What does LGBTQ+ mean?

LGBTQ+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning. These terms are used to describe a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The + is because there are many more ways people identify their sexual orientation.

Find below the definition of each term, from GLAAD’s LGBTQ Media Reference Guide.



A woman who is attracted physically, romantically, and/or emotionally to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay or as gay women.



The adjective is used to describe people that are attracted physically, romantically, and/or emotionally to people of the same sex. Sometimes lesbian is the preferred term for women.



A person who is attracted physically, romantically, and/or emotionally to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.



An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms— including transgender. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures.



An adjective used by some people whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. Typically, for those who identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel don’t apply to them. Some people may use queer, or genderqueer, to describe their gender identity and/or gender expression.



Sometimes, when the Q is seen at the end of LGBT, it can also mean questioning. This term describes someone who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual Orientation

What is sexual orientation?

Sexual orientation is who you’re attracted to and want to have sexual and/or romantic relationships with. Sexual orientations include gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, asexual, and more. Read the LGBTQ+ section for definitions of these terms. Sexual orientation is different from gender and gender identity.


How do I know my sexual orientation?

There is not a “right way” to find your sexual orientation. Many people know at a young age what their sexual orientation is. You might not know what it is now. You might find one that works for you and then feel that that label doesn’t work for you anymore. No one is better than you to know what your sexual orientation is, although having open conversations about your emotions and ideas with peers, trusted adults, and family, helps :)


What is coming out?

Coming out is the process that an LGBTQ+ person experiences to accept and share their sexual orientation. There is no one “right way” of coming out. It can produce anxiety for some people because of a reasonable fear of being rejected and discriminated against.

There are some situations that under the law can’t be consensual

  • Take your time. Coming out is a process of discovering yourself.
  • Understand that coming out is not a one-time thing. It should be a journey to be enjoyed and celebrated!
  • Consider coming out slowly, talking with the people you trust most first.
  • Coming out has benefits and risks. What does it mean to your family? Could it put you in danger? That’s why thinking of it as a process helps.
  • Be yourself and trust your heart!
  • And remember, you deserve respect for you who are!

Need more help?

  • You can also call the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline. They provide peer counseling at 1-800-246-PRIDE.
  • If you are thinking about hurting yourself, get help right away with the Trevor Project. They can be contacted 24/7 through chat, text, or phone.


What is gender identity?

Gender identity is how someone feels inside about what their gender is — which can be different from their sex assigned at birth. It’s about how much they feel like a man, woman, or another gender inside. People’s gender identities can change over time.


What is sex assigned at birth?

When every person is born, a medical provider looks at their genitals and decides what their sex is, male, female, or intersex. When someone’s gender matches what they were assigned at birth - for example, someone who identifies as a woman and was assigned female at birth - they are cisgender. When someone’s gender does not match what they were assigned at birth, they may identify as transgender, two-spirit, gender fluid, or gender non-conforming.


What is gender expression?

Gender expression is how someone shows their gender to other people through how they dress, walk, talk, and act. Sometimes someone’s gender expression might be different from their gender identity. This could be because it is safer to express their gender a particular way or they are not sure how to express their gender identity. People’s gender expressions can change over time. It can also change depending on who they are with or where they are at.


What are common gender terms?

The wonderful thing about gender is that people can identify and describe themselves in so many different ways! The list below defines some of the ways that people describe themselves as a starting point.



Someone with little or no affiliation with traditional gender roles, does not see themselves as either male or female, and/or someone who sees themselves as existing without a gender. This is also sometimes called gender neutral, genderless, or gender neutrois.



Having characteristics of maleness and femaleness; being neither completely male nor completely female. It can refer to appearance or be used to identify one’s gender.



Someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.


Drag King

Someone who performs masculinity theatrically. They may or may not be transgender.


Drag Queen

Someone who performs femininity theatrically. They may or may not be transgender.


Gender fluid

Someone whose gender identity is not fixed but can fluctuate between maleness and femaleness.


Gender Non-conforming

Someone whose gender expression is not strictly male or female.



A term that describes people who do not fit neatly into the male or female box for how medical providers assign sex at birth. This could be because of their chromosomes and anatomy.



A term that describes people who do not fit neatly into the male or female box for how medical providers assign sex at birth. This could be because of their chromosomes and anatomy.



A term that describes people who do not fit neatly into the male or female box for how medical providers assign sex at birth. This could be because of their chromosomes and anatomy.



A term used only by Native American communities that refers to people who possess qualities of multiple genders or fill multiple gender roles.



An umbrella term that refers to anyone who does not identify as straight and/or cisgendered.



Someone who is unsure of or exploring their sexual and gender identity.


What is intersectionality?

People have complex lives and identities. Intersectionality means that all of the experiences and identities someone has are considered together, how they intersect. 

For example; someone who is gay, an immigrant, and black lives all of the things that come with those identities together and there are aspects of how those identities combine that impact them. Focusing on just one aspect of who they are ignores important challenges, needs, and strengths that they have. 

Turning our awareness into action

  • Be Intentional: Make a commitment to understand what you’re getting right and what you’re getting wrong.
  • Give Holistic Attention: Center other people’s perspectives, how they are directly impacted by your decisions, language, and actions, and how it makes them feel.
  • Collaborate & Listen: Meet individuals at their intersections and be ready to respond with action.
  • Hold Yourself & Others Accountable: Check-in with yourself on how your actions impact others and if you are being an ally, and adjust as needed.

We all deserve to have our voices heard, our experiences understood, and our unique needs addressed through relevant policies and culture change. We can create deeply-felt inclusion through authentic connections in our personal relationships, workplace culture, and daily interactions with others—the work starts with each of us. Are you ready to take a step forward?

 Being an ally

LGBTQ+ people don’t always feel welcomed and accepted due to discrimination and violence. For LGBTQ+ young people, having allies who are supportive of them dramatically helps their mental and physical health. Being an ally means that you are committed to learning and taking action to make sure that LGBTQ+ people feel supported and safe.

Here are some ways to be an ally

  • Remember being an ally is not something you do, it’s who you are!
  • It is never ok to "out" or share someone else's sexual orientation or gender identity is. Doing that can be really unsafe for that person.
  • Share your pronouns (how someone can refer to you other than your name, like “his”  “she” or “they”) and use the correct pronouns for other people.
  • Learn from and listen to LGBTQ+ people. And be proactive and learn on your own! Don’t expect them to explain everything to you.
  • Speak up when someone says or does something that is hurtful to LGBTQ+ people. Ignoring the concerns of LGBTQ+ people is damaging.
  • Use examples that include people from a wide range of sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • Be open to feedback! Part of being an ally is being open to advice about how to make people feel more welcome.

Gender identity and sexual orientation are personal parts of everyone’s lives. Empathizing with different kinds of folks is key to becoming wiser and more responsible residents of this world. And remember, respect is always the first step :)

Go Ask Tara

Go Ask Tara is on a mission to provide sex education and help the youth of Colorado prevent pregnancy and STIs.