LGBT is an acronym for the Latin name, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and trans. In common use since the late 1990s, the acronym, and its associated terms, serves as an inclusive umbrella phrase for sexual identity and sexual preference. In addition, the acronym LGBTA ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) is used to express non-asexual attraction. The acronym LGBT is not limited to lesbians or gays; however, those who identify as such are much more likely to use and be familiar with the term.
What are the differences between a lesbian and gay experience? How does a person come to identify as a lesbian or a gay or a transgendered? Why does the terminology describe two very different and dissimilar lifestyles? What causes people to identify as such?
The first question to answer in this article is how the term came to be. A rainbow flag is a symbol of two equal sides with no middle portion, just like the GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) community. As the rainbow flag shows, there can be no indefinite or divided aspect of these identity groups. And just like the GLBTQ community, the LGbtQ community identifies as such even when one or both partners identify as belonging to a particular sex, gender, or orientation.
In the past, there was a tendency for people to use labels to distinguish people according to their sexual orientation. After all, gender and sexual identity are very distinct concepts. The term “lesbian” was used in place of “homosexual” in order to differentiate lesbians from straight men. This is the term that the GLBTQ community uses today to distinguish themselves from the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) community.
In addition to the labeling of oneself as “lesbian”, “bisexual”, or “transsexual”, there is also the questioning of one’s sexual orientation. This questioning is a common part of the development of gender identity. People who are sexually attracted to members of the same sex often ask questions such as “am I attracted to men?” or “is my attraction toward women the same as my attraction toward men?”. These questions reflect an ongoing internalization of the erotic tension between members of the same sex and the perception of eroticism between members of the opposite sex.
Another question that frequently arises when discussing GLBT identity is the usage of the term “lesbian”. When used in a casual conversation, it can mean any one of a multitude of lesbians, gay, bi and transgendered (anagrams for GLBT). In addition to the use of “lesbian” as a term of endearment, the term “lesbian” can be used to describe an attraction to members of the opposite sex that does not conform to traditional gender roles. Conversely, “gay” and “heterosexual” are terms used to characterize sexual attractions and relationships that are considered to be normal by societal definitions.
Because GLBT individuals often feel gender identification is a burden, society can impose various labels on them. As a result, GLBT individuals often have a hard time accepting their gender identity, especially in Western cultures where this identity is widely celebrated. The consequence of this can be increased discrimination and violence based on gender identification. Because some GLBT individuals still feel these pressures to conform to traditional gender roles, they may feel they have little freedom to navigate the world as they wish. The stress of being subjected to these pressures can lead to depression and other mental health issues.
It’s important to note that the concept of “lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered or asexual” describes people whose gender identity does not match traditional definitions of masculinity or femininity. Someone who is attracted to men but identifies as a woman would fall under this umbrella term. Also someone who is attracted to both men and women would be categorized as a bi-sexual man. A transgendered person is someone who identifies with the category of gender non-conforming but does not identify as either male or female. This umbrella terminology is helpful for people whose gender expression does not fit neatly into traditional terms.