LGBTQIAA: DECIPHERING ALPHABET SOUP
A lesbian is a woman attracted to a woman.
FYI: The word lesbian can be traced all the way back to 600 B.C. to a Greek lyricist named Sappho,
who lived on the Island of Lesbos. Sappho is associated with the word primarily because of her school
for girls on the island and her erotic poems that have been said to include infatuation between same
Gay is “often used to refer to men attracted to men, but also colloquially used as an umbrella
term to include all LGBTIQ people.” (IU Southeast
Safe Zone Manual
FYI: Its origins lie in 12th century England derived from the Old French word “gai” meaning “joyful,”
“carefree,” or “bright and showy.” In the 17th century it was used to express immorality meaning to be
“addicted to pleasures and dissipations,” an expansion of its original meaning of “carefree.” Then in the
19th century “gay” became an ironic reference for a woman prostitute and also a term for a man who
had sex with many women, mostly the prostitutes. It wasn’t until the 1920s and ‘30s that “gay” took
on the meaning as we know it today. By 1955, it “officially acquired the new added definition of the
meaning homosexual males.”
This is a person who is attracted to not one, but two sexes or genders; however, this
attraction is not necessarily simultaneous or equal.
FYI: Some famous individuals have identified as bisexual.
Marlon Brando 1924-2004: Hailed as one of the greatest and most influential actors of all time, Brando
admitted having sexual encounters with other men in his biography “The Only Contender.”
Janis Joplin 1943-1970: The singer-songwriter best known for her fusion of hard rock with blues. Her
relationship with neighbor Peggy Caserta was documented in Caserta’s memoir “Going Down with
Frida Kahlo 1907-1954: Most notably Mexico’s most famous artist, she was also courageously open
about her bisexuality in a time when female sexuality was taboo.
Alfred Kinsey 1894-1956: The founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and
Reproduction at IU, Kinsey was openly bisexual and maintained an open relationship with his wife.
Transgender may be the most difficult term to define in the LGBTQIAA sequence
because it means different things to different people. At its most basic level, it functions to define
someone who doesn’t fit within society’s standards of how a male or a female should look and behave. It
also can refer to someone who doesn’t feel they identify accurately with the sex they were born with, as
well as people who feel in between male and female or identify with neither. It is important to recognize
transgender is not a sexual orientation. Someone may fall into this definition, but not identify with it.
FYI: In 1975 a film adaptation of Richard O’Brien’s musical, Rocky Horror Picture Show, quickly
became a cult classic. The movie packed theatres with youth dressed in fishnets and red lipstick. Tim
Curry’s iconic role as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” has
become a staple in pop culture. According to June Thomas, culture critic and editor of Slate magazine,
“Dr. Furter’s sex-positive (and, yes, murder-cannibalism-positive) message may have helped more
people come out of the closet than any other work of art.”