The ABCs of LGBT: A Beginner's Guide to Romantic, Sexual, and Gender Identities

What are the ABCs of the LGBTQIAA+ acronym? Let’s take it step-by-step!

Gender, sexuality, and romantic attraction are a spectrum, and within that spectrum are many different labels people use to describe how they identify. So, whether you’re looking to learn more as an LGBTQ+ ally, or questioning your own sexuality or gender identity, we’re here to break down the basics:

Gender Identity

How you are comfortable physically and spiritually expressing yourself in the world, generally expressed with biological connotations.

Sexual Orientation

How you emotionally and physically interact with people on an erotic level relative to your gender identity. This may or may not correspond with romantic attraction.

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Romantic and Sexual Orientations

Asexual (or Ace)

To be asexual means you experience little to no sexual attraction to others, and/or a general lack of interest in sexual relationships and behaviors. Somebody who is asexual can experience low levels of sexual attraction or sexual attraction under certain circumstances. These variations of asexuality have their own labels. 

Aromantic (or Aro)

If somebody is aromantic, this means they experience little to no romantic attraction to others. This does include having romantic attraction under very specific circumstances, and these variations of aromanticism have labels of their own.

Bisexual (or Bi)

The definition of bisexual has changed slightly over the years to be more inclusive to those who don’t identify as men and women. Traditionally, it has been defined as a person who experiences attraction to men and women. It’s now more commonly defined as a person who experiences attraction to people of one’s own gender and other genders. Because of this update, bisexuality and pansexuality (see below) are often seen as interchangeable.

Biromantic

Somebody who is biromantic experiences romantic attraction to those of their gender and other genders. Note: a person who is biromantic may not necessarily be bisexual. Romantic and sexual identity are NOT the same thing. Somebody can be a biromantic asexual, a biromantic gay man, and so on.

Demisexual

Demisexuality is one of the identities that fall under asexuality. Somebody who is demisexual experiences little to no sexual attraction to somebody unless a strong romantic attraction is formed first.

Demiromantic

The opposite of demisexual, somebody who is demiromantic experiences little to no romantic attraction to somebody unless a strong sexual attraction is formed first.

Gay

For a person to be gay means they experience attraction solely (or at least primarily) to people of their same gender. Gay can be used for men (most commonly) or women, or as an umbrella term for anyone who is not heterosexual.

Graysexual

Graysexuality falls under the asexual spectrum. The term is intentionally vague because it describes somebody who MIGHT experience sexual attraction once in a while but usually doesn’t. 

Grayromantic

The opposite of graysexual, grayromantic describes somebody who might experience romantic attraction but usually doesn’t. 

Homosexual

A term to describe gay, lesbian, or queer people which may be offensive depending on the speaker. Though the word has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community, it was originally used in a scientific, clinical, or derogatory context.

Lesbian

A lesbian is commonly defined as a woman who is attracted to women. However, there exists a documented history of lesbians with trans, gender non-conforming, and/or non-binary identities, which complicates this simple definition. 

Pansexual

Often seen as interchangeable with bisexual, pansexual can best be defined as a person who experiences sexual attraction towards all gender identities and expressions. This is often shortened to pan.

Panromantic

Similar to pansexual, panromantic refers to a person who experiences romantic attraction to all gender identities and expressions. A person can be panromantic, but NOT be pansexual i.e. an asexual panromantic.

Queer

The social connotation of the word “queer” can change depending on which generation you were born into. Younger people often use queer as an umbrella term for those who aren’t cisgender and/or heterosexual. Older generations, however, often understand the word queer as a slur due to its history as a derogatory term. This is one of those words you only use to refer to someone if you know they are comfortable identifying with it.

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Sex and Gender Identities

Intersex

When we learn about biological sex, we’re frequently taught about the terms “male” and “female.” However, “intersex” is another term for biological sex, which refers to individuals with a combination of chromosomes, hormones, internal sex organs, and/or genitals that differ from the two expected patterns of male and female. Intersex people were once formally known by the term “hermaphrodite,” but that term is outdated and derogatory. There are many great videos and resources to learn more about intersex people and their experiences! 

Cisgender (or Cis)

The term cisgender, also referred to as cis, describes a person whose gender corresponds with the one they were assigned at birth. Somebody who was born biologically male and identifies as a man is a cisgender (or cis) man, and somebody who was born biologically female and identifies as a woman is a cisgender (or cis) woman. 

Transgender (or Trans)

Somebody who is transgender can be described as someone whose gender does not match the one they were assigned at birth. The word is often used as an umbrella term to include trans feminine, trans masculine, or non-binary people. It’s important to note that while some transgender people are prescribed hormones and undergo surgery, not all of them do. Transgender identity is NOT dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures.

Non-Binary (or Enby)

Non-binary is one of the newer terms on this list. Not only does it fall under the umbrella term of transgender, but it’s also a bit of an umbrella term itself. That’s because being non-binary can mean something different to every person who uses this label. At its very core, it’s used to describe somebody who doesn’t identify exclusively as being a man or a woman.

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As an inclusive, affirming health and wellness organization, Metro Inclusive Health serves as an educational and supportive resource for the LGBTQ+ community and allies alike. Want to better support a loved one who has come out? Looking to connect with people who share your identities in Tampa Bay? Seeking LGBTQ+ inclusive healthcare? Just have a question or two? Send us an email at LGBT@MetroTampaBay.org

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