by Andi Maratos (they / them) psychotherapist and CEO of Beyond Reflections

Beyond Reflections is a national charity supporting trans, non-binary, and questioning adults, their family, and friends. They provide safe, confidential support which builds self-esteem and mental wellbeing. Empowering their members to understand themselves better and make healthy decisions about their future.

LGBTQ+ History month began in the UK in 2005. Its goal was to bring LGBTQ+ history to light. To provide resource, role models and context for LGBTQ+ children and adults. A drive to redress the balance, to correct the straightwashing of history. The obscuring of someone’s sexuality or gender identity when telling their story, or simply the avoidance of telling their story even when their work changed the world.

What does LGBTQ+ mean?

For today’s blog I am speaking about the history of the letters that make up the acronym. Why not include some of these facts in your quiz for your workplace LGBTQ+ History month event?

Give me an ‘L’

L is for lesbian, a woman who is attracted to other women.

The word first appeared in our language in the late 19th Century via the Latin from the Greek Lesbios, from Lesbos, the home of the poet Sappho (630-570 BC). Sappho was widely regarded as one of the greatest lyric poets of the ancient world who expressed erotic and romantic sentiment for women as well as men in her work.

Give me a ‘G’

G is for gay, a person who is homosexual (used especially of a man).

The word comes from 12th century French ‘gai’, which means happy and carefree but by the 17th century the word had come to imply someone ‘addicted to pleasures and dissipation’, as well as retaining the meanings of happy and carefree. The word was linked to the freedom of expressed sexuality but not specifically homosexuality. By 1955 the word gay had been claimed. The term homosexual being felt to be too clinical, too like a disorder, gay men themselves pushed for this term to become the official one.

Give me a ‘B’

B is for bi, or bisexual, a person who is sexually attracted not exclusively to people of one gender; or someone who is attracted to both men and women.

There are nuanced differences between bisexual and pansexual which relate to how individuals relate to gender identity in others. I always recommend you ask a person what their term means to them so you can better understand and empathise with them.

Give me a ‘T’

T is for trans or transgender, a person whose gender identity does not align with the one they were assigned at birth.

A Latin preposition which means “across, beyond, though, on the other side of, to go beyond.” Used in English since the 1970's to apply to people who exist in one way or another outside the normative constructs of binary gender.

Give me a ‘Q’

Q is for Queer, a person who is either not heterosexual (straight) or not cis gender, or both and Q is for Questioning. A new addition to the acronym.

Queer has a recent history a term of abuse now reclaimed and worn with pride. A statement that one does not align with the old ways of defining sexuality or gender identity and that to be this way is OK.

Questioning creates space. To question is to understand not everything needs to be known, or understood. Including the term questioning allows fluidity of that gender identity and sexuality. A questioning person may refuse the restrictions of definition or be developing their understanding of themself.

And now include everyone else

+ is for everyone else who is either not straight or cis gender.

A way to show that we actively work towards inclusion, towards understanding. The + tells all those who feel their sexuality, their gender identity not accurately described by the previous letters. The + makes our rainbow into the Pride umbrella which welcomes and respects us all.

What Beyond Reflections are doing to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month

We are running a series bringing more LGBTQ+ people into focus. Friends and staff of BR are writing pieces about people they know about. Check out our special weekly feature to find out more about how Emperor Hadrian, Justin Fashanu, April Ashley and Tomas(ine) Hall’s diverse gender identity or sexuality shaped the life they led and continues to influence LGBTQ+ people today.

People have always been LGBTQ+, it is language and social constructs which change

It is only in the last two centuries that we have divided up sexuality and gender identity in these ways. People of the ancient world were more concerned about status and who did what to whom. Those of Medieval times were concerned with inheritance and maintaining strict class structures.  If this subject interests you then you might want to read how a 12th Century King ruled on an apparent immaculate conception in Pink News or check out research by Zoe Baker on homosexuality in Medieval Europe.

I hope that you have learnt something from this blog. Good mental wellbeing for LGBTQ+ people comes from knowing our true history, having great role models, and being supported.

You can make history

Beyond Reflections uses our knowledge, our understanding, and our acceptance to help people change their own worlds. Our work empowers people to connect with their past, to understand and respect the person who got them to this point. Our counsellors often work with members who want to understand their place in history, who need to connect to the past so they can move into their future.

If you want to help us fund that life changing work, then join us and make history. We are on a course to build the most Progress Pride flags ever seen in Minecraft. Join us in harnessing the power of Twitch. Help us make Pride visible across the globe on Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV) March 31st.

Beyond Reflections Support

Beyond Reflections (formerly Chrysalis) provides support groups, well being drop-ins, one-to-one counselling and third-party hate-crime reporting services to trans, non-binary and gender questioning adults, their family, and friends. To find out more about our services check out our website here and follow us on social media @BeyondReflectUK. You can contact us by calling 03448 568 545, emailing [email protected] or filling out our contact form here. A trained advisor will then contact you to discuss the support we offer. This initial call will take around 30 minutes.

Beyond Reflections support enables the individual to recognise their authentic self and the external pressures to which they are subject. The non-judgemental environment empowers the individual to make healthy decisions about their future. Not all our trans* members go on to transition. For those who do their transition is unique and transformational.

Members pay between £5 a month and £20 a month contribution for our support. For those on limited income we have bursaries and other financial support available, please speak to your advisor.

Beyond Reflections provides corporate training. Delivering trans+ awareness training and bespoke courses informed by the experiences of our members.

Find out more about our counselling placements and other volunteering opportunities here, if you are empathic and have a passion for authenticity then we would love to hear from you.