Each of these terms and their definitions has been thoughtfully conceived and closely reviewed by teachers, scholars, friends, and others within the LGBTQ+ community. Together, we have done our best to be as sensitive and inclusive as possible. This glossary is by no means comprehensive, nor perfect; definitions may vary depending on one’s context and perspective.

And, dear readers, please remember that our use of these terms is just as unique as each of us is. We humans are ever evolving, as is the language we use for communicating. When we are unsure about how to use a term, or the context in which another person is using it, perhaps this is an opportunity to connect and communicate with mindfulness, care, and especially love.

A person outside the LGBTQ+ community who actively supports its interests and seeks to advance the LGBTQ+ cause. An ally may show support through advocating for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people, publicly challenging heteronormativity, and questioning their own prejudices.
Possessing a combination of—or lacking—characteristics traditionally viewed as masculine or feminine within a heteronormative framework.
Experiencing little to no sexual attraction to others; lacking interest in sex. Asexuality occurs on a spectrum, characterized at one end by a total lack of desire and at the other by low levels of desire, or by desire fueled by specific conditions. It should not be confused with celibacy, which refers to the intentional abstention from sex. Those who identify as asexual (“ace”) may prefer to self-label as belonging to one of a variety of subcategories (see, for example, demisexual).
Not necessarily identifying as LGBTQ+ but interested in pursuing flirtations, relationships, or sexual encounters that would not be considered heterosexual.
Fear of bisexuality and/or hatred of bisexual people, often based on incorrect assumptions about fidelity, promiscuity, and commitment. Those who are biphobic may take the view that bisexuality is an invalid or “false” expression of sexuality. Biphobia is prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community as well as in heterosexual society.
One who is sexually and romantically attracted to more than one gender (see also pansexual). Bisexuality, while considered by some to be a temporary condition or “phase” (see biphobia), is also, like homosexuality or heterosexuality, a stable identity. It is not necessary for one to have had sex with more than one gender to identify as bisexual.
A word used throughout the LGBTQ+ community to describe a person or thing considered traditionally masculine in quality or spirit. Within the lesbian, queer, and trans communities, the term butch is commonly attributed to a vast and varied spectrum of masculine-leaning presentations or self-identifications.
A word describing a person whose gender identity conforms to the sex they were assigned at birth (for example, someone assigned female at birth who identifies as a woman). Meaning “on the side of,” cis is used to call attention to the privilege of those whose identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
A person who is not openly living their LGBTQ+ identity. coming out The act of declaring one’s identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, not be confused with outing, which is involuntary. The process of coming out is ongoing throughout one’s life and is often not linear, as one may choose when and with whom the information is shared.
A person whose manner of gender expression implies a subversion of traditional gender norms through dress. The term often refers to a person who dons the clothes of what might be considered the “opposite” gender. It is used as a self-identifier by individuals both within and without the LGBTQ+ community and does not connote a specific gender identity or sexual orientation. It is also incorrectly and pejoratively directed at various members of the LGBTQ+ community and can be considered an act of aggression. Cross-dressing should not be confused or conflated with drag.
dead naming
The act of calling someone by the name they were given at birth rather than their chosen name.
A person who has little to no interest in sex outside a relationship involving a strong emotional romantic attachment. Demisexuals are considered to be on the asexuality spectrum.
down low
A term that arose in the late ’90s when young urban Black men living in a hypermasculine culture were expected to comport themselves according to prescribed social mores and thus discouraged from identifying openly as gay or bisexual for fear of violence and/or rejection from their communities. Typically used to describe the activities of a man who presents as straight but engages in covert sexual activity with other men.
The art of performing gender in an inherently subversive manner, often as entertainment, and often through the use of visual caricature and exaggerated mannerisms and affectations.
Originally a derogatory term for a masculine-presenting, butch, or androgynous lesbian woman, the word dyke has since been reclaimed by some as a positive self-identifier within the lesbian, queer, and trans communities. Dyke is still often used as a derogatory term by non-allies.
A derogatory term for a gay person, most frequently used in reference to gay and bisexual men. The word’s roots are in the medieval English faggot, meaning a “bundle of twigs”; these bundles were commonly used in the burning of those accused of witchcraft and homosexuality. The term has since been reclaimed as a subversive and provocative self-identifier; however, as with dyke, the word faggot is still used by some as a slur.
A word used throughout the LGBTQ+ community to describe a person that could be considered traditionally feminine in physical appearance and/or spirit. Within the lesbian, queer, and trans communities, the term femme is used across a varied spectrum of feminine- presenting individuals of any gender.
Sexually and romantically (and often solely) attracted to the same gender as one’s self. The term can be used as a self-identifier by any person whose sexual and romantic lives exist outside the bounds of heterosexuality.
A set of cultural identities, expressions, and roles that people claim or that are assigned to them. In heteronormative culture, the genders are assumed to be either male or female and are based on the interpretation of bodies, specifically, their sexual and reproductive anatomy. Since gender is a social construct, it is possible to reject or modify the assignment made, and develop something that feels truer and just to oneself.
gender affirming surgery
A general term for a number of different surgical procedures that enable trans people to treat their physical dysphoria and align their anatomy with their sense of self. Not everyone who undergoes gender affirmation surgery considers themselves trans, and not every trans person feels the need to undergo or has access to gender affirmation surgery.
gender binary
The concept, considered oppressive by many, that there are only two genders, male and female, and that all individuals must fall into one of the two categories.
gender dysphoria
The dissatisfaction or discomfort felt when one’s assigned gender—that is, one’s birth gender—does not match up with one’s true gender. A person who experiences gender dysphoria does not necessarily experience physical dysphoria (the feeling that one’s emotional and mental self does not align with one’s physical self ) and vice versa. Many, but not all, people who experience gender dysphoria identify as trans.
gender expression
The way in which a person communicates their gender to the outside world, through clothing, mannerisms, behavior, etc.
A term that describes those whose gender identity is not fixed but may vary among two or several genders, and can shift within an individual from day to day, moment to moment, or throughout their lifetime.
gender identity
A person’s deeply held inner sense of their own gender, which may correspond to or differ from the sex they were assigned at birth, and may or may not correlate with a person’s gender expression.
gender nonconforming
Not conforming to society’s gender norms. Often abbreviated “GNC,” this term is used as a self-identifier to describe individuals whose gender (or lack thereof ) does not correlate with what would be traditionally expected of them based on the gender that was assigned to them at birth.
A term used to describe one who’s gender does not fit into heteronormative constructs, Those who are genderqueer may identify as genderfluid, androgynous, on the trans spectrum, or as a combination of these and other identities.
That which assumes heterosexuality and its attendant practices— monogamy, reproductive sex —as the structuring standard, or norm; of or related to a straight-centric ideology. Heteronormativity aligns with society’s gender-based expectations, marginalizes other sexual practices, and stigmatizes queer people.
The assumption that all people are straight and that those who are not are “outside” and thus “less.” Heterosexism discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people, as well as against those whose desires and beliefs fall outside heteronormativity: for example, the woman who does not desire children.
A person who is sexually and romantically attracted to members of what is considered “the opposite gender” within a heteronormative framework.
Fear of LGBTQ+ people. Homophobia often manifests in discriminatory attitudes and actions against behaviors, appearances and situations that are considered outside the hetero norm.
A person who is sexually and romantically attracted to members of their own gender. The term homosexual is increasingly being replaced with gay, lesbian, or queer.
hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Physician-monitored administration of “sex” hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone as medical treatment for physical dysphoria felt by GNC, trans, non-binary, and other queer people, as well as many other individuals within and without the LGBTQ+ community for birth control, as treatment for menopause, growth delays, etc.
A general term referring to individuals born with the biological, cis-specific male and female attributes of two sexes. Historically, and to this day, intersex people experienced non-consensual HRT and genital mutilation as babies, and throughout their lives, at the hands of their families and medical professionals. This umbrella term has replaced the dated and derogatory hermaphrodite.
A woman-identified person who is physically and romantically attracted to other women-identified people. The term’s roots are in the name of the Greek island of Lesbos, home to the poet Sappho, who herself was a lover of women.
Acronym standing for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer.” The + refers the a vast number of other identities, such as I for intersex, A for asexual, Q for questioning, etc. living openly/being out Living comfortably and freely in the world as an LQBTQ+ person. The phrase is generally associated with those who are vocal about their orientation, as the conditions suit them (see coming out).
Attributing to a person the incorrect gender. This may take the form of an incorrect pronoun, gendered language, or the assigning of gender to someone without knowledge of how they identify.
Pronounced variously “Məks,” “Miks,” and “Em-eks,” this primarily written gender-neutral honorofic has evolved to take the place of the gendered Miss, Ms., Mrs., and Mr.
A person whose gender exists outside of the gender binary. It is important to remember that not all nonbinary people identify as trans, and that not all trans people identify as nonbinary. Some nonbinary people identify as genderqueer or gender nonconforming. orientation A person’s sexual identity or attraction, which may be fluid or not.
The act of non-consensually revealing a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, or membership in the LGBTQ+ community without that person’s knowledge and/ or against that person’s wishes. Whether done maliciously or out of ignorance, outing can result in dire emotional, financial and physical consequences for the person being outed.
Attracted to people of multiple gender identities and expressions.
Assumed to be straight and/ or cis-gender in general society, based on physical traits, dress, mannerisms, and so on. Passing may be done intentionally or not.
A word standing in for a noun or noun phrase. In English, third-person pronouns referring to people have long been typically gendered (he/she, him/ her). In recent years, a plethora of new gender-neutral pronouns has arrived (for example, ze/zir and variants thereof ), with they/them being perhaps the most prevalent and reflecting the adoption of the plural as standing in for the singular where binary gender need not be or should not be expressed.
A broad term describing those whodon’t identify as straight and/or cisgender. Historically used as a slur, the word was reclaimed by LGBTQ+ community in the late 1980s as embodying a radical and anti-assimilationist stance. Though today it is commonly employed as a positive term, the word is still used in a pejorative way by some.
Exploring one’s gender expression or sexual identity. same-gender-loving This positive term arose in the African American community in the early 1990s as a non-Eurocentric term standing in for, variously, gay, lesbian, and the now-dated homosexual.
sex (sex assigned at birth; biological sex)
A medical categorization based on a person’s chromosomal and hormonal makeup and anatomical appearance (i.e., genitalia) at birth, which has no correlation with or relationship to gender. Also referred to as anatomical sex or physical sex.
sexual attraction
The desire for physical sexual intimacy (for example, touching, kissing, intercourse), typically with others but also with oneself. Not to be confused or conflated with emotional, spiritual, or romantic attraction.
sexual orientation
A person’s physical, emotional, and romantic attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex. Though sexual orientation is considered inherent and thus immutable, it can also be fluid. Sexual orientation is not necessarily revealed in behavior but in feelings of attraction. One does not need to have any sexual experience to have a sexual orientation. (See also orientation.)
sexual preference
Refers to one’s choice of partner and to one’s partiality to particular types of sexual stimulation. Often incorrectly used in place of sexual orientation, this term implies conscious decision.
sex reassignment surgery (SRS)
Antiquated and offensive. See entry under gender affirming surgery
An umbrella term that covers a variety of genderfluid, non-binary and genderqueer identities
A term that describes one whose gender or gender identity is in opposition to that which they were assigned at birth.
The process of moving away from a socially-prescribed gender presentation based on the sex a person was assigned at birth, aligning one’s gender expression with one’s gender identity. This may involve changing one’s name, pronouns, manner of dress, as well as accessing HRT, gender affirming surgery, or none of the above.
Fear or hatred of trans people. Transphobia occurs within the queer community as well as within the straight community, and is frequently characterized by a refusal to accept trans people’s gender identity.
A largely outdated, and sometimes pejorative, term referring to those individuals whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender or trans are often preferred.
A term coined in the 1990s among North American Native communities as an English phrase representing different “third gender” roles, which have specific social and ceremonial significance among Native tribes. The term is specific to Native culture and should not be used interchangeably with other terms to describe members of the LGBTQ+ community at large.