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What do the letters in LGBTQ+ mean?

This year's San Diego Pride music festival features an all queer and LGBTQ+ lineup for the first time.

SAN DIEGO — The 2022 San Diego Pride Festival and parade begins on July 16 and is returning after two years of virtual events. Hundreds of thousands of festival goers are expected to attend the multiple events during San Diego’s Pride.  One of the marquee events is the Pride Festival and this year the festival's musical lineup features an all queer and LGBTQ+ lineup for the first time. But what does that mean?

What does LGBTQ+ mean?

The letters LGBTQ+ make up an acronym used to describe people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning. The “+” was added to include all non-straight and non-cisgender identities within the community. 

An important note from GLAAD to keep in mind: Ask people what terms, words they use to describe their gender identity and sexual orientation rather than assigning them a label.

LGBTQ+ definitions


The word lesbian is a noun or adjective, commonly used to describe people who identify as women or feminine, whose attractions are to some other women. 


The word gay is an adjective, an identity term for someone who experiences same-gender attraction, and sometimes refers to someone who only experiences same-gender attraction. It's widely used to describe men or people who identify as men who are attracted to other men.


Bisexuality is a sexual orientation used to describe people who have the potential to experience attraction to more than one gender. It’s common for people who are bisexual to be attracted to different genders, in different ways and to different degrees.


Transgender is an adjective to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. People who identify as transgender may also use different terms to better accurately describe their gender. According to GLAAD, it's important to remember that being transgender is not dependent on physical appearance or medical procedures. 

A full list of terms and definitions related to transgender and nonbinary can be found here.


The word queer is an adjective used by some people, usually younger people whose sexual orientation isn't exclusively heterosexual. In some cases, the "Q" is used to describe an individual who is unsure or questioning their identity. 

But there is debate within the LGBTQ+ community surrounding the word 'queer' and it's historically negative connotation.

According to the American Psychological Association, "The word queer has historically been used as a derogatory and offensive slur and is more generically used to describe things that are odd or abnormal. However, since the 1990s, there has been a movement amongst LGBTQ+ individuals to reclaim the word."

In 2016, the Human Rights Campaign announced it would officially adopt the use of the word "queer" and added the letter "Q" to the organizations use of the LGBTQ acronym.

“We celebrate the journey of this word, and our movement, reclaiming with others what was once used as a cudgel against us, and recognizing the reality of how more and more LGBTQ people identify themselves,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a 2016 statement.

WATCH RELATED: The 'Q' in LGBTQIA+ and how the meaning has evolved 


The "+" sign was added to the LGBTQ acronym to recognize the many sexual orientations and gender identities used by the diverse members of the community.

Full list of sources used for this explainer:

WATCH RELATED: Justice with Joy | What you need to know about Pride in San Diego (July 2022).

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