Ask anyone what LGBT stands for and you’ll likely get many correct answers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. But if you asked what LGBTQ stands for, you may notice people getting tripped up on the fifth and latest addition to the acronym. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the letter “Q” most often stands for “queer.”  

“Queer” is Broad, and That’s the Point

Many people in the LGBT community don’t fall into the category of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. As we understand gender and sexuality to be more of a fluid spectrum, rather than a set point, queer includes those who are gender fluid or otherwise don’t identify as LGBT.  

It also works as an umbrella term to include a wide range of identities, sexualities, and preferences. You may be gay and I may be transgender, but we’re both queer.

Taking Back an Offensive Word

The addition of the word queer was somewhat of a controversial one, as many people in the LGBTQ community still find it offensive. For decades, queer was used as a slur against the LGBT community because it meant strange, bizarre, and odd.

But over the years young people, in particular, have taken back the word. According to Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the word queer has become "a badge of honor. It's taking back a word that was once used as a weapon against us," he said. "You find the term completely commonplace in junior and senior high school and in college where individuals identify as queer."

What About “Questioning?”

The “Q” in LGBTQ can also mean questioning, according to Sainz. Including “questioning” gives people who are in the process of figuring out their sexuality or gender identity a place in the LGBTQ community, even if they haven’t officially decided they’re gay or trans.

 

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