When talking about LGBTQ* rights, it’s important to keep in mind the true diversity of the community. However, most people are unaware of the myriad other terms for people outside the gender binary or the LGB classification.
It is essential to hold a more representative view of the spectrum that is gender and sexuality, keeping in mind that both are extremely personal and variable concepts. To begin with, there are many variations used to address those outside gender and sexuality norms, the most popular being LGBT, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.
Transgender is an umbrella term describing people whose gender differs from that which they were assigned at birth. The term is often applied solely to those individuals whose gender identity and the gender they were assigned at birth fall on the opposite ends of the spectrum. For example a trans male is a person who was assigned the female gender at birth but identifies as a male.
The ‘Q’ can stand for either queer or questioning. Questioning refers to people who are unsure about their gender or sexual orientation. Queer is an umbrella term meant to encompass all sexualities that differ from the heteronormative paradigm.
You might also see the term LGBTQ*, or a variation thereof, and wonder what the asterisk signifies. The answer is that the asterisk makes further effort to include the entire spectrum of gender and sexuality, regardless of whether a label presently exists.
It is also important to note that gender and sexuality are two distinct concepts that do not influence each other. Gender is about how one defines oneself; sexuality is about who one is attracted to. That being said, here is a short and by no means exhaustive list of prevalent terminology within the LGBTQ* community.
Asexual: someone who is not sexually attracted to people, but might experience romantic attraction
Pansexual: someone who is attracted to people regardless of their gender, whether it be female, male, trans, agender, etc.
Polyamorous: someone who enters relationships with more than one person. Polyamorous relationships can be either open, meaning those in the group can date others outside the group, or closed, meaning those in the group only date those within the group.
Agender: someone who does not identify with any gender, also called gender neutral
Androgynous: someone who presents as both feminine and masculine
Intersex: someone with both male and female physical characteristics
Gender fluid: someone who identifies with more than one gender, and will move between said genders
The most important thing to remember is that any term a person uses to define themselves is their choice, that you have no right to impose your own labels on another person, and that you should respect their identity. Be sure to use the pronoun(s) and name(s) they wish to be called. Don’t assume that someone is straight/gay/trans/female, etc., because of their appearance. Continue learning about and embracing the diversity of the human experience.