LGBTQ + Terminology

This list is not comprehensive and is meant only to serve as a guide to some of the common terms used in the LGBTQ+ community.

Community Words

+ – added to the end of LGBTQ to indicate a range of other sexual and gender identities not included in the LGBTQ acronym.

AFAB – stands for assigned female at birth.

Agender – An umbrella term encompassing many different genders of people who commonly do not have a gender and/or have a gender that they describe as neutral.

Ally – someone who is supportive of and advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, but does not identify as LGBTQ+.

AMAB – stands for assigned male at birth.

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

Asexual – someone who does not experience sexual attraction.

Assigned sex – at birth, medical professionals assign either ‘male’ or ‘female’ identities to babies based on the development of their genitals. This does not always describe an individual’s gender identity or even their later physical appearance.

Bigender – someone who experiences two gender identities, either simultaneously or varying between the two.

Binary – when something is divided into only two sides. For example, saying something is either hot/cold, good/bad, or male/female without any variation in between.

Biphobia – the particular set of prejudices and fears that people express towards bisexual people. Straight, lesbian, or gay people often exclude bisexual people from their communities or pressure bisexual people to identify as either straight or gay.

Bisexual – being sexually attracted to two genders (the person’s own gender and one other), often times men and women.

Cisgender – describes someone whose gender identity matches the gender assigned to them at birth. Commonly abbreviated to ‘cis.’ A cisgender person is not transgender.  Cisgender does not indicate biology, gender expression, or sexuality/sexual orientation. In discussions regarding trans issues, one would differentiate between women who are trans and women who aren’t by saying trans women and cis women. Cis is not a “fake” word and is not a slur. Note that cisgender does not have an “ed” at the end.

Cisgender privilege – the system of laws, commonly held beliefs, and societal attitudes that gives cisgender people an unearned advantage over transgender people.

Closeted – someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, but not open about that identity to everyone.

Coming out – the process of someone becoming open about their LGBTQ+ identity.

Conversion therapy – also known as ‘reparative therapy,’ this is an extremely harmful practice conducted by therapists and non-medical personnel that attempts to make an LGBTQ+ person “straight.” More information about the harm caused by conversion therapy can be found here on the Human Rights Campaign’s website.

Dead name – How some trans people refer to their given name at birth.

Demisexual – person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a emotional connection.

Diverse Sexualities and Genders (DSG) – acronym sometimes used in place of LGBTQ+.

Drag (Queens/Kings/Performers) – performers who take on theatrical and exaggerated gender presentations of a different gender. Not to be confused with crossdressing. This type of dress is only performed for shows and when in character. Doing drag does not necessarily have anything to do with one’s sex assigned at birth, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

FTM or F2M – an abbreviation for female-to-male. This is used to describe someone who was assigned female gender at birth, but identifies as male.

Gay – describes a man who is exclusively attracted to other men. Note: within the LGBTQ+ community, people of various identities may also refer to themselves as ‘gay,’ but don’t assume that everyone uses that word to describe themselves. Also, remember that ‘gay’ is still used to negatively describe things, so be careful never to hurtfully use ‘gay’ in this way.

Gender binary – the false idea that sex and gender identity only exist on a strict male/female spectrum.

Genderfluid – A person who shifts in gender identity and/or gender expression. May be a gender identity itself. Refers to the fluidity of identity.

Genderqueer – An identity commonly used by people who do not identify or express their gender within the gender binary. Those who identify as genderqueer may identify as neither male nor female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, or may simply feel restricted by gender labels. Not everyone who identifies as genderqueer identifies as trans or non-binary.

Gender and Sexual Minorities (GSM) – a term that some favor over LGBTQ+ because of its relative inclusiveness. In other words, anyone who does not identify as cisgender and/or heterosexual could consider themselves part of the GSM community.

Gender binary – the false idea that sex and gender identity only exist on a strict male/female spectrum.

Gender dysphoria – discomfort, sometimes extreme, with the difference between the characteristics of one’s assigned gender and one’s internal gender identity.

Gender identity – someone’s internal, personal identification of their gender.

Gender non-conforming (GNC) – A term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity. Please note that not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender; nor are all transgender people gender non-conforming. Yes, you can even be gender non-conforming and be straight.

Gender expression – this refers to the mix of physical traits, clothing, and mannerisms that is traditionally associated with male and female genders. Gender presentation is separate from gender identity and sexual orientation.

Gender Variant – Gender variance, or gender nonconformity, is behavior or gender expression by an individual that does not match the norms of the gender they are perceived to be by society.

Genderfluid – someone whose gender identity and presentation is variable. A person who shifts in gender identity and/or gender expression. May be a gender identity itself.

Genderqueer – An identity commonly used by people who do not identify or express their gender within the gender binary. Those who identify as genderqueer may identify as neither male nor female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, or may simply feel restricted by gender labels. Not everyone who identifies as genderqueer identifies as trans or non-binary.

Heteronormative – of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.

Heterosexism – refers to the system of attitudes, biases, and discrimination towards LGBTQ+ individuals. Homophobia springs from heterosexism.

  • Implicit heterosexism – assuming that everyone you meet is straight.
  • Explicit heterosexism – example- heterosexual couples having the right to marry while                    same-sex couples did not.

Heterosexual – a person who is solely attracted to the opposite sex.

Homophobia – having fear and prejudice towards LGBTQ+ people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hormone replacement therapy – often abbreviated as ‘HRT.’ The process by which trans individuals choose to take a prescription of hormones. For trans women, that may include estrogen as well as testosterone-blockers. For trans men, testosterone, or T.

Internalized homophobia – when an LGBTQ+ person has absorbed homophobic attitudes and directs those against themselves and others.

Intersex – a person who is born with a combination of male and female biological characteristics, such as chromosomes or genitals, that can make it difficult for doctors to assign their sex as distinctly male or female. Some estimates now suggest that 1 in 1000 people in the U.S are born with some variation of intersex.

Lesbian – a woman who is exclusively attracted to other women.

Misgender – Referring to or addressing someone using words and pronouns that do not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify.

MTF or M2F – an abbreviation for male-to-female. This is used to describe someone who was assigned male gender at birth, but identifies as female.

Neopronouns – pronouns created to lack a specific gender. Many were developed in the 70s and 80s, such as ey/em/eir.

Neutrois – a non-binary gender identity that is considered to be a neutral or null gender. It may also be used to mean genderless, and has considerable overlap with agender.

Non-binary – people who do not fit into the strict male/female gender binary and do not strongly identify as masculine or feminine.

Other – someone who has not found a term that they feel accurately represents their gender.

Out – the state of being open about one’s LGBTQ+ identity.

Outing – revealing that someone is LGBTQ+ without their permission. This can be extremely harmful to the person and is always a severe violation of privacy.

Pangender – those who feel they identify as all genders. The term overlaps with genderqueer and trigender.

Pansexual – Capable of being attracted to many/any gender(s) or gender identities. Sometimes the term omnisexual is used in the same manner. Pansexual is being used more and more frequently as people acknowledge that gender is not binary. Not to be confused with Bisexual.

Passing –a person’s ability to go through life without others making the assumption they are LGBTQ+. It’s often seen by those in the community as derogatory. Instead someone may say “not visibly transgender or not visibly gay”. Again ask yourself it it’s even relevant to the conversation.

Privilege – refers to the system of laws, commonly held beliefs, and societal attitudes which gives people of some groups automatic advantages over others.

Pronouns – words that substitute for nouns. Personal pronouns take the place of a person’s name in a sentence, such as ‘she’ or ‘they.’

Polysexual – sexual attraction to more than one gender. To clairfy: Pansexual = any and all gender identities, Polysexual = some genders, Bisexual = only two genders.

Queer – a multi-faceted word that is used in different ways and means different things to different people.It can mean attracted to people of many genders, it can be a form of gender identity/expression, or can refer to all people with non-heterosexual sexual orientations. The community has reclaimed the word but unfortunately it can be used as a slur.

Questioning – someone who is questioning what their sexual orientation or gender identity is.

Romantic orientation – describes the gender(s) someone is romantically attracted to.

Sexual orientation – describes the gender(s) someone is sexually attracted to.

Singular ‘they’ – used by many non-binary and genderqueer individuals as a personal pronoun.

Skoliosexual – attracted to genderqueer and trans people and expressions.

Slur – a word used to describe people that is intended to hurt and dehumanize them.

Straight – a person who is solely attracted to the opposite sex.

Straight privilege – refers to how straight people are privileged in society because male/female relationships are widely seen as the most “natural” type of relationship.

T – sometimes short for testosterone. “I’ve been taking T for 2yrs.”

TGNC: Transgender and Gender Non-conforming

Third gender – a word used by some cultures to describe gender that does fit a male/female binary.

Transgender/Trans – people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.It is an adjective. Note: Transgender does not have an “ed” at the end. This includes not just trans men and women, but is often extended to any individual who does not strictly identify with their gender assigned at birth, such as a non-binary person.

Trans man – a person assigned female at birth who identifies as a man.

Trans woman – a person assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman.

Transfeminine – a person who was born male but whose gender identity is more female than male.

Transmasculine – a person who was born female but whose gender identity is more male than female.

Trans-exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERF) – a group of feminists claiming that trans women aren’t really women and thus exclude them from their cause.

Transition – the process of affirming gender identity. This may involve changes in gender expression, taking hormones, or surgeries.

Transphobia – having fear and prejudice towards transgender people because of their gender identity. Systemic violence against trans people, associated with attitudes such as fear, discomfort, distrust, or disdain. This word is used similarly to homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, etc.

Two-spirit – a gender-variant Native American person. Not all Native Americans use this term, and it does not describe people who are not Native American.

 

Controversial and Outdated Words

These terms should be avoided, unless the person chooses to identify themselves that way.

Gay/LGBTQ+ lifestyle – this phrase is commonly used to belittle and attack LGBTQ+ people for “choosing” to be the way they are, rather than simply being themselves. Hate groups often speak of “condemning the gay lifestyle.”

Hermaphrodite – a word used to describe people who are intersex that was used to define it as an abnormal condition.

Homosexual – an outdated word used to describe gays, lesbians, and bisexuals that is tied to the assumption that being LGBTQ+ is abnormal and wrong. This is considered to be an offensive term by most of the community because of its history of being used by lawmakers and medical professionals to oppress LGBTQ+ people.

Same-sex attraction – this term (often abbreviated as SSA) is commonly used by organizations that frame gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities as a conscious choice which ought to be ignored, or changed, by the individual.

Transsexual – an outdated way of referring to someone who is transgender, particularly someone who has surgically transitioned. As with many of these words, ‘transsexual’ was used to emphasize abnormality.

Transvestite – another outdated word to describe a gender non-conforming or transgender individual. This was usually used for someone who wore clothing different from their perceived gender.