What Does LGBTQ2S+ Stand For and How to Be An Ally?
Updated: Jun 23
As we celebrate Pride month, now is a great time to support our LGBTQ2S+ communities. Whether or not you have family and friends who identify as LGBTQ2S+, you can still be an ally for the community. In this article, we explain what LGBT2S+ means and how you can be a respectful ally for the community. Not only during Pride Month—but year-round!
What is sexual orientation?
In its simplest terms, sexual orientation refers to who you are attracted to. That attraction can be sexual, romantic, or even emotional. Sexual orientation doesn’t reflect who that attraction is towards. You can be attracted to the opposite gender (heterosexual), the same gender (gay person/people), both or all genders (bisexual/pansexual), or be asexual and not attracted to any genders at all.
What does LGBTQ2S+ stand for?
Sexual orientations outside of heterosexuals are often described by the acronym LGBTQ2S+.
This stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Two-Spirit, and additional orientations. Here is a brief explanation of each term:
L: Lesbian—A woman who is attracted to other women, either sexually, romantically or otherwise.
G: Gay—Someone who is emotionally, sexually, romantically, or otherwise attracted to a person of their own gender. Though the term typically refers to the attraction of a man to another man, it can also be used to describe women or refer to the queer community as a whole.
B: Bisexual—A person who is emotionally, sexually, romantically, or otherwise attracted to more than one gender.
T: Transgender—A person who does not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, either fully or in part. It’s important to note that transgender is not a sexual orientation. Other words commonly used to describe folks who are transgender include gender fluid, non-binary, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming.
Q: Queer—Historically, the term “queer” was used as an insult, but some folks in the LGBTQ2S+ community have reclaimed it as a sign of pride. It’s used to encompass a general intersection between all groups, including individuals who don’t identify with any other identity in LGBTQ2S+.
Q: Questioning—The Q in LGBTQ2S+ can also stand for “questioning.” This term may be used by people who are unsure about their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity.
2S: 2-Spirit—Two-Spirit or 2-Spirit is an important term for some Indigenous people and cultures. Two-spirit honours the diverse and fluid nature of gender and attraction, and spiritual identity.
+: Plus—This term refers to any additional gender and/or sexual orientation that hasn’t been defined yet. It’s an acknowledgement that our language may not yet be adequate to describe how someone may possibly identify.
Why representation matters for the LGBTQ2S+ community
Representation for the LGBTQ2S+ community matters as it would for any marginalized community. Individuals want to be acknowledged and seen for who they are in the fullest sense.
Using the term LGBTQ2S+ shows the inclusivity of the various sexual orientations and gender identities. Representation is also about visibility. Being a visible member of the LGBTQ2S+ community can help a person feel a sense of pride in their individual identity.
Representation to the broader community is also important. There’s still a stigma attached, and homophobia and transphobia exists. The more we can learn about the perspective of LGBTQ2S+ people, the more we can come to respect their experiences and acknowledge their validity. Representation means being seen and recognized by society as a whole.
What is an LGBTQ2S+ ally and how can you be one?
An ally is a friend. To be an ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community means supporting the rights and safety of its members, even if you don’t identify as part of the community. An ally promotes inclusivity, respect, and supports change so the LGBTQ2S+ community can empower themselves. Below we give examples of non-ally behaviour towards the LGBTQ2s+ community and some of the ways you can be an ally to the queer community.
Examples of non-ally behaviour include:
Assuming everyone is straight or making assumptions about a person’s gender
Making “gay” jokes
Not using a person’s preferred gender pronouns
Staying quiet when others make jokes or derogatory comments
Asking an LGBTQ2S+ person invasive personal questions about their lives or experience
How to be an ally
Here are just some of the ways you can be an ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community:
Remain open-minded to conversations that may be difficult
Speak to people in the LGBTQ2S+ community, and more importantly, listen to their experiences and perspectives
Educate yourself by doing your own research so that you can recognize your own biases
Use language that is inclusive so everyone feels respected
Stand up to those who make off-handed or negative remarks about the LGBTQ2S+ community
Intervene safely if you witness offensive behaviour by others
Being an LGBTQ2s+ ally It’s all about respect
A simple way to engage with people in the LGBTQ2S+ community is to always show respect. Unless you’re a part of one of the groups, it’s difficult to understand how another person feels or what they have experienced. Even then, everyone’s experience of sexuality and gender is different. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t show empathy and give the community the respect you would give anyone else. Ultimately, being a good ally means asking how you can support the LGBTQ2S+ community.
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