Recently, Emma from the Safe Space podcast asked queer folks at Berlin Pride (Christopher Street Day) about the term FLINTA. Did they understand its meaning? Some people were unsure; others had heard of it but couldn’t specify who it included, but a few folks knew what the acronym meant.
Such a range of responses showcases how quickly this term has emerged within and beyond the queer community. So, what exactly does FLINTA (or FLINTA*) mean? When and why is it used, and where does it originate from? Here’s my guide to one of the newer acronyms you should know.
FLINTA is primarily used by the LGBTQIA+ community as an umbrella term for those who aren’t cisgender men. However, you can use it in any context to collectively identify everyone encompassed by this acronym.
For example, at their 2022 conference, devcom hosted a panel on how members of the game developer community could be better allies to FLINTA folks. The organisers used this term to highlight the importance of supporting “people who are routinely marginalised or discriminated against in a patriarchal, heteronormative society” within the gaming industry.
FLINTA is sometimes stylised with a + or a * after it (for example, FLINTA*) to indicate that this term includes anyone whose identity isn’t specially referenced in the acronym but is still theoretically included. For example, the broad range of non-binary identities such as genderfluid, bigender, and genderqueer.
There are some variations on FLINTA, such as:
FINTA* – This acronym is also used in Germany, where the F stands for frauen (which translates in English as woman, a gender identity) instead of female (a biological/assigned sex category). The view is that omitting the L for lesbian (a sexual orientation) makes this term only about gender identity. However, from what I understand, intersex is not a gender identity in English but a biological/assigned sex category.
FLINT* – Very similar to FLINTA except without the A for agender at the end. This acronym still includes agender as this identity is included under the non-binary umbrella, so in theory, it is covered by the N. However, in English, FLINTA is catchier to say and less likely to be confused with a type of sedimentary rock.
Why is FLINTA necessary?
I originally came out in the 90s, when the queer community began having a slight sense of positive visibility. Thirty years ago, we were defined as LGBT, meaning the only identity options that seemed available at the time were lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans.
However, when it came to our community, cis gay men dominated –from the sheer number of bars, clubs, and services dedicated (sometimes exclusively) to this part of the community to the imagery and voices used to promote Pride events. These guys took up a lot of space, to such an extent that, at the time, it felt like lesbian, bisexual and trans+ folks were a tiny minority within an already marginalised community.
These days, we now understand that our community is much bigger and more diverse than we had any understanding of back then. The identities under the queer umbrella have blossomed. Yet, many of us are still struggling to find space and a voice for ourselves, especially when it comes to core issues such as bodily autonomy and gender-based violence.
As Sarah Moore, co-founder of the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre, notes, it’s vital for us to find that support. “Our society, and indeed the LGBTQ+ community, feels the impact of our patriarchal society daily. In the streets, in our workplaces, in our queer spaces, everywhere,” she observes.
Terms like FLINTA can be extremely helpful for individuals seeking to find connections and community in other individuals and spaces that don’t centre cis men.
Sarah Moore, co-founder of the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre
However, it’s important to note that creating spaces to support FLINTA folks’ wellbeing isn’t about demonising cis men, even when they are excluded. It’s about intentionally creating an environment that prioritises the perspectives and experiences of everyone else. “There are still plenty of spaces that centre cis men, whether in the LGBTQ+ community or not,” says Sarah, “to come together, feel safe, be welcomed, and celebrated.”
So, making intentional space for people under the FLINTA umbrella in a variety of environments is not only beneficial but necessary. From queer club nights and community events to skate parks, football screenings and industry networking.
Where does FLINTA originate from?
The term FLINTA was devloped in Germany, where the acronym stands for:
The actual translation of this term into English should be WLINTA, but that isn’t quite so catchy. So, by mindfully replacing woman (a gender identity) with female (a biological/assigned sex category), FLINTA becomes an acronym that also makes similar sense in English. However, it’s crucial to be clear that the terms woman and female are not the same, as gender and sex are not the same. While often used interchangeably, they have different meanings.
According to Wikipedia, the FLINTA acronym grew out of the movement in 1970s Germany to create safe spaces for women, such as shelters, cafes and lesbian support groups. Over the decades, as society and language evolved, so did the understanding of how many people suffer because of patriarchal structures. An early version of the acronym was FLT (frauen, lesben, transgender), and the current version has naturally grown from there.
When translated similarly, FLINTA is useable in many European languages. For example, Me Siento Extraña is a gathering on Monday nights at my favourite Barcelona queer bar, Candy Darling. Their weekly event is explicitly advertised for FLINTA* folks because the acronym translates to Spanish as it does in English. The organisers of Me Siento Extraña really utilise that * too, welcoming cyborg and other dissident identities to the event.
So, while the term is potentially still quite Eurocentric (I’m not sure which languages outside of the region it would work in), a large portion of the world’s population will understand what FLINTA means in their first or second language. That makes it quite useful for the global queer community in the same way that LGBTQ+ has become an internationally recognised acronym.
How widespread is the use of FLINTA?
As of late 2023, FLINTA is starting to be broadly used outside of Germany and queer activist circles. I recently noticed that HER have begun describing itself as the “biggest and baddest dating app for FLINTA folks” without clarifying what the acronym stands for. That says a lot about the prevalence of the term within the queer community.
In Safe Space’s video, Emma speaks to the team behind the Lesbian Bar Project about using the term. Focussing on the spiralling number of these spaces in the USA (in the 1980s, there were 200, now there are less than 30), the project co-director Erica Rose talks about how such bars are “not just for lesbian-identified people but for everyone who falls under the FLINTA umbrella.”
So, seeing the acronym becoming rapidly adopted as part of the queer vernacular this year is interesting. I wonder if broader society will also use it in the coming years.
Concerns around FLINTA
One of the significant issues around this acronym is how people can use it without thinking about everyone the term encompasses. It’s vital when designating an event or space for FLINTA* folks that those hosting and attending don’t assume it’s a default term for those perceived as being women. For example, will a masc-presenting intersex person feel like they aren’t welcome? Then this isn’t FLINTA.
Don’t slap the FLINTA* label onto something if you’re going to be policing the way people present. One commenter on the Safe Space video noted, “As a trans person with other trans friends who do not present traditionally femininely, we have experienced being denied access to these FLINTA spaces because we were not perceived as trans. FLINTA often denies access to trans men and women if we do not “look the part” that they are expecting despite three types of transness in the acronym.”
If your club night is for women who love women, make it a WLW event. It’s ok to be specific about the space rather than leaving gender-nonconforming folks wondering what they might encounter if they attend. Be intentional about the way you use the FLINTA acronym and take responsibility for the inclusivity it should represent.
It’s also important to remember that for some trans men, being in spaces that differentiate between them and cis men may not always be a positive experience. So, don’t expect everyone under the FLINTA umbrella to always be enthusiastic about attending something, even if they are included. Another commenter explained, “As a trans dude, I’d never trust a space like this as they often view trans guys and non-binary people as Women Lite.”
Here’s a quick recap of some of the key points from this blog:
FLINTA is an acronym that in English stands for female, lesbian, intersex, non-binary, trans and agender.
FLINTA is sometimes stylised with a + or a * after it to indicate anyone whose identity isn’t specially referenced in the acronym but is still theoretically included.
FLINTA is an umbrella term for those who aren’t cisgender men.
FLINTA is primarily used in the LGBTQIA+ community but can be used in any relevant social context.
FLINTA and its variations originated from Germany.
FLINTA should only be used when everyone included under its umbrella will be welcome.
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