Alphabet Soup – LGBTQQIA


Guest Writer: Lesley McKinney, LMHC

When I was completing my Masters program, I remember hearing, over and over again: “It depends on the person; it is a case-by-case consideration.”

Where am I going with this?

I’ll tell you…

My job as a mental health counselor is not to point out what I feel is right or wrong,  or what I feel should be or should not be for my clients. I am not here to convince you to whether you should believe in others’ realities, or whether you should support sexual and gender equality…. not today at least.  Today, what I want is to offer you information and a well-rounded vocabulary to have those conversations with others about sexuality and the spectrum of sexuality that is part of the reality of the human experience.

I am talking about the LGBTQQIA population.

Now, you may be saying to yourself “Hey, there are more letters there than I remember.” And there are. So, let’s clarify some of that LGBTQQIA Alphabet Soup!

To start, here are a few basic terms that are often confused that everyone should know:

Gender – A socially constructed collection of traits, behaviors, and meanings that have been historically attributed to biological differences.

Gender Identity– How one thinks of one’s own gender. This conviction is not entirely contingent upon the person’s biological sex.

Sex – A medically assigned identity based on biology, such as hormones, chromosomes, reproductive organs, and genitalia. Terms include male, female, transsexual, and intersex.

Those few terms apply to all humans, not just the LGBTQ population, and should be well understood even for basic conversations.  The main reason that these are important is that gender, and especially gender identity, are established from a cultural perspective and shifts depending on who you are talking to, what culture they hail from, etc.  I believe a lot of miscommunications and arguments can start from assuming we are using these few terms the same without clarifying our own perspectives of these words.

LGBTQ you say?  I raise you a QIA!

The good news, is that as individuals become more comfortable and safe, we are adding letters to this acronym. As stated above, LGBTQ has expanded to LGBTQQIA.  An acronym of beauty, my people!

LGBTQ (also GLBTQ) is the acronym for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning”. The acronym has been expanded to a variation to include intersex and/or asexual or allies.  Making the most up-to-date acronym LGBTQQIA, which stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual (or Ally)”.

Let’s learn a few more terms shall we? (In order of the commonly used acronym LGBTQQIA)


A woman whose primary romantic, emotional, physical, and sexual attractions are to women.


An individual who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Generally preferred over the term homosexual.


A person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and/or sexual attractions to both men and women, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally.


Used both as an umbrella term and as an identity. Broadly, it refers to those who do not identify or are uncomfortable with their assigned gender and/or gender roles and who transgress traditional sex and gender categories. As an identity, it typically refers to an individual who identifies with the gender that is opposite of the sex to which they were born.


A person who does not identify as heterosexual and/or cisgendered. Originally used with negative connotations, this word is currently being reclaimed by many within the LGBTQ community as a proud name for themselves. It often blurs both gender and sexual orientation and is regarded as a more inclusive “umbrella” term for all LGBTQ individuals.


A phase or period when an individual is re-assessing his/her/hir sexual orientation and/or gender identity. People in this phase or period may be unsure of their sexual identity or may still be exploring their feelings.


A set of medical conditions that features congenital anomaly of the reproductive system. That is, a person with this condition is born with the sex chromosomes, external genitalia or an internal reproductive system not considered “standard” for either male or female. It is estimated that anywhere from 1 in 100 to 1 in 2,000 infants were born this way.


Anyone without sexual feelings or sexual orientation, but who may still have deep and meaningful relationships with others exclusive of sexual intimacy.


Any heterosexually and/or cisgendered-identifying person who opposes heterosexism, homophobia, and all other forms of anti-LGBTQ bias and actively supports LGBTQ individuals and causes.
There is quite a bit of vocabulary that goes along with the LGBTQQIA population and I try to include this additional knowledge where I can. So, how about some bonus vocabulary:

Hir– A non-gendered pronoun corresponding to his, her, him; used as a dative and possessive pronoun (Zer/zir are sometimes used the same way)

Cisgender– The opposite of transgendered; a term used to describe those having gender identity or performing in gender roles that society considers appropriate for one’s sex.

Pro-Tips! Want to go above and beyond in your knowledge?  Try these pro-tips on:

*If you know Transgendered persons and have a difficult time identifying how they identify, ask individualsl what their “preferred gender pronoun” is.  This will allow people to give you the vocabulary that they identify and are most comfortable with.

*Contact your local LGBTQ or Transgender resource center for Safe Zone Training.  Most Safe Zone trainings can be given to either individuals or even larger groups!

University of New Mexico Safe Zone Educational Settings Training Manual


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