A Guide to LGBTQ+ Terminology
There are a lot of terms related to gender and sexuality. This guide, while neither comprehensive nor authoritative, provides definitions for language used throughout this project and relevant to the LGBTQ+ community more generally.
Ally: Someone (who is not queer) that actively supports the LGBTQ+ community and fights systemic discrimination.
Asexual: Someone who is not sexually attracted to other people, though they might still feel romantic or emotional attraction to others.
Bisexual: Someone who is attracted to multiple genders, sometimes to different degrees and at different times. Bisexuality is related to pansexuality, though individuals might use one label over the other.
Cisgender: Someone whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth; someone who is not transgender or non-binary.
Coming out: The process of discovering, accepting, and disclosing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Coming out is not a one-time event, but rather something that people continue to do throughout their life.
Gay: Someone who is attracted to people of the same gender. While “gay” is most often used by men, women and non-binary people might also use it to describe themselves.
Gender binary: The idea that there are only two genders (male and female) and that a person’s gender identity is determined at birth. The gender binary is not universally accepted and doesn’t exist in all cultures.
Gender confirmation surgery: Surgeries that alter a person’s physical appearance and sexual characteristics to match their gender identity. While some transgender people choose to receive gender confirmation surgeries, others do not for a variety of reasons.
Gender identity: Someone’s perception of themselves as male, female, neither, both, or something else. Gender identity can differ from a person’s sex assigned at birth and is independent of sexual orientation.
Gender variance: Behavior that does not conform to what is traditionally expected of an individual's sex assigned at birth. Gender variant individuals may or may not identify as transgender or non-binary.
Heteronormativity: The assumption that all people are heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to queerness. Heteronormativity permeates most societies and perpetuates discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people.
Heterosexuality: A medical term that describes someone who is attracted to people of another gender.
Homosexuality: A medical term that describes someone who is attracted to people of the same gender. The term “homosexual” was often employed to pathologize queer people and should consequently be used with caution.
Homophobia: Hatred of LGBTQ+ people that often manifests in forms of discrimination like violence and harassment.
Intersex: A combination of anatomical, hormonal, and chromosomal features that does not follow patterns expected for males or females. The word “hermaphrodite” was previously used to describe intersex people, but it is considered derogatory today.
Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to other women.
LGBTQ+: An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning.” The plus sign is an inclusive marker for individuals who do not identify with one of those labels but are still part of the community.
Non-binary: An individual who identifies as a gender outside the traditional gender binary (male or female).
Pansexual: A person who is attracted to all genders, sometimes to different degrees and at different times. Pansexuality is related to bisexuality, though individuals might use one label over the other.
Pathologizing: Regarding something as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy; in the context of sexuality, pathologizing led to homosexuality being labelled a mental illness.
Pronouns: The set of gendered pronouns a person uses to refer to themselves that should be used by others; examples include, but aren't limited to, “he, him, his,” “she, her, hers,” and “they, them, theirs.”
Queer: An umbrella term that refers to all members of the LGBTQ+ community. “Queer” was once a pejorative, it has been reclaimed by many LGBTQ+ people in recent years.
Questioning: An individual who is exploring their sexuality or gender identity.
Same gender loving: A term that describes people and relationships that are not heterosexual. It is used by some members of the Black community as an alternative to traditionally white terms that describe sexuality (like “gay” or “lesbian”).
Sex assigned at birth: The sex (male or female) that a person is designated at birth based on their anatomical and hormonal characteristics. An individual’s gender identity can differ from their sex assigned at birth.
Sexual orientation: The pattern of romantic, emotional, and/or sexual attraction that a person feels for others. Sexual orientation exists on a spectrum and can evolve over the course of a person’s life. A person’s sexual orientation is independent of their gender identity.
Transgender: A term describing people whose gender identity doesn’t match their sex assigned at birth. Transgender people can identify as any sexual orientation.
Transitioning: The process by which a transgender person changes their name, pronouns, gender presentation, and other characteristics to match their gender identity.
Transphobia: Hatred of transgender or gender variant people that often manifests in forms of discrimination like violence and harassment.
If there are terms that you believe should be added to this list or modified from their current definition, please reach out.