Terminology

Sexualities and genders are too complicated to impose a set "vocabulary" upon. Yet, the concepts that drive certain words and their usage in LGBTQ communities are important to know. It is good to keep in mind that language is fluid, and in, addition, many people don't agree on the same language for the same thing. Thus, all definitions are subject to change.

Assigned Sex

  • Intersex: A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. Intersex is a socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation.
  • Sex: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, or intersex at birth often based on physical anatomy at birth. Intersex babies are almost always assigned male or female.
    • AFAB: Assigned Female at Birth
    • AMAB: Assigned Male at Birth

Gender

  • Cisgender: A term describing someone whose gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth; not transgender. Cisgender is not a slur.
    • Cis Woman: Assigned female at birth, is a woman
    • Cis Man: Assigned male at birth, is a man
  • Dead Name: The name given to a trans person at birth that the person no longer uses. Not all trans people change their name.
  • Dead-Naming: The act of using someone's dead name. Dead-naming invalidates their gender and induces dysphoria/anxiety. Dead-naming effectively outs them, which can be dangerous.
  • Dysphoria: A conflict between a person's assigned sex and their gender. People with dysphoria are sometimes uncomfortable with their body or with the gender roles of their assigned sex.
  • Gender: An individual's gender is their internal sense of being a woman, a man, another gender, a combination of genders, or no gender.
  • Gender Binary: The artificial division of the world into things that are "masculine," or "for men," and things that are "feminine," or "for women."
  • Gender Confirmation Surgery: Can refer to any surgeries that a trans person undergoes as part of their transition. This term should be used instead of sex reassignment surgery.
  • Gender Expression/Presentation: External manifestations of gender, expressed through a person's name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, etc. What is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture.
  • Gender Nonconforming (GNC): Describes someone whose appearance and behavior does not reflect the gender roles expected of them. Not a synonym for nonbinary.
  • HRT: Hormone Replacement Therapy; can be a part of transitioning, but isn't a requirement.
  • Misgendering: To use the wrong pronouns for someone or to refer to them as a gender they are not.
  • Nonbinary: Any gender which does not fit the male/female binary. Genderqueer is used as a synonym, but shouldn't be used as an umbrella term since "queer" can be considered a slur.
    Note: Not all nonbinary people identify as transgender.
  • Agender: Without gender; not identifying with any gender.
  • Androgynous: A gender that is simultaneously masculine and feminine.
  • Genderfluid: A flexible gender that can vary between masculine and feminine.
  • Passing: This term refers to a trans person going through life without others assuming they are trans. The term is problematic because "passing" implies "passing as something you're not." No one should refer to an individual as "passing." Passing should only be referred to as a concept.
  • Transgender: Encompassing term of gender identities of those who do not identify or exclusively identify with their sex assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormones, anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.
    • Trans Woman: Assigned male at birth, is a woman.
    • Trans Man: Assigned female at birth, is a man.
    • Nonbinary: Assigned either male or female at birth, isn't a man or a woman (see above).
    • MTF: Male-to-female; used to describe trans women; offensive—implies trans women were once "male."
    • FTM: Female-to-male; used to describe trans men; offensive—implies trans men were once "female."
  • Transition: A person's process of developing and assuming a gender expression to match their gender. Transitioning can include changing one's name, HRT, and various surgeries. Transitioning is a different process for everyone, and some trans people do not transition at all.
  • Transphobia: A strong dislike, hatred, sense of disgust, or fear related to trans Transphobic beliefs and practices are a source of anxiety, violence, and systemic discrimination.
  • Two Spirit: A term that unifies various gender identities and expressions of Native American/First Nations/Indigenous individuals. It's not a specific definition of gender, sexual orientation, or other self-determined identity, but an umbrella term. It's a culturally specific term that means different things to different tribes and individuals. Non-Native people cannot claim this identity.

Sexuality

  • Asexual (Ace): An individual who does not experience sexual attraction. Each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal differently. Some asexual individuals have sex for a variety of reasons. An asexual person can be straight, gay, bi, etc.
  • Bisexual (Bi): A person who is attracted to their gender and at least one other gender (can be attracted to all genders). Individuals who are nonbinary or are attracted to nonbinary people may identify as bi.
  • Biphobia: A strong dislike, hatred, sense of disgust, or fear related to bi people. Systemic examples include assuming bi people are hyper-sexual, assuming that a bisexual person in a heterosexual relationship is not bi anymore, and discounting bisexuality as a phase or not real.
  • Compulsory Heterosexuality: The idea that society enforces heterosexuality to the extent that people are assumed straight until they come out. Compulsory heterosexuality can lead to some gay people not coming to terms with being gay, not knowing they are gay, or assuming they are straight/attracted to a different gender.
  • Gay: A person who is attracted to people of the same gender. Some lesbians, bisexual, and pansexual women refer to themselves as gay, others do not.
  • Heterosexual/Straight: Men who are attracted to women; women who are attracted to men; some individuals who are nonbinary or are attracted to nonbinary people may identify as straight.
  • Homophobia: A strong dislike, hatred, sense of disgust, or fear related to gay Homophobic beliefs and practices are a source of anxiety, violence, and systemic discrimination.
  • Lesbian: Women who are attracted to other women. Nonbinary people may identify as lesbians.
  • Lesbophobia: A strong dislike, hatred, sense of disgust, or fear related to lesbians. This form of prejudice often manifests as a combination of misogyny and homophobia.
  • Pansexual: A person for whom gender isn't a factor in who they are attracted to.
  • Queer: An umbrella term that can mean various things to various people. Often used as a catchall for the LGBT community, or for individuals who do not identify with a specific sexual orientation, but do not identify as straight. Some individuals within the community consider the word to be a slur, so it should only be used when describing certain individuals who claim that term.
  • Questioning: A term used to describe those who are in a process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof.
  • Two Spirit: A term that unifies various gender identities and expressions of Native American/First Nations/Indigenous individuals. It's not a specific definition of gender, sexual orientation, or other self-determined identity, but an umbrella term. It's a culturally specific term that means different things to different tribes and individuals. Non-Native people cannot claim this identity.

Other

  • Cross-Dressing: The act of dressing and presenting as a different gender. Cross-dressing and drag are forms of gender expression and are not necessarily tied to erotic activity, nor are they indicative of one's sexual orientation or gender identity. Do not use this term to describe someone who is transgender.
  • Drag: Exaggerated, theatrical, and/or performative gender presentation. Although most commonly used to refer to cross-dressing performers (drag queens and drag kings), anyone of any gender can do any form of drag. Doing drag does not necessarily have anything to do with one's sex assigned at birth, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Outdated Terms

  • Hermaphrodite: Offensive term used to refer to intersex people.
  • Homosexual: Offensive term used to refer to gay people.
  • Transsexual: Offensive term when used to describe someone who is transgender. Transsexual often, though not always, implies hormonal or surgical transition. Unlike transgender or trans, transsexual is not an umbrella term, as many trans people do not identify as transsexual.
  • Transvestite: Offensive term to describe someone who is a cross-dresser. Do not use this term to describe someone who is transgender.

Slurs

Slurs are words that can be reclaimed within their respective communities, but should not be used by people who are outside of those communities for any reason—even if someone within them gives you "permission." They have historical weight and backgrounds, and are used to hurt and dehumanize already marginalized folks.

  • Dyke: A slur for lesbians.
  • Faggot/Fag: A slur for gay men.
  • It: A slur when used as a pronoun for a trans person (who doesn't use "it" pronouns).
  • Shemale/he-she/shim: Slurs for trans people, especially trans women.
  • Tranny: A slur for trans people.