Symbols and Definitions

LGBTQA Programs & Services: Symbols & Definitions

Pink Triangle:  The Nazis required known male homosexuals to wear an inverted pink triangle (one tip pointing down) so that they could be quickly targeted for special abuse.  Lesbians were assigned black upside-down triangles. In the 1970’s, gay activists began using the pink triangle as a way of identifying themselves & at the same time calling attention to this long-forgotten chapter in gay history.  In many instances, the triangle has been turned up (one tip pointing up) as a sign of reversing the fortunes of LGBTQA people. 

Rainbow Flag:  The first Rainbow Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist. Baker designed a flag with 8 stripes -- hot pink (sexuality), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sun), green (nature), turquoise (art), indigo (harmony) and violet (spirit). Baker hand-dyed and sewed the material for the first flags himself, which flew at the 1978 San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade.

In November 1978, Harvey Milk, San Francisco’s first openly gay city council member, was assassinated. To demonstrate the community's strength and solidarity after this tragedy, the 1979 Pride Parade Committee decided to use Baker's flag. Due to mass production constraints, hot pink was dropped, and the indigo stripe eliminated so the colors could be evenly distributed along the parade route - three colors on each side of the street. The six-striped version is now recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers.

Lambda:  The Greek Letter “L” was chosen by the Gay Activists Alliance in 1970 to become a symbol of the gay civil rights movement to represent “liberation.”  Greek Spartans believed that Lambda represented unity.  See for more information.

Bisexual Pride: uses the colors blue, pink and purple.

Transgender Symbol

Safe Space Card: Safe space represents a commitment to equitable (fair) access, dignity and safety for all people of all orientations and identities.  Individuals and organizations can provide safe spaces. Read more about the Safe Space/Ally Campaign.

Ally Card: Allies are pro-LGBTQ and actively committed to diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and personal safety for all people of all orientations and identities.  Ally cards are symbolic of a personal commitment to help “be the change.” Read more about the Safe Space/Ally Campaign.


Ally:  A person outside of one, some, or all of the LGBTQA communities whose attitudes and behavior are pro-LGBTQA and anti-heterosexist who works to help create an accepting, respectful, and safe environment for people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. 

Anti-LGBTQA Bias: Prejudice and/or discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression.

Bisexual:  A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to same and other sex individuals.  This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders and/or there may be a preference for one gender over others.  A similar term is ambisexuality (see pansexual).

Coming out:  The process by which one becomes aware of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (to “come out” to oneself).  It also refers to the process by which one shares one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status with others (to “come out” to friends, etc.).  Coming out is a continual, life-long process; LGBTQA individuals may be “out” to some and not “out” to others. Friends, families and allies experience their own on-going “coming out” process as they learn their loved one is LGBTQ and let others know that they have a friend or family member or other person in their life that is LGBTQA.

Discrimination:  Discrimination occurs when members of a more powerful social group behave unjustly or cruelly to members of a less powerful social group, i.e., prejudice + power = discrimination.  Discrimination can take many forms, including both individual acts of hatred or injustice or institutional denials of privileges normally accorded to other groups.  Ongoing discrimination creates a climate of oppression for the affected group. 

FtoM: Female to male transexual (also referred to as F2M and FTM).

Gay:  1. Term used in some cultural settings to represent males who are attracted to males in a romantic, erotic and/or emotional sense.  Not all men who engage in same sex behavior identify as gay or bisexual.  2.  Sometimes used to refer to the LGBTQA community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.

Gender:  Our way of perceiving things as masculine or feminine including physical traits, dress, behavior, and even inanimate objects.

Gender Identity:  A person’s sense of being masculine, feminine, both, other-gendered, or without gender; the gender to which one feels they belong.

Gender Role:  Refers to societal rules for men and women concerning appropriate and inappropriate behavior, appearance, feelings, relationships, etc. 

Gender Stereotypes:  Mental templates we all have for how each sex should look, dress, and behave.

LGBTIQQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, and Ally):  An acronym used to describe, as inclusively as possible, the diversity within the sexual and gender minorities we are addressing.  This acronym is used to encompass the great diversity within the gay (G), lesbian (L), bisexual (B), transgender (T), intersex (I), queer (Q), questioning (Q), and ally (A) communities.  LGBTQA has also been used with the Q to include all aspects of Queer (LGBTIQQ) identity.

Heterosexism: The societal assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Also used to refer to the systematic or institutionalized oppression of LGBTQA people.

Homophobia:  An unrealistic or irrational fear or hatred of LGBTQA people and their culture, the fear of being perceived as LGBTQA, the fear of one’s own LGBTQA tendencies, the fear of being LGBTQA, and/or the fear of any behavior or belief that does not conform to rigid sex role stereotypes.  This term is often misused for anti-LGBTQA bias, as most “homophobia” is not a true “phobia.”

Homosexual:  A person who is primarily attracted, emotionally, physically, and spiritually to persons of the same sex.  The terms gay (men) and lesbians (women) are often preferred terms.

Intergender:  A person whose gender identity is between genders or a combination of genders.

Intersex:  Persons with genitalia that are not distinctly male or female.

Lesbian:  Women who form their primary loving and sexual relationships with other women.  Some lesbians prefer the term lesbian while others use the term gay or women loving women.

MtoF: Male to Female Transsexual (also referred to as M2F and MTF).

Pansexual: A term that indicates an understanding of sexual and emotional attraction to a range of sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions. A similar term is omnisexual; the definition of bisexuality is now considered to include pan- and omni-sexuality.

Queer:  In the past, a derogatory term for gay men and lesbians.  This term has been reclaimed by activists and is considered a more inclusive term than gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, encompassing personal and political sexual and gender identities. Queer can also refer to radical politics and LGBTQA scholarly studies.

Sexual and gender minorities: a term used to describe the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer communities.

Sex:  Being male or female as determined by biological chromosomes and body chemistry.  The two primary sexes are male and female.

Sex Identity:  How a person identifies physically: female, male, in between, beyond, or neither.

Sexual Orientation:  Refers to whom one is affectionately, emotionally, and sexually attracted based on gender and sex characteristics.

Sexual Prejudice: refers to all negative attitudes based on sexual orientation whether the target is homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual.  Given the current social climate, such prejudice is almost always directed at people who engage in same sex behavior or label themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Transgender: Broadly defined as anyone who reassigned the sex or gender they were assigned at birth, or whose gender expression is considered nontraditional for their sex or gender, such as transsexuals, crossdressers, drag artists, androgynous people, genderqueers, masculine women, feminine men, and other gender variant individuals.

Transsexual:  A person who identifies psychologically as one gender/sex other than the one to which they were assigned at birth.  Transsexual refers to people who change or have changed their bodies hormonally and surgically to match their inner sense of gender/sex. 

Contact Information

Assistant Director
Pat Tetreault, Ph.D.
345 Nebraska Union

LGBTQA Resource Center

345 Nebraska Union
(402) 472-1652

LGBTQA Resource Center