Understanding and Embracing LGBTQ+ Terminology
The LGBTQ+ segment is large and growing. An important part of connecting with the segment is understanding and embracing LGBTQ+ terminology. Read on for more information on what terms the community prefers for group and individual identifiers, as well as how and when they prefer to use pronouns.

March 4th, 2021
Jill Rosenfeld – Data Analyst

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When talking about the LGBTQ+ community, there are seemingly endless acronyms, terms, and flags to choose from, and it can be difficult to know which ones to use. Getting terminology right is about more than saying the right word to refer to the right person, it’s about dignity and empathy. Terminology is really a matter of respect: saying I see you, and I affirm your identity. In our recent study, we focused on how the LGBTQ+ community uses community and individual identifiers, as well as pronouns. Continue reading for key insights on each.

Read on and fill out the form for an excerpt from our LGBTQ+  Terminology presentation.

Community Identifiers

At Collage Group, we use “LGBTQ+” to refer to any and all people who are anything except straight and cisgender – that is, people who are attracted to their same gender, multiple genders, people who don’t experience sexual attraction, transgender and non-binary people, and a whole host of others that fall under the “plus”.

To lay it out more specifically:

    • L and G: Lesbian and gay, those who are attracted to people of the same gender.
    • B: Bisexual, those attracted to multiple genders.
    • T: Transgender, a term different in kind than the previous three and referring to those who identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.
    • And finally Q+: Queer and questioning. And the plus refers to all the other labels out there – pansexual, asexual, non-binary, and beyond.

Collage Group uses this term because it allows us to be specific and inclusive, referring to the whole community and the subgroups. There’s a lot of ambiguity in acronyms like these, it’s hard to place firm definitions on people – Everyone is complicated, likely to change and famously resistant to being put in boxes!

When we asked the segment to choose their preferred terms, LGBTQ+ came out on top, followed by LGBTQ. Within subgroups, we see that younger and gender non-conforming people (those identifying as transgender and/or non-binary) were more likely to pick expansive options like LGBTQ+ and LGBTQIA+, and less likely to pick narrower terms like “gay community.” This data shows that young and gender non-conforming people – who are mostly, themselves, young – are more understanding of the diversity of the community and want to recognize it and call it out.

This focus on diversity also shows up in the evolution of the Pride Flag in recent years. While LGBTQ+ people are still most likely to use the traditional rainbow flag to represent the community, younger and gender non-conforming people are gravitating more towards the newer Progress and Intersex Progress Pride flags, which include colors to represent the transgender and intersex communities as well as people of color.

Young and Gender Non-conforming LGBTQ+ People Are Especially Likely to Use “LGBTQ+” as a Community Term

Which of the following terms do you most often use to describe the community of people who do not identify as straight/heterosexual and/or with the gender assigned to them at birth? (LGBTQ+ Respondents)

Total Ages 18-40 Ages 41-75 Gender Non-Conforming Gender Conforming
LGBTQ+ Community
27%
31%
20%
36%
25%
LGBTQ Community
19%
18%
19%
15%
19%
LGBT Community
13%
13%
13%
11%
14%
LGBTQIA+ Community
12%
15%
7%
15%
11%
Gay Community
10%
8%
15%
4%
12%
Queer Community
3%
3%
2%
8%
2%
GLBT Community
1%
0%
2%
1%
1%
I do not use any terms to refer to this community
13%
9%
20%
8%
15%

Individual Identifiers

When it comes to the terms people use to describe themselves, we see an incredible variety and some terms we might expect to be less common are actually resonating with a lot of people. The terms pansexual and queer were very popular (pansexual referring to being attracted to all genders). This reflects the growing idea that sexuality is fluid and people prefer not to put themselves boxes.

We also see 4% and 3% of LGBTQ+ people identifying as asexual and demisexual, respectively. These are terms for people who either do not experience sexual attraction (asexual), and people who only experience sexual attraction to people they feel an emotional connection to (demisexual). We also asked about aromantic and demiromantic. These terms refer to people who never or only sometimes experience romantic attraction.

The separation of romantic and sexual attractions opens a whole other world of terminology, and we could only fit in some of it in the survey. For example, someone might identify as asexual and panromantic, meaning they do not experience sexual attraction but can experience romantic attraction to people of all genders. That’s why we allowed people to choose more than one term here. The ways that people refer to themselves are infinite.

One important thing I need to point out here, based on our methodology, is that these percentages are not supposed to indicate the actual percentage of the LGBTQ+ population that identifies as each of these terms. Because we had a quota system in place to makes sure that we got enough sample from the L, G, B, T, and Q groups, we’ve ended up overrepresenting some and underrepresenting others.

For example, some estimates say that bisexual people make up more than half of the total segment, far more than the 37% of our sample. This likely means that there are even more pansexual and queer people out there too, because “bisexual” is the term more common in surveys and everyday life that these people whose sexuality is fluid or who are attracted to more than one gender are likely to choose.

Younger and Gender Non-conforming People Were More Likely to Choose Labels Including “Pansexual”, “Queer”, and “Asexual”

You mentioned that [previous answer] best describes your sexuality. But, we know those options may be too general to best describe you. From this longer list, which of the following do you identify with? (LGBTQ+ Respondents).

Total Ages 18-40 Ages 41-75 Gender Non-Conforming Gender Conforming
Bisexual
37%
35%
41%
36%
37%
Gay
29%
28%
30%
23%
31%
Lesbian
26%
26%
26%
15%
29%
Pansexual
10%
12%
6%
16%
8%
Queer
8%
11%
4%
17%
6%
Asexual
4%
5%
2%
9%
3%
Demisexual
3%
4%
1%
8%
1%
I'm not sure
2%
2%
2%
7%
1%
Demiromatic
2%
2%
1%
5%
1%
Aromantic
2%
2%
1%
6%
1%

Pronouns

Finally, we wanted to get an idea of people’s opinions about pronouns, and whether it’s appropriate to ask other people to tell you their pronouns. Pronouns are more than just grammar, they’re a part of our identities. About one third of LGBTQ+ people think that others should always ask for other people’s pronouns, and the same amount say that they always put their own pronouns in their social media profiles. A not-insignificant amount of non-LGBTQ+ people say the same – about a quarter of them. Even younger LGBTQ+ people, about half of them, agree that people should always ask for other people’s pronouns. And gender non-conforming people are the most likely of all subgroups to agree, at 65%.

One Third of LGBTQ+ People Say One Should Always Ask about Pronouns

The same number say they always include pronouns on social media profiles:

LGBTQ+ Non-LGBTQ+
People should always ask for other people's prounouns
36%
24%
I put my pronouns in all my social media profiles
36%
24%

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Other Recent LGBTQ+ Research Articles & Insights from Collage Group

Jill Rosenfeld

Jill Rosenfeld
Research Manager

Jill is a Research Manager on Collage Group’s Cultural Insights team focusing on the LGBTQ+ and Gender membership. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. In her spare time, Jill enjoys exploring Washington DC’s restaurant scene and practicing yoga.

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