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LGBTQ is the acronym used to describe nonheterosexual and transgender people in broader terms. LGBTQIA adds “intersex” and “asexual” to the acronym for greater inclusivity. Some organizations including NLGJA use LGBTQ, and others may use LGBT+; using LGBTQ+ is maximally inclusive without lengthening the acronym. 

Most of the changes to and extensions of the acronym seek to include more queer identities in the rhetoric around queerness. However, the complete acronym does not necessarily apply to any discussion of nonheterosexual people. Often, these conversations use the full acronym but focus only on cisgender and monosexual people (people attracted to only one gender). If you don’t intend to specifically address transgender people, using LGB or naming each group individually can be more precise. “Gay men and lesbians” might be most accurate if referring only to those specific groups. In other words, it’s not necessary to use the inclusive acronym if your story is not inclusive of all the identities included in the acronym. 

Referring to “the LGBTQ+ community” can imply a cohesive group and flatten differences; phrasing like “LGBTQ+ people” is more accurate. Usage for specific terms varies; “gay” is generally used only as an adjective, not a noun, while “lesbian” is often used as a noun rather than an adjective. Using gender-neutral language to refer to groups of people is generally the most accurate, as (for example) not everyone who identifies as a lesbian is a woman, like nonbinary lesbians. 

In the case of major milestones for LGBTQ+ people, it’s clearer to use the person’s specific identifier (e.g., “Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay person to be confirmed for a US Cabinet position,” instead of “Pete Buttigieg is the first openly LGBTQ+ person to be confirmed for a US Cabinet position”). Where applicable and factually correct, it may also add helpful context to mention that someone is the first person of any LGBTQ+ orientation to achieve the milestone, but it’s more precise to lead with the person’s preferred identity. Including “openly” when referring to “firsts” is important because someone could not be out at the time when they are, for instance, in public office. 

In some cases, the term queer is synonymous with LGBTQ+, but not always. It’s important to identify people and groups in ways they are comfortable with. In general, queer today is not considered a slur, though some may not identify with it personally.

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LGBTQ is an acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer” and is used to broadly reference nonheterosexual and transgender people. LGBTQIA adds “intersex” and “asexual” to the acronym for greater inclusivity. Using LGBTQ+ is maximally inclusive without lengthening the acronym, though, as with any identifier, being as specific as possible and following an individual’s preference whenever feasible ensures coverage reflects how someone self-identifies.