic alphabet soup of what all these initials stand for. I’ve included some references below, and I will take a stab at this, although I am by no means the expert.

The “Q” has at various times referred to either queer or questioning. Queer has an oppressive and derogatory past of being used by straight, cis people to denigrate people who are not straight or cis. However, in more recent years it has been “reclaimed” by some sexual/gender minorities and is used as a point of pride. I would not recommend that straight/cis people use the term, as it still may be offensive in certain circles. But in the LGBTQ+ community, it now has a connotation of being an umbrella term for anyone who falls outside the traditional hetero-cis norms. Angela Yarber, a Baptist theologian and minister who formerly taught at Wake Forest Divinity School, teaches a workshop in “queer theology.” You might also hear the term used as a verb–queering a community, or queering a congregation–meaning to challenge heteronormativity in literature, film, or communities.

Polyamory (from Greek πολύ poly, “many, several”, and Latin amor, “love”) is the practice of, or desire for, emotionally intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved. It has been described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy”.

And finally, the whole idea of being “non-binary” is prevalent and accepted among many young people and millennials these days. When I went back to our local university to earn a master’s in counseling, we often in introducing ourselves were asked to say our name, and which gender pronouns we preferred. Some would say, “My name is Melanie, and I use pronouns she, her, and hers.” Some would say “My name is Ocean, and today I am using they, them, theirs.” Another common replacement for gendered pronouns is  ze, sie, hir, co, and ey . I more frequently hear the they, them, theirs, which requires that we get over the grammatical incorrectness of using a plural when referring to a singular person. Even some churches have adopted this practice during seminars and workshops, where introductions by everyone includes their preferred pronouns. That makes me as a cis person more aware of my privilege in using the standard or expected pronouns, and also allows the trans or nonbinary individuals not to stick out as being different (since we are all introducing ourselves that way).

By the way, trans-sexual and transgender are not the same thing, and in some circles trans-sexual is not considered appropriate to use. Technically, transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. Some transgender people who desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another identify as transsexual. Transgender, or trans, are preferred in some circles. Transgendered is not a word. Rather than sex-change surgery, the accepted term now is gender affirmation surgery, or gender re-assignment surgery.

Below is a link to an article from the New York Times, and another brief list of definitions. Others feel free to jump in here if I’ve missed on something.






If you’re just learning about sexuality, gender, and all these other things, they can be a little hard to remember. This acronym not only serves as a symbol of our movement for rights, but even as a memory tool for those who need a little help.

L – Lesbian. Lesbian is a term used to refer to homosexual females.

G – Gay. Gay is a term used to refer to homosexuality, a homosexual person, or a homosexual male.

B – Bisexual. Bisexual is when a person is attracted to two sexes/genders.

T – Trans. Trans is an umbrella term for transgender and transsexual people.

Q – Queer/Questioning. Queer is an umbrella term for all of those who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Questioning is when a person isn’t 100% sure of their sexual orientation and/or gender, and are trying to find their true identity.

I – Intersex. Intersex is when a person has an indeterminate mix of primary and secondary sex characteristics.

A – Asexuality. Asexuality is when a person experiences no (or little, if referring to demisexuality or grey-asexuality) sexual attraction to people.

+ – The “+” symbol simply stands for all of the other sexualities, sexes, and genders that aren’t included in these few letters.
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