Advocates have been adding to the LGBT acronym for a while now. As of this writing, the most expansive version seems to be LGBTQIA2S+. Accusations of “alphabet soup” abound. People wonder if all the represented parties belong under the umbrella, and even for people who don’t question who is included, they might wonder if a shorter acronym is easier for practical purposes.
As a sex therapist, and one with additional training and experience in gender exploration, transgender medicine, and queer relationship concerns, I’ve long used the LGBTQ+ acronym in my marketing. But it is not inclusive of everyone who seeks my help, or of my training actually. To more accurately describe my training and who I serve, I’ve adopted Pink Therapy’s term GSRD; Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diversity.
GSRD is Pink Therapy’s way of expanding the LGBT acronym without adding more letters (and numbers). Here is how they break it down:
Gender: This encompasses gender diversity. Folks who are trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, agender, gender fluid… they all fit under this umbrella.
Sexual: Sexual diversity takes into account those who experience erotic marginalization. People who identify as gay/lesbian/pansexual, those involved in kink, and asexual people as well. If your sexuality differs from the mainstream, it is represented here.
Relationship: Our friends in diverse relationships might identify as ethically non-monogamous, polyamorous, aromantic, sub/dom… the permutations are endless! Which is the fun part, right?
I like GSRD as a term because it does feel like it captures everyone. A common email I receive from a prospective client reads something like this:
“I am contacting you for sex therapy because I think you might be able to help. I saw you specialize in LGBTQ+ work, and while I’m not exactly queer, I sort of am?”
This prospective client has likely felt welcomed in queer spaces, has learned a lot about themself from queer people and resources, but might appear very hetero- and cisnormative. But, they and their spouse are deeply involved in the local fetish/kinkster scene, and they want a couples therapist who will not shame that, who they will not have to spend their therapy hours teaching, and who will not pathologize a sexual interest. They may not even need to discuss their fetish in therapy! Maybe they are having an unrelated family problem, but they need to feel safe in the therapist's office, able to bring their full selves. For so long, “LGBTQ+” has been the signal for that, even if the term didn’t necessarily fit a specific client.
GSRD also asks therapists, I think, to really get clear about our competencies. More and more therapy practices are posting a Pride flag on their website, and checking the “LGBTQ+ affirming” box. This is great! It is also different, however, from being knowledgeable about a community. Are you comfortable with people in an identity group, unwilling to try and change their identity? Great! You’re affirming. Have you received additional training and education, potentially including lived experience, with a certain identity? Now you can say you’re knowledgeable. The GSRD framing asks us to check in with the different ways of being in the world, and as any new term does, helps us identify where we might not be knowledgeable.
Mary-Margaret Sweeney, MSW, LCSW, CST is a certified sex therapist licensed and practicing in the state of Indiana. You can read more about her practice and reach out about working together here.