Looking for the right words to use, or just trying to understand the lingo? Out glossary is by no means exhaustive, but we did our best to cover LGBTQ terminology, from A to Z. If you have questions, additions, or quibbles, feel free to contact us!
AMAB- Assigned male at birth, meaning that when they were born with male primary sex characteristics, or are an intersex person that the doctor decided their anatomy was more similar to male than female. This is a way of getting away from ‘anatomically male’, which makes the assumption that you know their anatomy and that there is only one anatomy that corresponds to being a man, or XY, which makes the assumption you know someone’s chromosomes who has likely not been tested for specific chromosomes.
AFAB- Assigned female at birth, meaning that they were born with female primary sex characteristics, or are an interesex person that the doctor decided that their anatomy was more similar to female than male. See AMAB.
Androgynous- A gender expression that contains elements of both femininity and masculinity. May also refer to a person with both male and female anatomy.
Agender- Experiencing little to no connection to the traditional gender binary. A person who identifies as agender may not align themselves with conventional definitions of man or woman, or may see themselves as existing without gender.
Ally- A person or organization that supports and respects members of the LGBTQ community.
Aromantic (“Aro”)- Experiencing little to no interest in romantic behavior or relationships. However, aromanticism exists on a spectrum. Some people may experience no romantic attraction while others may experience low levels of romantic attraction under certain conditions. Not all aromantic people are asexual.
Asexual (“Ace”)- Experiencing little to no interest in sexual behavior or relationships. Asexuality exists on a spectrum, ranging from people who experience no sexual attraction to those who experience low levels of sexual attraction under certain conditions. Not all asexual people are aromantic.
Allosexual- A term used in the asexual community to refer to people who experience sexual attraction.
Biphobia- A range of negative beliefs or attitudes about or directed toward bisexual individuals. Biphobia exists both in the LGBTQ community and the straight world.
Bi-erasure/Bi-invisibility- A systemic problem in which the existence and legitimacy of bisexual individuals or relationships are questioned or denied. A good example of bi-erasure is the belief that bisexual men are in fact closeted gay men and bisexual women are just straight women who like to “experiment”. This is common in both straight and LGBTQ communities.
Bisexual- A sexual orientation where a person is sexually attracted to more than one gender. While some people see this as being attracted to two genders (bi meaning two), others see it as the most commonly understood term for non-monosexuality, therefore less precise but more understood than ‘pansexual’ (“you’re attracted to pans?”) (see pansexual) or ‘queer’ (“so . . . gay?”) (see gay). Harmful stereotypes about bisexual people are that they are overly sexual, greedy, and/or “its just a phase”.
Cisgender- A person who identifies with the gender that aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example: an AFAB woman.
Cross-Dressing- Refers to the act of dressing in attire advertised for a different gender than the one with which the person identifies. Does NOT refer to trans people dressing in the clothing that aligns with their gender. Only use this if a person self-identifies as a cross-dresser. Generally it is more appropriate to use ‘drag’ even if it is not particularly performative.
Date-Mate: A non-gendered term for a person you are dating, similar to girlfriend or boyfriend.
Demisexual: A sexual orientation where a person is sexually attracted to someone only after forming a strong emotional attachment to that person.
Drag- Usually performative act where a cisgender individual dresses as the opposite sex for the entertainment of others. Within drag there are also trans women who, in addition to dressing and identifying as women all of the time, also perform as drag queens, there are cis women who dress like drag queens and perform (called bio queens), and there are gender nonbinary individuals who also perform in drag.
Drag King: Usually a cis woman who performs dressed as a man. See ‘drag’.
Drag Queen: Usually a cis man who performs as a woman. See ‘drag’.
(Gender) Dysphoria- Gender dysphoria is when a trans or non-binary individual feels discomfort or emotional pain surrounding their physical body or an aspect of their life. This can be split into physical gender dysphoria, which is discomfort with the body (often primary or secondary sex characteristics or fat distribution), or social gender dysphoria which is discomfort with gendered social behaviors (for example the pronouns people use, the way people speak with you, who flirts with you in settings where you are assumed straight, et cetera).
(Body) Dysmorphia- Often confused with dysphoria, body dysmorphia is a psychological preoccupation or obsession with a specific part of the body and often includes irrational beliefs about that part of the body. The major difference between body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria is that in body dysmorphia the individual’s obsession with the body part is not related to societally constructed gendered ideas about that body part.
Endo: Short for endocrinologist. A doctor that helps people with hormone imbalances. Some trans people will choose to or be referred to these doctors to help them medically transition.
Gay: A monosexual person who is sexually, romantically,emotionally, and/or spiritually attracted to members of the same sex/gender. This term most commonly refers to men, but can also be applied to women.
Gay Relationship– Used to refer to any two men or women who are in relationship together. It can be used to self-identify, but doesn’t always mean that both people are gay.
Gender Binary– A social system that classifies humans into two opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine based on reproductive organs and other “gendered” attributes.
Gender Creative- A term typically used by teachers, parents, and guardians to describe elementary age children who are exploring their gender expression, identity, and or fluidity.
Gender Expression- the external presentation of one’s gender, through a combination of dress, demeanor, mannerisms, social behavior, and language choices.
Gender Identity- the internal perception of one’s gender and how they label themselves. This identity is usually based on how much they align or don’t align with the conventional definitions of male or female.
Gender Fluid- A gender identity that consists of both masculine and feminine attributes. A gender fluid person may feel like a mix of both traditional genders or feel more like one or the other according to the day or time.
Gender Non-Conforming: A non-traditional gender expression and/or a label to describes someone who identifies outside of the gender binary.
Gender Normative: Someone whose gender expression aligns with society’s gender-based expressions.
Genderqueer- A label used to describe those who do not identify with the binary definition of man or woman. Can also be an umbrella term for many gender non-conforming or gender non-binary identities.
Gray-sexual: A label used to describe someone who identifies somewhere between asexual and allosexual.
Gray-gendered: a person who identifies (at least partially) outside the gender binary and has a strong natural ambivalence about their gender identity. They feel they have a gender(s), but it’s weak and/or somewhat indeterminate/indefinable; they may not feel it all the time, or may not be invested in their gender identity or expression.
GSM- Gender and Sexuality Minorities, an acronym for the community. This term is not as common as LGBTQ. It is arguably too inclusive, the term was generally dismissed when a group of pedophiles decided the term was inclusive of them as well.
He- A pronoun most often used by people who identify as men and boys, but is also used by gender-nonbinary people, closeted trans women, and other people who tell you that they use this pronoun.
Heterosexual- A monosexual orientation that is used to describe people who are binary women attracted to binary men or binary men attracted to binary women. It is generally more polite to refer to these people as ‘straight’ unless they tell you that they prefer this term.
Heteronormative/Heteronormativity- The assumption, or actions that feed the assumption, that all people are straight or that being straight is more ‘normal’.
Homophobia- A range of negative beliefs or attitudes about, or directed toward, gay individuals and/or members of the LGBTQ community.
Homosexual- a monosexual person who is sexually, romantically,emotionally, and/or spiritually attracted to members of the same sex/gender. Due to its history as a category of mental illness, and it is best not to use this term (use gay or lesbian instead).
Internalized (homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, acephobia, et cetera): negative beliefs, thoughts, or actions that a person with about their marginalized identity that they place on themselves. These ideas and actions usually stem from a history of oppression, marginalization, and an expectation to reach normativity.
Intersex- A person who was born with a mixture of male and female sexual characteristics, are missing internal organs typically associated with the external anatomy that the individual has, or whose body does not go on to develop secondary sexual characteristics. Also inclusive of people with chromosomal variants, including XO, XXY, XXYY, and others. Also inclusive of people who are XY but whose bodies do not respond to androgens, like testosterone, completely or at all. This is a diverse group of people who represent about 1% of the population, and is thus common enough that science teachers should be aware that when we teach about this in biology classes, there are often students in the class who are part of this group.
Kinsey Scale- A somewhat outdated scale used to describe sexuality as a spectrum between monsexually same-sex attracted (6) to monosexually other-sex attracted (0) with equal attraction to men and women being in between (3). This started academic thinking of bisexuality as being a spectrum. This ignores the asexuality spectrum and attraction to non-binary people. Also not good at describing variation between romantic and sexual orientation. For example, what number would be associated with a person who describes their orientation as: “generally initially more attracted to women than men, but once I get to know them, their gender does not matter very much”? How would a non-binary person who has no preference for one gender or another be placed on this scale?
Latinx- A non-gendered term used to refers to people of Latin American descent. This is used to replace the term Latino, Latina, and Latin@.
Lesbian- A monosexual woman who is sexually and romantically attracted to the same sex or gender.
Lesbian Relationship- Used to refer to any two women who are in relationship together. It can be used to self-identify, but doesn’t always mean that both women are lesbians.
LGBTQ- The most common abrivation for the community as a whole. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning. Generally used as an umbrella term to include all sexual and gender minorities, but notably does not include letters for all sexual orientations or genders. Sometimes longer acronyms are used, such as LGBTQIA, or LGBTTQQIAAP, or simply GSM (gender and sexuality minorities).
Metrosexual- Generally used for otherwise straight identifying men who groom themselves and care about their style in a way that is perceived as stereotypically gay.
Monosexuality- Sexual orientations where a person is only attracted to one gender (i.e. men). This includes straight and gay people.
Mx.- A gender-neutral prefix to use instead of Mrs, Ms, Miss or Mr. An option for gender nonbinary teachers or parents whose school generally uses honorific titles for teachers and volunteers.
Non-Binary– A person who does not identify as 100% man or woman. Some identify as part of the trans umbrella, some do not. Some choose to go through a medical or social transition, some do not.
Neutrois– Similar to Agender or gender neutral, a gender identity where the person does not have a gender.
Partner- A gender-neutral term usually used to refer to your spouse or a person you are dating long-term.
Pansexual- person who is sexually, romantically, emotionally, and/or and spiritually attracted to members of all gender identities/expressions.
Passing- a term used to refer to someone who is read a certain way by strangers. For example, a trans woman who strangers most often refer to as ‘miss’ or ‘ma’am’, ‘passes’. Another example would be bi man who is in a relationship with a woman might ‘pass’ as straight. People often have a complicated relationship with ‘passing’ because there is privilege attached to being perceived as cisgendered or heterosexual, but there is also the erasure of that person’s identity when they ‘pass’ and they also often harder to come out. Often people in these situations do not feel welcome in LGBTQ spaces because they are perceived by other LGBTQ people as being straight and cisgendered, which means they have less access to the support attached to these groups. It is also basically impossible to ‘pass’ as a nonbinary person and that these people often ‘pass’ as men or women might add to their safety, but also adds to any social gender dysphoria they experience by being misgendered.
Polyamorous- A person or couple who is non-monogamous. This can mean different things to different people, but often means that a person has one primary partner and other sexual-non-romantic partners, or that a person has many romantic partners but only one sexual partner, or that a person has many romantic and sexual partners at varying degrees of closeness. This is not generally considered a sexual orientation, but some people do conceptualize it as being an innate quality of a person, that some people might not have the capability of being romantically involved and loving more than one person at once while others are incapable of preventing themselves from falling in love with or being attracted to more than one person. Polyamorous people exist all across the sexuality and gender spectrums.
Pangender- A person who identifies with all genders, part of the genderqueer umbrella.
Queer- This word has different definitions for every person that uses it. Historically this word has been used as a derogatory term, but has been reclaimed by some individuals. For this reason it is important to not use this word to refer to anyone who does not personally identify with it. This word is used to mean a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity that is different than cis and hetero. Often used as a non-monosexual orientation (similar to bisexual or pansexual), but can also be used to refer to any sexual orientation other than straight (for example, similar to gay), and is also used for gender identity.
Queerplatonic- A term used by aromantic, and to a lesser extent asexual, people to refer to a close partnership that is not necessarily romantic or sexual in nature but is otherwise the corollary to a romantic partnership. Similar terms that may be used are Boston Marriage or Romantic Friendship.
Questioning- A state where a person is exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity, a process of self discovery. Some people will be in this process for a short period of time, others will stay questioning a long time or indefinitely.
Quoisexuality- A sexual orientation where a person cannot differentiate between romantic and platonic attraction or cannot tell the difference between close friendships and romance.
Romantic Friendship- a term used by asexual, and to a lesser extent aromantic or allosexual, people to refer to a close relationship that is generally not sexual but is romantic, emotionally intimate, and often physically intimate in ways other than sex (co-sleeping, holding hands, cuddling). Often refers to a person who is the emotional corollary to a romantic partner or significant other and should not be dismissed. A similar term is Boston Marriage, which has a history of referring to lesbian relationships in a time period where women were not believed to be sexual in nature, and were thus believed to be in a close romantic but non-sexual relationship when they lived together.
Romantic Orientation- An innate feeling people have of being attracted to one or more genders, but specifically on an emotional/romantic level. A lot of people have a romantic orientation that aligns with their sexual orientation, but many also do not. For example, a person might be sexually attracted to men, women, and other people, but only be romantically attracted to men.
Significant Other- A term used by some to refer to their romantic or sexual partner or spouse.
Sexual Orientation- An innate feeling people have of being attracted to one or more genders. Often used as general word for the tendencies a person has for attraction toward specific genders, but can also specifically refer to physical attraction, or the attraction that leads a person to be interested in having physical intimacy with another person.
She- A pronoun some people use. These people most often identify as women, but some nonbinary people use it, a lot of drag queens use it, many closeted trans men use it, and some binary men, trans or cis, may use it also.
Stealth- A term used to refer to a trans person who is not openly trans after transitioning.
Straight- A monosexual orientation that is used to describe people who are binary women attracted to binary men or binary men attracted to binary women.
Straight Relationship- A relationship between a binary man and a binary woman. Use of this term is part of bi erasure because it makes the assumption that all people who are in relationships with another gender are straight.
T- Short for testosterone, an androgenizing hormone (makes your body develop male secondary sex characteristics). Ex: I am starting T next week!
T-Blockers- A medication that some trans men or nonbinary people choose to take that blocks the testosterone that their bodies make from affecting their bodies.
They (singular)- A pronoun that some people, typically nonbinary, genderqueer, or genderfluid, use. For example: Where is Chandra? They are at the store.
Transerasure- Practices that assume that all people are cisgendered or otherwise erase trans experience. This is practiced in both the straight/cis and LGBTQ communities.
Transgender- or simply trans, An AFAB person who does not identify as a girl or woman or a AMAB person who does not identify as a boy or man. Most often used to refer to binary transgender people, that is AFAB men and AMAB women, but some nonbinary people also identify as trans.
Transfeminine- An umbrella term for people who are trans women or are nonbinary trans people who identify or present as more feminine than masculine.
Transmasculine- An umbrella term for people who are trans men or are nonbinary trans people who identify or present as more masculine than feminine.
Transphobia- Beliefs and actions that act to make assumptions of trans people based on stereotypical expectations, or to physically or emotionally hurt trans people because of their identity. Some examples include limiting the experience of being trans down to a stereotype, or having expectations for trans people that are higher than that of cis people, for example telling a trans woman that she needs to dress in more feminine clothing while accepting that cis woman dress however they want, or not using the correct pronouns.
Two-Spirit- An umbrella identity used by Native American Peoples to most often used to mean people who have male and female characteristics within them. This can be seen as part of the Genderqueer or Nonbinary spectrum, but is an identity specifically by and for people who are Native American.
Xenophobia- Fear or hatred of foreigners (most commonly) but also fear of anyone who is percieved as strange or different.
Zie & Hir– other pronouns that people use, most often nonbinary individuals. For example: “Is Juniper here today?” “No Zie isn’t.”
Zedsexual- See Allosexual.