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American LGBTQIA+ History

History Librarian

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Kristina Claunch
Library (NGL) Room 223G


This guide is intended to provide a starting point for researching topics in LGBTQIA+ history in the United States and was originally developed to support a section of HIST 3399 Special Topics in History.

This guide is not comprehensive; it does not list all of the resources on this topic or in related disciplines owned by the Library or available on the Internet. This guide serves merely as a starting point for research.

Terminology & Shorthand

Shorthand such as LGBTQIA+, LGBTQ, LGBT, LGBTTQQIAAP, and many other varying abbreviations and acronyms may be seen in use to broadly represent sexual identity-based and gender identity-based communities, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, polysexual, and ally/straight ally.


LGBT = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender

  • L = Lesbian
  • G = Gay or Genderqueer
  • B = Bisexual
  • T = Transgender or Two-Spirit
  • I = Intersex or Inquiring
  • Q = Queer or Questioning
  • A = Asexual or Ally
  • P = Polysexual
  • + = embraces additional identities not specified

Keep in mind when searching for information resources that you may need to try numerous variant searches, interchanging terms (depending on your precise research topic) such as homosexual, gay, lesbian, lesbigay, LGBT, GLBTQ, and so forth. You may need to research which terms and abbreviations were most common at a specific time in history.


In beginning research concerning LGBTQIA+ history, it may be helpful to define some related terms.

The following definitions are taken (either direct quote or paraphrase) from the Historical Dictionary of the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movements.

If you encounter unfamiliar terms during your research, refer to a specialized dictionary like this one (see ebook linked below) to get not only a definition, but also some historical and cultural context.

Gay: (Adj.) Homosexual, or (Noun) A homosexual, male or female. Began as a coded reference and did not catch on in broader social use until after Stonewall (1969). Some homosexual women may prefer the term lesbian (169).

Lesbian: "A female homosexual" (238).

Bisexual: "A person who has sexual relations with both men and women" (82).

Transgender:  "A person whose gender presentation or expression actively blurs normative gender categories..., for example, cross-dressers, drag kings, or transvestites" (353).

Transvestite: "A person, usually male, who dresses and acts as a member of the opposite sex. A transvestite may or may not be homosexual" (354).

Queer: "Once a derogatory term for homosexual, it was reclaimed by radical lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered activists and queer theorists in the 1980s as a more inclusive term" (305).

Intersex: "Someone whose anatomy is not exclusively male or female; that person might have previously been a hermaphrodite" (215).

Asexual: "A person who...has no interest in engaging in sex or has no sexual attraction to others" (66).

Allies: "Heterosexual people and groups who support LGBTQ people in their struggle for acceptance and equality" (57).



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