Best acronyms for referring to the queer communityFeb 02, 2023
Talking about the LGBTQ+ community can feel like a tongue twister with all our letters, and if you’re anything like many of my students, it can feel like we keep adding letters just to mess with people. But it’s not that at all, of course. We're not trying to confuse anyone! We currently don’t have all our identities represented in the acronyms we use, but we’re trying to get better as a community to include more of the less-represented identities. That’s where the new letters come from.
But where does that leave you when you’re discussing the LGBTQ+ community, whether that’s in conversation, your website, social media or in your marketing efforts? Should you use LGBT, LGBT+, LGBTQ+, LGBTQIAA+, 2SLGBTQ+, 2SLGBTQIAA+ or something else?
First, if you haven’t taken my course, you might not yet know what all the letters mean, so let’s break down the letters above so you have that foundation.
L — Lesbian
G — Gay
B — Bisexual
T — Transgender
Q — Queer
I — Intersex
A — Agender
A — Asexual
2S — Two-spirit
+ Everyone else in our community
Our community has long been known as the gay community, but that left out many trans people. (Not all trans people are gay, and not all gay people are trans. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not interdependent.) This brought about the initial letters LGBT for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Then someone started using the plus symbol to make it known that we weren’t just LGBT, but our community is much more diverse than that. As the term queer began its transformation from derogatory slur to a reclaimed word meaning anything but cishet, Q was added to the acronym. Many kept the + to indicate, again, that our identities far surpass that small string of letters. Of our community, some of the most ignored members are intersex, agender, asexual and two-spirit, which is why, in brief, how those letters were added, as well.
So what’s right for you? How should you type it? And perhaps even more important, how should you speak it. Because, again, it’s a mouthful. In my work as a DEI facilitator, educator and consultant, I speak about the LGBTQ+ community on a daily business. So for me, the pronunciation of elgeebeeteequeplus rolls right off my tongue. Some of us in the community now say queer, but we also recognize that not everyone in the LGBTQ+ community identifies with—or feels comfortable with—the term queer.
When deciding which acronym to use for the queer community, broader is generally better. For example, LGBTQ+ is much more broad than queer or gay. For inclusive marketing, 2SLGBTQIAA+ is certainly broader and more affirming. It’s not easy to say, but it’s easy enough to copy/paste. And it certainly warms the hearts of two-spirit, intersex, agender and asexual people to see themselves represented. This is a good choice for the more advanced activist but you’re not going to see it used in mainstream conversations, media and businesses yet. That yet is important because as I mentioned earlier, our language is evolving.
The most popular acronym in our community is currently LGBTQ+. This is what we use at Equally Wed and Equally Wed Pro as it’s all-encompassing and it’s on par with what other major LGBTQ+ media, nonprofits and companies use.
It’s also what’s most widely used in Google searches, and if inclusive marketing is important to you, then I know SEO matters to you as well. To see how LGBTQ+ ranks against LGBT or other combinations of our acronyms, head to Google Trends and compare them in your area.
For us, on an international scale or narrowed into the United States, where our company is based, LGBTQ+ scores highest on searches with regard to our business topics, such as LGBTQ+ inclusivity, LGBTQ+ inclusive wedding pros, LGBTQ+ weddings, etc.
This is an opportunity for you to explore what’s good for the community and what’s good for the business, and then decide what works best for you.