Even as the world is increasingly accepting LGBTQ+ folks, there are still many of us who get confused over terms and concepts that relate to the LGBTQ+ community. In the meantime, censorship in sex education and mainstream media makes this even harder for us to get the correct information or we get no exposure to such topics.
As we are here not only to encourage you to explore your sexuality and your body, but also to support human rights and our LGBTQ+ community. We have done the research, selected a list of LGBTQ-related terminologies and concepts to help answer the most common questions you might have about sexuality and gender.
A term used to describe someone who is actively supportive of LGBTQ people. It encompasses straight and cisgender allies, as well as those within the LGBTQ community who support each other (e.g., a lesbian who is an ally to the bisexual community).
Often called “ace” for short, asexual refers to a complete or partial lack of sexual attraction or lack of interest in sexual activity with others. Asexuality exists on a spectrum, and asexual people may experience no, little or conditional sexual attraction.
A person with no (or very little) connection to the traditional system of gender, no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman and/or who sees themselves as existing without gender. Sometimes called gender neutrois, gender neutral, or genderless.
a) A gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity;
b) Occasionally used in place of “intersex” to describe a person with both female and male anatomy.
5. Androsexual or Androphilic
Being primarily sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to some men, males and/or masculinity.
Experiencing little or no romantic attraction to others and/or having a lack of interest in romantic relationships/behavior. Aromanticism exists on a continuum from people who experience no romantic attraction and have no desire for romantic activities, to those who experience low levels, or romantic attraction only under specific conditions, and many of these different places on the continuum have their own identity labels (see demiromantic). Sometimes abbreviated to “aro” (pronounced like “arrow”).
7. Assigned female at birth/Assigned male at birth
A term used to refer to the sex that one was assigned at the time of birth based on hormonal, chromosomal, and anatomical characteristics. Often abbreviated AFAB or AMAB. This is the correct way to identify someone's sex assigned at birth, especially when referring to transgender patients whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. Do not use "male-to-female (MTF)"/"female-to-male (FTM)", "born a boy" or "used to be a girl."
A person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (and sometimes a third gender).
A curiosity about having attraction to people of the same gender/sex (similar to questioning).
10. Biological sex
A medical term used to refer to the chromosomal, hormonal and anatomical characteristics that are used to classify an individual as female or male or intersex. Often referred to as simply “sex,” “physical sex,” “anatomical sex” or specifically as “sex assigned at birth.”
The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, people who love and are sexually attracted to more than one gender.
A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. Sometimes used interchangeably with pansexual.
A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
14. 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.
Behavior that grants preferential treatment to cisgender people, reinforces the idea that being cisgender is somehow better or more “right” than being transgender and/or makes other genders invisible.
The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is cisgender, and that cisgender identities are superior to trans identities or people. Leads to invisibility of non-cisgender identities.
An individual who is not open to themselves or others about their (queer) sexuality or gender identity. This may be by choice and/or for other reasons such as fear for one’s safety, peer or family rejection or disapproval and/or loss of housing, job, etc. Also known as being “in the closet.” When someone chooses to break this silence they “come out” of the closet. (See coming out)
18. Coming out
a) The process by which one accepts and/or comes to identify one’s own sexuality or gender identity (to “come out” to oneself).
b) The process by which one shares one’s sexuality or gender identity with others (to “come out” to friends, etc.).
A way to describe the arrangement or structure of a polyamorous relationship.
A person who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression (“cross-dresses”) for any one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification. The term transvestite is considered derogatory.
Having little or no capacity to experience romantic attraction until a strong sexual or emotional connection is formed with another individual, often within a sexual relationship.
Often referred to as “Demi”, this is a term used to describe someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature.
23. Drag king; drag queen
Someone who performs masculinity or femininity theatrically.
24. Feminine-of-center; Masculine-of-center
A word that indicates a range of terms of gender identity and gender presentation for folks who present, understand themselves and/or relate to others in a more feminine/masculine way, but don’t necessarily identify as women/men. Feminine-of-center individuals may also identify as femme, submissive, transfeminine, etc.; masculine-of-center individuals may also often identify as butch, stud, aggressive, boi, transmasculine, etc.
25. Feminine-presenting; Masculine-presenting
A way to describe someone who expresses gender in a more feminine/masculine way. Often confused with feminine-of-center/masculine-of-center, which generally include a focus on identity as well as expression.
Someone who identifies themselves as feminine, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. Often used to refer to a feminine-presenting queer woman.
A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender. Men, women and non-binary people may use this term to describe themselves.
28. Gender binary
A system in which gender is constructed into two strict categories of male or female. Gender identity is expected to align with the sex assigned at birth and gender expressions and roles fit traditional expectations.
29. Gender dysphoria
Clinically significant distress caused when a person's assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify.
A person with a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system. Often used as an umbrella term when referring to young people still exploring the possibilities of their gender expression and/or gender identity.
31. Gender expression/presentation
External appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, body characteristics or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.
A person who does not identify with a single fixed gender or has a fluid or unfixed gender identity.
33. 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.
34. Gender non-conforming
A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category. While many also identify as transgender, not all gender non-conforming people do.
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.
36. Gender normative; gender straight
Someone whose gender presentation, whether by nature or by choice, aligns with society’s gender-based expectations.
37. Gender variant
Someone who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society (e.g. transgender, intersex, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc).
38. Gynesexual or Gynephilic
Being primarily sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to some woman, females and/or femininity.
An umbrella term for a range of negative attitudes (e.g., fear, anger, intolerance, resentment, erasure or discomfort) that one may have towards members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The term can also connote a fear, disgust or dislike of being perceived as LGBTQIA+. 2 adj. : A word used to describe an individual who harbors some elements of this range of negative attitudes towards gay people.
The assumption, in individuals and/or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities. Leads to invisibility and stigmatizing of other sexualities: e.g., when learning a woman is married, asking her what her husband’s name is. Heteronormativity also leads us to assume that only masculine men and feminine women are straight.
Behavior that grants preferential treatment to heterosexual people, reinforces the idea that heterosexuality is somehow better or more “right” than queerness and/or makes other sexualities invisible.
A person primarily emotionally, physically and/or sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. Also known as straight.
Intersex people are born with a variety of differences in their sex traits and reproductive anatomy. There is a wide variety of difference among intersex variations, including differences in genitalia, chromosomes, gonads, internal sex organs, hormone production, hormone response, and/or secondary sex traits.
A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women. Women and non-binary people may use this term to describe themselves.
45. LGBTQ; GSM; DSG
Shorthand or umbrella terms for all folks who have a non-normative (or queer) gender or sexuality. Many different initialisms are preferred. LGBTQIA is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual/Agender/Aromantic (sometimes with a + at the end in an effort to be more inclusive); GSM is Gender and Sexual Minorities; DSG is Diverse Sexualities and Genders. Other options include the initialism GLBT, LGBT or LGBTQ and the acronym QUILTBAG (Queer/Questioning Undecided Intersex Lesbian Trans Bisexual Asexual/Allied and Gay/Genderqueer).
46. Non-binary & Genderqueer
An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do. Non-binary can also be used as an umbrella term encompassing identities such as agender, bigender, genderqueer or gender-fluid.
Exposing someone’s lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender or gender non-binary identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety or religious or family situations.
Describes someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. Sometimes used interchangeably with bisexual.
a) Trans people being accepted as, or able to “pass for,” a member of their self-identified gender identity (regardless of sex assigned at birth) without being identified as trans.
b) An LGB/queer individual who is believed to be or perceived as straight.
50. Personal pronouns
The pronouns a person uses to refer to themself and by which others should refer to them - he/him; she/her; they/them; ze/zir. Often used during introductions, becoming more common in educational institutions.
Refers to the practice of, desire to, or orientation towards having ethical, honest and consensual non-monogamous relationships (i.e. relationships that may include multiple partners). This may include open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves more than two people being in romantic and/or sexual relationships that are not open to additional partners), among many other arrangements.
A term people often use to express a spectrum of identities and orientations that are counter to the mainstream. Queer is often used as a catch-all to include many people, including those who do not identify as exclusively straight and/or folks who have non-binary or gender-expansive identities. This term was previously used as a slur, but has been reclaimed by many parts of the LGBTQ movement.
A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
54. Same-gender loving
A term some prefer to use instead of lesbian, gay or bisexual to express attraction to and love of people of the same gender.
55. Sex assigned at birth
The sex, male, female or intersex, that a doctor or midwife uses to describe a child at birth based on their external anatomy.
56. Sexual orientation
An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. Note: an individual’s sexual orientation is independent of their gender identity.
Being primarily sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to some genderqueer, transgender and/or non-binary people.
58. Third gender
For a person who does not identify with either man or woman, but identifies with another gender. This gender category is used by societies that recognize three or more genders, both contemporary and historic, and is also a conceptual term meaning different things to different people who use it, as a way to move beyond the gender binary.
An umbrella term covering a range of identities that transgress socially defined gender norms. Trans with an asterisk is sometimes used in written forms to emphasize the inclusion of nonbinary trans identities, although this is not preferred.
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.
A series of processes that some transgender people may undergo in order to live more fully as their true gender. This typically includes social transition, such as changing name and pronouns, medical transition, which may include hormone therapy or gender affirming surgeries, and legal transition, which may include changing legal name and sex on government identity documents. Transgender people may choose to undergo some, all or none of these processes.
62. Trans man or trans woman
A transgender man who was assigned female at birth, or a woman who was assigned male at birth. Not all trans people adopt this identity label and prefer to refer to themselves simply as a “woman” or “man.”
63. Transphobia, transphobic
The fear of, discrimination against or hatred of trans people, the trans community or gender ambiguity. Transphobia can be seen within the queer community, as well as in general society. Transphobia is often manifested in violent and deadly means. 2 adj. : a word used to describe an individual who harbors some elements of this range of negative attitudes, thoughts and intents towards trans people.
Refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. As an umbrella term it may encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described in Western culture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, gender queer, cross-dressers or who have multiple gender identities.
65. Ze; zir /“zee”, “zerr” or “zeer”
Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some trans* people. They replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively. Alternatively, some people use the plural pronoun “they/their” as a gender neutral singular pronoun.