What Does LGBTQ and LGBTQIA+ Mean?

LGBTQ Love heart made from hands

LGBTQ+ Foster Care Youth

Studies have revealed that 30% of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ+, and 5% identify as transgender. 

Many of these children and youth come from families that could not or would not provide a safe and welcoming environment. Furthermore, many kids don't come out as identifying as LGBTQ because they're worried about facing harassment and violence. 

If you're interested in fostering a child, understanding their identity will help them feel loved and welcomed in your home.

But what is the definition of LGBTQ? What do you need to know, and how can you help LGBTQ youth? 

Find the answers here, and take the next step toward becoming an inclusive foster home. 

The History and Definition of LGBTQ

You've probably heard the initialism of LGBT or LGBTQ before. You might not know what it means or why it keeps getting longer. The full version is LGBTQIA+, but it's only recently that it was expanded. Even among the LGBTQ community, some people use LGBT or LGBT+. 

The original form of LGB was an initialism used in the 1990s. It replaced the term gay as the community felt it was not inclusive enough. 

LGB stands for lesbian, gay, and bisexual. It was initially quite limiting, and many people referred to individuals that identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual as the "gay community." 

It was around 1988 that the term LGBT started to be used. The "T" stands for transgender. 

The terms and definitions are ever-changing, hoping the acronym will include everyone identifying as LGBTQ+. 

So, what is the complete definition? LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer, intersex, and asexual. The plus sign denotes other sexual orientations and gender identities not covered. 

Let's cover each letter next to clear up any confusion. 

What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?

L = "Lesbian"

G = "Gay"

B = "Bisexual"

= "Transgender"

= "Queer or Questioning"

= "Intersex"

= "Asexual"

+ = "Inclusivity" (everyone on the queer spectrum)


A woman who identifies as lesbian is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to other women. 


A man who identifies as gay is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to other men. 


Bisexual means that this person is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to more than one gender. For example, a bisexual man can experience sexual attraction to both men and women. 

People who identify as bisexual have had a complicated history and face discrimination even within the LGBTQ+ community. Anti-bisexual prejudice is a real problem, as they often receive judgment for having relationships with the opposite sex. They sometimes face erasure, which is why the inclusion of the "B" was such a big deal and still very important. 


The "T" stands for transgender, a term for someone whose gender identity or expression differs from the sex assigned at birth. Such as a male transitioning to a female (MtF) or a female transitioning to a male (FtM). Transgender also includes people who choose to identify as non-binary or genderfluid.

It's important to note that being transgender doesn't indicate any sexual orientation. 

Queer or Questioning

Ask several people within the LGBTQ community what the "Q" stands for, and you might get a few different responses. The two most common are queer and questioning. 

It might surprise you that queer, a former slur with a nasty history, is on the list. Queer was originally a derogatory term. It first appeared in English in 1513 and meant something unusual or not normal.

It was in 1914 that the term began to mean "homosexual." It was an offensive term eventually reclaimed by the community in the 1990s as a form of gay pride. 

These days, queer is often used as an umbrella term for someone within the LGBTQ community. It's a "catch-all" term that some individuals feel comfortable using. 

That said, even today, some people in the LGBTQ community don't like to use the term queer. It can make some individuals uncomfortable due to its past.

Never assume a person's gender identity or sexual orientation. If they feel comfortable, wait for them to tell you. 

"Q" can also stand for questioning or individuals currently questioning their identities and sexualities. Someone may be unsure of how they identify. Using this label allows them to take some time to see what makes them feel most comfortable. 

The Plus Symbol

The initialism is getting quite long, but it can't cover everybody. The plus symbol adds more inclusivity. Essentially, it leaves room for anyone not covered by the acronym. It includes all other sexual identities and orientations.

For example, many gender identity terms relate to a space within the masculine or feminine spectrum. Gender expression is deeply rooted in how people feel about their space in this world and can be ever-changing.

Other Letters and Terms

Now you know the definition of LGBTQ+, but what about the other letters, "I" and "A"? Here are a few more terms you should know, especially if you're considering fostering a child


Intersex refers to an individual born with reproductive organs or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit the gender binary of "male" and "female."

There are many ways someone may be intersex. Some may have external genitals that fall into the male/female category but have hormones or internal organs that don't. Someone may have both ovarian and testicular tissues, for example. 

Today, many people believe there is no need for unnecessary surgery on intersex babies and children. It should be up to the child to decide whether or not they want surgery when they get older. 


An asexual individual experiences little or no sexual feelings or attraction. They may also be known as "ace" or "aces."

Being asexual means different things to different individuals. Someone that identifies as asexual might have no interest in sex with anyone. However, they may develop romantic or emotional feelings for another person. 

Non-Binary and Genderfluid

A non-binary individual's gender identity falls outside the male/female binary. They do not identify as strictly a man or a woman. 

A genderfluid person describes an individual whose identity can change over time. Similarly, genderqueer refers to someone whose identity is fluid. 

Gender non-conforming refers to someone who doesn't conform to the cultural or societal expectations of gender. Gender non-conforming could refer to appearance or behavior. 

Support LGBTQ+ Youth

LGBTQ+ youth are at increased risk for bullying, harassment, sexual assault, and suicide. People who are gender non-conforming can also experience gender dysphoria. This is the disconnect between how they feel and how their body looks.

Now that you know the definition of LGBTQ, you're better prepared to help foster children in this community and the struggles they endure.

Please, contact us to learn more about fostering and how to foster a child in need. You can help to put a smile on their face! 

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