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13 destination weddings that will surprise your guests

From roller coasters to Southfork, a range of new venues in holdout states



destination wedding, gay news, Washington Blade
destination wedding, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Innovated Captures; courtesy Bigstock)

With last week’s Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples suddenly have a lot of new options for destination weddings.

Before June 26, there were 13 states that did not allow gays to wed. We looked at off-the-beaten-path venues in each of those states you might want to consider if you want to walk down the aisle in a memorable way.



destination wedding, gay news, Washington Blade

Old Mattress Factory Bar and Grill (Photo by Cyndi Murphy)

The Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill — “The Matt” to locals — claims it’s North Downtown Omaha’s “best event bar” located in one of the area’s oldest historic buildings, an 1883 beautiful brick building that started as the Stabrie Grocery Store but later became the Central Mattress Company where, from 1945 into the 1990s, mattresses were built, sold and shipped.

“Matt” owners have taken pride in preserving its interiors and the site offers a newly renovated bar/restaurant within the original brick walls and architecture of the old Stabrie building. The unusually high ceilings and restored wood timbers and beams give the place an open and authentic atmosphere.

Although only about 15 weddings have been conducted there in Cyndi Murphy’s seven years there, it’s a popular spot for receptions.

“Oh, we do a ton,” Murphy says. “At least one reception a week.”

She says the Matt has already hosted several same-sex receptions and the staff would be delighted to do more.

“Absolutely,” she says. “We don’t discriminate against anybody. If you’re in love, have at it.”

Details at



destination weddings, gay news, Washington Blade

Lewis & Clark Riverboat (Photo by Jesse Knudson Photography)

Sail away to your new life together on the Lewis & Clark Riverboat, owned and operated by the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation. The riverboat is available May through September to enjoy the scenic Missouri River.

You and 100 guests can enjoy a ceremony held on the upper deck, wedding decor, a pre-event rehearsal, cash bar and staff. A variety of catering and reception options are available. Rates vary depending on day and length of event but start at $1,100.

Although they’ve had no same-sex weddings yet, Eryn Anderson, who works in the ticket office, says “of course” they’re open to that.

“We were just going to do a Pride event a couple weeks ago but it got cancelled because of weather,” she says. “But we have weddings here all the time and are definitely open to that.”

Details at




destination weddings, gay news, Washington Blade

Mount Rushmore (Photo by Mike Tigas; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Billed as the “first ever wedding under the faces of Mount Rushmore,” a group wedding this fall will be gay. On Sept. 6, a “National Marriage Celebration” is planned for LGBT couples and allies where couples can wed or rededicate their vows. Officiants will perform the ceremony and sign marriage certificates. “Come solemnize or rededicate your vows at the historic event at the Shrine of Democracy,” organizers say. “Dinner and reception will be held in Rapid City after the ceremony.”

The event is being organized by the Black Hills Center for Equality, a Rapid City, S.D.-based LGBT group. Details at




destination weddings, gay news, Washington Blade

Southfork (Photo courtesy Cherie Calloway Photography)

If you want a big Texas wedding Ewing style, Southfork Ranch is happy to welcome you. Get married in style at the site of such famous “Dallas” weddings as Mitch and Lucy, J.R. and Sue Ellen (twice) and even Miss Ellie and Clayton. Lucy’s wedding dress is displayed on site along with other props from the classic soap (1978-1991 and 2012-2014).

“Southfork Ranch LLC allows same-sex and opposite-sex marriages as well as all denominations and cultures to marry here,” says Janna Timm, regional director of sales and marketing for the ranch. Same-sex couples have already wed there. The busy site averages about 75 weddings a year.

The Southfork Ranch Conference & Event Center in Parker, Texas (20 miles north of downtown Dallas) has 10 different ballrooms to host events of all sizes. Two full-time event professionals are on hand to help you with all details. No prices listed. Details at

In a Blade interview last year, actress Linda Gray (Sue Ellen) said she would love to see a gay Southfork wedding.

“Sure, why not?,” she said.




Several wedding packages are available at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, a 365-acre amusement park located on a Lake Erie peninsula in Sandusky, Ohio. Opened in 1870, it’s the second-oldest operating amusement park in the United States.

The most memorable would undoubtedly be the “Roller Coaster Wedding Package,” which can be yours for $4,500. Billed as “the ultimate way to tie the knot,” you can be joined in holy matrimony on the roller coaster platform of your choice for one hour before the park opens. Then take the plunge with private ride time for you and your guests.

The package includes one hour of private time on the ride, photos for 12 guests, a 90-minute escorted photo session in the park and park admission for 12 guests.

Details at




destination weddings, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy Racheal Melodie’s Photography)

Want to give your wedding a macabre twist? Look no further than the Death Yard Haunted Attraction in Nashville, which lets you get married in a haunted house with all the ghosts, ghouls, goblins and more.

“Dark Weddings” offer a “languished, Victorian-style parlor” and courtyard for your ceremony that can be held inside or out. Several packages are available. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a 30-minute event for the couple and officiant only (no guests) that runs $400 (Mondays-Thursdays) or $475 on weekends.

“A Nightmare Come True” is one hour and allows for the couple and six guests and is $850 (weekdays) or $995 (weekends). Other packages vary and include “Till Death Do Us Part” (two hours), “The Midnight Hour Ceremony” (two-and-a-half hours) or “Piece by Piece,” which can be as long as you want.

“Our venue is open to every marriage,” said Ana Miller, Death Yard Haunted Attraction events coordinator. “We believe that everyone deserves love. Love always wins.”

Details at




destination weddings, gay news, Washington Blade

MovieLounge (Photo courtesy MovieLounge)

Cinema buff couples rejoice! MovieLounge (7601 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith, Ark.) is a mixture of traditional wedding hall and movie theater. The venue, owned by Dwight Curry (who’s gay), includes a main dining room, two cinemas and a ballroom space. Couples can even screen movies or photo galleries for their receptions if they choose.

MovieLounge has been serving the gay community in their wedding needs since its opening. “We had one phone call from a couple who had booked a commitment ceremony at another venue in town,” Curry says. “The owner found out it was a gay couple and told them they wouldn’t do it. They called us last minute and we were like absolutely. I’m really proud to be doing that kind of thing for Fort Smith.”

For more details, visit




Tybee Wedding Chapel (1114 US-80, Tybee Island, Ga.) on Tybee Island is a tropical getaway wedding for those that want to stay stateside. Tybee Wedding Chapel accommodates different types of wedding ceremonies and receptions including taking private elopements with only one day’s notice.

The ceremony, reception, cocktail hour or after party can all be handled in the same space. For more information, visit




Churchill Downs (700 Central Ave., Louisville, Ky.) is an interesting reception location for after the vows have been exchanged.

Churchill Downs, site of the annual Kentucky Derby, has a variety of rooms to rent that vary by number of people that need to be accommodated and by views. The Stakes Room has a view of the entire track while the Triple Crown Room holds views of the downtown skyline.

For more details, visit




House of Blues New Orleans (225 Decatur St., New Orleans, La.) is an offbeat venue for a music-loving couple. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, there is both an outdoor and indoor space available to host a reception.

Renting options range from booking the restaurant for a sit down lunch to booking the entire music hall to watch your favorite local band, DJ or even headlining artist give a special performance for the memorable day.

For more details, visit




destination weddings, gay news, Washington Blade

The Gothic Room (Photo courtesy Dossin Great Lakes Museum)

The Dossin Great Lakes Museum, part of the Detroit Historical Society, (100 The Strand, Detroit, Mich.) is the ideal venue for a maritime-themed wedding ceremony. The museum boasts scenic views of the Detroit River and Canada inside the Gothic Room, which seats 40.

Couples can rent out single rooms from the Gothic Room to DeRoy Hall, which seats 120 people. They can also rent the entire museum for their special day. For more information, visit




Mississippi Agricultural Museum (1150 Lakeland Dr., Jackson, Miss.) gives a wedding a historical small town feel for an intimate wedding gathering.

The Museum Church, a small historic church that seats 100, is where the wedding ceremony takes place, followed by a reception at the Masonic Lodge. The couple and their guests can walk through “Small Town” on their way to the chapel as well as shop at the General Store.

Details at




Getting married in a barn has never been so glamorous. Give your wedding plenty of Southern charm by getting married at Dodson Orchards (Madison 9563 Fredericktown, Mo.).

Take all of the typical wedding factors and enjoy them inside Dodson Orchards’ rustic barn. There are even hayrides available for the couple and their guests to have a true country wedding experience.

For details, visit


a&e features

Another busy summer season arrives in Rehoboth Beach

Fine dining, drag shows, theater, and more on tap for 2023



Joe Ciarlante-Zuber (right) with his husband and business partner Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber have another busy summer of events planned at Diego’s. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

The summer of 2023 will be an exciting time in Rehoboth Beach, with lots to see and do as always. Great people, and of course the sand, sea, and boardwalk. Everyone in town has been working hard over the winter to make this the best season ever at the beach. New businesses, old ones moving to new locations, milestone anniversaries, and just loads of fun all around. 

While I am often just a burger and fries’ guy, Rehoboth has become a real foodie paradise for those who enjoy, and appreciate, really fine dining. (For more on the dining scene, see separate story in the Blade.)

The City of Rehoboth has fewer than 1,500 full-time residents. Many who have a Rehoboth address like me, live outside the city boundary. But at any time during the summer season, the population swells to more than 25,000. Among them are many members of the LGBTQ community. If you are one of them, stop by CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center, founded by Murray Archibald and Steve Elkins in 1991. 

Today, many of the businesses in town are owned by members of the community and even those that aren’t are supportive of the community. The most famous residents of the area are President Biden and first lady Jill Biden, who try to spend some weekends at their home there. Not sure how much time they will have this summer between the duties of being president and running for reelection.  I do know when there, they love the famous chicken salad sandwiches, among other great things, from Lori Klein’s Lori’s Oy Veh Café in the CAMP courtyard. Lori’s is celebrating its 27th season. If you stop in the courtyard, you will be pleased to see new tables and chairs where you can sit and enjoy your meal.

My favorite hangout on Baltimore Avenue, the gayest block in Rehoboth, is Aqua Grill. The perfect place to spend happy hour any day of the week. Chris, one of the hot and charming waiters, is back serving drinks on the deck. Then there is The Pines restaurant across the street with a great showroom upstairs and always fun entertainment. The guys who own it have expanded their operations with Drift on Baltimore and now taken over the old Philip Morton Gallery and turned it into their offices. They are also preparing to open Bodhi on 1st street. One of the great old standbys at the beach is The Purple Parrot Grill and Biergarten on Rehoboth Avenue. Owners Hugh Fuller and Troy Roberts make everyone feel welcome. The old girl has a bright new paint job this year and she’s better than ever with some great entertainment. 

Make sure you read the Blade’s column on food at the beach but here are just some of the places I passed on my walk around town on sidewalk sale weekend. There are Eden Restaurant, Azafran, and La Fable on the beach block of Baltimore Avenue. Then the always reliable standby the Blue Moon. In addition to some of the best food in town, the Moon has an extensive calendar of special events planned for summer, including the much anticipated return of talented NYC pianist Nate Buccieri beginning June 25. He plays Sunday-Thursday for most of the summer; check for specifics.

There is also Ava’s and Theo’s and Frank and Louie’s on the second block.The venerable Back Porch on Rehoboth Avenue has been serving some of Rehoboth’s finest food for decades, and, of course, Houston White further up the street if you’re craving a steak.Then there is Goolee’s Grill on 1st street and the new location of JAM on 2nd. Goolee’s is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a cocktail party on June 1, 5-9 p.m.; tickets are $15 and available online.

My favorite morning place, it has become my afternoon place as well, is the totally refurbished Coffee Mill in the mews between Rehoboth Avenue and Baltimore Avenue, just next to the wonderful Browseabout Books on Rehoboth Avenue. Dewey Beach residents will soon have their own Coffee Mill in a beachfront location, 1700 Coastal Highway. It will have a great view of the beach and ocean from its rooftop deck. Mel and Bob are going to be busy this year with all their places including Brashhh on 1st street, now celebrating its 11th year, and The Mill Creamery serving Hopkins ice cream. Longtime Rehoboth business owner Steve Fallon, one of the best promoters of the beach I know, has the fun Gidget’s Gadgets on Rehoboth Avenue and his second place selling vinyl records, Extendedplay. Then there is Coho’s Market and Grill on Rehoboth Avenue. 

Back on the gayest block in Rehoboth, Baltimore Avenue, don’t forget to stop in and purchase some incredible one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, and now original art, at Elegant Slumming and then get your hair cut in The Grateful Head Salon.  

For more afternoon and evening entertainment there is the popular Diego’s Bar and Nightclub (37298 Rehoboth Avenue Ext.), a perfect spot for outdoor happy hours and late night dancing. Local legend Magnolia Applebottom holds court all summer with performances slated for the Thursday and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. Sunday’s show runs 6-9 p.m. followed by DJ Mags “with her boys” from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. In addition to Magnolia, Diego’s brings internationally known DJs to town during the summer. And the free parking is a nice bonus in a town with a chronic shortage of parking spaces. Diego’s has an exciting summer of special events planned, so follow them online for updates. Among the acts coming to Diego’s this summer are “Jaws the Musical” (June 18), Ada Vox (July 5), and Edmund Bagnell (July 17). 

Don’t miss the always fun Freddie’s Beach Bar on 1st street, where the amazing Freddie Lutz has brought his wonderful concept from Virginia to the beach. The beloved Pamala Stanley performs periodically at Freddie’s; follow her on social media for updated dates.

Remember Rehoboth still has some great culture even if the town commissioners have been trying to force it out of town. The amazing Clear Space Theatre is stillon Baltimore Avenue. This season’s productions include Lucy in the Sea with Darvon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Kinky Boots, and The Spongebob Musical

This will be a summer not to miss at the beach. Better make your plans to visit soon, if you haven’t already, because hotels and rentals are booking fast. 

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a&e features

Pride season arrives!

LGBTQ community events planned across region



A scene from the 2022 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pride season has already begun. Last month’s Roanoke Pride filled the Virginia city’s Elmwood Park with rainbow flags. Pride events begin in D.C. this month and continue through June. Regionally, some cities have opted to hold their Pride events as late as the fall. 


Organizers of Trans Pride D.C. ( plan a full day of workshops and events on Saturday, May 20 at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library (901 G Street, N.W.). These events are currently listed on Facebook and Eventbrite as running from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

The HIV/PrEP Programs at the Charles County Department of Health are hosting PrEP for Pride 2023 at 4545 Crain Highway in White Plains, Md. on Saturday May 20 from 12-7 p.m. 

The festival is free, though those who RSVP will be entered into a door prize drawing. PrEP for Pride’s Eventbrite page advertises a pride walk, a PrEP Mini Ball, music, art, health & wellness information, food options and other vendors.

Equality Prince William Pride ( will be held on Sunday, May 21 at the Harris Pavillion (9201 Center Street, Manassas, Va.) from 12-4 p.m., according to its Facebook events page.

The event is billed as a family-friendly event with music, vendors and kids activities. Performers include musician John Levengood, BRUU Band & Choir and the drag artists Coco Bottoms, Muffy Blake Stephyns and Ophelia Bottoms.

D.C. Black Pride ( events are held throughout the city May 26-29 primarily at the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel (999 9th Street, N.W.). 

Official events include a Unity Ball, a vendor expo, a talent showcase, forums, parties and the annual Pride Festival in the Park at Fort Dupont Park on May 29 from 12-7 p.m.

A scene from the Us Helping Us Black Pride Festival at Fort Dupont Park last May. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The third Caroline County Pride Festival ( “A Carnival Adventure” will be held in downtown Denton, Md. (301 Market Street) on Saturday, May 27 from 3-8 p.m. according to the group’s Facebook event page.


Last year’s Baltimore Trans Pride March was held on June 5, 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Linus Berggren)

Baltimore Trans Pride ( kicks off the month at 2117 North Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 3, according to Baltimore Safe Haven’s Facebook event page.

The Baltimore Trans Pride 2023 Grand March is to be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday along North Charles Street between 22nd and 23rd. The Block Party continues at 3 p.m. with performances beginning at 4 p.m.

Afterparties are scheduled at The Crown (1901 North Charles Street) and Ottobar (2549 North Howard Street). Baltimore Safe Haven also hosts a kickoff ball on Friday, June 2 at 2640 Saint Paul Street at 6 p.m.

Annapolis Pride ( holds its annual parade and festival on Saturday, June 3 from 12-5 p.m. on Inner West Street in Annapolis, Md. according to the Facebook event page

Hundreds lined the streets of downtown Annapolis for the Annapolis Pride Parade. (Photo by Jaime Thompson courtesy Fleur de Lis Photography)

Reston Pride ( holds its annual festival at Lake Anne Plaza (1609 Washington Place) in Reston, Va. on Saturday, June 3 from 12-6 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

Last year’s Reston Pride festival was held at Lake Anne Plaza. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Ellicott City, Md. holds OEC Pride ( on June 3-4 in Old Ellicott City. Events include a mascara run up and down Main Street and a movie presentation of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. 

Suffolk, Va. holds its third annual Suffolk Pride Festival ( on Saturday, June 3 from 5-8 p.m. at Bennetts Creek Park (3000 Bennetts Creek Park Road, Suffolk, Va.), according to the Facebook event page.

Portsmouth Pride Fest ’23 ( is the second annual LGBTQ community celebration in Portsmouth, Va. The festival is to be held on Saturday, June 3 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Portsmouth Festival Field next to Atlantic Union Pavilion, according to the Facebook event page.

The Alexandria LGBTQ Task Force presents the sixth annual Alexandria Pride ( at Alexandria City Hall in Market Square of Old Town Alexandria, Va. (301 King Street) on Saturday, June 3 from 1-5 p.m.

Newport News, Va. has its first I Am What I Am (IAWIA) Pride Festival on Sunday, June 4 from 12-7 p.m. at Tradition Brewing Company (700 Thimble Shoals Boulevard, Newport News, Va.), according to the Facebook event page.

The 2023 Cumberland Pride Festival ( will be held at Canal Place (13 Canal Street, Columbia, Md.) Sunday, June 4 from 12-4 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

The 2022 Cumberland Pride Festival was held at Canal Place in Cumberland, Md. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Culpepper County in rural Virginia will be getting its very first pride celebration with Culpepper Pride Festival ( on Sunday, June 4 from 12-5 p.m. at Mountain Run (10753 Mountain Run Lake Road, Culpepper, Va.). An after-hours 21+ drag show will be held.

Equality Loudoun’s “Across the Decades” 2023 Loudoun Pride Festival ( will be held on Sunday, June 4 from 1-7 p.m. at Claude Moore Park (21668 Heritage Farm Ln, Sterling, Va.). This is a ticketed event with a $5 general admission.

Last year’s Loudoun Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Delaware Pride ( is being celebrated as a festival on Saturday, June 10 at Legislative Hall (411 Legislative Avenue, Dover, Del.) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. according to the Facebook page.

D.C.’s massive Capital Pride ( includes the 2023 Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 10 and the 2023 Capital Pride Festival on Pennsylvania Avenue on Sunday, June 11. On top of the many official events, there are a great number of parties in venues throughout the city over the week, including the not-to-be-missed Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show, held 2-9 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at the Wharf. There are two timed VIP sessions that include catered food and open bar. The region’s only Pride fireworks display, sponsored by the Leonard-Litz Foundation, takes place at 9 p.m. Visit for tickets and information.

Jerry Houston and Elizabethany of HOT 99.5 served as emcees of the 2022 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Third annual Pride in the ViBe, will be held at ViBe Park (1810 Cyprus Avenue, Virginia Beach, Va.) on Sunday, June 11 from 1-6 p.m., according to the Facebook event page.

Scenic Chesapeake, Va. is the backdrop for Pride in the ‘Peake 2023 at City Park Section B next to the basketball courts on Sunday, July 11, according to an posting.

Eastern Panhanlde Pride is to be held on Saturday, June 17 from 12-5 p.m. in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., according to EPP’s Facebook page.

The Delmarva Pride Center presents DELAMRVA Pride ( with events from June 16-18. The DELMARVA Pride Festival is to be held on Saturday, June 17 along South Harrison Street in downtown Easton, Md. Other events include a drag show and a Sunday brunch, according to the Pride Center’s Facebook page.

The Ghent Business Association presents Ghent Pride “Party at the Palace Shops” on Tuesday, June 20 from 6-10 p.m. at The Palace Shops and Staton (301 West 21st Street, Norfolk, Va.), according to the Facebook event page. This is a ticketed event with general admission $13.

The Human Rights Commission of the City of Rockville holds the seventh annual Rockville Pride ( on Saturday, June 24 from 1-4 p.m. at Rockville Town Square (131 Gibbs Street, Rockville, Md.).

Arlington Pride ( holds events from June 23-25 that include a pageant, a brunch, a festival and an afterparty. The Arlington Pride Festival returns for its second year on June 24 from 12-7 p.m. at the Rosslyn Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway, Arlington, Va.), according to the Eventbrite listing.

Fredericksburg Pride ( holds events throughout the month, but everything culminates in the Pride March and then Festival on Saturday, June 24. The Pride March is held at Riverfront Park (705 Sophia Street, Fredericksburg, Va.) at 10 followed by the Festival at 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Old Mill Park (2201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, Va.).

The 10th anniversary Frederick Pride ( is to be held at Carroll Creek Linear Park on Saturday, June 24 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. with food, music, drag, vendors and more, according to the Facebook event page.

Chasity Vain performed at last year’s Frederick Pride. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Salisbury Pride ( Parade and Festival is on Saturday, June 24. The Parade begins at 2 p.m. at West Main Street and Camden Street. The parade moves along Main with the festival following the parade at 2:30. Magnolia Applebottom is the headliner and grand marshall, according to Salisbury Pride’s Facebook page.

The “Break Free 23” Hampton Roads Pride ( is set for Saturday, June 24 at Town Point Park (113 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Va.) and includes the famous boat parade.

The Pride Center of Maryland hosts a number of Baltimore Pride ( events June 19-25. The big events include the annual parade and block party on Charles Street on Saturday, June 24 and the festival at Druid Hill Park on Sunday.

The 2022 Baltimore Pride Parade was held on June 25. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

July and beyond

You can look forward to LGBTQ pride celebrations in Harrisburg, Pa. and the Maryland towns of Hagerstown and Westminster as well as Black Pride RVA in Richmond, Va. in July. Other municipalities have decided to hold their pride celebrations a little later in the year. These pride events include Winchester Pride in Winchester, Va. (Sept. 9), Shenandoah Valley Pride in Harrisonburg, Va. (Sept. 16), SWVA Pridefest in Vinton, Va. (Sept. 16), Virginia Pridefest in Richmond, Va. (Sept. 23), TriPride in Johnson City, Tenn. (Sept. 23), Staunton Pride in Staunton, Va. (Oct. 7), Upper Chesapeake Bay Pride in Harve de Grace, Md. (Oct. 7), Pride Franklin County in Chambersburg, Pa. (Oct. 8) and Laurel Pride in Laurel, Md. (Oct. 14).

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Self-identification: What the plus in ‘LGBTQ+’ means

Terminology rapidly expanding into mainstream dialogue



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

For a long time, many Americans refrained from talking about sexual orientation and gender identity because it was taboo. While these conversations are still uncomfortable for some people, others stay quiet simply because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. 

Among allies, there is fear that misgendering someone or misspeaking about another person’s sexuality will be viewed as being less inclusive. Meanwhile, older generations, even those within the LGBTQ+ community, also struggle to keep up as terms beyond “LGBTQ” rapidly enter mainstream lingo.

In either scenario, the plus in “LGBTQ+” can be misunderstood. But as awareness of these terms continues to rise, it’s important to know what they mean. 

Below are some of the most popular but misunderstood terms of self-identification, compiling gender identities (one’s concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither and what they call themselves) and sexual orientation (how one identifies in terms of whom they are romantically and/or sexually attracted to). 

Asexual refers to someone who lacks a sexual attraction or interest in sexual activities with others. Often called “ace(s)” for short, asexual individuals exist on a spectrum, wherein someone can be completely or partially asexual, meaning they may experience no, little, or conditional sexual attraction to another person. Little interest in sex, however, doesn’t diminish a person’s desire for emotionally intimate relationships. 

Cisgender, or simply “cis,” describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth. The terms cisgender and transgender originate from Latin-derived prefixes of “cis,” meaning “on this side of,” and “trans,” meaning “across from.” Just as “trans” can be added to terms describing gender to identify someone as a trans-woman or trans-man, the same can be done to say cis-woman or cis-man to identify someone as adhering to the sex associated with their gender at birth.

Meanwhile, gender non-conforming refers to someone who doesn’t behave in line with the traditional expectations of their gender. These individuals may express their gender in ways that aren’t easily categorizable as a specific gender. While many gender non-conforming people also identify as transgender, that isn’t the case for all gender non-conforming people.

Under the larger umbrella of gender non-conforming identity, non-binary describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or completely outside of those labels. 

Some non-binary people identify as transgender, but non-binary also references other identities such as agender (a person who does not identify as any gender), bigender (a person with two gender identities or a combination of two gender identities), genderqueer or gender-fluid.

Genderqueer people commonly reject notions of rigid categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and sometimes sexual orientation. People with this identity may see themselves as being both male and female, or neither as they fall outside of binary gender norms. Gender-fluid is also within this range of non-conformity as these individuals don’t identify with a single fixed gender.

In terms of sexuality, pansexual refers to someone with the potential for emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to people of any gender. These feelings don’t necessarily arise simultaneously or to the same degree, and sometimes the term is used interchangeably with bisexual.

More recently, the two-spirit gender identity has enjoyed more mainstream use. Chosen to describe certain North American Indigenous and Canadian First Nation people who identify with a third gender, the term implies a masculine and feminine spirit in one body. 

Other gender expressions such as masc, referring to representations of masculinity without necessarily claiming a relationship to manhood, and femme, meaning expressions of femininity regardless of gender and relations to womanhood, are also used to describe how people dynamically express gender outside of gender norms.

Yet, just as terminology for self-identification is introduced, so are also new ways to describe how an individual feels about their identity. One term that everyone can relate to or aspire to have is gender euphoria – the joyful experience and sense of self that occurs when a person’s authentic gender is expressed and acknowledged by themselves and/or by others.

Most importantly, though, LGBTQ+ people use a variety of terms to identify themselves, some of which may not be mentioned in this article. Always listen for a person’s self-identification to use the preferred terms for them. 

(The Human Rights Campaign and Johns Hopkins University contributed to this report.)

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