The history of the LGBTQ+ community has been around for millennia, yet at the same time remains relatively short. This is because, although homosexuality and the concept of a “third gender” has been recorded in existence since the 101st century BCE, with the depiction of two phallic male figures having intercourse as Mesolithic rock art in Sicily, the actual term “LGBT” has only been around since the 19th century.

It all began with the German lawyer and writer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who was the first individual to try to label his own community back in 1862, using the term “Urning” to refer to gay men. Interestingly, Urning opted to define queer sexuality as something of a gender, a move which may have later influenced further ideas of genders outside the binary male and female.

“We Urnings constitute a special class of human gender,” he wrote. “We are our own gender, a third sex.”

However, “Urning” didn't last long, as the terms “homosexuality” and “bisexuality” were coined by Austro-Hungarian journalist Karoly Maria Kertbeny, thus giving generations of people a new way to describe themselves. Yet alongside these terms, Kertbeny also coined the term “heterosexual”. Thus the “LGB” community was born. However, it was only until the 1990s was this term adopted, following longstanding liberation activism.

It took even longer to gain acceptance for another term - “transgender”. Coming into existence in the 1960s, historians traced its use to a 1965 Psychology textbook. The term was later popularised by activists, like Virginia Prince, who argued that sex and gender were two separate entities. By the 2000s, the term was embraced by many and thus came the development of the LGBT community. Despite this, it is irrefutable that the struggle for recognition among transgender people has continued to this day, as seen by 83 anti-trans bills passing into law in the USA in 2023 alone.

More recently, Q has been added to the acronym. In use since at least the 1910s, it was also once a slur, yet has since been increasingly used by people within the gay rights movement beginning in the 1990s. Linguist Gregory Coles writes that it “can be read as at once pejorative and honorific,” depending on the speaker’s identity and intention. Scholars largely consider the use of “queer” as one of reclamation. Q also stands for “questioning”, as a way to acknowledge those who are exploring their gender or sexual identity.

The LGBTQ+ community has undoubtedly come far in its inclusivity. However, there remains large amounts of exclusion faced by ethnic minority groups and disabled people, with 51% of LGBT people from ethnic minority backgrounds facing discrimination within the community, whilst one in eight LGBT disabled people have faced limitations. Furthermore, despite further introduction of labels in the LGBTQ+ community, many continue to feel that they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity to their family, with only 46% feeling they can do so.

There are always ways to support the LGBTQ+ community, even if you are not queer yourself. For example, by donating money to LGBT Foundation, a charity which helps to advise and provide support through helplines, emails and pop-in services, as well as providing sexual health screenings and HIV tests. Importantly, there are other ways to help out which do not require much effort or cost at all - simply be kind to those around you, helping to create an environment where they may feel safe and welcomed. This can be achieved by calling out homophobic or transphobic attitudes and reaching out to a trusted adult or member of staff in your workplace or school to report such behaviour. You could also welcome LGBTQ+ individuals into your lives, by befriending them or including them in group activities, helping foster a world where all feel welcomed.

If you face discrimination at home or school as a result of your sexuality or gender orientation, remember that you are not alone in your struggles and that there is always someone you can reach out to. Below are some helplines and chat groups which can provide support.

LGBT Foundation: 0845 330 3030 or 0161 235 8035 (open daily, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

Switchboard LGBT+: 0800 0119 100 (open daily, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

LGBTQ+ social media groups can also be found on sites like TikTok, Tumblr, Discord and YouTube, as well as LGBTQ-focused sites like Q Chat Space and TrevorSpace. Please note that social media sites can be largely unregulated and may come with the risk of online harassment and bullying. However, many of these online groups provide a sense of community, and are recommendable as largely safe.