June will officially come to an end soon. June — the Pride Month, a time quite important to me now but was nothing more than a random month until a few years ago. Now that I think about it, it feels extremely strange that back then, such a big chunk of my life was missing. I was not aware of my sexual identity. I didn’t even know what sexual identity was. As I had been conditioned to believe, there could only be one default setting when it comes to sexuality — straight. Anything other than heterosexual relationships was abnormal or even taboo. So, when I began to understand my attraction to women, oh boy, was I in trouble! At first, I refused to believe that it was valid. How could it be? If a girl could be in a relationship with another girl, I should have seen such examples around me, right? If they felt the same way, someone would be talking about it! My girlfriends were all mesmerized by the boys around them. And it was not like I didn’t like men; they were great, but so were girls! Oh no, what was happening to me? Did I like both men AND women? I thought it would be better to keep it to myself. And so I did, stay in the closet for years in fear of being called a “freak”. That was until I learnt that there was a whole community out there, just waiting to embrace me as one of their own.
I had heard the word “gay” before, not as an explanation of men loving men, but as an insult to men who were different. So, when I first came across the term LGBTQIA+, I was confused. I didn’t even know there were so many different types of sexual identities. And thus began the process of unlearning and learning; unlearning the toxic conditioning that straight is the only answer, and learning all about how different kinds of people identify themselves. It was a beautiful journey. One I would like to share with you. Let’s break down the term LGBTQIA+ and make space for each one of those letters.
What is the full form of LGBTQIA+, after all?
L stands for Lesbian, which refers to women who are sexually and affectionately oriented towards other women. The term can also be used by non-binary individuals, especially the ones who are attracted to women.
G stands for Gay, which simply refers to someone who is attracted to the same gender. It is usually used to describe men who are sexually and affectionately oriented towards other men.
B stands for bisexual, a term used to describe people who are attracted to more than one gender.
T stands for Trans or Transgender, which can have different meanings but generally deals with gender identity. Trans is an inclusive term for transgender, non-conforming, and non-binary individuals. Transgender is a term for someone that identifies as a different gender than what was assigned to them
Q stands for Questioning and Queer, Questioning is when a person is still exploring their sexuality, gender identity and gender expression. Queer can have various definitions, mainly explaining that sexual and romantic attraction is not limited to people of particular gender identity or sexual orientation. It can change over time. It is also used as an inclusive term or as a unique celebration of breaking the expectations of social norms.
I stands for Intersex, which is an umbrella term for people who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the boxes of “female” or “male”. This person can be born with both female and male organs or hormones, or they can have reproductive anatomy that isn’t typical. Usually, they are assigned a gender at birth by doctors, which does not mean that they will grow up to identify with that gender. Their sexual orientation and gender identity can change.
A stands for Asexual and Aromantic, An asexual person is someone who doesn’t feel sexual attraction towards anyone. And an aromantic is someone who doesn’t feel romantic attraction towards anyone.
The “+” at the end of of the term LGBTQIA+ exists to be inclusive of all the new subsects of the community, like:
Pansexual: This term is used to typically describe individuals who experience sexual and romantic attraction towards any person, regardless of their gender, sex or sexuality.
Omnisexual: Very similar to pansexual, this term can be used to describe individuals whose sexuality is not limited to people of a particular gender or sexual orientation.
Polysexual: An inclusive term, describing people with a sexual orientation that involves sexual and romantic attraction towards people of many different genders. This includes pansexuality, bisexuality, omnisexuality, queer etc.
Genderqueer or Non-binary: Terms used to describe people with no, both, or a combination of genders.
Demisexual: Someone who can only experience sexual attraction under certain circumstances, such as after building an emotional or romantic relationship with the person.
Graysexual: A term used to describe people who fall into the gray area on the sexuality spectrum i.e., those who don’t exclusively identify as asexual or aromantic but still do not feel sexual attraction as strongly as others who identify as allosexual.
Allosexual: A term used to describe people who feel sexual attraction. Allosexuals were included under the community to normalise the existence of asexual people.
Libidoist asexual: A category of asexual people experiencing sexual feelings or desire that they fulfil by self-stimulation or masturbation.
Monosexual: A sexual orientation category that includes people who experience sexual and romantic attraction to only one gender. This includes people who exclusively identify as heterosexual, gay or lesbian.
Pomosexual: Someone who entirely denies sexuality labels and doesn’t identify with any of them.
Societal acceptance towards different sexual orientations
I know that it can be overwhelming to understand and remember all of these. What is important to remember is that we are all still learning. As long as you give space to yourself and others around you to be who they are, you are on the right path.
Unfortunately, our society still needs to get to that part. There is too much stigma and judgement surrounding different sexual orientations. For the longest time, homosexuality was considered a mental illness and was even criminalized in our country. We won a battle in 2018 when consensual gay sex was legalized. But laws don’t change people’s minds. In a typical Indian family, being gay or trans is still a crime. Children are put through hell when their parents find out that they are anything other than straight. This is why Pride Month exists — not just to celebrate our identities, but to fight to create a safe space for all identities.
In an ideal world, we would wake up one day and without any confusion accept our sexual identity. We would tell our parents fearlessly and they would accept us nevertheless. But that is not the world we live in, and it can be really challenging to come to terms with it. It took me years to be able to feel okay about being bisexual and come out to the world. And even after that, it wasn’t an easy journey. People invalidated my sexuality all the time, saying that all girls are a little bit attracted to each other, so my bisexuality wasn’t real or sexualizing my identity was only made for threesomes.
That’s when I joined an LGBTQIA+ support group online. It wasn’t anything huge, just a bunch of people from the community creating a safe space to talk about their struggles and helping each other in their journey of self-acceptance. We held meetings once a week at a friendly place and made each other feel loved and supported. My hesitation with my sexuality and fear of judgement slowly went away as I found myself among people who uplifted me rather than questioning me. Many such support groups exist in our country, created by beautiful people for beautiful people. Many such queer-friendly therapy options are also available.
ThatMate app is one such space where you have access to counsellors through our Bolo chat option. ThatMate is open to any person who finds themselves questioning the identity that society chose for them. Because they don’t get to decide who you are, you do.
Honouring three years of my acceptance regarding my sexuality, I decided to talk to my mother about it. I was simply explaining all of these terms to her and she innocently got confused at the description of transgender. “But how can they be anything else than what they were born as?” She asked. “Why can’t they be? Isn’t it more important to be who you feel you are, rather than being who others say you should be? ” I responded. She quietly thought about it for a moment but still looked hesitant about the idea.
I asked her what she will say if I tell her that I am transgender or bisexual. She again took her time to process as I waited in anticipation. Soon, she turned to me and said: “Then I would try to accept you and understand you.” I gave her the biggest hug and came out to her. She’s taking her time in accepting it but regularly tells me that she loves me. That is enough for me for now. It’s going to be a long battle of claiming our place in this unfriendly society. We are fighting decades of conditioning, after all. But it’s a battle worth fighting for. Until then, talk to those around you, find help, and hang in there. Your existence matters. And who knows, maybe a simple conversation will help you make an ally.