November 16, 2023

What does
'LGBT' mean?

A glossary to help explain, what some of the common LGBT+ sayings and symbols, can mean.

Young people holding different pride flags
"Even as a gay man, I can sometimes find it difficult to know how to refer to other members of the LGBT community. It's important to avoid making assumptions and to simply treat people as they wish to be treated. Most importantly however, you shouldn't be afraid of getting it wrong or of politely correcting others when they do. Because it's in those conversations, that we give each other space to express who we truly are." - Laurence, former PiNC Trustee


LGB, LGBT, LGBTQ and LGBTIQA are the most common accronyms used to refer to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans', Intersex, Queer and Asexual communities. The choice of which letters to include is often one of personal taste. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, we use a '+' to indicate that we include anyone and everyone.


Bisexual is often shortened to simply 'Bi' & now commonly embraces a variety of sexualities attracted to gender diverse people instead of just the gender binary including:

  • Pansexual – Sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people of all genders or regardless of sex or gender identity.
  • Polysexual – Sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards some but not all genders & may have a preference to which gender attracted to.

Trans' is an umbrella term to describe people who's gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. This often includes (but is not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine and trans feminine.

Cis is short for cisgender, a term which refers to people who's gender, is the same as their birth gender and is often used to distinguish between non-trans' and trans' people.

Flags & Symbols

There are well over 30 flags and symbols, for different aspects of the LGBT+ community, but probably the most well known is the 6 stripe rainbow pride flag. In the original eight-colour version designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, pink stood for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. You can find a full article about LGBT Symbols on Wikipedia.

Concise Glossary

These are short definitions of some of the more common terms used by the LGBT+ community, they shouldn't be seen as a label for who someone is, but as a starting point for better understanding.

  • Ally - typically a 'straight' person who supports the LGBT+ community.
  • ACE/Asexuality/Aromantic - a variation in levels of romantic and/or sexual attraction, including a lack of attraction.
  • Bi/Bisexual - is a term used to describe an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards people of more than one gender. Bi is usually preferred.
  • Coming Out - when a person first tells another about being lesbian, gay, bi or trans.
  • Gay - usually a homosexual man, some women also prefer this term.
  • Gender Identity - a person’s sense of their own gender, be it male, female or another (see non-binary), which may or may not be the sex assigned at their birth.
  • Heterosexual - is a term used to describe woman who has an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards a man and vice versa.
  • Homosexual - is a term used to describe an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards a person of the same gender. Often seen as a scientific term, Gay or Lesbian is more common.
  • Homophobia/Transphobia/Biphobia - fear or dislike of others, based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or opinions about lesbian, gay, trans or bi people. Homophobic abuse may be directed at people who are, or are perceived to be LGBT+.
  • Intersex - used to describe a person who's biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female.
  • Lesbian - a homosexual woman.
  • Non-binary - a term for various people who's gender identity doesn't fit comfortably with male, female or either.
  • Outed - when an LGBT+ person's sexual orientation or gender identity is revealed without their consent.
  • Queer - still seen by many as offensive, it is being reclaimed by some who's sexual orientation or gender identity does not fit comfortably with other LGBT+ terms, or embrace various LGBT+ terms as part of their identity.
  • Sexual Orientation - someone's emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person.
  • Trans' - an umbrella term for people who's gender is not the same as, or does not fit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.

We've only covered the basics here, but you can find a more complete list from Stonewall's Glossary of Terms.