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You’ve heard of LGBTQ, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning or Queer. But the acronym is constantly evolving in order to be more inclusive, with new letters being added to represent all genders and sexualities. In short, LGBTQIA+ is a way for someone to describe their sexual orientation or gender identity (if they choose to, FYI). If you’re still asking yourself, “what does LGBTQIA+ stand for?”, we’ve got you. Here’s everything you need to know about the term.

What Does LGBTQIA+ Stand For?

As mentioned, the acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning or Queer. Here’s a breakdown of what each term means, according to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center:

  • Lesbian: women attracted to other women

  • Gay: blanket term used to describe a person attracted to the same gender

  • Bisexual: someone who is attracted to both genders

  • Transgender: someone whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth

  • Questioning: someone who is exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity

  • Queer: non-exclusive term for sexual orientation and gender. Cleo Anderson, an employee of the LGBT rights group GLAAD, told USA Today: “Queer is anything that exists outside of the dominant narrative. Queer means that you are one of those letters [LGBT], but you could be all of those letters and not knowing is OK.”

The IA+ are more recent additions to the acronym. Here’s what they stand for.

What Does IA Stand for in LGBTQIA?

  • IntersexPer GLAAD, intersex is “an umbrella term describing people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that can't be classified as typically woman or man.” However, it also reflects someone who doesn't identify with a specific gender.

  • Asexual: describes those who don’t feel sexual or romantic attraction to others.

OK, What About the Plus Sign?

This symbol is used to represent those who do not identify with one of the letters in the acronym (for example, those who identify as pansexual or gender-fluid). The plus sign also includes agender, non-binary, polyamorous and a few more identifications that don't fit the original letters. At the end of the day, the term sets the tone for widening the spectrum and making it welcoming for everyone.

And What Does LGBTQ2 Stand For?

While LGBTQ stays the same, the 2 stands for two-spirit. It’s a term used by indigenous communities to represent gender and sexual orientation. In 1990, Elder Myra Laramee proposed the name and incorporated it into the Indigenous language moving forward.

Other Community Terms to Know

Here’s a short list of other terms used in the LGBTQIA+ community.

  • Ace: short for asexual

  • Bi: short for bisexual

  • Cis: short for cisgender (gender assigned at birth)

  • Closeted: refers to keeping one’s sexuality or gender identity private

  • Coming out: used to describe sharing one’s gender identity or sexual orientation with their community

  • Deadnaming: calling a person by a name they no longer use

  • Fluid: term that indicates someone’s gender identity may change over time

  • Gray-a: short for graysexual (gray asexuality, in which someone may intermittently experience attraction to other people)

  • Pan: short for pansexual

  • Per: short for “person” (used to describe those who identify as nonbinary)

  • Poly: short for polyamorous

Why Did the Original Term Change?

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, gay and lesbian were predominately used until the ‘90s when bisexual and transgender was added to the acronym. As such, LGBT was originally conceived as a more acceptable way to describe all the individuals that were previously referred to as the “gay community.” And yet, this acronym was leaving various sexual orientations and gender groups out.

The term LGBTQIA+ lends itself to being more inclusive to everyone. (It's why the term BIPOC, which represents Black, Indigenous and People of Color, is also gaining momentum as a more appropriate way to refer to all people of color.)

What If I Don’t Identify with Any of the Letters?

Firstly, know that our identities are always evolving. There’s no one size fits all and you don't have to be pigeonholed into one group. Heck, you don’t even have to label yourself if you’re not ready or comfortable. And it’s also important to understand that these aren’t the only letters and terms in use. In fact, the abbreviation is constantly evolving, because sexuality and gender can be as fluid as you want them to be.

For more information, check out the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Resource Center (LGBTQIARC) at the University of California at Davis for an extensive glossary.

I’m Worried I’ll Say the Wrong Thing. What Do I Do?

It’s always helpful to ask someone first how they self-identify. You should never try to assume someone’s gender or sexual orientation. GLAAD also has a helpful list of terms to avoid (and preferred terms), so you can continue educating yourself on the LGBTQIA+ community.


Note: These resources were specifically created by two of our students, Samuel Slutz and Raine Guidi de Almeida, for the Greater Seattle Area. Many of them include national sources of information.

Trans Families support for youths and their families

Provides support and resources for transgender youth and their families, based in Seattle but serves youth and families all over via a digital platform. Provides support groups for both trans youth and their families.  Website: 

Substance abuse and addiction help

Trans individuals face more than their fair share of challenges in life, and many are left to self-medicate. What might surprise you is how many actually battle substance abuse on a daily basis – an estimated 20-30 percent of the entire community.

Warning Signs of Suicide (outside perspective):

  • Being uncharacteristically cheerful/energetic or withdrawn/depressed

  • Giving away precious belongings

  • Saying “goodbye”/making a will with no explanation

  • Spontaneously taking dangerous risks (ex. Driving over the speed limit, carrying a weapon for a nondisclosed reason)

  • Talking about being a burden to others

  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs

Warning Signs of Suicide (personal perspective):

  • Unbearable emotional or physical pain

  • Feeling hopeless or like you have no purpose

    Crisis number in the “Help Hotlines” section below

The Big Book of All Things Queer

Seattle area Eastside specific guide for LGBTQ+ folks created by Axton Burton, who works with Pride Across the Bridge, a fantastic local group by and for queer people. The book is available online for free here:

Nonfiction Trans Book Recommendations:

  • Beyond the Gender Binary By: Alok Vaid-Menon

  • My Child is Trans, Now What? By: Ben Greene

  • What’s the T? By: Juno Dawson

  • Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource by and for Transgender Communities. By: Laura Erickson-Schroth (Editor)


Note: Check local bookstores to see what books they have available. Both independent and chain bookstores will have fiction and nonfiction options for you! One of my personal favorites' is Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond Town Center, but there are plenty of others in the greater Seattle area. Happy reading!

Binding Dangers

A binder is a chest flattening garment.

Dangers of Binding w/ Ace Bandages and how students in need can get safe resources:


Talk About It!

Sentence starters for families who may have students in the community but not know how to start conversations:

My Child is Trans, Now What? | Ben Greene (

Tips for families with students in the community:

Adds/Resources for SAGA and other LGBTQ+ resources:

Lake Washington High School (LWHS) Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) 

Excellent club and affinity group at LWHS providing support, community, friendship, advocacy, and entertainment to the LWHS LGBTQIA+ student body. Come drop in at any time! 

Meetings: room 334 from 3:30 – 4:30 on Mondays  


The Trevor Project Crises Hotline

Provides a free and confidential 24/7 crisis hotline for LGBTQIA+ youth nationwide which can be accessed through either their website or the numbers listed below. Also hosts Trevor Space, an online hang out space for LGBTQIA+ youth which can be found on their website in addition to the above-mentioned hotline and a resource page for further information and education. Website:

(Call and text numbers in the “Help Hotlines” section)

Teen Link for support, homelessness, eating disorders, addiction, suicide prevention

Provides contact information for a variety of resources on its website for teens in Snohomish, Pierce, and King Counties covering topics such as LGBTQIA+ support, homelessness, suicide prevention, eating disorders, addiction, and so much more. Teen Link also has a free and confidential peer support chat and text feature with trained teen volunteers running from 6:30 – 9:30 PM PST every night of the week and a crisis phone number which can be called in case of immediate crisis and is listed below. 

Website:  (Crisis number in the “Help Hotlines” section)

Point of Pride Binders

Provides free binders (a chest flattening garment) and feminizing shape wear for trans and nonbinary people who cannot otherwise access these items, although the wait times for an order to be processed can be a few years as the demand is greater than the supply despite best efforts.  Website: 

American Trans Resource Hub binders and resources

Provides free binders (a chest flattening garment) for trans and nonbinary people who cannot otherwise access these items, although wait the wait times for an order to be processed can take a few years. Also provides a variety of other resources for trans and nonbinary people.  Website: 

The Bobin Tree on Ravelry breast forms and packers

Shop on containing free crocheting patterns for breast forms and packers (used to create a bulge for AFAB transmasculine and nonbinary people).


Website alternative: go to and search for the bobbin tree using the pattern search feature. 


Lambert House for resources and community building

LGBTQIA+ youth community center based in Seattle, provides a variety of resources and community building opportunities. 

Website: Phone number: 206-322-2515 

Help Hotlines: 

The Trevor Project | For Young LGBTQ Lives

Text – 678-678

Call – 1-866-488-7386


Crisis Text Line

Text “HOME” to 741741


24-hour Crisis Line

Call – 1-866-427-4747


National Suicide Prevention Hotline

Call – 1-800-273-8255


Washington Recovery Helpline

Call – 1-866-789-1511


Safe Place

Call – 1-800-422-8336


Teen Link

1-866-TEENLINK (833-6546)



Not including  the Trevor Project and Teen Link, all the helplines on this list are on the back of LWHS student IDs.

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