LGBTQIA is an umbrella term that refers, with some variants (see below), to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgenderqueer, intersex, and asexual. It represents communities that have banded together as a larger coalition of sexual/gender minorities in the U.S. to advance their interests socially and politically.

From a progressive perspective, this coalition represents a modern-day civil rights movement, hearkening back to African American activism in the 1960s. The acceptance (or even promotion) of LGBTQ identities is seen as something of utmost importance in order to integreate LGBTQ people into society, fuel a feeling of acceptance among those who are LGBTQIA, and increase their comfort with their identities. They argue that LGBTQ identity is a natural, lived experience and the true way some people were born.

For some conservatives, however, the analogy with race and former civil rights activism is not embraced. Some disagree that LGBTQ people are held back or oppressed in American society. Others state that they agree that LGBTQ people should be loved and accepted, but see harm in what they see as the widescale promotion of LGBTQ identities in mainstream American culture. This is because some conservatives, particularly religious ones, believe that people are happiest and healthiest when their gender and sexuality are in line with their divinely ordained biology and oriented toward reproduction and family formation; they argue that LGBTQ is an ideology that is learned through peer contagion, not something that is natural and inborn, and that society should not actively promote LGBTQIA identities.

See related term gender identity.

A movement to be inclusive of all members of the LGBTQ community, representing them in both name and letter, is evident in the name changes of one advocacy group: it started as the National Gay Task Force in 1973, later changed the name to National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and as of 2014 had exchanged that name for National LGBTQ Task Force.

Many variations of this abbreviation (and its corresponding terms) exist in current usage. The Q can also mean questioning; the A can refer to agender or ally. Many people use the shorter version LGBT; others use LGBTQ on the basis that the Q itself is an umbrella term; still others refer to LGBTQ+. Critics deride the “alphabet soup” feel of the abbreviation, and some jokingly refer to it as LGBTQIA LMNOPQRS… (singing the rest of the alphabet).