Skip to main content

LGBTQIA+ 101: Celebrating Pride – A Breakdown of Key Acronyms Explained

Pride rainbow on a wall

With the arrival of June, recognized worldwide as Pride Month, you’ll see a variety of letters and acronyms representing many of the different communities that celebrate Pride. This could be anything from LGBT to LGBTQIA+ or LGBTQ2s+. There’s even LGBTQQIP2SAA+ (that’s right!)… If you’re curious to understand more about the different ways people self-identify, and what these definitions mean, then this article’s for you.

What started out as just being gay has evolved.  Now, people are beginning to understand and accept that just as we come in all shapes, sizes and colours, people have different sexual orientations too.

As both a gay man, and a Canadian Sales Manager with Contiki, I’ll also share my recommendations for great places to celebrate Pride on some of the awesome trips we offer. So. Let’s break it down!

L – Lesbian

A lesbian is a woman who is physically, emotionally, or romantically attracted to another woman.

Making Time’s list of Most Influential Teens, Amandla Stenberg is one of the most famous figures in the lesbian community.  Since her breakthrough role in The Hunger Games in 2012 she’s acted in over 20 productions, received an NAACP Image Award and a Teen Choice Award, made it on to Oprah’s list of visionaries and influential leaders, and even found her way into a Beyoncé music video! All of that and she’s still only 22 #goals. Now that’s someone who’s ready to change the world.

Pride Parade

Image source:@mrs80z/ Unsplash

G – Gay

Gay usually refers to a man who is physically, emotionally, or romantically attracted to another man.  It can be applied to anyone who has feelings toward someone of the same sex, including Lesbian women.

Although 71 countries still criminalize private, consensual activities between gay men, and 7 countries still hold the death penalty towards it, progress continues to be made throughout the world.  Botswana was the most recent country to decriminalize gay relations in 2019.

Personally, one of my favorite places to celebrate Pride as a gay man is Berlin. It’s home to one of Europe’s biggest Pride events – the nightlife’s incredible, and so are the people! You’ll have the time of your life here on Contiki’s Berlin Pride trip.

B – Bisexual

A person who is physically, emotionally, or romantically attracted to people of the same gender, or another gender.  For many people, sexuality is fluid – that is, it changes throughout their life.  Other people talk about falling in love with the person inside, rather than their body.

Now is a great time to mention that every community we’re talking about in this article has its own flag!  The bisexual flag is made up of three stripes.  The pink stripe represents attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), the blue stripe signifies attraction to the opposite sex, while the purple stripe in the middle blends the two colours together, symbolizing bisexuality.

Bisexual Pride Day falls on September 23, but you can find celebrations for bisexuality at most Pride events around the world.

Bisexual Flag

Feeling inspired?

10 of the best pride celebrations in Europe

10 of the best pride celebrations in Europe

Read more

T – Transgender

In the most common set of letters, the ‘T’ represents transgender. Trans people’s identities and genders differ from the sex they were assigned at birth. By comparison, you may have come across the term Cisgender – this is when a person’s sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex. For example, a person who is assigned as female at birth and also identifies as female / woman / girl.

The trans community has always been at the forefront of the Pride movement but is still the most marginalised in the LGBTQIA+ community, facing poverty, stigma and discrimination. Prominent trans activists such as Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were its early pioneers back in the 60s and 70s, campaigning tirelessly to improve the rights of both trans and other marginalised groups. Only recently has the community gained deserved recognition, with notable days such as the International Transgender Day of Visibility now celebrated every March 31st.

Canadian actor Elliot Page made headlines last year, making him one of the most famous actors to represent the community. A recent Netflix documentary, Disclosure, similarly highlights the media (and Hollywood) portrayal of transgender people and the impact of this on the community – it offers a much needed voice and platform for the trans community to tell their story.

Q – Queer

Once a derogatory term, queer has been taken back by the LGBTQAI+ community. It’s often used as an umbrella term that describes sexual and gender identities other than straight and cisgender. There are lots of identities within the queer community. That’s why you should always check someone’s preferred pronoun use first – this extends to those beyond the queer community too.

In some cases, there might also be more than one Q, or the Q that is there might represent ‘Questioning.’  This applies to people who are figuring out their gender identity and how they want to identify their sexual orientation.


A group of people holding a sign that says queer is proud.

Image source:@dels/ Unsplash

Feeling inspired?

15 of the most gay-friendly travel destinations

15 of the most gay-friendly travel destinations

Read more

I – Intersex

Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe people who are born with both male and female reproductive organs, or have variations in chromosomes that mean they do not fit into a gender of either ‘male’ or ‘female.’ 

This was once referred to as a hermaphrodite but using this word is now a no-no. It derives from greek mythology and is both misleading (the word connotes a human who’s both fully male and fully female in its genitalia, which is biologically impossible) and considered offensive.

Intersex people are more common than you might think. While identical twins make up 0.3% of the population, intersex individuals account for 1.7% of births. Culturally and historically, societies have held a binary view of sex and gender, so the intersex community is only recently being discussed. 

A – Asexual

Love doesn’t equal sex.  An asexual person (Ace for short) usually experiences very little to no sexual attraction towards others. They can still feel romantic desire, and seek out relationships, but they tend not to want to act on these desires sexually. But this is all on a spectrum – one person who identifies as asexual may feel very different levels of sexuality compared to another.

Aces cherish emotional connections, understanding, and above all – LOVE. And what’s better for the world than a little more love?  Speaking of people who have a whole lotta love to give, A’ can also mean ‘Ally.’  An ally is someone who doesn’t necessarily belong to the Alphabet Community, but who supports the people who do.

To my mind, nothing brings together people quite like Contiki’s Europe Pride celebrations. Here, you get to combine the best of what Europe has to offer with 10 days, 4 countries, and 2 Pride festivals (yep, that includes the epic Berlin Pride too!). The trip is definitely one for the history books.


+ Plus

The plus in LGBTQAI+ is your friend.  When you see a “+” at the end of the series of letters that’s the easy way of saying “there are a lot more people out there, so here’s to them!” If you’re new to all of this, you can put the plus at the end meaning “in case I forgot anyone”. 

One community that falls under the + is Two-Spirited individuals (2S).  Two-Spirit is a term used by some Indigenous North Americans who identify as having both a masculine and feminine spirit.  It can also describe someone’s sexual, gender, or spiritual identity.

LGBTQ+ Footer

The Progressive Flag

The Alphabet Community reaches far and wide and there are more communities within it than there are the colours of the flag that have come to represent it!  You might be familiar with the rainbow flag, but did you know there’s a whole new flag?  The Progressive Flag has kept the original rainbow colours, but it also features the colours of the trans community (pink, white & blue), the marginalized BIPOC community (brown and black), and the Intersex community (that’s the yellow section with a purple circle).  It’s the Community’s way of stretching its arms even wider and declaring “welcome”!  Since we’ve reclaimed the Q’ word and while we’re openly declaring things anyway, hoist that flag up proudly and repeat after me: “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”

Step one might be decoding the acronym you’ve seen out there but once you do, you’ll discover a whole new world of acceptance, love, and community.

A rainbow colored arrow with the word lgbt.

Image source:Advocate

To learn more, the GLAAD has an amazing guide to some of the other letters (and there are lots more!) that we didn’t cover in our LGBTQIA+ breakdown. And just to clarify, if you were wondering what the earlier acronym LGBTQQIP2SAA+ stands for it’s this:

Lesbian. Gay. Bisexual. Transgender. Questioning. Queer. Intersex. Pansexual. Two-Spirit (2S). Androgynous. Asexual. + “Plus”

Thanks for dropping by and have a happy day!

Ian Kivell is a member of the TTC Pride Identity Circle in Canada.

Contiki, part of the TTC family, is a member of the IGLTA – the world’s leading network of LGBTQ+ welcoming tourism businesses

Up next

Stop dreaming and make sh*t happen!

North Queensland Adventure

1 country, 9 days

North Queensland Adventure

View trip