01 Feb LGBTQIA+ Term Definitions
The inclusive acronym for sexual identity is continuously evolving. Here is a comprehensive* list of LGBTQIA+ Term Definitions:
*This list is neither comprehensive nor inviolable, but it is a work in progress toward those goals. With identity terms, trust the person who is using the term and their definition of it above any dictionary. These definitions are the creation of a cultural commons.
Advocate – (noun) (1) a person who actively works to end intolerance, educate others, and support social equity for a marginalized group. (verb) (2) to actively support/plea in favor of a particular cause, the action of working to end intolerance, educate others, etc.
Ally – (noun) a (typically straight- or cis-identified) person who supports, and respects for members of the LGBTQ community. While the word doesn’t necessitate action, we consider people to be active allies who take action upon this support and respect, this also indicates to others that you are an ally.
Androgyny/ous – (adj; pronounced “an-jrah-jun-ee”) (1) a gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity; (2) occasionally used in place of “intersex” to describe a person with both female and male anatomy.
Asexual – (adj) having a lack of (or low level of) sexual attraction to others and/or a lack of interest or desire for sex or sexual partners. Asexuality exists on a spectrum from people who experience no sexual attraction or have any desire for sex to those who experience low levels and only after significant amounts of time, many of these different places on the spectrum have their own identity labels. Another term used within the asexual community is “ace,” meaning someone who is asexual.
Bicurious – (adj) a curiosity about having attraction to people of the same gender/sex (similar to questioning).
Bigender – (adj) a person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (and sometimes a third gender).
Biological Sex – (noun) 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 [or designated] at birth.”
Bisexual – (adj) a person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to male/men and females/women. Other individuals may use this to indicate an attraction to individuals who identify outside of the gender binary as well and may use bisexual as a way to indicate an interest in more than one gender or sex (i.e. men and genderqueer people). This attraction does not have to be equally split or indicate a level of interest that is the same across the genders or sexes an individual may be attracted to.
Cisgender – (adj; pronounced “siss-jendur”) a person whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth align (e.g., man and male-assigned). A simple way to think about it is if a person is not trans*, they are cisgender.
Cross-dresser – (noun) someone who wears clothes of another gender/sex.
Demisexual – (noun) an individual who does not experience sexual attraction unless they have formed a strong emotional connection with another individual. Often within a romantic relationship.
Fluid(ity) – (adj) generally with another term attached, like gender-fluid or fluid-sexuality, fluid(ity) describes an identity that may change or shift over time between or within the mix of the options available (e.g., man and woman, bi and straight).
FtM / F2M; MtF / M2F – (adj) abbreviation for female-to-male transgender or transsexual person; abbreviation for male-to-female transgender or transsexual person.
Gay – (adj) (1) a term used to describe individuals who are primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex and/or gender. More commonly used when referring to males/men-identified people who are attracted to males/men-identified people, but can be applied to females/women-identified people as well. (2) An umbrella term used to refer to the queer community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.
Gender Binary – (noun) the idea that there are only two genders – male/female or man/woman and that a person must be strictly gendered as either/or.
Gender Expression – (noun) the external display of one’s gender, through a combination of dress, demeanor, social behavior, and other factors, generally measured on scales of masculinity and femininity. Also referred to as “gender presentation.”
Gender Fluid – (adj) gender fluid is a gender identity best described as a dynamic mix of boy and girl. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more man some days, and more woman other days.
Genderqueer – (adj) a gender identity label often used by people who do not identify with the binary of man/woman; or as an umbrella term for many gender non-conforming or non-binary identities (e.g., agender, bigender, genderfluid). Genderqueer people may think of themselves as one or more of the following, and they may define these terms differently: may combine aspects man and woman and other identities (bigender, pangender); not having a gender or identifying with a gender (genderless, agender); moving between genders (genderfluid); third gender or other-gendered; includes those who do not place a name to their gender having an overlap of, or blurred lines between, gender identity and sexual and romantic orientation.
Gender Variant – (adj) someone who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society (e.g. transgender, transsexual, intersex, gender-queer, cross-dresser, etc.).
Intersex – (noun) someone whose combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, and genitals differs from the two expected patterns of male or female. In the medical care of infants the initialism DSD (“Differing/Disorders of Sex Development”). Formerly known as hermaphrodite (or hermaphroditic), but these terms are now considered outdated and derogatory.
Lesbian – (noun) a term used to describe women attracted romantically, erotically, and/or emotionally to other women.
LGBTQ / GSM / DSG / + – (noun) initialisms used as shorthand or umbrella terms for all folks who have a non-normative (or queer) gender or sexuality, there are many different initialisms people prefer. LGBTQ is Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (sometimes people at a + at the end in an effort to be more inclusive); GSM is Gender and Sexual Minorities; DSG is Diverse Genders and Sexualities. Other popular options include the initialism GLBT and the acronym QUILTBAG (Queer [or Questioning] Undecided Intersex Lesbian Trans* Bisexual Asexual [or Allied] and Gay [or Genderqueer]).
MSM / WSW – (noun) initialisms for “men who have sex with men” and “women who have sex with women,” to distinguish sexual behaviors from sexual identities (e.g., because a man is straight, it doesn’t mean he’s not having sex with men). Often used in the field of HIV/Aids education, prevention, and treatment.
Pansexual – (adj) a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions –
Polyamory/Polyamorous – (noun/adj) refers to the practice of, desire to, or orientation towards having ethically, honest, consensually 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 which is not open to additional partners), amongst many other set ups. Some poly(amorous) people have a “primary” relationship or relationship(s) and then “secondary” relationship(s) which may indicate different allocations of resources, time, or priority.
Queer – An umbrella term, which embraces a variety of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of those who do not adhere to the heterosexual and cisgender majority. The term queer includes, but is not exclusive to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transpeople, and intersex persons, traditionally, this term is derogatory and hurtful, however, many people who do not adhere to sexual and/or gender norms use it to self-identify in a positive way.
Questioning – (verb, adjective) – an individual who is unsure about or is exploring their own sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sexual Orientation – (noun) the type of sexual, romantic, emotional/spiritual attraction one feels for others, often labeled based on the gender relationship between the person and the people they are attracted to (often mistakenly referred to as sexual preference)
Sexual Preference – (1) the types of sexual intercourse, stimulation, and gratification one likes to receive and participate in. (2) Generally when this term is used, it is being mistakenly interchanged with “sexual orientation,” creating an illusion that one has a choice (or “preference”) in who they are attracted to.
Skoliosexual – (adj) attracted to genderqueer and transsexual people and expressions (people who don’t identify as cisgender).
Trans*/Transgender – (adj) (1) An umbrella term covering a range of identities that transgress socially defined gender norms. Trans with an * is often used to indicate that you are referring to the larger group nature of the term. (2) A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on sex assigned at birth.
Transition(ing) – (noun & verb) this term is primarily used to refer to the process a trans* person undergoes when changing their bodily appearance either to be more congruent with the gender/sex they feel themselves to be and/or to be in harmony with their preferred gender expression.
Transsexual – (noun & adj) a person who identifies psychologically as a gender/sex other than the one to which they were assigned at birth. Transsexuals often wish to transform their bodies hormonally and surgically to match their inner sense of gender/sex.
Transvestite – (noun) a person who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression (“cross-dresses”) for any one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification (often called a “cross-dresser,” and should not be confused with transsexual).
Two-Spirit – (noun) is an umbrella term traditionally used by First Nations people to recognize individuals who possess qualities or fulfill roles of both genders (both male and female spirits).
Ze / Hir – alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some trans* people. Pronounced /zee/ and /here/ they replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively. Alternatively some people who are not comfortable/do not embrace he/she use the plural pronoun “they/their” as a gender neutral singular pronoun.