Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
University of Southern MaineLibraries

LGBTQA+ Resources at USM

Information and links to resources for LGBTQA+ folks and their allies.

The Alphabet Soup

Image of an iceburg with lots of diffrent words the LGBTQ community uses to descrie themselves

Queer Iceberg by lifedeathandsteph

The acronym "LGBTQA+" is one of many acronyms and terms used to refer to the entire community. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, and + holds a place for all the other ways the community identifies. Some of these words describe who a person is emotionally or physically attracted to (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Asexual), and others describe what a persons gender identity (Queer, Transgender).

The language LGBTQA+ folks use to describe themselves is always shifting. Someone who may have identified themselves as gay in the 1960s might now choose to identify as queer and masculine of center.

Here are some of the most commons terms you may encounter.

agender – adj. : a person with no (or very little) connection to the traditional system of gender, no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman, and/or someone who sees themselves as existing without gender.

asexual or Ace adj. : experiencing little or no sexual attraction to others and/or a lack of interest in sexual relationships/behavior.  Asexuality exists on a continuum from people who experience no sexual attraction or have any desire for sex, to those who experience low levels, or sexual attraction only under specific conditions. Many of these different places on the continuum have their own identity labels (see demisexual).

bisexual 1 noun & adj. : a person who experiences attraction to some men and women. 2 adj. : a person who experiences attraction to some people of their gender and another gender. Bisexual attraction does not have to be equally split, or indicate a level of interest that is the same across the genders an individual may be attracted to. Often used interchangeably with “pansexual”.

cisgender /“siss-jendur”/ – adj. : a gender description for when someone’s sex assigned at birth and gender identity correspond in the expected way (e.g., someone who was assigned male at birth, and identifies as a man). A simple way to think about it is if a person is not transgender, they are cisgender. The word cisgender can also be shortened to “cis.”

demisexualadj. : little or no capacity to experience sexual attraction until a strong romantic connection is formed with someone, often within a romantic relationship.

gay1 adj. : experiencing attraction solely (or primarily) to some members of the same gender. Can be used to refer to men who are attracted to other men and women who are attracted to women. 2 adj. : an umbrella term used to refer to the queer community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who is not straight.

gender fluid adj. : a gender identity best described as a dynamic mix of boy and girl. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more man some days, and more woman other days.

genderqueer 1 adj. : a gender identity label often used by people who do not identify with the binary of man/woman. 2 adj. : an umbrella term for many gender non-conforming or non-binary identities (e.g., agender, bigender, genderfluid).

lesbian noun & adj. : women who are primarily attracted romantically, erotically, and/or emotionally to other women.

pansexual adj. : a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions. Often shortened to “pan.”

polyamory  (polyamorous) noun : refers to the practice of, desire for, or orientation toward having ethical, honest, and consensual non-monogamous relationships (i.e. relationships that may include multiple partners). Often shortened to “poly.”

queer 1 adj. : an umbrella term to describe individuals who don’t identify as straight and/or cisgender. 2 noun : a slur used to refer to someone who isn’t straight and/or cisgender. Due to its historical use as a derogatory term, and how it is still used as a slur many communities, it is not embraced or used by all LGBTQ people. The term “queer” can often be use interchangeably with LGBTQ (e.g., “queer people” instead of “LGBTQ people”).

transgender 1 adj. : a gender description for someone who has transitioned (or is transitioning) from living as one gender to another. 2 adj. : an umbrella term for anyone whose sex assigned at birth and gender identity do not correspond in the expected way (e.g., someone who was assigned male at birth, but does not identify as a man).

two-spiritnoun : is an umbrella term traditionally within Native American communities to recognize individuals who possess qualities or fulfill roles of both genders.

For more terms visit the SafeZoneProjects glossery:


Remember! These are not hard and fast definitions. They are more like guidelines, and everyone uses them slightly differently.

InQueery:10 videos on words used by the LGBTQ+ community by Them:





Sex: (sometimes called biological sex, anatomical sex, or physical sex) is comprised of things like genitals, chromosomes, hormones, body hair, and more.

Gender Identity: Your psychological sense of self. Who you, in your head, know yourself to be, based on how much you align (or don’t align) with what you understand to be the options for gender.

Emotional / Romantic Attraction: emotional response, which most people experience at one point or another, that results in a desire for a romantic relationship with the recipient. This does not always have to lead to sexual attraction.

Physical / Sexual Attraction: attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or shows sexual interest in another person(s).

Gender Expression: The ways you present gender, through your actions, clothing, demeanor, and more. Your outward-facing self, and how that’s interpreted by others based on gender norms.


You can use the scale below to place dots along the lines of how you fall in each of these categories. There is no right or wrong answer, and your answers could change over the course of a day, a month, a year.

Your dots don't have to line up with each other or connect in any way. Your Gender Identity could be all female, your Gender Expression could be all Masculine, your biological sex could be female, and you could be Romantically and Physically Attracted to men.

Gender Unicorn


Pronouns are how we refer to someone when we are not using their name.

"This is Amir. I've known him since preschool."

"This is Abby. I've known her since preschool."

"This is Ash. I've known them since preschool."

There are lots of reason why people use pronouns that may not match their sex at birth or their gender expression. Be polite and use the pronoun they use for themselves.

If you don't know it, use their name.

Here are some of the most popular ones, but there are others out there (E / Em / Eir) :



Common Questions
Sexuality and race/culture, religion

Despite how LGBTQ+ people are portrayed in popular media, we come from all walks to life. Below are resources on how big things like, race, culture, and religion intersect with the LGBTQ+ community. Remember, everyone's experience is unique.


National Black Justice Coalition

The National Black Justice Coalition is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian,gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Desi LGBTQ Helpline for South Asians

100% confidential support for South Asian / Desi lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning individuals, families, and friends

The National Center for Black Equity

The mission of the National Center for Black Equity is to promote a multinational LGBT network dedicated to improving health and wellness opportunities, economic empowerment, and equal rights while promoting individual and collective work, responsibility, and self-determination.

National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations.


An LGBTQ Latin@ multimedia publication that reexamines identity, guides critical dialogue, and inspires political action through content that reflects the diversity and dignity of our community.



LGBTQ+ Religion (Trevor Project):

Faith resources (Human Rights Campaign)

Sexuality and disability

Sex and Disability (book) edited by Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow:
From multiple perspectives—including literary analysis, ethnography, and autobiography—these essays consider how sex and disability come together and how disabled people negotiate sex and sexual identities in ableist and heteronormative culture. These essays shake up notions about who and what is sexy and sexualizable, what counts as sex, and what desire is.


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization that works collaboratively with employers, elected officials, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, philanthropists and the entertainment and news media to fight stigmas and advance opportunities.


Sexuality and recovery

Substance Use and SUDs in LGBTQ* Populations (National Institute on Drug Abuse):

Addressing Opioid Use Disorder among LGBTQ Populations (Fenway Institute):

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)):

"Life Narrative to Substance use: Voices from LGBTQ People." Wārasān Wičhai Witthayāsāt Kānphǣt = Thai Journal of Health Research by Sakunpong, Nanchatsan. 2018. 32 (5): 387-394.