Before the sexual revolution of the 1960s, there was no common non-derogatory vocabulary for non-heterosexuality; the closest such term, third gender, traces back to the 1860s but never gained wide acceptance.
The first term used, homosexual, was thought to carry negative connotations and tended to be replaced by homophile and then gay. As lesbians forged their own identity, the phrase gay and lesbian became more common. This was soon followed by bisexual and transgender people also asking for recognition as legitimate categories within the larger community. However, after the initial euphoria of the beginnings of the Stonewall riots wore off, starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a change in perception and some gays and lesbians were not very accepting of bisexual or transgender people. It was thought that transsexual people were acting out stereotypes; and bisexuals were simply gay men or lesbian women who were simply afraid to "come out" and be honest about their identity. The movement underwent growing pains, and these continue to this day.
Not until the 1990s did it become common to speak of "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people" with equal respect within the movement. Although the LGBT community has seen some controversy regarding universal acceptance of different members (transgender individuals, in particular, have sometimes been marginalized by the larger LGBT community), the term LGBT has been a positive symbol of inclusion. Despite the fact that LGBT does not nominally encompass all individuals in the queer communities (see Variants below), the term is generally accepted to include those not identified in the standard, four letter acronym. Overall, the use of the term LGBT has, over time, largely aided in bringing otherwise marginalized individuals into the general community.
SGL (for same gender loving) is often favored by African-American people as a way of distinguishing themselves from what they regard as white-dominated LGBT communities. MSM (for Men who have sex with men), is clinically used to describe men who have sex with other men without referring to their sexual orientation.
A phrase introduced in the 2000s, "minority sexual and gender identities" (MSGI), to include all letters and acronyms has yet to find its way into common usage. The magazine Anything That Moves coined the acronym FABGLITTER (from Fetish, Allies, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Intersexed, Transgender, Transsexual Engendering Revolution), although this term has not made its way into common usage.
The terms LGBT or GLBT are not agreed upon by everyone. For example, it may be argued that the transgender and transsexual causes are not the same as that of LGB people. This argument centers on the idea that transgender and transsexuality have to do with gender identity, or a person's understanding of being male or female, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Meanwhile LGB issues may be seen as a matter of sexual orientation, or attraction. These distinctions have been made in the context of political action in which LGB goals may be perceived to differ from transgender and transsexual goals like same sex marriage legislation and human rights work that is not inclusive of transgender and intersex people. Similarly, intersex people want to be included in LGBT groups and would prefer LGBTI; others insist that they are not a part of the LGBT community and would rather not be included in the term.
A reverse to the above situations is evident in the belief of 'lesbian & gay separatism' (not to be confused with the related, lesbian separatism) which holds that lesbians and gay men form (or should form) a community distinct and separate from other groups normally included in the LGBTQ sphere. While not always appearing of sufficient number or organization to be called a 'movement', separatists persist as a significant, vocal and active element within many parts of the LGBT community. In some cases separatists will deny the existence or right-to-equality of non-monosexual orientations and of transsexuality. This can extend to public biphobia and transphobia.
Many people have looked for a generic term to replace the initialisms, acronyms, and abbreviations. Words like queer and rainbow have been tried but most have not been widely adopted. "Queer" has many negative connotations to older people who remember the word as a taunt and insult, a usage of the term that has continued. Many younger people also understand "queer" to be more politically charged than "LGBT". Rainbow has connotations that recall the hippies, New Age movements and politics like Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in the United States.
Other gay people also do not care for the term as the lettering comes across as being overly "politically correct", or as an attempt to categorize the various groups of people into one grey area word. Another concern is that LGBT may imply that the issues and priorities of the main groups represented are given equal consideration.
There are also some lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender people as well as ontologists who are against an "LGBT community" or "LGB community". Some are also against the political and social solidarity, and visibility and human rights campaigning that normally goes with it including gay pride marches and events. Some of them believe that grouping together people with non-heterosexual orientations perpetuates the myth that being gay/lesbian/bi makes a person deficiently different than other people. These people are often seen or portrayed as fringe community members and may seem less visible compared to more mainstream LGBT activists. Since this faction are difficult to distinguish from the heterosexual majority, it is common for people to assume all LGBT people support LGBT liberation and the visibility of LGBT people in society, including the right to live one's life in a different way from the majority. Compared to the Asian Society, the LGBT community is more acceptable in the Western culture, since many Asian parents have negative images of lesbians or gays. Most Asian languages have no word for lesbian, gay or coming out, and there are few lesbian role models to look to.
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