LGBT Pride acronyms explained – from LGBTQQIP2SAA to AFAB

The ABCs of LGBT+ (Picture: Getty) is marking Pride Week (June 14-20) with a series of first-person explainers, opinion articles, and explainers on the LGBT+ community.

You’ve probably heard of the acronym LGBT+, and maybe even the term non-binary, but what about LGBTQQIP2SAA or cisgender?

Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the key acronyms and terms that every good ally should know – with some easy-to-understand definitions.

There are many more important terms that you may hear, but below are some of the most commonly used ones.

LGBT+ acronyms and terms explained


LGBT+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and others

LGBTQ+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, and others

‘LGBT+’ is the best term to use if you aren’t sure (Picture: Getty)

The ‘+’ is important as it includes all the identities that do not fall under ‘LGBT’, such as asexual and gender-fluid.

But which is the ‘right’ one to use? The answer is that both are correct, and it’s totally up to you. Some people avoid using ‘LGBTQ+’ as although the term ‘queer’ is being reclaimed by the LGBT+ community, some folks still aren’t comfortable with it and consider it a slur.

‘LGBT+’ is the best term to use if you aren’t sure.


LGBTQQIP2SAA = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-spirit (2S), Androgynous and Asexual

‘Two-spirit’ is term used by some indigenous North Americans to describe those who fulfil a traditional third-gender ceremonial role.

This one isn’t commonly used, so can leave people scratching their heads when they see it.


A sexual orientation that describes a person who is emotionally or sexually attracted to people of their own gender.


A woman who is emotionally or sexually attracted to other women.


Bisexuality means different things to different people, and so is a contentious topic in the LGBT+ community.

The Bisexual Index defines bisexuals as ‘someone who is attracted to more than one gender’.

Some people believe that the ‘bi’ in ‘bisexual’ implies that gender is a binary – that there are only two genders, men and women. This is an outdated concept that many bisexuals do not adhere to.

The ‘bi’ really comes from the idea that bisexuals experience both heterosexual (different sex) and homosexual (same-sex) attraction.

For some, other terms like pansexual, queer, and fluid feel more inclusive, and so they opt for these labels.

‘Pansexual’ is often seen as a more inclusive term, and so some people feel more comfortable with this label.

Remember that your sexuality is your business and other people’s opinions should not matter – no one should feel pressured to take on any labels they are not comfortable with.

Whether you call yourself bisexual, fluid, cross-oriented, gay with some bisexual tendencies, pansexual, or no identity label at all is totally up to you.

It is important to choose whatever label you feel comfortable with (Picture: Getty)


A pansexual is a person who can be attracted to all different kinds of people, regardless of their gender identity. 


Asexuality, also known as ‘ace’, is the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity.

Asexuals may very well still feel romantic attraction, and are fully capable of being in happy and healthy relationships.

Some people consider it a sexual orientation, while others consider it a lack of.

An asexual person can be any orientation (e.g. straight, gay, bisexual, etc.) because sexual attraction is only one kind of attraction.

Aside from sexual attraction, you can also experience:

  • Romantic attraction – desiring a romantic relationship with someone
  • Aesthetic attraction – being attracted to someone based on how they look
  • Sensual or physical attraction – wanting to touch, hold, or cuddle someone
  • Platonic attraction – wanting to be friends with someone
  • Emotional attraction – wanting an emotional connection with someone


A person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.


‘Queer’ used to be a derogatory term to describe anyone who did not solely present as a cisgendered heterosexual.

In the days of Dickens, it also meant ‘odd’ or ‘strange’.

Nowadays, the label is being reclaimed from its pejorative use as a neutral or positive self-identifier by LGBT+ people. It’s an umbrella term, used to refer to people across the spectrum.

Some people still view it as a slur, while others embrace it. In most cases, it will depend on the context in which the word is used.


Sex refers to our biological traits, such as genitals, internal reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones.

Our sex is assigned to us at birth, based on our genitals. If someone is born with a penis and testicles, they are assigned male. If someone is born with a vulva and vagina, they are assigned female.

People often (wrongly) use the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably, but sex is purely biological.


Sexual health charity Brook defines gender as: ‘A collection of socially constructed ideas about human behaviour, actions, and roles in relation to ideas of “masculinity” and “femininity”.’

People’s gender identities are totally unique to them. They often exist on a spectrum and can change over time.

It is also important to note that gender is not binary – many people identify with genders outside of ‘male’ and ‘female’.

Sexual orientation

How a person characterises their sexuality – for example, gay or pansexual.

There is an important difference between sex and gender (Picture: Getty)


Assigned Female At Birth/Assigned Male At Birth.

AFAB and AMAB are simply a non-excusatory to medically state what sex you were born. This may be useful for doctors, for example, if there are certain illnesses that only impact a certain biological sex.

This term isn’t solely used for those in the LGBT+ community – you can be AFAB and still identify as a female now.

Gender identity/expression

How you feel and express your gender, which does not need to align with the sex you were assigned at birth.

Gender expression refers to how you express your gender identity. It can refer to hair, clothes, or the way you speak.


A word used instead of a noun often to refer to a person without using their name – they can signal a person’s gender.

Some of the most commonly used pronouns are she/her, he/him, and they/them. However, people may prefer neopronouns, such as ze/zim, or fae/fer.

If you’re unsure of the correct pronouns to use for someone, opting for gender neutral ones – such as they they/them – is the safest bet.

Intentionally calling someone by the wrong pronouns is incredibly disrespectful and can cause psychological harm.


A person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, non-binary, or genderqueer.

Sometimes, people assume that being trans is about feeling you are the ‘opposite’ gender. This is true for some trans people, but not for others.

This assumption makes things difficult for those who identify outside of ‘male’ or ‘female’.

Also, not every trans person will want to transition through surgery. Some trans people are perfectly happy in their assigned bodies. Not going through surgery doesn’t make them any less of the gender they identify as, or make their transgender identity any less valid.


A person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. 


Someone who doesn’t identify exclusively as female or male.

The LGBT Foundation website explains: ‘Because non-binary includes anyone that doesn’t fit the traditional narrative of male or female, non-binary communities are incredibly diverse. 

‘Non-binary people may identify as both male and female or neither male nor female. They may feel their gender is fluid can change and fluctuate or perhaps they permanently don’t identify with one particular gender.

‘The range of language and labels used within non-binary communities means that non-binary has become an inclusive umbrella term.’

Some other terms include genderqueer, agender and bigender.

Non-binary people may choose to opt for gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them. 

However, it’s always best to ask someone what pronouns they prefer to use, rather than assume.

Not everyone identifies as male or female (Picture: Getty)

Gender fluid

People who are gender fluid do not identify with a single, fixed gender.

The difference between this and non-binary is that gender fluid people’s gender expression or gender identity — essentially, their internal sense of self — changes frequently.

A non-binary person will more or less stay pretty fixed in their gender identity, whereas a gender fluid person can move to different points on the gender spectrum.

The experience is difference for everyone, but essentially at one point a gender fluid person may feel more ‘masculine’ and so express that with short hair and flannel shirt – but days, weeks, or years later they could feel more ‘feminine’ and so choose to express that with long hair and dresses.

They could also have some phases where they feel like they don’t identify with a single gender at all, and so choose to express that with a more non-binary look.

Of course, they may not feel the urge to express their current gender with their hair and clothes – the gender fluid experience is different for everyone.


Saying the name that a trans person was given at birth but no longer uses.

Deadnaming can be accidental or intentional. Doing it by accident is fairly common – if you make a mistake, it is important to correct yourself as quickly as possible, to show the person you did not mean any harm.

However, many transgender people have spoken out about the psychological harm that intentional deadnaming can bring about.

In the most recent series of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Gottmik – the first transgender man to compete on Drag Race – made it to the final.

As per tradition, the final four queens are shown pictures from their childhood, and are asked what they would say to their childhood selves. 

RuPaul explained that Gottmik had given permission to show a picture of herself when she was two years old, although did not refer to her with her dead name while addressing the picture.

Many fans hailed this decision as ‘the correct way’ to go about the topic.

During the show, Gottmik tweeted: ‘If you tried to tell pre transition Gottmik I would be sitting with  @RuPaul and @michellevisage talking about being a trans pioneer and just being so HAPPY.. thank you all so much for supporting me and my journey I’m ready to crash the cistem harder than EVER.’


Referring to someone in a way that does not correctly reflect their gender identity, typically by using incorrect pronouns.


Publicly revealing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity when they haven’t come out themselves yet. 


Women Loving Women/Men Loving men – also sometimes referred to as WSW/MSM (Women who have Sex with Women, Men who have Sex with Men).

WLW/MLM are umbrella terms that don’t solely refer to gay men and lesbians – many bisexuals, pansexuals, and others fall under this category.


Sex reassignment surgery. The medical procedure in which the biological sex of a person is changed to one different to what they were assigned with at birth.

There are two main kinds of SRS:

  • Top surgery = Gender-affirming surgery on the chest
  • Bottom surgery = Gender-affirming genital surgery

It is worth noting that someone doesn’t have to have SRS in order to identify with a gender – they are still valid in their gender identity, even if their body remains in their assigned sex.

Jojo Siwa hosts Pride themed birthday party

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A cultural belief – or bias – that considers heterosexuality (being straight) the norm.


An ally is a heterosexual and cisgender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBT+ social movements.

The key to being an ally is being active in your support – using your privilege and platform to challenge homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

Things you can do every day to be a good ally is correcting friends or family when they say something misinformed, using inclusive language, voting on petitions for LGBT+ rights, attending protests, and reporting offensive language on social media.


The term ‘drag’ refers to the performance of masculinity, femininity or other forms of gender expression.

A drag queen is someone who performs femininity and a drag king is someone who performs masculinity.

Drag is not necessarily just dressing up as a different gender – a self-identified man can be a drag king, and a vice versa.

Drag kings and queens usually perform in drag shows. These often consist of singing, dancing, comedy, and lip-syncing.

What was once an underground subculture is now a mainstream art medium, mainly thanks to hit US reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race, hosted by famous drag queen RuPaul.

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