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” which came into existence in the 1960s, with historians tracing its use in 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. However, despite this, it must be recognised that the struggle for recognition among transgender people has continued to this day, as seen by how, in 2023, 83 anti-trans bills were passed into law in the USA.

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 the introduction of more labels in the LGBTQ+ community, many continue to feel that they cannot be open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to their whole family, with only 46% feeling they can be open.

There are always ways to support the LGBTQ+ community, even if you aren’t queer yourself. For example, by donating money to LGBT Foundation, a charity which helps to advise and provide support for LGBTQ+ individuals through helplines, emails and pop-in services, as well as providing sexual health screenings and HIV tests. However, there are other ways to help out which don't require much effort or cost at all, and that is to simply be kind to those around you who are members of the community, helping to create an environment where they may feel safe and welcomed. This can be done 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 can also try to welcome LGBTQ+ individuals into your own lives - befriending them or including them in group activities.

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 10 am to 10 pm, daily)

Switchboard LGBT+: 0800 0119 100 (open 10 am to 10 pm, daily)

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 can provide a sense of community and I would recommend them as largely safe.