Photo: Bryan Regan Photo: Bryan Regan

(This question was adapted from a recent online chat with The Post’s manners columnist on LGBT/straight issues.)

Q: Lately, I’ve been hearing the acronym LGBTQ. I have heard the second Q means “questioning.” Is that right? And does that imply that the person is uncertain as to his orientation or something else? ~Anonymous

A: This is a great question and one that I was even asked by one of my new editors here at The Post. I think many of us in the community take for granted that everyone else will understand this acronym. Not always.

In fact, the ‘Q’ can stand for ‘questioning’ or ‘queer’ and sometimes you may see the acronym written as “LGBTQQ” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer]. When the Q” is used as a stand-in for questioning, you’re right that it means the individual is uncertain of his or her orientation.

It’s also not uncommon now to see an “I” for “intersex;” according to the Oregon State University Pride Center’s web site, intersex is defined as: “An individual whose biological birth does not correspond with conventional expectations of male/female anatomy or genetics. Some intersexuals consider themselves transgender and some do not. The older term, hermaphrodite, is considered by many to be offensive.” Finally, you may also see an “A” appended to the acronym, which stands for “ally,” again defined by OSU as, “Anyone who is politically aligned with the Queer movement.” As for “queer,” The OSU Pride Center defines it like this: “Originally pejorative for gay, it is now being reclaimed by some gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons as a self-affirming umbrella term. Caution: still extremely offensive when used as an epithet, especially among older Queers.”

Many years ago I was at a benefit headlined by the Emmy-award winning actor, Cloris Leachman, who stumbled when trying to say “LGBT” to a mostly gay audience. To save her backside, she joked, “Why don’t you just call yourselves the ‘BLTs’? It’s so much easier to say!” To which I’d add: A good heart and well-intentioned humor is never a bad thing. Thanks for asking this not-so-easy question.

Do you agree or disagree with my advice? Let me know in the comments section below.

Every other week, Steven Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” addresses questions about LGBT and straight etiquette in his new column, Civilities. E-mail questions to Steven at stevenpetrow@earthlink.net (unfortunately not all questions can be answered). You can also reach Steven on Facebook at facebook.com/stevenpetrow and on Twitter @stevenpetrow. Join him for a chat online at washingtonpost.com on June 3 at 1 P.M. ET.