Here are some key terms that relate to the LGBTQ community. Keep in mind that there are many ways to define these common words and phrases. Remember, the only person who has the power to label you, is YOU!
Asexual: A term describing individuals who do not experience sexual attraction or do not have interest in or desire for sex. Asexuality is different from celibacy, which means abstaining from sex. Asexuality is often viewed as a spectrum – meaning there are varying levels and identities regarding someone’s emotional, spiritual and romantic attraction. The best way to refer to the asexual community is to use the umbrella term “ace” or “aces” as in the “ace community,” which acknowledges that spectrum.
Binary System: A binary system is something made up of two opposing parts. Gender (man/woman) and sex (male/female) are examples of binary systems.
Bisexual: A term that describes someone who is attracted to both men and women, or to more than one gender identity.
Cisgender: A person who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, if you
were told you were “male” at birth and still identify that way, you would be cisgender.
Gay: In the past, only men who are attracted to men have used the word “gay.” Now, it is common for “gay” to be used by anyone who is attracted to their same sex or gender.
Gender: An idea created by society (A.K.A. a social construct) that tells us what certain genders are “supposed” to be like, based on a group of emotional, behavioral and cultural characteristics (like how we express our feelings or how we dress).
Gender Expression: How we express our gender identity on the outside.
Gender Identity: Our internal, personal sense of what our gender is. Everyone has a gender identity.
Gender Non-Conforming: Describes a person whose gender expression is, or appears to be, different from what we would expect from their assigned gender. Other terms include “gender variant” or “gender diverse.”
Genderqueer: A term that describes someone whose gender identity is not just a man or a woman. This identity can mean different things to different people.
Intersex: Describes a condition in which a person is born with a sex that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male due to genetic, hormonal or anatomical differences.
Lesbian: A woman who is predominantly attracted to other women. Some women prefer the term “gay” – it’s all up to you and what fits your identity best.
Non-Binary: Anything that falls outside of the binary system (see definition above). Intersex, genderqueer, and bisexuality are all examples of non-binary identities.
Pansexual: Describes people who are capable of being attracted to multiple sexes or gender identities.
Sexual Orientation: Describes a person’s physical, romantic, emotional, and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Everyone has a sexual orientation.
Transgender (Trans*): An umbrella term used to describe people whose true gender identity does not “match” the sex or gender they were assigned at birth. Many identities fall under the transgender umbrella, which are often designated with an asterisk after the abbreviation, “trans.” However, not all genderqueer or non-binary people identify as transgender – and some people who have transitioned to their true gender choose to identify as just a “man” or “woman” instead of transgender. Always be respectful of how someone chooses to identify, and use their preferred identity, name, and pronouns.
Transitioning: The social, legal, and/or medical process a trans* person may go through to make their gender identity fit their gender expression, presentation, or sex. This word means many different things to different people, and a person doesn’t have to experience all or any of these common transitioning elements to identify as their true gender.
Queer: A broad term that is inclusive of people who are not straight and/or cisgender. In the past this word was used as discriminatory. Today the word is often used in a positive way by folks who identify as queer as well as by allies of queer/LGBTQ people, however, some people still feel that it is a word that carries negative weight.
Questioning: A person who may be processing or questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
QUICK RESOURCE GUIDE
Do you want to read more about a certain topic? Scroll through our list of links to find the resource you’re looking for.
- GLBT National Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743)
Family and Friends
Gay and Lesbian
- https://rainn.org/ or call 1-800-656-HOPE
I Have A Crush
Out and Proud
LGBTQ and Religion
- National Abortion Federation Hotline: 1-800-772-9100
Trans* and Gender Identity
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