Asexual: An individual who does not experience sexual attraction. Each asexual person experiences relationships, attraction and arousal differently.
Bisexual: A person who acknowledges in themselves the potential to be attracted — romantically, emotionally and/or sexually — to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or in the same degree.
Demisexual: Used to describe an individual who experiences sexual attraction only after forming an emotional connection.
Gay: A term used to describe people who are emotionally, romantically and/or physically attracted to people of the same gender (e.g., gay man, gay people). In contemporary contexts, lesbian is often a preferred term for women, though many women use the term gay to describe themselves.
Nonbinary: Refers to people who do not subscribe to the gender binary. They might exist between or beyond the man-woman binary. Some use the term exclusively, while others may use it interchangeably with terms like genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming or gender diverse.
Pansexual: Refers to a person whose emotional, romantic and/or physical attraction is to people inclusive of all genders.
Transgender: A term describing a person’s gender identity that does not necessarily match their assigned sex at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity.
The above definitions come from PFLAG, or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
It’s not that LGBTQ+ people didn’t exist before — it’s that there wasn’t a name for them. They were called slurs not fit to publish here. Those who didn’t hide their gender and/or sexual orientation faced harassment or violence or worse.
Now we have the words to describe all these lived experiences, and those words are becoming part of our everyday language. Words are power. Words are how we communicate ourselves and our experiences to others in the present and in the future. There are a lot of terms encompassed in that plus sign that don’t get said often enough (and couldn’t all be listed here), but giving them names makes them real, solidifying their place in the world and in history.
Words are permanent. Once spoken, they cannot be taken back. Once published, they live on. Words can build us up or tear us down. Remember that, before you speak words of hate, because someone you love may be listening.
Pride, and Pride Month in particular, is about putting faces to the words, letting the world see that behind the sometimes complex terminology are flesh and blood people trying to live their lives. Pride is about celebrating this bright, beautiful spectrum of identity and sexuality and romantic interest. Pride is about celebrating the pioneers who came before — the transgender women of the Stonewall riot, the people of color on the forefront of equal rights for everyone, the homosexual men and women who fought to claim their partners as legal spouses. Pride is about making a statement to everyone who will come after that they have a place in the world — and that place doesn’t have to be the closet.