Glossary of LGBTQ Terminology

Language within the community is constantly shifting and evolving. This glossary defines some common terminology related to gender and sexuality.

Some historical terms which have fallen out of current commonly accepted usage have been excluded.

I have also not included any acronyms, if you want to know more about common acronyms and the differences between them, you can read my article about it!

A

Ace adjective. an abbreviation which refers to any individual who falls under the asexual umbrella; an individual on the asexual spectrum.

AFABnoun. an acronym which means “assigned female at birth”; a term used by a trans, non-binary, or gender expansive individual who wants to speak to the impact of being socialized into a gender different than their own.

Agender adjective. an individual who does not identify with the concept of gender; an individual who does not experience an internal sense of gender identity, or who prefers to opt out of affiliation with any particular gender identity label.

Allo – adjective. an individual who experiences sexual and romantic attraction (aka. is not on the asexual or aromantic spectrums).

Ally noun. an individual currently operating in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ communities; an individual fighting against cisnormativity and heteronormativity, working to dismantle homophobic and transphobic systems and institutions.

Allyshipverb. to operate in solidarity with a marginalized or oppressed community.

AMABnoun. an acronym which means “assigned male at birth”; a term used by a trans, non-binary, or gender expansive individual who wants to speak to the impact of being socialized into a gender different than their own.

Androgyny noun. (androgynous, adjective) neutral gender expression; avoidance of cultural signifiers (traits, behaviors, styles, etc.) which have been coded as either masculine or feminine.

Aphobianoun. (aphobic, adjective) prejudiced or discriminatory beliefs, speech, and/or behaviors relating to asexual and/or aromantic individuals.

Aro – adjective. an individual who falls on the aromantic spectrum.

Aromanticadjective. an individual who does not experience – or very rarely experiences – romantic attraction.

Aromantic Spectrumnoun. a philosophy which does not see any specific intensity or frequency of romantic attraction as normal or preferred, and which acknowledges diversity within humanity relating to the experience of romantic attraction.

Asexual adjective. an umbrella term to describe anyone who experiences sexual attraction rarely or in a way that varies in intensity or frequency over time; an individual who does not experience – or very rarely experiences – sexual attraction.

Asexual Spectrumnoun. a philosophy which does not see any specific intensity or frequency of sexual attraction as normal or preferred, and which acknowledges diversity within humanity relating to the experience of sexual attraction.

B

Bigender adjective. an individual who experiences more than one gender simultaneously.

Biphobianoun. (biphobic, adjective) prejudiced or discriminatory beliefs, speech, and/or behaviors relating to bisexual individuals.

Bisexual adjective. (also, bi) an umbrella term to describe anyone who experiences attraction to more than one gender; an individual who experiences attraction to two or more genders; an individual who experiences attraction to both genders which are similar to and different from one’s own.

Butchadjective. noun. masculine gender expression; use of cultural signifiers (traits, behaviors, styles, etc.) which have been coded as masculine. (Both butch and femme identities were historically a part of lesbian culture, there is some debate about whether use can be expanded to those of other sexual orientations. Some individuals also see butch as its own distinct gender.)

C

Cis Fragilitynoun. the tendency for cisgender individuals to exhibit a series of defensive responses (including argumentation, silence or leaving the situation) in response to encountering gender-identity-based stress or discomfort, in an attempt to return to a state of comfort and denial of cisnormativity.

Cisgender adjective. (also cis) an individual who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Cisheteropatriarchy noun. a system of oppression based on the supremacy and dominance of cisgender heterosexual men, and which places cisgender heterosexual men at the top of a societal hierarchy above women and gender and sexual minorities.

Cisnormativity noun. the belief that cisgender individuals are normal or preferred (including the assumption that all individuals are cisgender); a system which grants rights and privileges to cisgender individuals, while discriminating against trans, non-binary, and gender expansive individuals.

Cissexism noun. the belief that there are only two genders (represented by two biological sexes) which are compulsory and mutually exclusive categories; the belief that cisgender identities and expressions are more natural, legitimate, and real than those of trans, non-binary, and gender expansive individuals.

Closeted adjective. (also, being “in the closet”) an individual who is not “out” about their gender or sexual orientation; an individual who has kept their gender or sexual orientation private, often due to fear of discrimination or violence.

Coming Out verb. the process of making one’s gender or sexual orientation known to others. (An individual might come out to everyone simultaneously, or only come out to certain individuals, or in specific contexts.)

D

Demigender adjective. an umbrella term for individuals who feel a partial connection to a gender identity; an individual who feels a connection to certain aspects of a particular gender. (ex: demigirl/demiwoman, demiguy/demiman, deminonbinary, demifluid, demiflux)

Demiromantic adjective. an individual who feels romantic attraction only under specific circumstances, or only when a specific type of emotional bond has been established with an individual.

Demisexual adjective. an individual who feels sexual attraction only under specific circumstances, or only when a specific type of emotional bond has been established with an individual.

Dragadjective. noun. the performance of masculinity, femininity, or other forms of gender expression. A drag queen is an individual who performs femininity, while a drag king is an individual who performs masculinity. Drag performances are often accompanied by musical performances and/or lip syncing, and typically involve use of clothing and accessories, makeup, and/or wigs as a medium of gender expression.

F

Femme adjective. noun. feminine gender expression; use of cultural signifiers (traits, behaviors, styles, etc.) which have been coded as feminine. (Both butch and femme identities were historically a part of lesbian culture, there is some debate about whether use can be expanded to those of other sexual orientations. Some individuals also see femme as its own distinct gender.)

G

Gay adjective. an umbrella term used to refer to any individual with a non-straight sexual orientation; a man who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to other men.

Gender binarynoun. the belief that gender is a binary; the belief that “man” and “woman” are the only possible gender identity options.

Gender essentialismnoun. the belief that “man” and “woman” are mutually exclusive categories tied to biological sex and including a series of universal, intrinsic, innate, and immutable qualities.

Gender expansive adjective. an umbrella term for anyone who falls outside of the gender binary, or any individual who is exploring their gender expression and/or identity; an individual with a wide, flexible range of gender identity and/or expression, which cannot be contained within a binary gender system.

Gender expressionnoun. the way an individual chooses to express their gender identity through appearance, dress, and/or behavior.

Gender identitynoun. an internal, felt sense of one’s own gender.

Genderfluid adjective. an individual who experiences more than one gender, including a sense of shifting between genders, and/or experiencing multiple genders simultaneously.

Gender Performativitynoun. a philosophy popularized by Judith Butler and founded on the belief that gender is an expression which is continually created and repeated through language, gesture, and other symbolic social signs. This repeated performance of gender is performative because it is both based on, and reinforced by, societal norms about gender within a given culture. This enactment of gender norms has real consequences within society, including the creation of our sense of subjectivity about the concept of gender itself.

Genderqueer adjective. an individual who identifies with “queering” the concept of gender itself, or who holds a gender identity they perceive as somehow “queer,” often accompanied by mixing and matching elements of masculinity and femininity within gender expression.

Grey-Aromantic adjective. an individual who experiences romantic attraction rarely, or only under specific circumstances.

Grey-Asexualadjective. an individual who experiences sexual attraction rarely, or only under specific circumstances.

H

Heteronormativity noun. the belief that heterosexual relationships are normal or preferred (including the assumption that all individuals are heterosexual); a system which grants rights and privileges to heterosexual individuals, while discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or asexual individuals. (Heteronormativity also tends to include compulsory monogamy, and expectations for marriage and raising children together.)

Heterosexismnoun. the belief that heterosexual relationships are compulsory, or that romantic and/or sexual attraction is only legitimate in the context of a relationship between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman; the belief that heterosexual identities, expressions, and relationships are more natural, legitimate, and real than those of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or asexual individuals.

Homophobianoun. (homophobic, adjective) prejudiced or discriminatory beliefs, speech, and/or behaviors relating to gay or lesbian individuals.

I

Intersex adjective. noun. a term used to describe a variety of situations in which the reproductive or sexual anatomy or chromosomal makeup of an individual does not fit into the culturally bound and binary boxes of “male” or “female.”

L

Lesbianadjective. noun. a woman who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction towards other women; a political ideology which encourages women to prioritize and foster relationships with other women (regardless of sexual orientation) and refrain from engaging in sexual and/or romantic relationships with men as a way to destabilize heterosexism and the cisheteropatriarchy.

M

Metamournoun. a term used in polyamorous relationships to describe another partner of one’s own partner (e.g. my husband’s boyfriend).

Microaggressionnoun. a verbal, behavioral, and/or environmental message which (intentionally or unintentionally) sends a negative, derogatory, and/or hostile message to an individual who is a member of a marginalized identity and/or culture.

Misgendernoun. to incorrectly gender an individual (which can include use of incorrect pronouns, or referring to someone as a “man” or “woman” when it is inaccurate.

Monosexual adjective. an individual who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to only one gender. (Straight, gay, and lesbian individuals are all monosexual).

N

Non-binary adjective. an individual whose gender falls outside of the gender binary (i.e. man or woman); an individual whose experience of gender does not completely align with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Non-monogamynoun. an umbrella term to describe a relationship style in which an individual maintains romantic and/or sexual relationships with multiple individuals simultaneously, or is open to such relationships. (When all members of such a relationship are aware and consent to the situation, it is ethical non-monogamy, which is sometimes referred to as ENM or simply “non-monogamy.” Non-monogamy which is non-consensual or hidden from a romantic and/or sexual partner is typically referred to as “cheating” or “an affair.”)

O

Omnisexual adjective. an individual who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to all genders, but where preferences for certain gender(s), or shifts in attraction over time, may still be present.

Open Relationshipnoun. a form of ethical non-monogamy, where one or both partners in a romantic and/or sexual relationship can engage in casual sex with individuals outside the relationship. Open relationships can involve blanket or situational consent, and may be transparent, or have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy where non-monogamy is known but not openly discussed.

Outingverb. making an individual’s gender and/or sexual orientation known without their knowledge or consent.

P

Pansexual adjective. an individual who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to all genders, or where gender is not experienced as a relevant factor contributing to said attraction.

Polyamorynoun. (polyamorous, adjective) a form of ethical non-monogamy, where an individual engages in multiple romantic and/or sexual relationships simultaneously, or experiences desire or interest in having these types of relationships. Polyamory differs from other forms of ethical non-monogamy in that many polyamorous individuals prioritize sharing emotional intimacy with multiple partners, even if sometimes engaging in casual sex. (Some polyamorous individuals see it as a relationship orientation, while others can be monogamous if that is their current partner’s preference.)

Polysexual adjective. an individual who is attracted to multiple, but not all, genders. It may or may not include preference for certain gender(s).

Q

Queeradjective. noun. verb. an umbrella term to describe any non-straight sexual orientation, or any non-cis gender; an individual who rejects binarism and embraces fluidity in gender and/or sexuality; a political ideology in which an individual see themselves in opposition to cisheteronormativity and the cisheteropatriarchy and attempts to deconstruct it through self-expression and behavior; a philosophy which questions, challenges, and attempts to deconstruct societal, cultural, and political norms related to gender and sexuality, drawing from the feminist assertion that “the personal is political.”

Questioning adjective. verb. the process of exploring gender and/or sexual orientation; an individual who is currently exploring their gender and/or sexual orientation.

S

Sexual Orientationnoun. an individual’s internal experience of romantic and/or sexual attraction to others.

Straight adjective. (also, heterosexual) an individual who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction exclusively to those of a different gender (e.g. a man who is attracted to women, or a woman who is attracted to men).

T

Trans adjective. an umbrella term for any individual whose gender does not completely align with the gender assigned at birth. (Some non-binary individuals see themselves as trans, others do not.)

Transgenderadjective. noun. an individual whose gender does not align with the gender assigned at birth; an individual who transitions to a gender different from that which was assigned at birth.

Transitionverb. a process of alignment with one’s authentic gender identity. Any given individual’s process of transition may include social, legal, and/or medical components (changes in name, pronouns, taking hormones, gender affirming surgery, etc.)

Transphobia noun. (transphobic, adjective) prejudiced or discriminatory beliefs, speech, and/or behaviors relating to trans, transgender, and/or gender expansive individuals.

Two-Spiritadjective. a term used by some members of Indigenous communities to reflect a cultural or social role or status related to gender and sexual orientation prior to colonization. A two-spirit individual might combine aspects of activities, social roles, dress, or other traits typically associated with both men and women, or two-spirit might refer to a third (or fourth) gender that exists beyond categories of “man” or “woman.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.