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The goal of this guide is to provide a brief overview of LGBTQIA+ history and culture as well as point towards resources for further reading.


The library’s mission states, “The San Antonio Public Library changes lives through the transformative power of information, imagination and ideas.”  To fulfill its mission to change lives, the library embraces the diversity  of the city  it serves.  

LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, and Asexual (or Aromantic). The "+" sign symbolizes that gender and sexuality exist on a spectrum and includes everyone who is part of the community without feeling like they fit a single defined identity. While the acronym may bring to mind Pride month festivities, parades, and rainbow flags, the LGBTQ+ community exists all year round.  So don't wait until June to dive into LGBTQ+ history and culture, it's fascinating to look at all year round!

The San Antonio Public Library provides inclusive information in a respectful way.  In keeping with our own mission, the events and information shared through the library's material, programs, and web sites demonstrate the value that the City places on diversity. 


Queer - a word reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community often used as an umbrella term for those who fall outside heterosexual/cisgender norms

Gay  - refers to men who are romantically and sexually attracted to other men

Lesbian - refers to women who are romantically and sexually attracted to other women

Bisexual - refers to individuals who are romantically and sexually attracted to more than one gender.

Pansexual - refers to individuals who are not limited in their romantic and sexual attraction by gender, sex, or gender identity 

Asexual - refers to individuals who experience low or no sexual attraction to others, but this does not mean they do not experience romantic feelings. Learn more at the Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

Transgender - a person whose gender identity or gender expression differs from their sex assigned at birth. This is the term primarily used today and is often shortened to trans.

Transsexual - an older term that was once used to describe transgender individuals. This is not an umbrella term and most transgender people prefer the term transgender

Genderqueer or Non-binary - refers to an individual whose gender identity/expression does not fall within the traditional categories of man or woman. Learn more about non-binary at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Gender Non-conforming - an individual whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculine or feminine traits. Not all gender non-conforming individuals are transgender, and not all transgender individuals are gender-nonconforming

Cisgender - an individual who is not transgender, whose gender identity is the same as their sex assigned at birth

Intersex - an individual born with born with variations in sex characteristics such as chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones or genitals that do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies. Learn more at Planned Parenthood or The Intersex Society of North America

Two-Spirit - is a Native American term to describe Native people who, in their communities, occupy an alternative gender status. It was coined during the 1990 Indigenous gay and lesbian gathering in Winnipeg to reclaim this alternative gender distinction from such offensive and outdated terms like berdache.  Although not every Native American Tribe uses the term two-spirit or has a cultural equivalent. Two-spirit is a concept with a rich, nuanced history and should also not be used as an umbrella term for gay, lesbian, trangender, or other queer Native American people. Learn more about two-spirits here and here.

False Dichotomy

When becoming involved with the queer community, either as an ally or in another capacity, it is important to recognize gender and sexuality fall on a spectrum, not a dichotomy.

dichotomy is two separate, opposite ideas: male or female, gay or straight




spectrum allows for variation and the ability to exist between states.



Many people do not identify as strictly male or female, homosexual or heterosexual. A man who likes to wear a skirt and/or makeup may not actually identify as transgender or gay. A woman who like to wear suits or has hobbies society deems as masculine is not necessarily a lesbian or trans. 

As an ally, it is important to meet the members of the community where they are and feel most comfortable. Do not assume! Use the pronouns, terms, and names the people you meet prefer.