Terminology and definitions surrounding the LGBTQ+ community vary and change over time. Terminology can also vary across cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. This page offers some definitions that are essential to dialogue surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.


Ally: A person who is not LGBTQ but shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.

Androgynous: Identifying and/or presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine.

Asexual: The lack of a sexual attraction or desire for other people.

Bisexual An individual who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to both the same gender and different genders.

Cisgender: A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.  (Someone who is not transgender)

Coming Out: The process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates their sexual orientation or gender identity and begins to share that with others

Demisexual:  a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond

Gay: A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.

Gender Binary: The idea that there are only two genders – male/female or man/woman and that a person must be strictly gendered as either/or. 

Gender Expression: External appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender Fluid: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a person who does not identify with a single fixed gender; of or relating to a person having or expressing a fluid or unfixed gender identity.

Gender Identity:  One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender Neutral/All Gender:  Not gendered. Can refer to language (including pronouns), spaces (like bathrooms), or identities (like being gender queer, for example).

Genderqueer: Genderqueer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as "genderqueer" may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categories.

Heteronormative: The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is preferred. 

Heterosexism: A system of attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships. It can include the presumption that most individuals are heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the only norm and therefore superior.

Homophobia: The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Intersex: Is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, and/or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Such variation may involve genital ambiguity and combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other than XY-male and XX-female. 

Intersectionality: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

Lesbian: Term used to describe female-identified people attracted romantically, sexually, and/or emotionally to other female-identified people. 

LGBTQ+: A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, and plus.

Pansexual: A sexual attraction, sexual desire, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward persons of all gender identities and biological sexes and refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in determining whether they will be sexually attracted to others. 

Polysexual: The attraction to multiple genders. Bisexuality and pansexuality are forms of polysexuality; polysexuals reject the idea of a gender binary, only two genders (male and female), rather than a spectrum of genders. 

Preferred Gender Pronouns: A preferred gender pronoun, or PGP, is the pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual.

Queer: An umbrella identity term taken by people who do not conform to heterosexual and/or gender binary norms; a reclaimed derogatory slur taken as a political term to unite people who are marginalized because of their non-conformity to dominant gender identities and/or heterosexuality. 

Questioning:  A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual Orientation:  Emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings toward other people. One’s sexual activity does not define who one is with regard to one’s sexual orientation; it is the attraction that helps determine orientation.

Trans*: An abbreviation that is sometimes used to refer to a gender variant person. This use allows a person to state a gender variant identity without having to disclose hormonal or surgical status/intentions. This term is sometimes used to refer to the gender variant community as a whole. 

Transactivism: The political and social movement to create equality for gender variant persons.

Transgender: A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation

Transphobia:  The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, transgender people





Definitions adapted from the following sources:

  1. hrc.org www.glaad.org https://www.pflag.org/  http://demisexuality.org/