Terminology and definitions surrounding the LGBTQ+ community are fluid and change over time. Terminology can also vary across cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Some of these terms may be frequently utilized, while others seldom used. This page provides many definitions you may encounter in dialogue surrounding the LGBTQ+ Community.
AFAB: Acronym standing for assigned female at birth.
Agender: Describes someone who identifies as having no gender, as genderless or gender-free.
Ally: A person who shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.
AMAB: An acronym standing for assigned male at birth.
Androgynous: Presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine.
Androsexual: A individual who is primarily attracted to men or masculinity.
Aromantic: A person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others. Sometimes referred to as “aro”.
Asexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual lacks a sexual attraction or desire for other people.
Binder: An undergarment used to reduce the appearance of one’s breasts.
Biological sex: The anatomy of an individual’s reproductive system, and secondary sex characteristics. More appropriately referred to as sex assigned at birth.
Bigender: Having two genders; exhibiting cultural characteristics of male and female roles.
Biphobia: The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of people who identify as bisexual.
BIPOC: Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
Bisexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual is attracted to both the same gender and different genders.
Chosen Name: The name an individual by which an individual wishes to be referred, sometimes referred to as “preferred name”. This is often different from their legal or “dead name”.
Cisgender: A term used to describe an individual whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Cisnormativy: The assumption that every person is cisgender.
Cissexism: Preferential treatment of cisgender people.
Coming Out: The process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and begins to share that with others.
Dead Name: A term referring to the name a trans-identified individual was given at birth, but no longer identifies with or goes by; also referred to as “birth name” by some. This term can sometimes be controversial.
Demisexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond.
Drag: The act of performing gender in exaggerated ways and is also commonly used as an exploration of gender and gender expression. Drag performance does not necessarily indicate sexual orientation or gender identity.
FTM: Female to Male Transgender Individual. Not all transgender individuals use this term.
Gay: A sexual orientation in which an individual is attracted to members of the same gender.
Gender Binary: The idea that there are only two genders – male/female and that a person must be strictly gendered as either/or.
Gender Confirmation Surgery: The procedure that some trans individuals might undergo so their external bodies can better reflect their inner gender identities. Also referred to as “gender affirmation surgery” and/or "top surgery”. Not everyone is trans identified undergoes any surgery or medical treatment.
Gender Dysphoria: Stress from an individual's sex assigned at birth and gender identity not aligning
Gender Expression: External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through clothing, haircut, or appearance and which may or may not conform to socially defined characteristics typically associated with being either male or female.
Gender Fluid: An individual 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: An individual’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: Sometimes also called non-binary. Genderqueer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity. 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.
Graysexual — sometimes spelled greysexual — is used to refer to people who experience limited sexual attraction. In other words, they experience sexual attraction very rarely, or with very low intensity. This is also known as gray-asexuality, gray-A, or gray-ace.
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: a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male sex. Not all intersex individuals identify.
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: A sexual orientation in which a female identified individual is attracted to other female-identified individuals.
LGBTQ+: A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, and other identities not previously outlined in the acronym.
Lithoromantic: A person who experiences romantic love but does not want their feelings to be reciprocated. Lithoromantic identifying individuals may or may not be comfortable with romantic relationships.
Misgendering: Attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect or does not align with their gender identity.
MTF: Male to female transgender individual. Not all transgender individuals use this term.
- :Gender neutral alternative for Mr. and Mrs. Pronounced ‘mix’.
Nonbinary (Also Non-Binary): An umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man, used as an adjective. Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary.
Out: A person who self-identities as LGBTQ in their personal, public, and/or professional lives.
Outing: Exposing someone’s LGBTQ+ identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety or religious or family situations .
Pansexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual of any gender identity and/or biological sex is attracted to individuals of all gender identities and biological sexes.
Passing: Being seen as belonging unquestionably to a particular group, e.g. being seen as a specific gender, or of a particular race. Often, it refers to a trans person being seen as the gender they identify with.
Polysexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual is attracted to some gender identities, but not all.
Polyamory: Denotes consensually being in/open to multiple relationships at the same time. This term is not specific to the LGBTQ+ community.
Pronouns: Pronouns, sometimes referred to as gender pronouns, 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 sexual orientations.
Questioning: A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Romantic Orientation: Romantic (or lack of) attraction towards others.
Sapiosexual: A person who finds intelligence to be a sexually attractive quality in others.
Sex Assigned at Birth: A label of ‘male’ or ‘female’ assigned based on the individual’s reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics.
Sexual Orientation: Sexual (or lack of) attraction towards others. One’s sexual orientation is not defined by the partner(s) they are with; it is the attraction that helps determine orientation.
Spectrum: Not limited to a specific set of values but can vary, without steps, across a continuum. Aspects of one’s identity like sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression exist on a spectrum.
Skoliosexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual is attracted to non-binary identified individuals.
Stonewall: On June28, 1969, New York City police attempted a routine raid on the Stonewall Inn, a working-class LGBTQ* bar in Greenwich Village. Unexpectedly the patrons resisted, and the incident escalated into a riot that continued for several days. Most people look to this event as the beginning of the American Gay Liberation movement and all subsequent LGBTQ+ movements.
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.
Transitioning: The social, legal, and/or medical process a trans and/or nonbinary person may go through to make their gender identity fit their gender expression.
Transphobia: The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, transgender people .
Ze/Zir, They/Them: Examples of gender-neutral pronouns.
Outdated Terms to Avoid:
The following terms may have been used in the past but are now considered outdated and sometimes offensive. We recommend replacing these words with the suggested terms provided.
Hermaphrodite > See intersex
Homosexual > See gay or lesbian.
Sexual preference > See sexual orientation.
Transgendered/A transgender/Tranny > See transgender.
Sex change > See gender confirmation surgery.
Definitions adapted from various sources including the following:
- hrc.org www.glaad.org https://www.pflag.org/ http://demisexuality.org/ http://www.dictionary.com/ asexuality.org and Trans Ally Workbook by Davey Shlasko