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.
Asexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual experiences sexual attraction for other people sometimes, rarely, or never. “Ace” is also an abbreviated term for ‘asexual’. Asexual is an umbrella term that encompasses many other Ace identities (See Asexual Community Terminology under Additional Terminology). Some asexual individuals experience varied amounts sexual attraction and/or romantic attraction, or not at all.
Allosexual- A sexual orientation in which an individual experiences sexual attraction or desire for other people.
BIPOC: Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
Bisexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual is attracted to two or more genders, generally their same gender, and different gender(s). Bisexual can also be used as an umbrella term encompassing other identities that experience attraction to multiple genders.
Biological sex: The anatomy of an individual’s reproductive system, and secondary sex characteristics. More appropriately referred to as sex assigned at birth.
Chosen Name: The name 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 characteristics typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Coming Out: The process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and begins to share (or not) that with others. Coming out can look different from person to person. Coming out is not a requirement for any LGBTQ+ identified individual, and individuals can be out in certain areas of life but not others (for example, only with friends, but not at work). This is due to comfort and safety of the person coming out.
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.
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. This idea can be harmful to individuals who do not identify within this structure, due to erasure of their experiences.
Gender Dysphoria: Stress or discomfort from an individual's sex assigned at birth and gender identity not aligning. Not all individuals who experience gender dysphoria may seek medical or surgical procedures, and not all people, regardless of their gender, may experience gender dysphoria. Anyone can experience gender dysphoria regardless of their identity. Likewise, gender euphoria is joy experienced by an individual when they act, dress, and feel in line with their gender identity.
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 expression does not always indicate gender identity (see below). For example, someone can dress in a way that is associated stereotypically feminine, but identify with a different gender.
Gender Identity: An individual’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – gender identity is 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 identity can change over time or fluctuate day to day. Gender identity is as unique as each person and highly individualized based on an individual’s relation to gender and their experiences in relation to gender.
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.
Intersex: a general term used for people 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 as transgender or nonbinary.
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. This term is also being more frequently used as an identity label for non-men who are attracted to non-men, but this is not used by everyone.
LGBTQ+: A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, and other identities not previously outlined in the acronym.
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.
Mx. : 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. Not everyone who is out is out in all aspects of their lives and social/professional circles.
Outing: Exposing someone’s LGBTQ+ identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety, 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. This can also refer to an individual who is attracted to others regardless of their gender(s).
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. Anyone, regardless of gender, may use or display gender pronouns. Ze/Zir and they/them are some examples of gender-neutral pronouns.
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.
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 or past experiences; it is the attraction that helps determine orientation.
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.
Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Sometimes shortened to “trans.” People under this umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms - including transgender. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. Some undergo surgery as well. Not all transgender people can or will take those steps; transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures.
Transitioning: The social, legal, and/or medical process a trans and/or nonbinary person may go through to have their gender identity more aligned with their gender expression. Transitioning varies from person to person, and not everyone’s transition will look the same.
AFAB: Acronym standing for assigned female at birth
AMAB: An acronym standing for assigned male at birth
Agender: Describes someone who identifies as having no gender, as genderless or gender-free.
Ally: A person who shows support for an identity that is not their own. For example, an LGBTQ ally promotes equality in a variety of ways that supports the LGBTQ+ community.
Androgynous: A gender presentation that is neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine, or a mix of both.
Asexual community terminology:
Note that this is not an exhaustive list. See Attraction and Relationships section below for definitions on specific sexual and romantic attractions.
Alloromantic- An individual who experiences romantic attraction.
Androsexual: A individual who is primarily attracted to men or masculinity (in any gender).
Aromantic: A person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others. Sometimes referred to as “aro”.
Apothisexual: An individual who is asexual and sex repulsed.
Demisexual: A sexual orientation in which an individual experiences sexual attraction only with people with whom they have an emotional bond.
Demiromantic: A romantic orientation in which an individual experiences romantic attraction only with people with whom they have an emotional bond.
Graysexual — Sometimes spelled greysexual — is used to refer to people who sometimes, occasionally, or rarely experiences sexual attraction. This is also known as gray-asexuality, gray-A, or gray-ace.
Greyromantic- Someone who occasionally, sometimes, or rarely experiences romantic attraction.
Akoiromantic/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.
Akoisexual/Lithosexual- An individual who experiences sexual attraction to others but has no desire to have those feelings reciprocated. For some if attraction is reciprocated, their feelings may fade and they will no longer be attracted to that person.
Binder: An undergarment used to reduce the appearance of one’s breasts.
Bigender: Can be used to identify a person whose gender identity encompasses two genders, most frequently, man and woman, but not necessarily. Gender is now understood to be a spectrum and not a binary concept.
Biphobia: The fear of, discrimination against, erasure, or hatred of people who identify as bisexual.
Butch: A word primarily used to describe some masculine or “masc” lesbians. It historically emerges from working-class lesbian bar culture. In the lesbian community, Butch is seen by some as not only a style, but a gender role or way of life. Not all masculine-presenting lesbians identify as Butch.
Stud: A Black masculine identifying lesbian. Not all masculine-identifying lesbians consider themselves studs. This is a specifically Black identity and is not used to describe white masculine presenting lesbians (see butch).
Cisnormativy: The assumption that every person is cisgender.
Cissexism: Preferential treatment of cisgender people
CisHet: A commonly used phrase referring to cisgender and heterosexual individuals.
Compulsory sexuality: the assumption that everyone experiences sexual attraction, and that everyone should desire sex and partake in it. Compulsory sexuality puts (usually heterosexual) relationships at the center of the ideal human experience. It also includes the idea that romantic relationships must include sexual activity.
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.
Enby: Another term used to refer to nonbinary individuals. It is the phonetic spelling of NB, or nonbinary. Not all nonbinary people use or identify with this term.
Femme: An individual who presents in a feminine manner. Historically, this word has roots in lesbian culture, referring to lesbians who presented in a traditionally feminine way.
FTM/MTF: A transgender individual who transitions from female to male, or male to female. Not all transgender individuals use this term.
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/"top surgery” or “bottom surgery.” Not all trans individuals undergo surgery or medical treatment. All trans individuals are valid regardless of their level of desire to medically or surgically transition.
Genderfluid: 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.
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.
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 committed relationships at the same time. This term is not specific to the LGBTQ+ community.
Romantic Orientation: The experience of romantic attraction (or lack of) towards others.
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.
Two Spirit: An Indigenous term (used by some Indigenous people, for Indigenous people). It is the embodiment of two genders residing within one person. It may vary from culture to culture and may be a role someone takes in their community, including spiritual responsibilities. Some Native nations may have specific terms for their Two Spirit members. It is a role that exists in a Native American/First Nations/Indigenous tribe for gender queer, genderfluid, and gender non-conforming tribal members.
Transactivism: The political and social movement to create equality for gender variant persons.
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.
Romantic attraction: a romantic pull towards someone, which usually results in a desire for a romantic relationship with that person
Sexual attraction: a sexual draw towards someone, typically resulting in a desire for a sexual partnership with that person.
Sensual attraction: a type of attraction based on the senses, especially touch, which typically results in a desire for some physical contact with another person, such as holding hands, hugging, or kissing. Sensual attraction does not have to be accompanied by romantic or sexual feelings.
Aesthetic attraction: an appreciation for or attraction to someone’s looks, but which does not necessarily accompany a desire for any kind of reciprocation; experiencing aesthetic attraction towards someone does not automatically lead to a desire for a romantic or sexual relationship with that person.
Platonic attraction: a type of attraction that is not romantic, but more of an intense desire to be close to somebody emotionally, possibly more intense than a typical desire for friendship.
Alterous attraction: a type of attraction that is neither entirely platonic nor entirely romantic, best described as desiring an emotional closeness with somebody.
Queer-Platonic Relationship/Quasi-Platonic Relationship (QPR): a platonic relationship that transcends a person’s usual boundaries for friendships, or an incredibly strong non-romantic partnership. ‘Quasi-platonic’ came about as an alternative to ‘queer-platonic’ for people who do not feel comfortable using a reclaimed slur.
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