LGBTQ Definitions - SUNY New Paltz

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

Please Note: These are definitions as included in the LGBTQ task force report. There are many more terms and definitions in LGBTQ+ discourse that may not have been included.  


Asexual: Person who is not sexually attracted to anyone or does not have a sexual orientation

Bisexual: A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to males/men and females/women. This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders and there may be a preference for one gender over another.

Cisgender: A person whose assigned sex aligns with his or her gender identity, i.e., a male/man, a female/woman. Someone who is not transgender.

Coming Out: May refer to the process by which one accepts one’s own sexuality, gender identity, or status as an intersexed person (to “come out” to oneself). May also refer to the process by which one shares one’s sexuality, gender identity, or intersexed status with others.

Gay: Term used to refer to the LGBTQ community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.

Gender: A social identity usually conflated with biological sex in a binary system that presumes one has either male and masculine characteristics and behavior or female and feminine characteristics and behavior.

Gender Expression: Masculinity and femininity are culturally specific definitions, and many people fall “in between” those cultural expectations.

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 Non-conforming: A term to describe someone whose gender identity and gender expression do not align with social prescriptions. A masculine woman, a feminine man.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Sexual Orientation: The desire for intimate emotional and/or sexual relationships with people of the same gender/sex, another gender/sex, or multiple genders/sexes.

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. Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity.