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Life in color: fun with flags and LGBTQIA+ basic expressions

It’s important for everyone in society to know about LGBTQIA+ flags and basic expressions.

Last updated

18 Aug 2022

Reading time

8 min


Learn the fundamental LGBTQIA+ flags and basic expressions concepts and flags to create more inclusive workplaces and societies.

None of us like to be labeled, but sometimes labels are necessary. It’s only by naming things that we can see and understand them. Our world is rich with different genders, sexualities, and identities, so it would be a shame not to be aware of this diversity.

During Pride month, Hotjarians Estefania Rabadan and Iga Gawronska gave us an internal presentation about LGBTQIA+ concepts and flags. It was so informative and fun that we decided to create a blog about it to help more people expand their understanding.

“Our company is very compassionate,” said Estefania. “But people don’t always ask questions or take time to educate themselves about basic LGBTQIA+ concepts.”

Both she and Iga understand the importance of this kind of education, which prompted them to do the talk together. As young people, they didn’t have the words or role models they needed to help them understand their identities.

“We didn’t have the language to talk about these things. I probably would have known I was bisexual much earlier if I had heard about bisexual people,” said Iga.

It’s very hard for you to realize that you’re gay when you don’t see any gay women. It took me way too much time to figure out by myself.

Estefania Rabadan

Having the language and concepts to understand gender, sex, and sexuality better makes a difference—from raising empowered children to creating inclusive workplaces.

Why is it often difficult to speak about sexuality or LGBTQIA+ topics in the workplace? 

Iga and Estefania have often had people make assumptions about their identities. When this happens, they have to decide whether it's worth correcting them. After all, it can be exhausting.

“You don’t come out just once like you see in popular culture. It’s like you have to keep coming out all the time,” said Iga.

At Hotjar, they’ve both felt more comfortable opening up about their identities. 

“It’s easy when you know that the people around you have a similar mindset,” said Iga. 

Hotjar’s company culture of openness is partly driven by the values that guide everything we do (yes, really). Plus, our LGBTQIA+ Slack channel, bi-weekly LGBTQIA+ lunch meetups, and events such as our Pride panel about LGBTQIA+ representation in the workplace help the community feel visible, safe, and valued. Promoting inclusive environments makes good business sense too, as it impacts things like staff retention or how connected teams are. 

How do we convince people who currently believe we’ve reached parity of rights?

“I would ask people what countries they are referring to,” said Estefania.

Even in countries like Estefania’s native Spain, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, there are still attacks on the LGBTQIA+ community. "The rights we’ve gained are not forever if we don’t continue to fight for them," she explains.

“If you look at what’s happening in the US right now, it’s clear that we are nowhere near equality. Coming from Poland, a country with a lot of LGBTQIA+ acceptance issues, I always looked up to the US— but now, looking at what's happening even in the countries that made the biggest steps forward, it’s clear that we are nowhere near equality.”

Iga Gawronska

To find out more about how far different countries from the global north and global south still have to go in terms of parity for LGBTQIA+ people, check out Hotjar’s Pride Panel 2022.

Terms: what’s the difference between… 

Biological sex

Biological sex refers to a person's physical and biological traits.

Sex is typically assigned at birth, based on the appearance of external genitalia. The common conception is that there are only two biological sexes: male and female.

Female-assigned people typically have two X chromosomes and higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, whereas male-assigned people have one X and one Y chromosome and more of the hormone testosterone.  

But biologists will tell you that sex can be a spectrum. For example, some females have Y chromosomes. Some males have lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of estrogen. 

Some people, referred to as intersex, have a mix of genitalia, and make up about 1.7% of the population. Many intersex children often have invasive surgeries designed to ‘correct’ them, which is, in fact, a human rights violation. 

Gender identity

Gender is a social construct. Often, as soon as you're born, depending on the sex you're assigned to, you get different clothes, toys, and treatment, all based on the social construct of gender. It hasn't always been like this though—various cultures have acknowledged more than just two genders for centuries. 

If you identify with the gender you were assigned to at birth, you’re ‘cisgender.’ If you don’t, you may identify as transgender. But you can also identify as nonbinary, genderfluid, or genderqueer since gender is a wide spectrum.

Gender expression 

Gender expression refers to how a person presents themselves in public. This includes things like the name they go by, the clothes they wear, and their body language.

So while a person’s gender identity might be non-binary, their gender expression might be masculine. The definition of what ‘masculine’ means varies from culture to culture, but it could mean having short hair, speaking with a deep voice, and sitting with your legs apart.  

Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s sexual, romantic, and emotional attractions. Again, there is a wide range of sexual orientations, and it can also be fluid. Here are some:

Homosexual: people who are attracted to the same sex (gay or lesbian)

Bisexual: people who are attracted to more than one gender

Pansexual: people who are attracted to people, regardless of the gender

Asexual: people who experience little or no sexual attraction to others

Remember that there is a huge range within each of the above categories—there are as many sexual orientations as there are individuals!

The ABCs: what do the acronyms mean? 

LGBT: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (T was added to give visibility to transgender people)

Fun fact: LGBT was originally GLBT. But during the AIDS crisis, lesbians nursed, donated blood, and supported gay men, who were ostracized by mainstream society. So the ‘L’ was moved to commemorate this act of solidarity.

LGBTQ: lesbian, gay, transgender, queer or questioning (‘Q’ was added for queer or questioning—giving more visibility to a wider variety of people in the community)

LGBTQIA+: lesbian, gay, transgender, queer or questioning, intersexual, asexual + more 

Terms to avoid

As societies and cultures evolve to become more inclusive, so does our language. Some terms that were once standard are now considered outdated, offensive, or not nuanced enough to represent the realities of LGBTQIA+ people. Here are some terms to avoid.

Transexual: the term transexual assumes that you need surgery in order to change sex. However, there are many trans people who don’t need to have surgery to be men or women. ‘Trans’ or ‘transgender’ is a more inclusive term to use.

She-male: phrases like ‘she-male’ and ‘he/she’ are derogatory phrases.

Transvestite: this term is similarly outdated and has derogatory implications. Use the term ‘cross dresser’ instead. Ladies and gentlemen: any phrase like ‘ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘boys and girls’ that only references two genders excludes intersex, non-binary, trans, and other groups. Use gender-neutral language such as ‘friends’ or ‘guests’ instead. At Hotjar, we aim for inclusive language to address groups as ‘folks,’ ‘y’all,’ or ‘team’ instead of ‘guys.’

Homosexual couple: any term that calls out a relationship with the words ‘homosexual’ are critical terms that berate and are often used in anti-LGBTQIA+ discourse. For example, would you introduce two people who are husband and wife as a ‘heterosexual or straight’ couple?

While this list is not all-inclusive, check out the ‘terms to avoid’ section at the bottom of this article

Remember, if in doubt, research or ask if a term is considered offensive or not!

Fun with flags

There are many Pride flags that celebrate the wide range of identities that fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Here are just some of them.

The first flag

The first Pride flag was created by the artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 for Gay Pride Day in San Francisco. He said it was "hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for harmony, and violet for spirit."

The rainbow Pride flag

This version of the flag, which omits the pink and turquoise stripes, changed from eight colors to six, is one of the most popular Pride flags.

Noteworthy fact: Baker omitted the pink stripe since that color of fabric was hard to find, and demand was up for Pride flags following the assassination of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk.

Progress flag

This flag includes black and brown stripes that represent marginalized LGBTQIA+ people of color. Pink, light blue, and white are also used here and on the Transgender Pride flag.  

Bisexual flag

The pink in this flag represents attraction to those of the same gender identity, the blue represents attraction to people with a different gender, and the purple shows attraction regardless of sex or gender or attraction to many genders.

Transgender flag 

Transgender activist Monica Helms created this flag in 1999. The light pink stands for girls, the light blue for boys, and the white stripe in the middle is for all the intersex, non-binary and trans groups.

Asexual flag

In this flag, black stands for asexuality, gray for gray-asexuality and demisexuality, white for non-asexual partners, and purple for community.

Straight ally flag 

This flag recognizes allies of the LGBTQIA+ community and was first used in the 2000s. 


Has looking at all these flags given you a sense of how colorful the LGBTQIA+ community is? We hope that these concepts and flags have brightened your understanding of how rich and diverse human beings can be. We look forward to raising our awareness further as we learn more about gender, sex, and sexuality.

Thanks, Iga and Estefania for giving us an introduction to the basics!

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