What do the tags mean now? (LGBT+, m/m or f/f, BL or GL)

(I don’t know if this belongs to IYW, please move to where it should be?)

About a decade ago, I used to think I understood what these tags meant. But I’ve been lurking in the forums for a bit now and everything seems different. For reference, this was my old understanding:

  • LGBT+ - Strictly by people within the LGBT+ community, about the community. Literary and politically charged.

  • m/m or f/f - Terms are from the Western slash fandom, but modified to include people writing about the experience of being LGBT+ in a more casual way. Usually there’s a bigger plot involved.

  • BL/GL - From the manga tradition in Japan. BL is written by feminine-oriented people trying to access their masculine side, and vice versa for GL. Not strictly about the actual lived experience of LGBT+ people, though it might be. Non-explicit.

  • yaoi/yuri - Like the above, but with explicit sex.

What do the tags mean now? What other terms are relevant? Links to articles would be loved.

Thank you in advance!

LGBTQ+ : Every story that includes characters from the lgbt community.

M/M - F/F : a romance involving two males or to females.

BL/GL : a romance involving two boys or two girls (some people makes the difference between males (older) and boys (younger), but some don’t) it can includes sex or not.

yaoi/yuri : it is the same thing as mentionned earlier (romance involving two people from the same genre) but it is more used to talk about manga, BL/M/M are more used when it comes to literature, stories and not manga.


Oh this is sure going to be good.

(Will return with explanation later.)


LGBT means anything with any LGBT characters. Trans women, gay men, lesbians, anything. Can be written by anyone. Try filtering with #ownvoices to find people in the community!

m/m and f/f refer to relationships. If a story involves or centers around a relationship between two men, for example, oftentimes people tag it mxm. Here a lot of people use bxb or gxg in much the same way—even though actual LGBT people have the actual words mlm (man-loving man) and wlw (I’m sure you can guess), we’re often forced to tag using one of the above since they’re more popular. I would personally rather fling myself out a window than follow the cishet tagging trend, but I understand why others don’t feel that way.

BL/GL More cishet people writing LGBT people. BL is yards more popular, written by/for women about gay men, kind of like softcore/emotional porn. GL is dominated by actual lesbians, as it happens.

yaoi/yuri So different I hate to talk about both in the same paragraph. Yaoi traditionally did not have any sex or even necessarily kissing in it (the word comes from something about ‘no climax, no meaning’) and was created so cishet women could fetishize gay men. Bad history. Actual gay men have no part in this; their art in the manga world is known as bara or geikomi.

You know what? New paragraph for yuri, which is by/for/about lesbians 90% of the time. There are some creepy gross men who like it and are ruining the party, but generally the genre is run by the people in the manga.

That said: these are specific terms, which I also loathe seeing beside Western work. Why would I tag my novel about WLW with yuri? It isn’t. It’s not Japanese. It’s… about WLW. Japan has not gotten here yet with naming things what they are, but one can only hope.

Willing to answer more questions if you have them!


Aah, I think I’m starting to get it now. I think #ownvoices is the filter tag that I’m missing.

Also, I appreciate the short history behind yaoi, I thought it was originally just about the sex. Now the acronym makes more sense. ^^;

How did the terms mlm and wlw develop, though? I feel like I’ve missed an entire history. Was it to distinguish ownvoices from mxm and bxb? Are there any other subtleties behind it?

And what if one is writing about the feminine experience with inner masculinity, and the masculine experience with inner femininity? What umbrella of discourse would that fall under? Is it a nonbinary thing? Trans? College was more than ten years ago for me, and I haven’t really kept up with things sadly.

I’m sorry for all the questions. If you could suggest a book or a website or something, I would be really grateful.

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They’re the actual terms for the people, basically. I’m… neither, I suppose–I’m nonbinary. But no gay person has ever used “mxm”, for example, to describe anything in their lives. Whereas WLW and MLM are actual helpful descriptors that human beings use. It started on social media as a way of identification–hey, I’m a girl who likes girls, are you, too?–and is now fairly well known in any LGBT circles.

Feminine experience with masculinity… that just sounds like a woman. Unless she’s trans or bi or something, she’s not LGBT for that inherently. You could say she’s GNC (gender non-conforming), that is to say, that she does not conform to gender roles. This generally refers to presentation, so here’s a nice picture of what I get when I Google for that:


You can see that the people in this image are not at all trying to fit into any binary of expression. Doesn’t mean that they’re LGBT inherently, but this is of course more common in the community for, oh God, so many reasons.

Quick glossary (since I don’t trust almost anything for a 101): LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. Lesbian meaning a woman who likes exclusively women, gay meaning a man who likes exclusively men, bisexual for people who like two or more genders (this is me!), and transgender for people who are not the gender they were assigned at birth (also me!).

Other letters have been toyed with for adding to the acronym, for various reasons, but this is the original and most commonly used. You may often see a + sign or Q, also for various reasons–I think the + is best at saying that no combination of letters will include everyone, and that’s okay. If you’re Not Cis or Feel A Certain Way Towards The Same Gender, you’re probably in here.

(Nonbinary = not strictly a woman or a man. Can also mean a lot of things–agender (no gender), bigender (two genders), genderfluid (gender changes), etc.)

And then for trans I may as well add more. Essentially, here’s the process–a baby is born. The doctor labels it either girl or boy based on external genitalia. The baby grows up, raised a certain way based on this label. Trans people are people who get older and eventually go “wait crap this isn’t really my gender” for various reasons, and cis people are people who… do not do that. Trans people may transition in one way or another (clothes, hormones, surgery) to look different… or they might not. That bit is complicated and very personal and the #1 rule is, as always in society, “do not ask about someone’s genitals.” This is the same for cis and trans people, really; just don’t ask about what someone’s bits look like.

It’s alright to have questions! I’m glad you’re asking. Feel free to ask more.


Doesn’t LGBT+ include Trans men?

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Yes? Why not?

EDIT: Oh! I see what you mean. I was listing examples.

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What do you mean by been interested in more than two genders? As Bisexual is being interested in two genders, does this mean being interested in those two plus Transgender as well?

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Well, nonbinary people exist! Like me. I’m not just attracted to women and men but people outside of that, too. From the 1990 Bisexual Manifesto: Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders.

You see what I mean?

Trans people are their gender, I should note; a trans woman is a woman–not a Trans. Trans is not a gender but a modifier, the way you could say “a tall woman” or “a thin woman.”

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I should note that I do have this whole entire thread for LGBT questions (primarily nonbinary, but hey, I will answer anything.) Since I don’t want to bother Danii with too many notifications!

I know that what transgender means but tend to get confused at times with all the labels. I have no issue with a persons gender or sexual orientation, as I am a very broadminded person.

I’m sure! I note that because you wrote transgender in a way that could suggest it was a third gender of its own, rather than a label, so I wanted to clarify.

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Going to add here that BL has the same meaning in Japan now that yaoi has in the West. All the porn Manga is in the BL section and marketed as that by the Japanese sections of animate etc these days. There isn’t as much distinction. (I never saw yaoi used in Japan except as an old, jokey meme - like referencing Fred the Youtuber these days lol).


This has been my experience in Japan as well!

My local Animate has a BL section which is largely populated with books written by female authors for female readers and play into what the west considers ‘yaoi’ tropes (like the tasteless seme/uke dynamic).

Obviously not all BL books feed into problematic or fetishist tropes, but it’s very, very common and if I saw a BL magazine I would assume that it contained material that the west would describe as yaoi.

Interestingly, some non-BL magazines are now publishing stories with two male romantic leads. I wonder if it’s because the authors would prefer not to have their work associated with the BL label?

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Perhaps, or perhaps the mainstreaming of BL as it’s a cash cow.

But yeah, in Japan at least, BL is made by women for women. Geicomi are MLM comics. Yuri/GL is a blend of WLW and Male authors but you can usually tell and they’re also just less offensive and often “softer” than BL.

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WLW and MLM is a new one. (Women Loving Women, and Men Loving Men.)

Since Asexual Visibility is picking up, you’ll notice that romantic tags are now a thing: homoromantic, panromantic etc.

Joining the Convo on BL/Yaoi. Like @KR_Williams said, they mean the same thing now. If you’re looking for a word for ‘Sex clean’ it’s Shonen-ai.


That is probably the more realistic answer :grimacing:

Never have truer words been spoken! :joy:

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Ah, gotcha. So wlw and mlm are from real people describing themselves while mxm etc. are more on tags for fictional works. Thank you for this! I have a lot of terms to dive into now and I really needed a good starting point.

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This is one of the main pieces of the puzzle I’ve been missing. Thank you for clarifying this.

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