LGBTQ+ Terminology

Please keep in mind that this glossary is rudimentary and that what comes with language is its ability to adapt, transform, and change. The terms are presented for the purpose of facilitating communication—it is not an authoritative source.

Please note that each person who uses any of these terms does so in a unique way (especially terms that are used in the context of an identity label). If you do not understand the context in which a person is using one of these terms, it is always appropriate to ask. This is especially recommended when using terms that we have noted that can have a derogatory connotation.

For additional assistance identifying LGBTTQIA+ terminology please view the HRC Glossary of Terms or the UC Davis LGBTQIA+ Glossary.

Terminology

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  • Agender

    A person with no (or little) connection to the traditional system of gender, no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman, and/or someone who sees themselves as existing without gender. Sometimes called gender neutrois, gender neutral, or genderless.

  • Ally

    A person who confronts heterosexism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, heterosexual privilege, and so on, in themselves and others out of self-interest and a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer-related people, and who believes that heterosexism is a social injustice.

  • Androgynous

    A gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity.

  • Aromantic

    Experiencing little or no romantic attraction to others and/or has a lack of interest in romantic relationships/behavior.

  • Asexuality

    A sexual orientation generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexual individuals do have sex. There are many diverse ways of being asexual.

  • Bigender

    Having two genders; exhibiting cultural characteristics of male and female roles.

  • Bisexual

    Someone whose primary sexual and emotional orientation is toward people of the same or other genders.

  • Butch

    A person who identifies themselves as masculine, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally.

  • Cisgender

    A term used by some to describe people who are not transgender or those who agree with their gender assigned at birth. Cis- is a Latin prefix meaning "on the same side as," and is, therefore, an antonym of trans-. A more widely understood way to describe people who are not transgender is simply to say, non-transgender people.

  • Coming Out (of the closet)

    Being closeted refers to not disclosing one’s sexual orientation. Coming out is the process of first recognizing and acknowledging a non-heterosexual orientation and then disclosing it to others. This usually occurs in stages and is a non-linear process. An individual may be out in some situations or to certain family members or associates and not others. Some may never come out to anyone besides themselves.

  • Crossdresser (CD)

    The most neutral word to describe a person who dresses, at least partially or part of the time, and for any number of reasons, in clothing associated with another gender within a particular society. It carries no implications of usual gender appearance or sexual orientation. It has replaced transvestite, which is outdated, problematic, and generally offensive since it was historically used to diagnose medical/mental health disorders.

  • Demisexual

    Little or no capacity to experience sexual attraction until a strong romantic or emotional connection is formed with another individual.

  • Domestic Partners

    Adults who are not legally married, but who share resources and responsibilities for decisions, share values and goals and have commitments to one another over a period of time. Definitions may vary among city ordinances, corporate policies, and even among those who identify themselves as domestic partners.

  • Dyke

    A pejorative term and common homophobic slur against lesbians with who have masculine gender presentation.

  • Erasure

    Ignoring the existence of genders and sexualities.

  • Faggot

    A pejorative term and common homophobic slur against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The word has been used in English since the late 16th century to mean old or unpleasant woman, and the modern use may derive from this.

  • Family

    Two or more persons who share resources, responsibility for decisions, values and goals, and have commitments to one another over a period of time. The family is that climate that one comes home to; and it is that network of sharing and commitments that most accurately describes the family unit, regardless of blood, or adoption, or marriage (American Home Economics Association).

  • Femme

    Someone who identifies themselves as feminine, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally.

  • FTM (F2M)

    Female-to-male transsexual or transgender person. Someone assigned female at birth that identifies on the male spectrum.

  • Gay

    A person whose primary sexual and emotional orientation is toward people of the same gender; a commonly-used word for male homosexuals.

  • Gender

    A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth.

  • Gender Expression/Presentation

    How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress and/or behaviors that society characterizes as masculine or feminine. May also be androgynous or something else altogether. Some people differentiate between the two terms.

  • Gender Fluid

    Being fluid in motion between two or more genders; shifting naturally in gender identity and/or gender expression/presentation. May be a gender identity itself. Refers to the fluidity of identity.

  • Gender Identity

    An individual’s basic self-conviction of being male or female. This conviction is not contingent upon the individual’s biological sex. This also has no bearing on the individual’s sexual orientation.

  • Gender Dysphoria

    In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify with will be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This diagnosis is a revision of DSM-IV’s criteria for gender identity disorder. For a person to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, there must be a marked difference between the individual’s expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, and it must continue for at least six months.

  • Gender Non-Conforming (GNC)

    A person who does not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of their by society.

  • Gender roles

    Certain behaviors and activities expected/considered acceptable of people in a particular society based upon their sex assigned at birth.

  • Gender Variant

    A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression varies from the culturally-expected characteristics of their assigned sex.

  • Genderqueer

    A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders or is some combination thereof.

  • Heteronormativity

    An (often subconscious) assumption that everyone is heterosexual, and the attitudes associated with that assumption. Heterosexual privilege allows individuals to ignore gay, lesbian and bisexual persons and issues.

  • Heterosexism

    The assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and other non-monosexual people as well as asexual, transgender, and intersex people, while it gives advantages to heterosexual people. It is often a form of oppression which reinforces realities of silence and invisibility.

  • Heterosexuality

    A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the opposite gender.

  • Heterosexual Privilege

    The basic civil rights and social privileges that a heterosexual individual automatically receives, but are systematically denied to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons on the sole basis of their sexual or gender identity.

  • Homophobia

    The irrational fear of, hatred of, aversion to, or discrimination against gay, lesbian or bisexual persons. Biphobia and transphobia are more specific terms when discussing prejudice toward bisexual and transgender persons, respectively.

  • Homosexuality

    Homosexuality - A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender. This term originated within the psychiatric community to label people with a mental illness, and still appears within the current discourse, but is generally thought to be outdated.

  • Internalized Homophobia

    The fear and self-hate of one’s own homosexuality or non-monosexuality that occurs for many individuals who have learned negative ideas about homosexuality throughout childhood. One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.

  • Intersex

    Formerly known as hermaphrodites (a term that is now considered offensive), this term refers to people who have traits of both male and female sexual organs and/or have ambiguous genitalia. Often times these individuals are subjected to surgical procedures, in their childhood and without consent, which may alter their lives forever. Intersex people are relatively common, although society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Has replaced hermaphrodite, which is inaccurate, outdated, problematic, and generally offensive, since it means having both sexes and this is not necessarily true, as there are at least 16 different ways to be intersex.

  • Lesbian

    A woman whose primary sexual and emotional orientation is toward other females.

  • LGBTQIA

    Sometimes referred to as alphabet soup, this acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or ally. Some people will change the order of the letters in this acronym and some will only use some of the letters. Recently, people have moved to putting the L at the front of the acronym as a way of addressing multiple areas of oppression that lesbians face as both a woman and a lesbian.

  • MTF (M2F)

    Male-to-female transsexual or transgender person. Someone assigned male at birth that identifies on the female spectrum.

  • Non-binary

    A catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively male or female—‌identities which are outside the gender binary and cisnormativity.

  • Outing

    Outing refers to revealing someone else’s sexual orientation or gender identity to others without the consent of the person.

  • Pansexual

    A person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions.

  • Polyamory

    refers to the practice of, desire to, or orientation towards having ethically, honest, and consensual non-monogamous relationships.

  • Polysexual

    A person who is attracted to multiple genders (but not all).

  • Partner or Significant Other

    Primary domestic partner or spousal relationship(s). May be referred to as girlfriend/boyfriend, lover, roommate, life partner, wife/husband, or other terms.

  • Queer

    Used by some within the LGBTQIA++ community to refer to a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex or transgender or someone who is supportive of LGBTQIA++ issues. This term is often as much a political statement as a label. Once used as a derogatory term to refer to a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person, the word has been reclaimed by some individuals to positively refer to LGBTQIA++ persons as non-conforming.

  • QPOC/QTPOC

    Acronyms that stand for queer people of color and queer trans people of color.

  • Questioning

    An individual who or time when someone is unsure about or exploring their own sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • Same Gender Loving

    A term used by some African-American people who love, date, and/or have an attraction to people of the same gender. Often used by those who prefer to distance themselves from the terms they see as associated with the white-dominated queer communities.

  • Sex

    A categorization based on the appearance of genitalia at birth. Refers to the biological characteristics chosen to assign humans as male, female, or intersex.

  • Sexuality

    The components of a person that includes their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.

  • Sexual Identity

    The self-perceived identification of one’s sex biologically. This is different from gender and gender identity. Sex is biological, although social views and experiences of sex are societal.

  • Sexual Minorities

    A subset of the population that experiences prejudice, social oppression, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression (Chung, 2001).

  • Sexual Orientation

    An enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, and/or affectional attraction. Terms include homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, non-monosexual, queer, and asexual, and may apply to varying degrees. Sexual orientation is fluid, and people use a variety of labels to describe their own. Sometimes sexual preference is used but can be problematic as it implies choice.

  • Skoliosexual

    Being primarily sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to some genderqueer, transgender, transsexual, and/or non-binary people.

  • Straight

    An individual whose primary sexual orientation is toward people of the opposite gender.

  • Trans Man

    Also referred to as FTM.

  • Trans Woman

    Also referred to as MTF

  • Transgender

    A broad term used to encompass all manifestations of crossing gender barriers. It describes a wide range of identities and experiences of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned biological birth sex. It includes all who cross-dress or otherwise transgress gender norms. Inclusive also of a person whose self-identification challenges traditional notions of gender and sexuality (e.g., transsexuals) and who does not conform to traditional understandings of labels like male and female. Some commonly held definitions include:

    1. Someone whose behavior or expression does not match their assigned sex according to society.
    2. A gender outside of the man/woman binary.
    3. Having no gender or multiple genders.
    4. Some definitions also include people who perform gender or play with it.
    5. Historically, the term was coined to designate a trans person who was not undergoing a medical transition (surgery or hormones).

  • Transition

    The time period when a transgender individual shifts from expressing one gender to another in her/his personal life and workplace; involves several elements such as alternate dress, hormone therapy, voice training, and possibly surgery. For most individuals, the workplace transition is carefully planned; the planning will often include appropriate levels of management in the discussion, and the transition process may be weeks or months in length.

  • Transphobia

    A reaction of fear, loathing, and discriminatory treatment of people whose identity or gender presentation (or perceived gender or gender identity) does not match, in the societally accepted way, the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgendered people, intersex people, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and other non-monosexuals are typically the target of transphobia.

  • Transsexual (TS)

    A person who perceives themselves as a member of a gender that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Many pursue hormones and/or surgery. Sometimes used to specifically refer to trans* people pursuing gender or sex reassignment.

  • Two-Spirit

    These terms describe indigenous people who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups. These roles included wearing clothing and performing the work that is traditional for both men and women. They are seen without stigma and are considered emissaries from the creator, treated with reverence and respect, even considered sacred, in some cases.