LGBTQ 101: A look at labels

I generally approach things in this space from a text-heavy, theoretical level. I shoot for advanced knowledge and understanding, because so much of what I end up doing in other spaces (including meatspace) is basic 101-level stuff. But I came up with what I think is a pretty easy and elegant visual way to understand the labels LGBTQ. If you are unable to access the inages in this page, please visit this page.

The following are Community labels. While they can and are frequently used as individual identity labels, not everyone in these communities uses these labels for personal identification. They are broad and general and not intended to describe people’s attractions in fine detail.

Straight: a person who is attracted to people of another (almost always constructed as a binary “other” or “opposite”) sex/gender.

Lesbian: a female-identified person who is attracted to other female-identified persons.

A circle with the letter 'L'

Gay: a person attracted to others of the same sex/gender. Frequently used to refer to male-identified persons, but can also be used to refer to someone of any sex/gender whose attraction is to the same sex/gender.

Image 1, with a larger added circle that intersects about 50% with the letter 'G' in the section that doesn't intersect.

Bisexual: a person of any sex/gender who is attracted to people of the same and other sexes/genders. Non-monosexual.

Image 2, with a non-intersecting circle about midway in size between the previous circles placed just below them, with the letter 'B' inside.

Trans*gender: a person whose gender assigned at birth does not match their internal sense of self-gender. This includes people who identify as a binary gender, and people whose gender identity is not defined in a binary. Trans*gender people can identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, as sexual orientation and gender identity/presentation are not the same.

Image 3 with an added ellipse that intersects all three existing circles, but not intersecting the letters, with a letter 'T' inside.

Queer: anyone who does not identify as straight and/or cisgendered. This term was a slur that is being reclaimed as a positive since the mid-1980s.

Image 4, with a large circle surrounding all of the previous image except for about 1/5 of the 'T' ellipse, and a straight line in the lower right perpendicular, so the figure resembles the letter 'Q'

ABB, or Anything But Bisexual: This refers to the multiple regional and slang terms that some non-monosexual people use for self-identification. These are personal identification terms that are used by people who also fit the general umbrella definition of being part of the bisexual community in order to have a more specific personal identity label, or to indicate a specific attitude regarding the political implications of gender.

I release this into the wild, anyone that wants to use it with attribution either under my legal name or through referral to this blog is welcome to do so.

About fliponymous

Bisexual activist, thinker, writer, husband and father, non-traditional Graduate student, member BiNet USA Board of Directors. When I grow up I want to be an Existential/Feminist Psychotherapist, a community college instructor, and expand my work for bisexual visibility and equality for everyone in the QUILTBAG. This is my personal blog and the views here do not represent the official position of BiNet USA.
This entry was posted in Bisexuality, Identity Politics (non-monosexual), Trans*gender and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to LGBTQ 101: A look at labels

  1. fliponymous says:

    A description of the Venn diagrams above for those who might be unable to access them due to problems with vision:

    1) A circle with the letter “L”
    2) Image 1, with a larger added circle that intersects about 50% with the letter “G” in the section that doesn’t intersect.
    3) Image 2, with a non-intersecting circle about midway in size between the previous circles placed just below them, with the letter “B” inside.
    4) Image 3 with an added ellipse that intersects all three existing circles, but not intersecting the letters, with a letter “T” inside.
    5) Image 4, with a large circle surrounding all of the previous image except for about 1/5 of the “T” ellipse, and a straight line in the lower right perpendicular, so the figure resembles the letter “Q”
    6) Image 5, with a small circle entirely within the circle demarcated by “B” and about 1/4 intersecting with the “T” ellipse, in the area where the “T” and “B” intersect. Inside this circle are the letters “ABB” in a smaller font.

  2. A good, simple explanation. I’ve been wondering about something, and please forgive me if this is an ignorant question, but: if a cismale is attracted to other cismales, and to androgynous people, but not to trans people or cisfemales, could they be considered bisexual? I was just curious about this

    • fliponymous says:

      It depends on how they choose to label themselves. Personal identity is ultimately self-determined. They would be somewhere inside the Q, but exactly where would be up to them.

    • M says:

      I would presume that “androgynous people” includes both male and female people? But you said this person is not attracted to cis females. So does that mean that they are not attracted to androgynous cis females? Or does that mean that you define androgynous females as not cis?
      From my vantage point if they are attracted to androgynous females then they could be bi. That’s because I consider androgynous females as female, but I suppose that could be questioned.
      Whether someone considers themself to be bi can also be influenced by the degree of attractions to males/females.

  3. is it your contention that there are lesbians who are not gay? despite starting out saying that these are labels of “Community” rather than identity, you might be trying to say that there are lesbians who do not refer to themselves as gay; but if it’s self-reference/self-definition you’re aiming for, then I am in turn confused whether it is your contention that all lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals with no exception identify with the ‘queer community’? It’s always been fairly clear to me that the label ‘queer’ remains political and politically contentious, so these two contentions seem super-iffy. Lastly, I’m confused by the suggestion there is an “Anything But Bisexual” community *within* the Bisexual community. Wouldn’t biphobic slurs put people who identify with them in opposition with the main current of people who identify as bi? Please reconsider “releasing this into the wild” since it doesn’t seem to have been thought through all the way. It’s more like a beta test.

    • fliponymous says:

      This is a very quick and basic overview.

      It is not my contention that there are lesbians who are not gay, just saying that there are lesbians who don’t use the label “Gay”.

      There are people in the LGBT community who don’t use “Queer”, but the people who use the word as a positive include everybody.

      If people are using ABB labels, but are not monosexual, then they can certainly be considered as part of the general category described by the “B” in LGBT.

      Like I said, this is a 101, a broad and general overview for use with people who are still learning the basics. For more sophisticated analysis, please see the rest of the blog posts here.

    • judyt54 says:

      from this perspective, and i could be wrong, it would seem that Flipper is discussing self-referential labels, not the ones that get pasted on our foreheads by other people. your labels of who you perceive yourself to be can be very different from the labels other people want to see on you. Your comfort zone, and mine, and everyone else’s, can depend on how willing other people are to allow us our own definitions of ourselves and conversely how much leeway we grant someone to paste exttra definitions on us.

      • M says:

        If these are self-referential, then ABB should not be in the middle of bisexual….. Maybe even bisexual would need to be re-labelled. Or maybe ABB needs to be re-labelled. I don’t know anyone who calls themself ABB.

        • fliponymous says:

          M, I hear from lots of people who label themselves Anything But Bisexual — therefore, ABB.

          • M says:

            Wow, for real?
            Or are you using this to mean the list of terms that you call ABB?

            • fliponymous says:

              The list of terms, which I prefer not to repeat lest I inadvertently lend any gravitas (as if I had any to lend, hahaha) to the plethora of regional slangs and biphobic coinages which fill that little circle of ABB.

              • M says:

                Sigh. That was my point, Fliponymous. ABB is not the self-label here. ABB is your re-naming of other labels. My comment is in response to Judyt54 who said she thinks these are self-referential labels that you are discussing. The ORIGINAL labels (which you reclassified as ABB) were self-referential, but ABB is not self-referential. As I said a few comments back, I don’t know of anyone who calls themself ABB.

                I would probably do something somewhat similar, but I recognize there’s a problem with saying people get to define ther own labels are then not using or recognizing some of them. I think of pansexual as a variant of bisexual, but that doesn’t mean that the person self-labeling as pansexual sees it that way. Actually, I would not put pansexual on the chart, which makes it invisible :( . I might put asexual somewhere, as it has become more a part of my thinking. I think of fluid as including bisexual fluidity, but I’m not sure if I understand what people use it to mean.

                • fliponymous says:

                  You know that a major issue that I deal with a lot is the constant slicing and dicing of the Bisexual (community) Identity into a thousand little what EvenAud calls “Xsexual”, the X being whatever prefix is being used this week to avoid saying Bisexual — Anything But Bisexual. The only reason I put the ABB circle in this chart at all is so the people who are trying to claim that whatever particular Xsexual label they are advocating for is somehow different enough that it should not be considered part of the bisexual community but instead split off, weakening us by helping to erase us.

                  And while data is not the plural of anecdote, in my personal experience the people who fight loudest and most persistently for the separation of, for example, pansexual from bisexual (“No, it needs to be LGBTQQIAP because Pansexual is different”) are *MONOSEXUAL*. Straight “Allies” who think they should be in charge of what Queer people do, think, and say, and gay people who think that LGBT unpacks to “Gay, Gay, and Transgender”. These are the people who are causing the real problem, these are the people who are keeping the so-called Label Wars alive.

                  So the reason ABB is in the chart at all is so when someone *who doesn’t even identify as bi* stands up in the classroom or workshop and says “But what about Xsexual because Bisexual reinforces the derpity derp and there needs to be a separate letter for –” the presenter can cut them off and say “The small percentage of non-monosexual people who prefer an individual personal identity label that indicates a particular attitude towards gender politics are still a piece of the large general community described as Bisexual and should be welcomed into it.”

                  This is pretty clearly marked as a 101 — I’ve done enough 101 type presentations on the Alphabet Soup and on bisexuality to know that you have to keep it simple for the masses and be available for individual discussion afterward.

                  PS I would prefer it if you wouldn’t *sigh* at me in the future. I’m not too willfully ignorant to understand what you are saying, I’m expressing a different perspective.

                  • M says:

                    Huh? I said that ABB is not a self referential label. I didn’t say “the many labels Fliponymos calls ABB are not self referential”. That would also be plural labels. You said you hear from people who call themselves ABB. AND I ALMOST BELIEVED YOU. I’m like that, I take things literally. But you want me not to SIGH?!!! You meant no such thing. If I’m not going to sigh then I will need to be a bit more clear: you have misused words, and I don’t appreciate it. I was misled. I sat here and thought you hear from people who call themselves ABB, and that his was somehow an apparent possibility that I could have grasped. No such thing is the case. Rather, you brought up something that doesn’t relate to whether the labels on the chart are self referential. ABB is not self referential. Your statement that people claim it is not correct.

  4. judyt54 says:

    The only label that counts, after all, is the one we wear inside. Trying to nail that down is like trying to put shoes on a housefly. Far easier, is what flip has apparently done, just draw a circle around the whole lot and let them decide for themselves.

  5. M says:

    I want to add that I am NOT apologizing in any way for taking things literally. In a comment about labels (words) and whether they are self referential the entire point is the words. So taking you at your words would seem appropriate whether it is my general style or not.

    • fliponymous says:

      I almost left ABB off the chart. And in use, I would — unless it came up. Unless someone in the class/workshop/group I was presenting too said “Hey, what about {insert Xsexual label}? That should be a letter too!”

      Then I would add the ABB circle and briefly discuss it. But not get bogged down, because again this is for 101 use, for introductory material for *people who don’t know what LGBTQ stands for*.

      If this is misusing words then I don’t know how to please you, M.

      • M says:

        The misuse was in your comment, when you said:

        M, I hear from lots of people who label themselves Anything But Bisexual — therefore, ABB.

        As I said, I NEARLY BELIEVED YOU, but asked you to confirm because it seemed so implausible. You could have said “correct, ABB is not a self referential label. I have it on the chart because……….. Judy is not entirely correct about the chart showing self referential labels……….”.

        • M says:

          Also, do note that I said I would probably do something similar. It was not an attack on your chart, it was questioning whether ABB is self referntial, and/or asserting that ABB is not self-referential.

  6. Mat says:

    There are a couple things missing of course. Intersexed people are very marginalized and often have complex orientation preferences. For example a friend came out to me he presents as male has a beard but a doctor constructed his penis when young and his preference is to date lesbian women. “his” orientation/gender would be best described as a gay leaning bisexual woman who identifies as male. And intersexed people have to go through a long process understanding who they are and what they like.

    Asexual/demisexual people. Asexual people often do not “feel” attraction but may have romantic interests for the same, opposite or both genders. Some may enjoy different types of sex with various genders to different degrees.

    Genderqueer / bi-gendered people – I meet more and more they may technically be on the “trans” spectrum. But may be another category all together. For example a friend who is bisexual but prefers women, wears dresses but likes his penis, identifies as “her” and has a beautiful mustache and ponytailed long hair.

  7. caelesti says:

    This chart is as he said 101, just dealing with the LGBT acronym. It also is limited to 2 dimensions. You might need to get into a 3D diagram to somehow visually factor in asexual/demisexual/aromantic and various genderqueer categories.

  8. Pingback: Episode 03 “Labels” Links | The BiCast

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