So, what is queer? What does LGBTQIA+ mean?
Queer 101 in honor of Pride Month!
Have you ever seen a rainbow-inspired product released in May or June? Depending on your country or local community the stores may be full of rainbow products celebrating and showing support for Queer Pride!
June, when we are posting this article, is Pride Month dedicated to celebrating the queer community. All kinds of brands compete in releasing rainbow-colored products. Hundreds of thousands or even millions of people gather for parades. Festivals and marches are held in cities all over the world. In recent years, most Pride events have been canceled or held virtually due to the pandemic, but many are now coming back offline.
▲ In June 2021, in celebration of Pride Month, Google set up various pride flags to rain on the screen along with confetti when searching for ‘queer’ or ‘Pride Month.’
So, what is queer, and what is LGBTQIA+? Why do you see rainbow-inspired things all-around in June? Why do people fight over holding parades? If you have ever wondered about these concepts but found them hard to understand, this series is for you. This article provides an overview of the queer community and related concepts. The following articles in this series will have a deeper look at the various people within the community.
Yes, We Are Queer
When you hear a phrase like “sexual and gender minority” you might think: “Why don’t we just call them gay?” However, there are so many different people within the concept of sexual and gender minorities that you cannot just group them into ‘gay.’ Sexual and gender minority people include those whose gender identity, sexuality, sex-related biological characteristics, and/or gender expression depart from majority norms. Yes, we know this may sound complicated. But if you take a closer look at these unfamiliar words one by one, you will find that they are not that hard to understand.
⚾ Gender Identity
The personal sense of one’s own gender. If you regard yourself as a woman and feel it is natural for you to live as a woman, then you identify as a woman. Of course, it is not about the clothes you like to wear or your hobbies and interests. A woman passionate about military history is still a woman, just as a man who wears skirts and dresses is still a man.
One’s gender identity does not necessarily correspond to their sex assigned at birth (SAAB). A person whose gender identity does not correspond to their SAAB is called a transgender person; One whose gender identity corresponds to their SAAB is called a cisgender person. For instance, if the obstetrician said, “It’s a girl, congratulations!” when you were born, and you also identify as a woman, you are a cisgender woman. If you identify as a man, which does not correspond with your SAAB, you are a transgender man.
🥎 Sexuality (Sexual orientation; Sexual identity)
The gender to which a person is sexually attracted. If you are sexually attracted only to the same gender, you’re homosexual; only to the opposite gender, you’re heterosexual; to more than one gender, you may be bi/poly/pansexual; and if you don’t experience sexual attraction, you’re asexual.
⚫ Majority Norms
The implicit or explicit rules we all know: The belief that everyone should live as the sex assigned at birth — whether female or male — and experience love and sex with a member of the opposite gender(only one at a time of course). These norms are taken for granted. If you break even one of them, you may face social punishment, of some kind.
Thus, “Sexual and Gender Minority” refers to those regarded as non-normative because they do not live as their SAAB and/or are not sexually attracted exclusively to the opposite sex. Some of them call themselves queer, which originally meant ‘strange.’ What used to be a slur insulting sexual and gender minorities was reclaimed by queer activists. “Yes, we are different. We are queer!” they declared. The use of label ‘queer’ to discriminate against sexual and gender minorities contributes to it’s political significance.
A Loosely Defined Community
There are some abbreviations regarding sexual and gender minority or queer people. Though the most widely used is LGBT+, you may have seen longer forms like LGBTQIA+. Learn what these letters stand for and why there is always the plus (+) sign.
L: Lesbian, homosexual women. Women attracted to women.
G: Gay, homosexual men. Men attracted to men. Gay is also used as a generic term to refer to non-heterosexual sexuality. Many females also use the term to refer to their sexuality.
B: Bisexual. It originally meant being attracted to two genders (women and men) but is becoming an umbrella term inclusive to polysexual, being attracted to multiple genders, and pansexual, being attracted to individuals regardless of gender.
T: Transgender. Having a gender identity that does not correspond to one’s SAAB. The opposite of cisgender.
Q: Queer, or Questioning. For the description of the word queer, see above. Questioning is the process of exploring one’s own gender identity, sexual orientation, or more.
I: Intersex. Having sex-related biological characteristics, including chromosome patterns, internal or external genitalia, and/or hormone metabolism, that do not fit the binary notions of ‘male or female.’
A: Asexual. Experiencing no sexual attraction. This A also includes Aromantic, experiencing no romantic attraction, and Agender, having no gender.
Plus (+): Efforts to be inclusive. The group of sexual and gender minorities is a very loosely defined community. In other words, it’s hard to accurately represent them all as one group. In the above, we looked at the meaning of several acronyms, but no amount could accurately represent all of them.
The community of sexual and gender minorities had long been called the ‘gay community.’ But to be more inclusive for minorities other than homosexual people, it became the ‘LGBT community,’ which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. However, this too was not enough to embrace the diversity within the community. More and more letters are added to the acronym to represent a range of identities from a variety of cultures. Even when we use the short abbreviation, there is always the plus sign to make it an umbrella term that includes each and every sexual and gender minority and queer person.
Out and Proud!
When so many different people are laughed at, discriminated against, and even killed simply due to being ‘queer’ or different, what has to change? The answer is society, and the momentum of change is ongoing. More and more queer people are rejecting the idea that their sexuality is a ‘problem’, taking pride in themselves and their community, fighting against hate, and building a legacy!
🚪 Coming Out
When a sexual and/or gender minority person hides their identity, they are said to be ‘in the closet.’ It means they are hiding in secret, like in a cramped closet, to avoid discrimination and attacks from the outside. If they choose to reveal their identity, it is called ‘coming out of the closet.’ As prejudice against LGBTQIA+ people is still prevalent in society, it usually requires great determination and courage to come out. On the other hand, revealing someone’s identity without consent is called an ‘outing.’ Not only is it rude, it can also threaten the personal life or career of the outed person.
🥁 Pride Parade
In honor of the Stonewall riots, where queer people fought for a week from June 28 against police violence in New York, 1969, LGBTQIA+ people from all over the world parade through the streets every June, proudly showing off themselves and their community. In Korea, Pride events still face major backlash. Anti-queer protests gather at almost every Pride parade in Korea to impose their traditional values and criticize the participants. Seoul Queer Parade, the biggest Pride event in Korea, is relatively safe as a large police force mobilized to prevent any violence or conflict.
▼ Downward-pointing Triangles
LGBT+ people in Nazi concentration camps were required to wear pink or black triangle badges on their clothes. Queer activists reclaimed these to represent their resistance, pride, and remembrance. As these triangles implicate a painful history, these days many people choose to use the rainbow flag and various pride flags instead.
🏳️🌈 The Rainbow Flag
It consists of multiple colors that represent the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community. It was first made by Gilbert Baker, inspired by the Judy Garland song “Over the Rainbow”. It had eight colors at that time, but the six-color version is popular nowadays.
Lately, many queer people are using the Progress Pride Flag. It is the rainbow flag with white-pink-light blue stripes, which is from the transgender flag, and brown-black stripes, which represent black and brown members of the queer community, to increase the representation of discriminated minority identities within the community. Yes, it became somewhat intricate, but it now contains a deeper meaning.
We have looked at who LGBTQIA+ people are, how diverse they are, and how they express their pride. In the following series, we will take a closer look at lesbian, gay, bi/poly/pansexual, transgender, intersex, and asexual/aromantic identities.
Curious about the relationship between lesbians and an “axe?” To be continued in the next part. Bye!