Terms to know


ALLY: An ally is a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in his or her own personal and professional life through support of and as an advocate with and for the oppressed population. This definition can be expanded to include LGB and/or T identified people who are allies within their community. Although all of the different identities within “LGBT” are often lumped together (and share sexism as a common root of oppression), there are specific needs and concerns related to each individual identity.

Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction. See http://www.asexuality.org/home/

Coming Out: To declare and affirm both to oneself and to others one’s identity as lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc. It is not a single event but instead a life-long process.

LGBTQ - an acronym referring collectively to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and queer/questioning people. As of 2005, LGBT has become so mainstream that it has been adopted by the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community centers and the LGBT press in most English-speaking countries (From Wikipedia)

Lesbian - refers to women who are attracted to other women. This is a positive word and has been used to recognize women within the gay community. Many women feel silenced or ignored by the assumption that homosexuals are men. This word helps to give women a voice.

Gay - used as a general term to refer to gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals. However, some people are not comfortable with that and prefer that lesbians and bisexuals have their own separate categories and voices

Gender: A cultural notion of what it is to be a woman or a man. A construct based on the social shaping of femininity and masculinity. It usually includes identification with males as a class or with females as a class. Gender includes subjective concepts about character traits and expected behaviors that vary from place to place and person to person.

Bisexual - A bisexual or bi person is someone who is attracted to both genders. They may feel that the person is more important than the gender. While traditionally bisexuality has been defined as 'an attraction to both males and females', it commonly encompasses Pansexuality and any other gender identity. Bisexuality covers anywhere between the sexual orientations of asexuality, homosexuality, and heterosexuality

Transgender - Transgender refers to people whose gender expression is not dictated by their biological sex. Transgender is an umbrella term including but not limited to someone identifies as a cross-dresser, drag queen, drag king, transexual, or anyone who challenges gender boundaries

Intersexed - Formerly known has hermaphroditism, intersex is a term used for several conditions which result in individuals having partially or fully developed sex organs of both genders, sex characteristics of both genders, or ambiguous genitalia. The practice has been to assign them a sex at birth and perform surgery to match the assignment. Often, the surgery and their condition are kept secret from the individual. In many cases, at puberty these individuals begin to notice that they are different from their peers, but because of the secrecy do not realize why. In some cases, these individuals begin to question the gender they were assigned.

Queer - The word queer has been a derogatory word used to portray LGBT people as different. However, it is now being reclaimed by some to be used as an umbrella term to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and those who choose not to identify with any one label. Labels are sometimes very limiting; queer is meant to be a broader term that can cover more people. Because of the continued stigma around this word, some people still view this word negatively and use it as such.

Homophobia - Prejudice against people perceived as LGBT. This prejudice includes the belief that all LGBT people fit the socially accepted stereotypes. It can also refer to name-calling with intent to hurt someone. It sometimes leads to violence. Everyone has homophobic beliefs or thoughts. It has been internalized because we all have been raised in a heterosexual society. Even LGBT people experience internalized homophobia.

Sexism: A system of beliefs, actions, advantages, and assumptions in the superiority of one
sex (usually men) over another (women).

Sexual orientation: A person’s emotional, physical and sexual attraction and the expression of that attraction with other individuals. Some of the better-known labels or categories include “bisexual” (or “multisexual”, “pansexual”, “omnisexual”), “lesbian”, “gay” (“homosexual” is more clinical), or “heterosexual”.

Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS): A surgical procedure which alters one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics in order to bring a person’s body into alignment with hir gender identity.

Trans: Abbreviation for transgender, transsexual, or some other form of trans identity. “Trans” can invoke notions of transcending beyond, existing between or crossing over borders.

Terms you might not know
(But should know anyway)

Androgyny (also androgynous, bi-gendered, no-gendered): A person who identifies as both or neither of the two culturally defined genders, or a person who expresses merged culturally/stereotypically feminine and masculine characteristics or mainly neutral characteristics.

Bear: (slang) A gay or bisexual man with a hairy body and facial hair, who is masculine and stout. Bears are typically older – those who are younger or are new to the community are often called cubs. A thinner man who is hairy and masculine is called an otter. People who are attracted to bears but are not bears themselves are known as admirers.

Binary Gender: A system that defines and makes room for two and only two distinct and opposite genders (male and female). These two genders are defined in opposition to each other, such that masculinity and femininity are seen as mutually exclusive. In this system, there is no room for any ambiguity or intermingling of gender traits.

Biphobia: The fear or hatred of bisexual people. This term addresses the ways that prejudice against bisexuals differs from prejudice against other queer people. There is often biphobia in lesbian, gay and transgender communities, as well as in straight communities.

Butch: (slang) A person (usually, a woman) who has traditionally-understood masculine traits or behavior

Complicity: Collusion, or partnership in wrongdoing, such as the oppression of a target group. Social critic Kate Millet defines complicity as the act of “identifying – even if involuntarily or momentarily – with the society which force has brought into being.”

Compulsory heterosexuality: The assumption that women are naturally or innately drawn sexually and emotionally toward men, and men toward women. The view that heterosexuality is the norm for all sexual relationships. The institutionalization of heterosexuality in all aspects of society includes the idealization of heterosexual orientation, romance, and marriage.

Difference: A characteristic that distinguished one person from another or from an assumed norm, or the state of being distinguished by such characteristics. Social justice issues such as racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism usually center on the negative perception of difference by the dominant group. Viewed positively, difference can be a catalyst for equity, a recognition of interdependence, and a source of personal power.

Dominance: The systematic attitudes and actions of prejudice, superiority, and self-righteousness of one group (a non-target group) in relation to another (a target group). Internalized dominance includes the inability of a group or individual to see privilege as a member of the non-target group.

Drag King: A female who emulates a man in appearance and manner, generally for the purposes of entertainment, and not necessarily because the person identifies as a man or as transgender.

Drag Queen: A male who emulates a woman, in appearance and manner, generally for the purposes of entertainment, and not necessarily because the person identifies as a woman or as transgender.

Family: (slang) Term used by members of the LGBTQ community to identify other members of the LGBTQ community. Ex: “She’s family.”

FTM or F2M (Female to male): Term used to identify a person who was female-bodied at birth and who identifies as male, lives as a man, or identifies as masculine.

Heterosexism - The belief that heterosexuality is better than other sexualities. It refers to the active promotion of heterosexuality as the only desirable way of life. It also refers to the subtle, yet pervasive way in which heterosexuality is assumed in this society

Gayby Boom: (slang) Term used to describe the late-20th century and early 21st century increase of LGBTQ people (especially those who are out of the closet) who are raising children.

Gaydar: (slang) Facetious term used to describe a person’s supposed knack for identifying or spotting non-heterosexual people in public. This “detector” usually relies on stereotypes of how LGBT people look or behave, and therefore some people find this notion damaging because it perpetuates those stereotypes and glosses over the true diversity of the LGBT community.

Gender Dysphoria: An intense continuous discomfort resulting from an individual’s belief in the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and resulting gender role expectations. Also, a clinical psychological diagnosis, which many in transgender communities are offended by, but is often required to receive hormones and/or surgery.

Gender Expression: Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice and emphasizing, de-emphasizing or changing their body’s characteristics. Gender expression is not necessarily an indication of sexual orientation.

Gender Fluid: A description for people who are not fixed in their gender expression and instead express their gender in different ways, changing from time to time according to mood. Includes those who “play” with their gender.

Gender Neutral Pronouns: - Pronouns that do not designate gender. These pronouns are preferred by many people who are genderqueer and are respectful ways to refer to people in the third person without ascribing a gender to them. Examples are “ze” (instead of he/she) and “hir” (as opposed to his/her).

Genderqueer - A term which refers to individuals or groups who “queer” or problematize the hegemonic notions of sex, gender and desire in a given society. Genderqueers possess identities which fall outside of the widely accepted sexual binary. Genderqueer may also refer to people who identify as both transgendered AND queer, i.e. individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.

Gender Roles: The socially constructed and culturally specific behavior and appearance expectations imposed on women (femininity) and men (masculinity).

Gynephobia: The fear, mistrust, or hatred of women.

Gender Identity - One's core conceptualization of oneself as male or female or something other. Gender identity is often explained in terms of anatomical sex--if one is born with clearly identifiable male or female genitalia, one is usually labeled accordingly. However, one's gender identity--who you feel you are--may or may not match one's anatomically assigned sex.

Transvestite- Someone who receives sexual arousal by dressing in clothing of the opposite gender. (This is a clinical term, but is used in common language to refer to cross-dressers.)

Cross-dresser - A person who dresses in the clothing of the opposite gender.

Drag Queen or Drag King - People who dress in clothing and adopt mannerisms of the opposite gender for the purpose of performance.

Dyke - A slang term for a lesbian with certain qualities. Originally it was a derogatory label for a masculine. The word dyke may come from Boudicca (Bou-dyke-ah), a Celtic queen who organized a revolt against the Roman Empire in 67 AD. This empowered woman was seen as a threat to the power structure. In order to take the punch out of the word, the term dyke has been reclaimed by some lesbians.

Faggot - In the inquisition in Europe, when witches were being burned, among those sought out for persecution were gay people. They were required to gather the very "bundles of sticks" (the dictionary definition of faggot) with which they would be burned. The term faggot became associated with gay men to force them into the closet for fear of death. It is slowly being reclaimed in some circles, but in many cases it is still a very painful word.

"Down-low" - In the 2000s, the phrase became synonymous in mainstream media with black men who are not openly gay or bisexual but do have sex with men. Mainstream media also tied this usage to the ongoing AIDS pandemic. (From Wikipedia)

En femme - A term used in the transgender community to describe wearing feminine clothing or expressing a feminine personality. The term is derived from the French, meaning literally "as a woman". Most crossdressers also use a femme name whilst en femme.

Fag Hag - Slang term for a woman who either associates largely with homosexual men. Some women who associate with gay men object to being called fag hags, while others embrace the term.

In the closet: To be in the closet means to hide one’s LGBT identity in order to avoid negative social repercussions, such as losing a job, housing, friends or family. Many LGBT individuals are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others, based on their perceived level of safety.

Internalized Homophobia: The acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group. It can result in alienation, anxiety, and sometimes suicide.

Internalized Oppression: The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.

Men who have Sex with Men (MSM): The term is often used when discussing sexual behavior. It is inclusive of all men who participate in this behavior regardless of how they identify their sexual orientation. The acronym MSM is conventionally used in professional literature.

Metrosexual: (slang) A heterosexual male who lives in or near a large city and who dresses or behaves like a stereotypical gay male, especially being well-groomed, well-mannered and fashion-conscious.

Monogamy: A practice of having only one sexual or romantic partner at a time.

Multi-Gendered: A person who identifies as multiple genders, either at different times or simultaneously

Pansexual/Omnisexual: A person who is emotionally, physically and/or sexually attracted to people of more than one sex or gender. Used by some people in place of the term bisexual to acknowledge that there are multiple sexes and genders and to help dismantle the binary gender system.

Passing/To Pass: To appear and be perceived by others as something, such as successfully assuming a gender role different than the one assigned to a person based on biological sex when interacting with society. One can also “pass” as straight in terms of sexual orientation or “pass” as white. People in minority/oppressed groups who can pass as members of the majority/dominant groups are less likely to face harassment because they go undetected, whereas those who cannot pass or choose not to pass may stand out as targets to bullies and others who do not value difference. Passing can be intentional or not.

Polyamory: The practice of having and the ability to have more than one sexual or romantic partner at a time.

Queerspawn: (slang) Self-identification term used by some children of LGBTQ parents.

Questioning: The process of considering or exploring one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Same Gender Loving (SGL): A term used often by the African-American LGBT community as an alternative to the terms “gay” or “lesbian”. It helps provide an identity not marginalized by racism within the gay community or heterosexism in society.

Sex /Physical Sex: A classification based on reproductive biology. It is commonly assumed that there are two sexes; since a person’s sex is identified in four main ways (genetic sex, gonads, primary and secondary sex characteristics), it is more accurate to think of physical sex as a continuum with most individuals situated near the ends.

Genetic Sex: The 23rd chromosome pair coded XX* for female (F) or XY* for male (M).
*There are other chromosomal organizations, including, but not limited to XXY, XY, and XO. Often times, the extra or missing sex chromosomes go unnoticed.

Gonads: Glands that produce gametes, usually ovaries (F) or testes (M).

Primary Sex Characteristics: Those physical characteristics present at birth that are used to determine the biological sex of an infant, including, but not limited to, the penis and scrotum (M), and the vagina, clitoris, and labia (F).

Secondary Sex Characteristics: Those physical characteristics not present at birth that develop during puberty as a result of gonadal and adrenal hormones, including facial hair (M) and breasts (F).

Stud: (slang) A very masculine or butch person and/or one who is promiscuous. This term is commonly used in the African American community.

Transition: To change over time (generally through use of hormones and/or surgery) from one sex or gender to another.

Transphobia: The fear or hatred of transgender people or gender non-conforming behavior. Like biphobia, transphobia can also exist among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as well as among heterosexual people.

Transsexual (also Female to Male, Male to Female, Pre-Operative, Post-Operative, Non-Operative): A person who, through experiencing an intense, long-term discomfort resulting from feeling the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and discomfort of their body, adapts their gender role and body to reflect and be congruent with their gender identity. Includes: cross-dressing, synthesized sex hormones, surgery and other body modification.

Pre-Operative (Pre-Op): Those who have not yet had gender confirming surgery but are planning to.

Post-Operative (Post-Op): Those who have had gender confirming surgery.

Non-Operative (Non-Op): Those who, for a variety of reasons (not enough money, fear of risks, or simply no desire), do not have gender confirming surgery.

*Note: Many people in the transsexual community prefer to have privacy in regards to their operative status.

Twink: (slang) Often defined in opposition to a bear, a twink is a young thin gay or bisexual male with little or no body and facial hair.

Two-Spirit: A Native American person who embodies both masculine and feminine genders; Native Americans who are queer or transgender may self-identify as two-spirit. Historically, different tribes have specific titles for different kinds of two-spirit people. For example, the Lakota tribe includes Wintke, the Navajo tribe refers to some individuals as Nedleeh, and in the Cheyenne tribe some two-spirit people are known as Hee-man-eh.

Women who have Sex with Women (WSW): The term is often used when discussing sexual behavior. It is inclusive of all women who participate in this behavior regardless of how they identify their sexual orientation. The acronym WSW is conventionally used in professional literature.

Please Note:

It is very important to respect people’s desired self-identifications. One should never assume another person’s identity based on that person’s appearance. It is always best to ask people how they identify, including what pronouns they prefer, and to respect their wishes.

*For more reading take a look at the SafeZone Project's web resources, here, and their list of vocabulary terms, here.*