LGTBQ, put simply, is an initialism that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual and Queer. It is an umbrella term which attempts to describe a diverse group of people. You may have come across many other versions; LGB, GLB, GLBT, LGTB+, LGTBIQ……the variations are endless and controversial. Each version has its own reason for being and none is all-inclusive of the people who are frequently referred to as part of the LGTB umbrella – it should perhaps read LDGTBIPAGFGQA+. Being left out is not only exclusionary, those letters can be important for funding of projects and determines who has access to the services provided by funded projects.

Things become particularly complicated when people from outside the LGTB/Queer community begin to criticise those within and the terms we choose (yes, really).

My suggestion to anyone who is unsure what term to use; ask, or wait until the person you are talking to uses a pronoun or label to describe themselves. Use that term that that person uses to define themselves – don’t decide for them. Listen to your audience – ask for feedback – respect your audience’s choice of terms and their right to self-determine even if it makes your writing job a little more difficult.

When choosing a term; think about who you are naming and whether the term you have chosen includes everyone that you wish to include – it is often possible and preferable to avoid labels all together. Of course, don’t forget to use gender neutral language also.

This is just my version of the L-Q of the LGTBQ community. The letters themselves have different meanings to different people (especially across generations), and there are a growing number of people (especially of younger generations) who use Queer as an umbrella term for the whole LGTBQ+ community. I look forward to your comments if you use different terms or don’t agree with these definitions.

An L-Q guide to the LGTBQ community (particularly for birth and breastfeeding workers);

  • L is for Lesbian;

many women who partner with women identify as lesbian (and may also use the term gay). Some women who partner with women may refer to themselves as dyke, pansexual or bisexual.

  • D is for Dyke;

some gay women identify with the term ‘dyke’ – do not use unless you know that as some may find this offensive

Women in same-sex relationships are underrepresented in birth, breastfeeding and parenting literature and research into reproductive health, birth and breastfeeding .

Women who partner with women and bisexual women are at a higher risk of such as uterine, ovarian, cervical, endometrial, colon, lung, and others. The LGTBQ community is medically underserved; in countries like the US many people go without health insurance because work policies often do not cover unmarried partners. In many parts of the US and many countries marriages between people of the same sex is not allowed.

Another challenge that women who partner with women face is feeling comfortable with certain providers – being uncomfortable can lead to avoiding regular check-ups. A health care professional who assumes that all women are heterosexual may force a woman to reveal her sexual orientation, forcing her to come out which can be extremely stressful.

An important step forward towards closing the gap in these inequities is acknowledging that some women have wives and girlfriends by changing the words ‘father’ and ‘husband’ to the gender neutral ‘partner’.

  • G is for Gay;

men who partner with men and women who partner with women

Gay has become the word of choice over homosexual due to it has a negative, clinical history such as the inclusion until 1973 in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The word homosexual also emphasises sexual behaviour and not attraction and romantic feelings.

Gay men are generally unrepresented in parenting literature and popular media. Many gay men recount that they simply did not think that becoming a parent was a possibility when they first came out and that exposure to other gay dads has helped them ‘realise their dream’ of parenthood.

Gay men face discrimination due to the stereotyped belief that they prefer pleasure to responsibility. In reality, same-sex couples have a high rate of relationship instability due to various factors such as being ‘closeted’ (not living openly as gay or bisexual), lack of relationship counselling , and of course, lack of social support such as lack of recognition of same-sex relationships, both legally and socially.

Gay and bisexual men may become parents via various routes – some men have children from previous opposite sex relationships, transgender men may be able to conceive naturally or through IVF and birth and chestfeed their own baby. Adoption and surrogacy are also common with some fathers opting for breastfeeding via privately donated breast milk, sometimes by maintaining a relationship with the gestational carrier. Gay men can be acknowledged in breastfeeding literature by using the gender neutral term parent.

  • B is for bisexual;

women and men who partner with both someone of the same sex or someone of the opposite sex, or someone who partners with people of any gender

Similar to, but not the same as Pansexual and Omnisexual

Bisexual people suffer invisibility and discrimination at a higher rate than gay members of the LGTBQ community (bisexuality report), along with transgender people. Bisexual and pansexual parents’ needs may be ignored if they are in an opposite sex relationship. Health care providers may classify them as gay or straight, ignoring some of their needs.

  • T is for transgender; 

also transexual, trans*, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine

Transgender people suffer people suffer invisibility and discrimination at a higher rate than other members of the LGTBQ community. Transgender people are more likely to go to prison, have higher rates of suicide, and are less likely to seek medical care, due to discrimination and lack of access to services and health insurance and may be and may be denied adequate and appropriate care.

Transgender people undergoing sexual affirmation transition (hormonal and surgical) were once required to undergo sterilisation, and still do in some parts of the world. Transgender people may be given incorrect information on reproductive health and may not have equal access to reproductive health services such as IVF, gender appropriate gestational care, and inclusive breastfeeding/chestfeeding support.

  • Q is for Queer;

The term Queer has grown in popularity, especially over the last decade and amongst younger people and is frequently used as an umbrella term for the whole LGTBQ+ community. Queer was once used as a derogatory term and may be considered offensive by older people. Queer is often used by LBTBQ activists, academics and those who do not identify on a gender binary, or distinct sexual identities. Queer is inclusive of a wide range of identities and avoids the strict boundaries of other labels.

Other terms that I have not yet approached – and I would appreciate any help with these, especially with regards to parenting issues;

A is for asexual

G is for Gender queer,

Gender fluid,

Gender non-conforming

and Gender creative

I is for intersex

P is for Pansexual

P is also for Polyamorous

and Q is also for questioning

For some more suggestions on how to be inclusive in your birth or breastfeeding practice read ‘save someone coming out to you’. Also, more reading in the references below. I look forward to your comments,



LGTB, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT

Homosexuality, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality

Lesbian, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbian

Gay, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay

Bisexuality, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisexuality

Transgender, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender

Queer, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer

Homosexuality and psychology, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_psychology

Women Who Partner With Women, Breast cancer resource directory of North Carolina, http://bcresourcedirectory.org/directory/06-women_partners.htm

Stigma and Discrimination, Centers for disease control and prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/stigma-and-discrimination.htm

Gay Dads; transitions to adoptive fatherhood (book review), Psychology Today http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-blood/201207/gay-dads-transitions-adoptive-fatherhood

Tips for Transgender Breastfeeders and Their Lactation Educators, Milk Junkies blog http://www.milkjunkies.net/2012/03/tips-for-transgender-breastfeeders-and.html

The Bisexuality Report; bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity, http://bisexualresearch.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/the-bisexualityreport.pdf

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One thought on “What does LGTBQ mean? The L-Q of LGTBQ

  1. I think your blog is amazing and very well written. I just finished my doctoral work on the LGBTQ community and breastfeeding. Jaye gave me quite a lot of insight into the lifestyle and was very helpful. As a nurse practitioner, I can’t help but think a book is in order and I was about to start writing when I ran across your blog.
    I’ve already published three books with Hale but they’re not currently interested in anything regarding this subject matter. I am sure there would be different publishers who would embrace this work though. Anyway, would you be interested in co-authoring something with me? Not being a member of the LBGTQ community is not helpful when you’re writing about this for parents. Please let me know….thanks, k

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