No glossary could encompass the range of identities and terms that are used within LGBTQIA+ communities. If you hear a term you don’t recognize, or feel like someone is using a term in a new way, ask the individual what the term means to them. This glossary is meant as an introduction to the community, and is not the definitive answer as to how everyone understands these terms.
The terminology below will be formatted as “Term [part of identity, if applicable]: definition” and may include a resource for further learning and/or a cross-reference.
AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth): A way to communicate the sex marker given to them at birth (based on their physical anatomy). This term may be used by a range of people, including gender nonconforming (GNC), intersex, nonbinary, and/or transgender individuals (see also: Sex Assigned at Birth; AMAB)
Ally: An ally is a person who confronts heterosexism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, etc., in themselves and others out of self-interest and a concern for the well-being of LGBTQ+ people, and who is committed to social justice and equal rights.
AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth): A way to communicate the sex marker given to them at birth (based on their physical anatomy). This term may be used by a range of people, including gender nonconforming (GNC), intersex, nonbinary, and/or transgender individuals (see also: Sex Assigned at Birth; AFAB)
Agender [gender identity]: Without gender. Often used as an identification for people who do not identify with or conform to any gender.
Androgynous [gender expression]: A display that integrates a combination of masculine and feminine elements. For some, androgyny is about achieving a “gender neutral” expression, whereas others may wish to acknowledge their relationship to masculinity and femininity.
Aromantic [romantic orientation]: Someone who does not experience romantic attraction to others.
Asexual [sexual orientation]: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction towards other people, and who identifies as asexual. May still have romantic, emotional, affectional, or relational attractions to other people. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. While not experiencing sexual attraction, some asexual people may still choose to have sex for other reasons, including physical enjoyment or desire to have children. Sometimes shortened as “ace.”
Bigender [gender identity]: Having two genders; a combination of man, woman, and/or other gender identities.
Biphobia: Fear, aversion, or hatred of people who are bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, or otherwise attracted to multiple genders.
Biromantic [romantic identity/orientation]: A person who has a romantic attraction to two (or multiple) genders.
Bisexual [sexual orientation]: A person who is sexually attracted to multiple genders, or who identifies as a member of the bisexual community. Often, but not limited to, being attracted to the same gender and other genders. May be shortened to “bi.”
Chosen Name: A name selected by an individual that differs from the name they were given at birth. A chosen name often helps to affirm an individuals gender identity and/or gender expression (see also: Deadname).
Cisgender [gender identity]: A term for individuals whose gender identity generally matches with that assigned for their assigned sex at birth. In other words, a person who does not identify as transgender or nonbinary.
Cissexism: A belief that there are only two genders which are assigned at birth and immutable. This prejudice has been integrated into social systems and policies, which contributes to the discrimination and oppression of transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people.
Closeted: Used as slang for the state of not publicizing one’s sexual/gender identity, keeping it private, living an outwardly heterosexual/cisgender life while identifying as LGBT, or not being forthcoming about one’s identity. At times, being in the closet may also mean not wanting to admit one’s identity to oneself.
Coming Out: To disclose one sexual identity or gender identity. It can mean telling others or it can refer an internal process of coming to terms with one’s identity.
Crossdresser: Individual who dresses in clothing usually associated with a sex that differs from the one assigned at birth. This is done for a variety of personal reasons. Crossdressing is not indicative of sexual orientation or gender identity. This term replaces the sometimes-pejorative term transvestite.
Deadname: A term used for the former name of a transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming person who has changed their name to affirm their gender identity.
Demisexual: A person who may only experience sexual attraction after a strong emotional attachment is formed. May be seen as falling on the asexual spectrum.
Drag: A public performance that involves playing with gender norms and expectations. Performers are often referred to as drag queens and kings, whose performances and costumes often exaggerate and play with gender.
Femme [gender expression]: A term referring to the broad, dynamic representations of femininity/feminine characteristics regardless of gender. Femmes claim a relationship to femininity without, necessarily, claiming a relationship to womanhood.
FTM: Female-to-male transgender person, often identifying as a trans man. Someone assigned female at birth who identifies as male or on the male-aligned identity. Also referred to as “transmasc” or “transmasculine.”
Gay Man: A man who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to other men, or who identifies as a member of the gay community. At times, “gay” is used to refer to all people, regardless of gender, who have their primary sexual and or romantic attractions to people of the same gender. “Gay” is an adjective (not a noun) as in “He is a gay man.”
Gender: A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of femininity and masculinity to people. The attributes of gender can change over time and differ between cultures. Terms for gender identity include, but are not limited to, woman, man, non-binary, genderqueer, and agender.
Gender Affirmation Surgery: The procedures that some trans individuals might undergo so their external bodies can better reflect their internal gender identities. Other names include “sexual reassignment surgery” and “gender confirmation surgery.” These procedures may be called “top surgery” (e.g. reshaping a chest or providing breast augmentation) and “bottom surgery” (e.g. reshaping genitals). Surgery is not required for someone to claim a certain identity, but is considered of essential, gender-affirming healthcare for those who seek it.
Gender Dysphoria: The term “gender dysphoria” was used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. This term was intended to focus on gender identity-related distress that some transgender people may experience (and for which they may seek psychiatric, medical, and surgical treatments) rather than on transgender individuals or identities themselves. The DSM–5 states that “gender non-conformity is not in itself a mental disorder,” rather the diagnosis was created to help people with gender dysphoria get access to appropriate health care and treatment, and the DSM-5 lists specific criteria. NOTE: not all trans people experience gender dysphoria.
Gender Euphoria: The joyful experience and sense of self when a person’s authentic gender is expressed and acknowledged by themselves and/or by others.
Gender Expression: How one expresses their gender identity outwardly in terms of clothing, hair, tone of voice, etc.
Genderfluid [gender identity]: A person whose gender expression and/or gender identity varies from one gender to another/others in some way.
Genderflux [gender identity]: A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression varies in intensity, but not necessarily across genders.
Gender Identity: A person’s internal sense of their own gender. Cisgender, transgender, man, woman, and genderqueer are all examples of gender identities.
Gender Nonconforming (GNC) [gender identity]: A person who does not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society.
Genderqueer [gender identity]: A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the masculine/feminine gender binary. Genderqueer is also considered part of the umbrella of non-binary identities.
Heteronormativity: Processes through which social institutions and policies reinforce the notion that there are only two possibilities for sex, gender, and sexual attraction: male/masculine/attracted to women and female/feminine/attracted to men.
Heterosexism: Norms and behaviors that result from the assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. This system of oppression assumes that heterosexuality is inherently normal and superior and negates LGBTQIA+ peoples’ lives and relationships.
Heterosexual [sexual orientation]: Referring to men who are attracted to women or women who are attracted to men. Often referred to as “straight.”
Homophobia: Fear of, hatred of, or discomfort with people who love and sexually desire members of the same gender. Homophobic reactions often lead to intolerance, bigotry, and violence against anyone not acting within socio-cultural norms of heterosexuality. Because most LGBTQIA+ people are raised in the same hetero- and cissexist society as their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts, they learn the same negative beliefs and stereotypes prevalent in the dominant society, leading to a phenomenon known as ‘internalized homophobia.’
Homosexual: The clinical term, coined in the field of psychology, for people with a same-sex sexual attraction. The word is often associated with the idea that same-sex attractions are a mental disorder, and is therefore offensive to some people.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): The process by which trans individuals choose to take a prescription of artificial hormones in order to physically/medically affirm their gender. For trans women, that may include estrogen as well as testosterone-blockers. For trans men, testosterone, or T.
Intersex: Term used for a variety of medical conditions in which a person is born with chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sexual characteristics that are inconsistent with the typical definition of a male or female body. The term differences of sex development (DSD) also describes these conditions. Replaces the inaccurate, and usually offensive, term “hermaphrodite.” Some intersex individuals may choose to identify as LGBTQIA+ as a result of their intersexuality; however, many choose not to.
Lesbian [sexual orientation]: A non-man attracted to non-men. While past definitions refer to ‘lesbian’ as a woman who is emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually attracted to other women, this updated definition includes non-binary people who may also identify with the label.
LGBTQIA+: Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual. An umbrella term that is used to refer to the community as a whole. Often shortened to LGBTQ+, but not as a means to exclude other identities. The “+” acknowledges the diversity of identities, orientations, and expressions of the LGBTQIA+ community that are not named in the acronym.
Masc [gender expression]: A term referring to the broad, dynamic representations of masculinity/masculine characteristics regardless of gender. Mascs claim a relationship to masculinity without, necessarily, claiming a relationship to manhood.
MSM: An abbreviation for men who have sex with men. This term emphasizes the behavior, rather than the identities of the individuals involved.
MTF: Male-to-female transgender person. often identifying as a trans woman. Someone assigned male at birth who identifies as female or a female-aligned identity. Also referred to as “transfem” or “transfeminine.”
Non-binary [gender identity]: An umbrella term describing anyone whose gender identity falls outside the binary of woman/man. Can also be used as an identity itself
Omnigender [gender identity]: Identifying as all genders. The term is specifically used to refute the concept of only two genders.
Pangender [gender identity]: Exhibiting characteristics of multiple genders; deliberately refuting the concept of only two genders.
Pansexual [sexual orientation]: A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to people regardless of their gender identity or sex assigned at birth. Use of the term often signals a repudiation of the concept of binary sexes.
Polyamorous: The state or practice of having more than one romantic relationship during a period of time, or referring to someone open to having multiple partners, while not currently in multiple romantic relationships. May be shortened to “poly.”
Queer: Term describing people who have a non-normative gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual anatomy — can include lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, transgender people, and a host of other identities. The term has a history of offensive use as a slur and is still used that way in some spaces, but has largely been reclaimed by the community to describe themselves.
Questioning: Refers to individuals who are in the process of examining their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Romantic Orientation: A way of characterizing one’s attraction to other people characterized by the expression or non-expression of love/romance/non-sexual interaction. People use a variety of labels to describe their romantic orientation, including aromantic, homoromantic, and heteroromantic, panromantic, and biromantic.
Same-Gender Loving (SGL): How some African Americans prefer to describe their sexual orientation, seeing “gay” and “lesbian” as primarily white terms. “Same-sex loving” is also in use.
Sex Assigned at Birth: This term is a more inclusive alternative to “sex” or “biological sex,” as it recognizes that sex categories are socially constructed, rather than biologically mandated, and that one’s sex assigned at birth does not automatically determine one’s gender identity. Assigned sex may be determined on the basis of sex chromosomes (XX = female, XY = male); hormone levels, secondary sex characteristics, and internal and external genitalia may also be considered criteria. Terms to describe assigned sex include female, male, and intersex. (see also AFAB; AMAB)
Sexuality: The complex range of components which make us sexual beings; includes emotional, physical, and sexual aspects, as well as self-identification (including sexual orientation and gender), behavioral preferences and practices, fantasies, and feelings of affection and emotional affinity.
Sexual Fluidity: The concept that sexual orientation can vary across the lifespan and in different contexts. This does not mean that it can be changed through volition or therapy.
Sexual Orientation: An enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, and/or affectional attraction. Terms include gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. Sexual orientation can be fluid, and people can use a variety of labels to describe their own.
SGRM: An abbreviation for sexual, gender, and romantic minorities. Used as an umbrella term rather than as an identity for a specific person, particularly in international contexts.
SOGI: An abbreviation for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Stealth: A description for people who, after beginning their transition and living as their preferred genders, do not readily tell others about their pasts, specifically their birth-assigned genders. Others may choose to be more or less open about their trans statuses.
Third Gender [gender identity]: A term for those who belong to a gender category not recognized in the Western binary. For example, Native American two-spirit people, hijra in India, kathoeys in Thailand, and travestis in Brazil. Recognizes that people’s identities are specific to their culture.
Transgender [gender identity]: An umbrella term for those individuals whose gender identity does not match with that assigned for their physical sex. Among others, the term “transgender” includes those who identify as transsexual, non-binary, genderqueer, or simply just transgender. In its general sense, it refers to anyone whose behavior or identity falls outside of stereotypical expectations for their sex assigned at birth. Transgender people may identify as straight, gay, bisexual, or any other sexual orientation. Sometimes shortened as “trans” or “trans*.” Check out the GSR Introduction to Transgender Identities
Transition: An individualized process by which transgender people move from living as one gender to living as another gender. There are three general aspects to transitioning: social (e.g. name, pronouns), medical (e.g. hormones, surgery), and legal (e.g. gender marker and name change). Each path through transition is unique to the individual, and some may choose not to transition socially, medically, and/or legally due to access barriers or other personal reasons.
Transsexual: Historical term referring to a person whose gender identity consistently differs from what is culturally associated with their sex assigned at birth. Often refers to those who physically change their body so it matches their gender identity. Many trans people do not identify with it, as it is largely outdated and inaccurately conflates the nature of trans identity with the obligation to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
Transphobia: Fear of, hatred of, or discomfort with people who are transgender or otherwise gender non-normative.
Two-Spirit [gender identity]: Contemporary term chosen to describe certain North American Indigenous and Canadian First Nation people who identify with a third gender, implying a masculine and a feminine spirit in one body. Replaces the problematic term berdache. For more information, watch this video from Them. Magazine
WSW: An abbreviation for women who have sex with women. This term emphasizes the behavior, rather than the identities of the individuals involved.