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The evolution of the
2SLGBTQ+ Acronym:

Late 16th Century

May 6th, 1868

July 5th, 1960

December 1969

Early 1980s 

August 4th, 1990 

Early 1990s 

Mid 1990s 

Late 2000s-2010s


One of the earliest modern uses of "lesbian" to refer to same-sex attraction emerges in the literature of Abbé de Brantôme who was a french historian and soldier. (1) 

The terms homosexuality and heterosexuality are first written down by Karl Maria Kertbeny in a letter to his friend the queer rights activist Karl Henrich Ulrichs. (2)

One of the first documented public instances where gay was used to refer to homosexuality occurred in the Lewis Gilbert film, Light Up the Sky. This decade marked a shift in the definition of the word within popular culture. (3) By the 1970s, gay became an umbrella term to represent people who felt same-sex attraction across the spectrum. (4) 

Virginia Charles Prince first uses the term transgender(al) to refer to her gender identity within the magazine she founded Transvestia Magazine. Her writing helped shape trans activism and identity worldwide. (5) The term transgender became the most popular label for those with gender diverse identities by the late 1980s in part due to her activism. (6)

By the 1980s, GLB emerged to replace the term gay as an umbrella term. In part due to the increased activism and demand for representation by lesbian activists. Including the first documented lesbian pride march held in Vancouver from May 16-18th 1981. (7)

Two-Spirit (2S) is adopted is an identity marker during the third annual international Native American/First Nations gay and lesbian conference in Winnipeg. It comes from the Ojibwa words niizh manitoag. (8)

In the wake of the devastation of the AIDS crisis the acronym is altered to LGB to honour the role lesbians played in both AIDS activism and caring for the victims of the epidemic. (9)

Despite the crucial role the transgender community has played in queer activist history, transgender was not formally added to the acronym until the mid 1990s. (10)

Queer studies becomes increasingly popular within academic circles, this in turn encourages the reclamation of the term by members of the community as an identity marker. The acronym was again altered to LGBTQ+ to reflect this movement. (11)

In the wake of the truth and reconciliation report in Canada, many organizations have opted to put 2S at the front of the acronym to recognize the role of two-spirited communities as the first inhabitants of this country and the erasure they experienced through centuries of colonial oppression. (12)


(1) Blank, Paula. “The Proverbial ‘Lesbian’: Queering Etymology in Contemporary Critical Practice.” Modern Philology 109, no. 1 (2011): 108–34. 

(2) Downham Moore, Alison M. "The Historicity of Sexuality: Knowledge of the Past in the Emergence of Modern Sexual Science"Modern Intellectual History 18, no.22 (Sep 2019): 403–426. 

(3) Richler, Howard. How Happy Became Homosexual: And Other Mysterious Semantic Shifts. Ronsdale Press, 2013.

(4) Bullough, Vern L. Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. London: Routledge, 2002.

(5) University of Victoria. Virginia Prince; Transvestia Collections. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from 

(6) Stryker, Susan. Transgender History : the Roots of Today’s Revolution. Second edition. Berkeley: Seal Press, 2017.

(7) Canadian Museum of Human Rights. “The Body Politic, June 1981 .” Internet Archive. Toronto, Pink Triangle Press, January 1, 1981.

(8) Jacobs, Sue-Ellen., Wesley Thomas, and Sabine. Lang. Two-Spirit People : Native American Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality. Illini Books ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

(9) Warner, Tom. Never Going Back : A History of Queer Activism in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press,, 2020.

(10) Stryker, Susan. Transgender History : the Roots of Today’s Revolution. Second edition. Berkeley: Seal Press, 2017.

(11) Lewis, Holly M. The Politics of Everybody : Feminism, Queer Theory, and Marxism at the Intersection. London UK: Zed Books, 2016.

(12) The University of Winnipeg. "Terms | RISE: Respect, Inclusion, Safety, Equity". Accessed July 7, 2022.,truth%20and%20reconciliation%20in%20Canada. 

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