June 30, 2022
LGBTQ Pride: Meanings, Definitions and Being an Ally
Written by Rachel Eddins
Whether you’re in the community or just an ally, pride is central to the LGBTQ+ experience. Everyone is different and unique in their own special way, and celebrating that is an important part of creating a safe space where people feel comfortable to be themselves.
This article will talk about what it means to have LGBTQ+ pride, along with ways to feel supported while supporting others in the community.
Definitions & Important Terms in LGBTQ Identity
Gender and sexuality are two important forces in shaping our identities, along with many other important aspects of our lives. And when talking about either one, there are lots of definitions to be aware of that can help you better understand other people’s identities, or even your own!
Some of these definitions, however, can be difficult to understand. That’s why we’ve put together a list of important terms to be mindful of when discussing gender and sexuality.
What Does LGBTQ+ Mean?
You’re already familiar with these terms from reading this article, but we should still establish concrete definitions of the terms LGBTQ+ and pride.
LGBTQ+ is an acronym which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and more. We’ll get to the definitions of each one later, and these identities only encompass a select few of the ways in which people can label their gender or sexuality…hence the “plus!” But to get even more specific, Two-Spirit is a word some Indigenous people use to describe the Indigenous LGBTQ+ community.
What Does it Mean to have Pride?
Next, on a very basic level, pride means you feel confident in yourself.
Having pride can mean you’re comfortable with your sexuality, your gender, or any aspect of your identity. Having pride is both an essential part of getting along with others and accepting people as they are.
Defining Gender & Sexuality
Moving onto the terms gender and sexuality, gender is a word to describe the range of characteristics which determine how you see and feel yourself, while sexuality is a label for who you’re sexually attracted to.
This brings us to binary: a set of two groups.
In conversations pertaining to gender and sexuality, gender binary and sexual binary are two phrases which are important to note. But both are incorrect, often used to discount genders that aren’t “man” or “woman” or sexes beyond male and female.
In other words, describing either gender or sexuality in a binary system is harmful and undermines many people’s identities.
When it comes to how we feel about other people, it’s also important to differentiate between sexual attraction and romantic attraction. The former describes how we feel towards someone we want to have sex with, while the latter is what we feel towards those we simply want to do romantic things with, like cuddling or kissing.
Terms Used to Describe Attraction
Now let’s discuss some different labels people use to describe attraction.
First, if someone isn’t sexually attracted to anyone they’re considered asexual. If someone isn’t romantically interested in anyone, they’re considered aromantic.
Meanwhile, people who identify as straight are attracted to individuals whose gender is different from their own, like a man who’s only attracted to women or vice versa. Identifying as gay means you’re attracted to people of the same gender.
Please note, though, that the word “gay” is also used to describe the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. For example, a “gay pride festival” refers to a festival celebrating the entire LGBTQ+ community, not just those who identify as gay.
Plus, lesbian is a word used exclusively to describe women who are attracted to other women—not men who are attracted to men, non-binary people attracted to non-binary people, et cetera.
Bisexual is another term to describe attraction and refers to liking people of multiple genders. This is not to be confused with pansexual, or someone who is attracted to anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Since the definitions of bisexual and pansexual do overlap, though, some people identify as both.
Terms Used in Gender Dialogue
Moving onto terms pertaining more to gender dialogue, cisgender means a person’s gender aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth, and transgender means it doesn’t. So a transgender man is a man whose sex assigned at birth was female, while a transgender female is a woman whose assigned sex was male.
Non-binary people (or “genderqueer”), however, don’t identify as male or female and could have been assigned either one at birth.
Not to be confused with non-binary, people are considered intersex if their physical makeup doesn’t align with the sexual binary. Sometimes, for instance, an intersex person is born with sexual characteristics of both genders, or their hormonal patterns don’t match their assigned sex at birth.
Queer describes people who aren’t straight and cisgender. Someone can be attracted to a person of the same sex and identify as queer and gay, or simply just queer.
A pronoun is the term we use when referring to a person without using their name, such as “he,” “she,” or “they.” A neopronoun is a pronoun that isn’t he, she, or they, like “xe,” “fae,” or “hu.”
Most people have a preference when it comes to their own pronouns. You might not even know which pronouns a person wants to be referred to as, and it’s perfectly fine to ask. In fact, you should! Asking someone what their pronouns are is a great way to indicate you’re an LGBTQ+ ally, which is a great segway into our next topic.
How to be an LGBTQ+ Ally
If you’re identify as straight and cisgender, being an ally is a crucial way to support friends or loved ones in the LGBTQ+ community.
What is an ally?
An ally is someone who supports a group they aren’t part of, so in the context of this discussion, allies usually refer to people who are straight and cisgender.
However, members of the LGBTQ+ community can also be allies to LGBTQ+ groups they personally aren’t part of. Either way, an ally is supportive and respectful of all gender identities or sexualities. They also celebrate individuality and want everyone to live their life authentically.
Beyond the Box – Choosing Not to Use Labels to Describe Your Gender or Sexuality
Not everyone feels like they have words to describe how they feel about their gender or sexuality, and they might not even identify with any previously discussed definitions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! It’s okay not to know how you feel, and some people never really figure it out.
It’s also okay not to use labels to describe your gender or sexuality.
Many people deliberately choose not to use labels because defining yourself can sometimes reinforce stereotyping, which is the assumption that certain people act a certain way. But sexuality and gender don’t determine how you behave or interact with others—they’re just two aspects of your identity that make you uniquely you.
Stereotypes tend to make people feel like they’re boxed in, and especially when it comes to human identity, no one should ever feel like they have to act a certain way in order to be accepted by others. That’s why it’s important to look beyond the box and be whatever you want to be, regardless of whether or not you choose to use labels.
Coming Out or Telling Others
While some people choose to tell their friends and family about their gender or sexuality, others do not. Regardless, no one is ever obligated to disclose either if they’re not comfortable doing so.
When a person in the LGBTQ+ community decides to tell their friends, family, or support people they aren’t cisgender or straight, the process is called “coming out.” Coming out isn’t always easy, though, given not everyone is on board with being anything except cisgender and straight.
It goes without saying that feeling that way is wrong, and this makes the process of coming out extremely daunting for a lot of individuals.
If you want to come out to someone but don’t know if they’ll embrace who you are, feel free to ask questions about their stance on the LGBTQ+ community. This will tell you if you’re in a safe space to come out and will help you feel more confident in sharing your identity.
Finding LGBTQ+ Community & Support
In the United States, one in every 20 adults identifies as LGBTQ+. But that doesn’t mean that identifying as LGBTQ+ isn’t an isolating experience for some people. Especially in communities with little LGBTQ+ representation, it’s not uncommon to feel like no one understands you or that you don’t have a good support system.
This is even more of a challenge for people with disabilities.
If you’re looking to meet others with disabilities in your local LGBTQ+ community, going to community events or an LGBTQ+ center is a great way to get to know new people. And if you’re part of a self-advocate group, consider asking if you can organize a group specifically for LGBTQ+ self-advocates! Creating a safe space for others who identify as LGBTQ+ might encourage those who haven’t come out to do so, and will also bring together a support network for people who already have.
You may also consider seeking employment with an LGBTQ-affirming employer.
A major aspect of being in the LGBTQ+ community is being proud of who you are, and this is where it overlaps with self-advocacy.
Like self-advocacy, identifying as LGBTQ+ involves standing up for yourself, having pride in yourself, and lifting up members of your community, regardless of who they are and how they express themselves. Being a self-advocate for LGBTQ+ people will ultimately make the world a better place—just like being a self-advocate for people with disabilities will, too.
At the end of the day, being proud of who you are is the best thing you can be. No matter what you identify as, how you express yourself or feel towards other people, you should always have confidence in yourself and be proud of you.
Pride is such an important part of the LGBTQ+ community because it’s a tool for lifting one another up and celebrating everyone’s individuality.
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