Ally: In the LGBTQ context, a person who supports and honors sexual and gender diversity, acts accordingly to challenge homophobic, heterosexist, and transphobic remarks and behaviors, and is willing to explore and understand these forms of bias within theirself.
Asexual: Anyone without sexual feelings or a sexual orientation. Many asexual individuals have deep and meaningful relationships with others exclusive of sexual intimacy. The term is also sometimes used as a “gender identity” by those who believe their lack of sexual attraction places them outside the standard definitions of gender.
Bi or Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, and/or relationally attracted to people of more than one gender, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. Some people who are attracted to more than one gender may still identify as “lesbian,” “gay,” or “straight,” because of their own personal definitions of those terms or feelings relating to their sexuality. On the other hand, some bisexuals consider themselves distinct from gays and lesbians but part of the larger LGBTQ or queer community.
Biphobia: The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of bisexuals by people of any sexual orientation. Biphobic stereotypes may include promiscuity or confusion toward their sexual orientation. In some cases, bisexuals are accused of bringing sexually transmitted disease into the heterosexual community or into the lesbian community. Gays and lesbians who express biphobia might accuse bisexuals of maintaining heterosexual privilege and collaborating with homophobes. The belief that bisexuality does not truly exist is another example of biphobia.
Boi: Anyone whose gender identity or expression is boyish (regardless of sex).
Bio-Man or Bio-Woman: Someone born as a biological man or woman.
Butch: Used as an adjective or noun, the term is used to describe someone of any gender who takes on or embodies culturally defined masculine traits. These may include dressing in traditionally masculine ways, enjoying traditionally masculine things, and does not necessarily imply a sexual orientation.
Cisgendered: The opposite of transgendered.
Closeted: Being “in the closet” means keeping your sexual orientation a secret. Many LBGTQI people remain in the closet because of fear of rejection, harassment, and anti-gay violence. However, like an actual closet, many LBGTQI people find that this mental closet is an isolated, stifling place. “Closeted” an adjective describing a LGBTQ person who represents him or herself as heterosexual or cisgendered. A person may be “closeted” to some and “out” to others at the same time.
Coming Out: The developmental process in which a person acknowledges, accepts, and appreciates their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual identity. Coming out is a lifelong process, starting with coming out to oneself and then to others. An individual may be “out” in some situations or to certain family members or associates and not others.
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.
Double Men's Symbol: Representing the planet Mars, this symbol represents men loving men.
Double Women's Symbol: Representing the planet Venus, this symbol represents women loving women.
Down Low: A term used to refer to men who maintain a heterosexual identity and lifestyle in their daily lives, but engage in same-sex intercourse as a private part of their lives.
Drag: The act of dressing in gendered clothing as part of a performance. Drag may be performed as a political comment on gender, as parody, or simply as entertainment. Drag performance does not indicate sexuality, gender identity, or sex identity.
Drag Queen: A performer who uses exaggerated forms of feminine attire and attitudes, usually for entertainment purposes.
Drag King: A performer who uses exaggerated forms of masculine attire and attitudes, usually for entertainment purposes.
Dyke: A derogatory slur for lesbians, now reclaimed by some as a term of pride.
En femme: A cross-dressing/transvestite man when ze is wearing women’s clothing.
En drab: A cross-dressing/transvestite man when ze is wearing men’s clothing.
Fag or Faggot: A derogatory slur for gay men, now reclaimed by some as a term of pride. Derived from the word faggot (literally "small bundle of sticks"), it is an allusion to the Inquisition-era practice of burning people at the stake for suspected homosexual practices.
Family: Colloquial term used to identify other LGBTQ community members. For example, an LGBTQ person saying, “that person is family,” often means that the person they are referring to is LGBTQ as well.
Family of choice (chosen family): Persons or groups of people who form an individual’s close social support network, often fulfilling the functions of blood relatives. Many LGBTQ individuals face alienation or rejection from their families because of their identities, while others remain closeted to biological relatives. In many cases, it is the families of choice who will be called on in times of illness or personal crisis.
Family of Origin: Biological family or the family in which one was raised, which may or may not be part of a person’s current support system.
Femme: Used as an adjective or noun, the term is used to describe someone of any gender who takes on or embody culturally defined feminine traits. These may include dressing in traditionally feminine ways, enjoying traditionally feminine things, and does not necessarily imply a sexual orientation.
Freedom Rings: Often used in necklaces, bracelets, rings and key chains, these six-colored aluminum rings are linked together and reminiscent of the Rainbow Flag. Wearing them has come to symbolize independence and acceptance of others.
FTM: Female to male transgender or transsexual individual.
Gay: An individual who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Preferred over the term homosexual.
Gender: A socially constructed collection of traits, behaviors, and meanings that have been historically attributed to biological differences.
Gender Binary: The idea that there are only two genders or sexes—male/female or man/woman, and that a person must be strictly either/or.
Gender Cues: Physical or social markers we use to read the gender/sex of another person. Examples include clothing, hairstyle, vocal inflection, body shape, body movements and gestures, facial hair, etc. Gender cues vary by culture and context.
Gender Dysphoria: A psychological term used to describe the feelings of pain and anguish that arise from a transgender person’s conflict between gender identity (internal experience) and biological sex (external experience).
Gender Expression: Outward behaviors and appearances (e.g. hair, clothing, voice, body language) by which people manifest their (inner) gender identity.
Gender Identity: Our inner sense of being a particular gender (e.g. feminine, masculine, butch, androgynous, femme, etc.); “how the mind and the heart regard the body.”
Gender-Neutral: Nondiscriminatory language usage that can apply equal to people of any gender identity. “Spouse” and “partner” are gender-neutral alternatives to the gender-specific words “husband,” “wife,” “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” The use of the gender-neutral pronouns “ze” (instead of she/he) and “their” (instead of his/her) are preferred by some as a way to be inclusive of all genders in language use.
Gender Normative: A person who, by nature or by choice, conforms to mainstream gender-based expectations of society.
Genderqueer/Gender Bender/Gender Outlaw: A self-identifying term for someone who merges characteristics of gender in subtle ways or intentionally flaunts merged/blurred cultural/stereotypical gender norms for the purpose of shocking others, without concern for passing.
Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS)/Gender Confirmation Surgery/Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS): For transsexuals, surgery to make a one’s outward physical appearance conform more closely with their inner gender identity. Not all transsexuals seek surgery. However surgery is required in most states in order to change the sex on one’s birth certificate, driver’s license or passport, etc.
Gender Roles: Socially constructed and culturally specific norms of behavior and appearance expectations imposed based on biological sex (i.e. femininity and masculinity).
Gender-Variant/Gender Non-Conforming: Displaying culturally specific gender traits that are not normatively associated with their biological sex. “Feminine” behavior or appearance in a male is gender-variant as is “masculine” behavior or appearance a female.
Getting Read: Being detected as a person who is cross-dressed, transgendered, or transsexual.
Heterosexism: Institutionalized assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is inherently superior to and preferable to homosexuality or bisexuality. The systematic oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex individuals. Any attitude, action, or practice—backed by an institutional power—which subordinates people because of their sexual orientation.
Heterosexual: A person who is primarily or exclusively emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, and/or relationally attracted to people of the “opposite” sex.
Heterosexual Privilege: Benefits derived automatically by being (or being perceived as) heterosexual that are denied to homosexuals, bisexuals, and queers.
Their: The gender-neutral pronoun for her or his.
Homosexual: A person who is primarily or exclusively attracted to people of the same sex. This term is less preferred among LGBTQ individuals as it is derived from the diagnoses of non-heterosexuality as a mental disorder.
Hormone Therapy: Hormone treatment taken by transgender or transsexual individuals to enable their outward appearance to conform more closely to their inner gender identity.
Homophobia: The irrational fear of homosexuals, homosexuality or any behavior, belief or attitude of self or others, which does not conform to rigid sex and gender-role stereotypes. Homophobia includes prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, bigotry, harassment, and acts of violence against anyone not acting within heterosexual norms.
In the Closet: To hide one's sexual orientation in order to maintain one's job, housing situation, friends, family or in some other way to survive life in a heterosexist culture. Many LGBTQ persons are out in some circumstances, but closeted in others.
Internalized Homophobia: The experience of shame, aversion, or self-hatred in reaction to one’s own feelings of attraction for a person of the same sex. This occurs, at different levels of intensity, for many gay and lesbian individuals who have learned negative ideas about homosexuality throughout childhood. Once gay and lesbian youth realize that they belong to a group of people that is often despised and rejected in our society, many internalize and incorporate the stigmatization of homosexuality and fear or hate themselves.
Internalized Oppression: The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.
Intersex: The condition of being born with genitalia that is difficult to label as male or female, and/or developing secondary sex characteristics of indeterminate sex, or which combine features of both sexes. The term "hermaphrodite" had been used in the past to refer to intersex persons, but that term is now considered negative and inaccurate. Some intersex people are also transgender, but intersex is not typically considered a subset of transgender, nor transgender a subset of intersex. Many intersex infants and children are subjected to genital surgeries and hormone treatments in order to conform their bodies to the standard of either "male" or "female;” there is a growing movement to prevent such surgeries in children.
Lambda: This Greek letter was adopted by the Gay Activist Alliance in 1970 as a symbol of the gay movement. An ancient Greek regiment of warriors who carried a flag emblazoned with the lambda marched into battle with their male lovers. The group was noted for their fierceness and willingness to fight until death.
Lesbian: A woman with emotional, physical and/or sexual attraction to other women, and who self-identifies as a lesbian.
LGBTQA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Ally.
MTF: Male to female transgender or transsexual individual.
Outing, to out: Revealing the sexual orientation of someone else without their consent. Some people may blatantly out someone. Other may do so unintentionally, such as when a person mentions the name of someone he/she knows to be LGBTQ, thus inadvertently revealing that person's sexual orientation to people who might otherwise not be aware of it, and who the individual might not have chosen to tell. Outing occurs frequently, as people share stories about their lives, seek to come to know their community, try to make new contacts, and so forth. Straight people, of course, are outed regularly; the sharing of information about sexual orientation is only a risk for LGBTQ individuals, for whom even inadvertent and apparently innocent outing can be damaging.
Pansexual: A person who is fluid in sexual orientation and/or gender or sex identity.
Passing: Related to gender, to successfully be perceived as a member of your preferred gender regardless of actual birth sex. Some transsexual people object to the term "passing," as it implies that one is being mistaken for something they are not. A preferable phrasing is "being read as a man" or 'being read as a woman."
Pink Triangle: An inverted pink triangle was a Nazi symbol used to identify homosexuals during the Holocaust. The symbol was adopted by gay and lesbian activists to remember those who were tortured and killed in Nazi concentration camps.
Polyamory: The practice of having, or being open to having, multiple romantic or play relationships.
Queens: People who identify as men, are attracted to other people who identify as men, and adopt mannerisms culturally considered feminine or flamboyant.
Queer: Not straight; outside of gender or sexual socially-constructed norms. Originally a pejorative term for LGBTQ individuals, “queer” has now been reclaimed by many to represent gender/sex fluidity. Moreover, academic discourse around Queer Theory has risen in popularity, and queer arts and political movements have formed across the globe. It was first reclaimed by more radical LGBTQ activists during the 1980s and used in the slogans of ACT UP and Queer Nation (“We're here, we're queer, get used to it!”). Some people still are uncomfortable labeling themselves or using the word “queer,” but many younger LGBTQ people use “queer” as both a political statement and a reflection of their approach to sexuality and gender.
Rainbow Flag: The flag was originally designed by San Francisco artist, Gilbert Baker, in 1978 and was intended to be a symbol of gay and lesbian pride. It was inspired by the Flag of the Races, which had five stripes, each one representing the colors of human kind. The six colors of the flag—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple—represent the diversity and unity within the LGBTQ movement. The widespread use of the flag is due less to any official recognition of it as a symbol and more to its adoption by members of the LGBTQ community.
Sex: A medically assigned identity based on biology—chromosomes, hormones, sexual/reproductive organs, and genitalia. Sex terms include male, female, transsexual, and intersex.
Sexual Behavior: What a person does in terms of erotic or sexual acts, such as: masturbate, kiss, make out, be sexually inexperienced or same-sex experienced or multiple-sex experienced or other-sex experienced, be monogamous or non-monogamous, be abstinent or sexually active with men, women, etc.
Sexuality: The complex range of components that 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 Orientation: An enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, affectional, and relational attraction to another person. Can involve fantasy, behavior, and self-identification; a person’s general makeup or alignment in terms of partner attraction. Sexual orientation is fluid and may range from or encompass identifications including, but not limited to, same-sex orientations, male-female orientations, or bisexual orientations.
Sexual Preference: What a person likes or prefers to do sexually. A conscious recognition or choice not to be confused with the sexual orientation one identifies with.
Stonewall: On June 28, 1969, New York City police attempted a routine raid on the Stonewall Inn, a working-class LGBTQ bar in Greenwich Village. Unexpectedly, the patrons resisted, and the incident escalated into a riot that continued for several days. Most people look to this event as the beginning of the American Gay Liberation movement and all subsequent LGBTQ movements.
Sex Identity: The way in which someone self-identifies their sex.
Straight: Someone who is attracted to a gender other than their own. Commonly thought of as “attraction to the opposite gender,” but since there are not only two genders (see transgender), this definition is inaccurate.
Top Surgery: Surgery to reduce the size of one’s breasts and/or to reconstruct one’s chest.
Tranny: Slang for transsexual, usually considered derogatory.
Transgender (or transgendered, trans, or TG): Often used as an umbrella term and refers most broadly to those outside societal gender norms or expectations. Transgender is often used to include people who identify as androgynous, as cross-dressers, as gender-benders or gender queer, and as transsexuals. Some intersex individuals identify as transgender. The boundaries of the term transgender are not rigid and the term is used differently in different contexts (i.e.: medical/psychological, academic, etc.)
Transition: The act(s) of changing from one sex to the other, and/or the act(s) of changing one's physical body and/or appearance as part of a sex/gender change. For most transgendered individuals, transition is not a single discrete event, but a gradual set of changes over a period of time. As such, it is difficult to determine exactly when transition begins and when it ends. Some feel that their transition begins the day they begin hormone treatment. Some feel it begins when they tell their loved ones about their identity. Some feel it begins when they legally change their name. Some feel they are "in transition" for a few years while hormonal changes settle in. Some feel that their transition has officially ended when and if they are legally recognized as their true sex. Some feel their transition is complete when they have completed genital reconstruction surgery.
Transphobia: Fear, hatred, or discomfort with transgender people and with the blurring of gender boundaries manifested through violence, harassment and various forms of discrimination and invisibility.
Transsexual: A person whose gender identity differs from what is culturally associated with their biological sex at birth. Some, but not all, transsexuals wish to change their bodies to be congruent with their gender identity through sex reassignment surgery. Many transsexual people refer to themselves as transgendered.
Transvestite or Cross-dresser: An individual who enjoys wearing the clothes of and appearing as another gender. While many transvestites are heterosexual, the use of transvestitism in the gay “drag” culture is well documented.
Two-Spirited: An umbrella term for ttheird-gender people used among Native American and Canadian First Nations tribes. It usually implies a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit living in the same body. It is also used more generally by LGBTQ and intersex Native Americans to describe themselves. Two-Spirited people traditionally had distinct gender and social roles in their tribes. Some are counselors while others are medicine persons or spiritual functionaries. They study skills including story telling, theater, magic, hypnotism, healing, herbal medicine, ventriloquism, singing, music and dance.
Ze: The gender-neutral pronoun for she or he.