While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the many different identities and combinations thereof that make up the LGBTQIA+ communities, please see below this compiled set of terms and their definitions that may help you solidify your understanding of yourself, or aid in your support of your LGBTQIA+ loved one!
Special Mention: Intersectionality: Intersectionality refers to the combination of identities that make up a person, as well as the interconnectedness therein. It acknowledges the fact that no one identity exists without the context of the others, and that these combinations often produce unique interactions between privilege and oppression in different spaces. For example, a white cisgender gay man will exist in a completely different space of privilege than a black trans lesbian woman due to the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality, etc. Intersectionality is inherently tied to the LGBTQIA+ community due to the diversity of identities within, as well as their relationships to other forms of oppression and prejudice. Learn about sexuality counseling here!
Category 1: Gender Terms
Subcategory A: The Basics
- Gender: The socially constructed norms and roles assigned to women, men, etc. People who experience gender typically resonate with certain aspects of these norms and roles, and disagree with others.
- Assigned Gender At Birth: The gender used to describe an infant at birth, usually by a medical professional. Typically affects the rearing of the child due to conventional gender norms.
- Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB): The child is described and treated as female.
- Assigned Male At Birth (AMAB): The child is described and treated as male.
- Cisgender: Commonly shortened to “cis.” Individuals whose gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a cisgender woman was assigned female at birth and agrees with that assignment.
- Transgender: An umbrella term used to describe individuals whose assigned gender at birth does not fit their lived experience. This term encompasses binary trans individuals (e.g. male-to-female or female-to-male) and nonbinary individuals.
- Intersex: Refers to a group of individuals with genetic differences that affect their primary and secondary sex characteristics, their ability to conceive, the gender they are assigned at birth, etc. For example, a person may be born with XXY chromosomes, affecting their sexual development. Intersex individuals may identify with the gender they have been assigned at birth, or they may not. About 1.7% of the global population is intersex- just about as common as being born with red hair!
- Transition/Transitioning: The act of changing one’s gender presentation to align more closely with their gender identity. Gender transition can take many forms, such as gender affirmation surgery, hormone replacement therapy, or simply changing one’s wardrobe or pronouns.
- Gender Affirmation Surgery: Medical surgery on the genitals or secondary sex characteristics of an individual to further align their body with their gender identity. Transgender individuals may choose to have one or multiple surgeries, or they may choose to have no surgeries at all. These procedures were formally referred to as “Gender Reassignment Surgery,” however this term has become outdated due to the harmful implications of the word “reassignment,” such as that being transgender is not innate to the person, but something that must be “fixed” or mitigated.
- Top surgery: Colloquial term to describe surgery on the chest to either remove or create breasts.
- Bottom surgery: Colloquial term to describe surgery on the genitals to create a penis or vagina.
- Gender Affirming Hormones: Typically Testosterone or Estrogen supplements used by transgender individuals to alter certain bodily characteristics to align with their gender identity, e.g. body hair, voice pitch, etc. Also referred to as Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT.
- Pronouns: Identifiers used to denote a person’s gender when referring to them. A person may use a single set of pronouns, e.g. she/her or they/them, or multiple pronouns, e.g. she/they or they/him.
- Neopronouns: Pronouns that fall outside the conventional she/her, he/him, and they/them spectrum. See this helpful table for more information!
Subcategory B: Binary Terms
- Female-To-Male (ftm): Individuals who were assigned female at birth (afab), but now identify as masculine or male.
- Male-to-Female (mtf): An individual that was assigned male at birth, but now identifies as feminine or female.
- Trans man/Trans woman: A colloquial term to refer to binary transgender individuals. A trans man was assigned female at birth and now identifies as male, and a trans woman was assigned male at birth and now identifies as female.
Subcategory C: Nonbinary and Third Gender Terms
- Agender: Individuals who do not resonate with the experience of having a gender, or who identify as having no gender.
- Androgynous/Androgyne: Possession of both conventionally feminine and masculine traits in concert to each other, creating a perceived “neutral” gender presentation.
- Bigender: Identifying with two distinct genders. This identification does not imply a 50-50 split between said genders, rather it implies the number of genders one identifies with.
- Demigender (Demigirl/Demiboy/Demiandrogyne): Individuals that feel a partial, but not full or constant, connection to a gender or the experience of gender. For example, a girl that identifies with masculinity to the extent and intensity that they might identify as a demiboy.
- Feminine (Femme): Originally used by the lesbian community to describe a woman who presents as conventionally feminine, “femme” is now used to describe an individual in the LGBTQIA+ community who identifies or presents as feminine.
- Gender Expansive: An umbrella term used to describe people that identify beyond the male-female binary, or that identify with multiple genders, no genders, etc.
- Gender Fluid: Individuals whose gender identity/alignment/expression constantly shifts, whether that be every day, every hour, etc. These shifts may be between genders (e.g. male, female, neutral), or intensity (e.g. feeling strongly male in one moment, and slightly male or completely without gender in another). Gender Fluid individuals may choose a static set of pronouns for others to refer to them, or they may change their pronouns depending on their identity at the time.
- Gender Neutral: Not gendered. Gender neutral can refer to a person’s identity (e.g. agender or a concrete experience of gender that is neither male nor female), but it can also describe spaces (e.g. gender-neutral bathrooms), honorifics (gender-neutral titles such as Mx. rather than Mr. or Ms.), etc.
- Gender Nonconforming: Describes those who do not agree with, identify with, or follow conventional gender stereotypes.
- Genderqueer: Non-normative gender, or gender identity that is neither male nor female, but somewhere in between. Can be used as an identity or a blanket term.
- Man-aligned: Someone that may or may not identify as a man, but resonates in a deeply personal or intimate way with the experience of masculinity, being perceived as male, or other facets of conventional “manhood.”
- Masculine (Masc): Refers to someone in the LGBTQIA+ community that presents and/or identifies with masculine characteristics.
- Nonbinary: Identifying outside of the traditional male-female gender binary. This can be used as either an umbrella term or as an identity.
- Novigender: The experience of gender such that it cannot be explained due to its complexity.
- Omnigender: Identifying with any and all genders save for genders that are culturally closed, e.g. Tumtum, Hijra, Two-Spirit, etc.
- Third Gender: Some cultures recognize sexes and genders other than male and female. These genders are often dependent on cultural context and are therefore closed to outsiders, such as Tumtum (Jewish origin), Hijra (Indian origin), and Fa’afafine (Samoan origin).
- Transmasculine/Transfeminine: Similar to “Trans man/Trans woman,” these terms refer to individuals who are transgender or nonbinary, but may not identify with manhood or womanhood to its fullest extent. For example, a transmasculine individual was assigned female at birth and has gone through some form of gender transition, but does not fully identify as a man. Rather, they align themself with the concept of masculinity, and may or may opt for gender affirmation surgeries or HRT to further this identity.
- Two-Spirit: A term used by some North American indigenous communities to describe a third gender. These individuals are seen as having both a male and female spirit. However, many other indigenous communities use their own terms to describe those that fall outside the gender binary, or that honor third and other genders in other ways.
- Woman-aligned: Someone that may or may not identify as a woman, but resonates in a deeply personal or intimate way with the experience of femininity, being perceived as female, or other facets of conventional “womanhood.”
Subcategory D: Other Helpful Terms
- Gender Dysphoria: Recently acknowledged as a psychological disorder in the DSM-5, gender dysphoria refers to the experience of suffering or impairment due to the misalignment of one’s physical characteristics with one’s gender identity. For example, a transgender man may experience dysphoria because of the pitch of his voice due to the association of high voices with femininity.
- Gender Euphoria: The joyful experience of one’s characteristics aligning with their gender identity. For example, a transgender woman may experience gender euphoria when she wears a dress, or is addressed as “ma’am” by a stranger.
- Gender Presentation: Aesthetic choices made to convey one’s gender identity- while everyone regardless of gender or sexuality “presents” their gender in many ways, this term is typically used in the trans community. For example, a trans masculine person may use a binder to flatten their chest in order to present as male or masculine.
- Passing: The ability to present one’s gender such that they are automatically perceived as such. For example, a trans man “passes” as male when he is seen as and referred to as a man by strangers without having to disclose his gender identity.
Category 2: Sexuality Terms
Subcategory A: The Basics
- Romantic Orientation: The experience (or lack thereof) of romantic attraction to others based on the knowledge or perception of their gender.
- Sexuality: Also known as sexual orientation or sexual identity. Refers to the experience (or lack thereof) of sexual attraction to others based on the knowledge or perception of their gender.
- Sex: When describing a person, sex refers to the set of genetic characteristics that affect a person’s anatomy. When describing an action, sex refers to any act of sexual intimacy or intercourse between two or more consenting individuals.
- Allosexual: Individuals who experience sexual attraction in any capacity. This term is usually used in contrast to “asexual,” which describes having no sexual attraction.
- Asexual: Commonly shortened to ‘Ace.’ A lack of sexual attraction OR the experience of sexual attraction with limited capacity or under certain conditions. Asexuality is a spectrum with many identities and preferences within- the word “asexual” is often used either as an identity itself or as an umbrella term to describe this realm of sexuality. Asexual individuals may or may not also experience romantic attraction.
- Monosexual: An umbrella term that refers to the attraction to solely one gender.
- Multisexual: An umbrella term that refers to the attraction to multiple genders. Also referred to as “polysexual.”
Subcategory B: Monosexual Terms
- Heteroromantic: Romantic attraction to a gender different than one’s own.
- Heterosexual: Sexual attraction to a gender different than one’s own.
- Homoromantic: Romantic attraction to a gender the same as one’s own.
- Homosexual: Sexual attraction to a gender the same as one’s own.
- Lesbian: A woman or woman-aligned person who is solely attracted to other women or woman-aligned people. Nonbinary people have always been included in this identity, as the term “woman” does not necessarily refer to “a cisgender woman.”
Subcategory C: Multisexual Terms
- Biromantic: Experiencing romantic attraction to more than one gender.
- Bisexual: Commonly shortened to “bi.” Sexual attraction to more than one gender, or attraction to genders like and unlike one’s own. While bisexual people are attracted to multiple genders, they may have a preference for one or several over others. Some examples of this include: bisexual with a preference for women, bisexual with a preference for mascs, bisexual with no preference.
- Omnisexual: Sexual attraction to any and all genders.
- Panromantic: Romantic orientation in which gender has no bearing on attraction.
- Pansexual: The sexual orientation in which gender has no bearing on attraction.
- Queer: Modern uses of this word include an umbrella term to refer to oneself in casual conversation, as well as a celebration of the non-normativity implied therein. A person may describe themself as queer in order to openly identify with the LGBTQIA+ community without listing each of their identities. “Queer” may also be used to imply a lack of concrete identity. An individual may identify as queer because they have not found another word for their identity, and are using the word as a placeholder for the time being.
- Questioning: Individuals who are considering other sexual or gender identities, as their current ones may not fit their lived experience.
Subcategory D: The Ace Spectrum
- Aromantic: Denotes a lack of romantic attraction. While aromantic individuals can pursue romantic relationships if they choose, they themselves do not experience romantic attraction to potential or existing partners. Aromantic individuals may or may not also experience sexual attraction.
- Demiromantic: Falls on the asexual/aromantic spectrum. Individuals who only experience romantic attraction once they have formed a strong emotional connection to someone. A demiromantic individual may or may not also identify as demisexual.
- Demisexual: Falls on the asexual/aromantic spectrum. Individuals who only experience sexual attraction once they have formed a strong emotional connection to someone. A demisexual individual may or may not also identify as demiromantic.
- Grayromantic: Part of the aromantic spectrum, grayromantic individuals very rarely experience romantic attraction. Differs from Demiromantic in that this attraction is not governed by emotional connection.
- Graysexual: Part of the asexual spectrum, graysexual individuals very rarely experience sexual attraction. Differs from Demisexual in that this attraction is not governed by emotional connection.
- Sex-averse: Individuals on the asexual spectrum who find the idea of sex to be unappealing, and typically do not want to engage in it.
- Sex-favorable: Individuals on the asexual spectrum who, while not experiencing sexual attraction, find sex enjoyable.
- Sex-indifferent: Individuals on the asexual spectrum who do not have any strong feelings about the idea of sex.
- Sex-repulsed: Individuals on the asexual spectrum who are actively disgusted by the idea of sex.
Subcategory E: Colloquial/Cultural Terms
- Bicurious: Refers to the experience of romantic or sexual attraction outside of the heterosexual experience while still identifying as heterosexual. Bicurious individuals may be interested in exploring their sexuality in various ways, and potentially changing their heterosexual identity in the future.
- Gay: Can refer to homosexuality (typically in reference to men), but can also be an umbrella term that denotes attraction to the same or multiple genders.
- Man-Loving-Man (mlm): An umbrella term that refers to individuals who identify as masculine or male that are attracted to other men or masculine individuals. This attraction does not necessarily have to be the only one the individual experiences, however, it is significant to their sexual identity and the communities they resonate with. For example, a bisexual man and a homosexual man are both mlm, even though the bisexual man is also attracted to other genders.
- Woman-Loving-Woman (wlw): Similar to man-loving-man, wlw describes the group of women and woman-aligned individuals who include other women and woman-aligned individuals in their sexuality. For example, a bisexual woman and a lesbian are both wlw.
Category 3: Relationship Models
Subcategory A: The Basics
- Monogamy: Refers to a relationship between two people in which both have agreed that the other is their only partner. A monogamous person enters relationships with the intent to keep the relationship exclusive, or closed.
- Ethical Non-monogamy: An umbrella term to describe individuals who have multiple romantic and/or sexual relationships, to which all parties have consented and set boundaries.
Subcategory B: Ethical Non-monogamy
- Polyamorous/Polyamory: Having multiple intimate, romantic, and/or sexual relationships with the consent of all parties involved. While Ethical Non-monogamy refers to any arrangement in which there are multiple intimate interactions, polyamory specifically refers to multiple relationships.
- Polycule: A colloquial term that refers to a network of relationships between polyamorous people. For example, Person A is married to Person B. Person A is in a relationship with Person C, and Person B is in a relationship with Person D. These 4 individuals form a polycule.
- Polygamy: Having multiple marriage partners at one time.
Category 4: Miscellaneous Colloquial/Cultural Terms
- Cishet: A colloquial term typically used by members of the LGBTQIA+ community to describe cisgender heterosexual individuals.
- Closeted: Describes individuals who identify on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but do not yet feel comfortable disclosing their identities to certain groups of people, or the larger public. Closeted individuals may participate in LGBTQIA+ spaces while being closeted in others, such as at work.
- Coming Out: The event in which an individual discloses their identity to themself or others. Also described as being “openly” gay, lesbian, trans, etc. Again, someone may be “out” in certain spaces, but closeted in others. Additionally, someone may be “outed” against their will, which potentially poses a threat to their safety and should be avoided by other members of the community as well as allies.
- Compulsory Heterosexuality (Comphet): The subconscious feeling that one is required to be heterosexual no matter what their true sexual orientation may be. This may affect how an individual sees their own sexuality, for example, a lesbian may identify as bisexual because she has internalized the heteronormative rhetoric that she, as a woman, “must” retain an attraction to men.
- Drag Queen/Drag King: A person who uses costume to perform an aggrandized portrayal of a gender for entertainment purposes. The performer can be cisgender, transgender, gender expansive, etc.
- Kink: A term that refers to non-normative sexual behavior, such as BDSM. While kink is by no means exclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community, the practice of kink has been always been intertwined with queer history due to the mutual celebration of non-normativity of sexual and gender expression.
- Queer-affirming therapy: Therapy that specifically integrates an individual’s queer identity into sessions and the work. Queer-affirming therapy aims to view the client in a holistic sense, taking the context of their sexuality, gender, and experiences with oppression into consideration.
- Straight: A colloquial term used to refer to heterosexual individuals.
Category 5: Oppression and Discrimination
- Cisnormativity: Describes the societal trend of treating everyone as cisgender, assuming one’s gender by the sound of their voice, etc.
- Cissexism: The oppression of those who do not identify as cisgender, whether by individuals, institutions, policies, or society as a whole.
- Fetishization: The harmful reduction of an individual to singular traits, e.g. race, gender, sexuality. Fetishization differs from attraction in that the individual as a whole is not considered. Additionally, fetishization often furthers harmful stereotypes.
- Gender Binary/Binarism: Refers to the social trend of grouping traits, behaviors, roles, aesthetics, etc. into solely “female” and “male” categories. Binarism often ignores cultural, ethnic, and social deviations from these strict norms, and is seen as a form of sexism.
- Gender Norms: Social conventions that dictate what is considered masculine, feminine, or gender neutral. For example, wearing dresses is conventionally associated with femininity.
- Heteronormativity: Refers to social conventions and assumptions that champion heterosexuality as the norm, and other sexual orientations as different or “other.” For example, a bisexual man and an asexual woman may be perceived as a heterosexual couple due to their genders, when neither of them are heterosexual.
- Heterosexism: The oppression by individuals, policies, institutions, etc. of sexual orientations that are not heterosexual.
- Homophobia: The prejudice against the LGBTQIA+ community. This can take the form of interpersonal violence, using anti-gay slurs, policies and legislation that discriminates against the community, etc.
- Internalized Homophobia: Refers to homophobia within the LGBTQIA+ community due to the continued exposure to harmful anti-gay rhetoric from outside sources. For example, a gay man may feel as though others in his community are allowed to openly express their sexuality, but that he himself must hide it or work to extinguish it.
- Internalized Transphobia: Refers to transphobia within the LGBTQIA+ community due to the continued exposure to harmful stereotypes and anti-trans rhetoric from outside sources. For example, a trans woman may be pressured by other trans women to pay for cosmetic surgeries in order to be considered “truly trans.”
- Misgender: The act of using the incorrect pronouns to refer to someone. This may be done accidentally or intentionally. The latter is usually done maliciously.
- Trans-exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF): A subgroup of individuals (typically cisgender women) who actively exclude the transgender community from women’s spaces, including feminist spaces. TERFs work to oppress trans individuals by advocating against trans rights and openly harassing trans people, especially trans women. These individuals may identify as queer themselves, or they may identify as straight.
These definitions have been adapted from the following websites. Visit them for more information!