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Breaking Down the LGBTQIAP+ Spectrum

The LGBTQIAP+ spectrum is both tricky to navigate and critically important to understand. As chair of the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) at Boston College, Anne Williams, MCAS '17, knows her way around the acronym. With her Vice Chair Nick Massimino and Chief of Staff LJ Johnson, Williams and the entire GLC do their best to “bridge the gap between LGBTQ+ students on campus and the administration.” Part of bridging this gap is raising awareness about the different parts of the spectrum.

In hopes to increase mindfulness throughout the student body, Williams takes us through the acronym's various components. To start off, the ‘L’ in the acronym stands for lesbian—“a woman (cisgender or transgender) who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to exclusively other women.”

The letter ‘G’ represents the word gay, which Williams defines as “a man (cisgender or transgender) who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to exclusively other men.” While the term 'gay' has been used to describe all queer-identifying people, this “can be limiting or erasing of the many different identities in the queer community.”

The ‘B’ of the acronym stands for bisexual or biromantic, “a person who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to two or more genders. While bi technically translates to 'two,' many bisexual people recognize the validity of non-binary genders and have the potential to be attracted to them; it depends on the person.”

The ‘T’ on the spectrum represents transgender. “Those who are transgender do not identify with the sex/gender they were assigned at birth,” and they can either identify as gender binary or as non-binary. Williams also clarifies that, for example, a transgender woman is a woman who was labeled male at birth. Additionally, she emphasizes that transgender people do not need to be in the process of gender confirmation surgery or hormone replacement to identify as transgender, as transitioning looks different for everyone. Most people are more familiar with the identities along the first half of the spectrum than those along the second half. 

The letter ‘Q’ of the acronym represents two different terms. The first is questioning, which “applies to sexual orientation, gender identity, or both.” The second is queer, an “inclusive, umbrella term to refer to anyone who is not straight/cisgender.”

The ‘A’ of the spectrum also represents two terms, asexual and aromantic. An asexual/aromantic person “does not experience sexual or romantic attraction to others.” Williams stresses that this is different from celibacy, which is a choice, whereas asexuality and aromanticism are lifestyles.

The letter ‘P’ stands for both pansexual and panromantic. A pansexual/panromantic person is “someone who has the potential to be sexually or romantically attracted to all genders.”

The plus (+) sign at the end of the acronym is certainly not to be ignored, as “the queer community is not limited to the letters within the LGBTQIAP acronym,” Williams adds. The different terminologies and definitions of the acronym are always changing and evolving and cannot properly cover all the complexities of the community. The plus sign truly is, then, a “symbol of inclusion.”

The complexities of the LGBTQIAP+ acronym prove how significant it is to properly use another’s pronouns. Williams articulates that “using someone’s correct pronouns is a necessity and not up for debate. To misgender someone intentionally or ignore their pronouns is an act of violence, as it negates their personhood.”

Furthermore, it is just as important to continue to use someone’s correct pronouns even when they are not present. Some people have preferred pronouns, meaning they choose to use some over others. Yet some people use certain pronouns “because there are no other options. Many find the idea of ‘preferred pronouns’ to be dismissive of trans people’s genders.”

Gleaning one’s correct pronoun can be difficult, yet Williams explains that the best way to learn another’s pronouns is by stating your own first. Then, the person you are speaking with may either choose to reveal or conceal theirs. If the occasion arises where you need to ask for someone’s pronouns, Williams suggests doing it “privately to avoid outing them to others. The best thing to do if you accidentally misgender someone is to apologize sincerely and briefly, and move forward with more intentionality.”

Williams enjoys being able to inform others on the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum and the use of proper pronouns. She also loves how her chair position on the GLC allows her “to see how many allies we have in the administration on campus. There are so many wonderful people at BC who want to do everything in their power to make BC a safe, welcoming place for all identities.”

Along with this, another great part of being on the GLC for Williams is Pride Week (formerly known as National Coming Out Week), as it is “an entire week devoted to celebrating the pride, resilience, and diversity of our community. It’s a wonderful way for us to come together and lift each other up and affirm our existences.”

Williams also urges students to watch out for upcoming ticket sales for the GLC Formal, known as Gala in past years. The event includes a speaker, a sit-down dinner, and dancing at the Westin Copley. To learn more about the GLC Formal and other GLC events and offerings, students can attend GLC meetings on Sundays at 5 p.m. in Stokes S295. Williams assures that “students of all identities under the queer umbrella, as well as allies, are welcome.”

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