Glossary of LGBTQIA+ Terms

The LGBTQ Resource Center recognizes and affirms the vast diversity of definitions, identities, experiences, and terms expanding beyond this glossary. The terms below are always evolving, changing, and often mean different things to different people. We encourage allies and community members to continue to explore LGBTQIA+ terminology through other online resources.

Definitions adapted from Human Rights Campaign, TransHub, Métis Nation of Ontario, National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health, UC Davis, NSVRC, Merriam-Webster

AMAB, AFAB | Acronyms meaning “assigned male/female at birth.” This term is preferred to “biological male/female”, “male/female bodied”, “natal male/female”, and “born male/female.”

Agender | A person who experiences an absence of an internal gender identity or who has very little experience of a gender.

Ally | A term used to describe someone who is actively supportive of LGBTQ+ people. It encompasses straight and cisgender allies, as well as those within the LGBTQ+ community who support each other (e.g., a lesbian who is an ally to the bisexual community).

Aromantic | Aromantic refers to a complete or partial lack of romantic attraction to others. Aromantic identities and experiences exist on a spectrum, and aromantic people may experience no, little, or conditional romantic attraction.

Asexual | Often called “ace” for short, asexual refers to a complete or partial lack of sexual attraction or lack of interest in sexual activity with others. Asexuality exists on a spectrum, and asexual people may experience no, little, or conditional sexual attraction.

Biphobia | The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, people who love and are sexually attracted to more than one gender.

Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to more than one gender, though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way, or to the same degree. Sometimes used interchangeably with pansexual. From “The Bisexual Manifesto,” “Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit.”

Cisgender | A person whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth. A cisgender/cis person is not transgender. Cis has traditionally been used as a prefix, the same as trans has, and comes from the latin meaning “on the same side as”, which sits opposite trans, from the latin “on the opposite side as”. In discussions regarding trans issues, one would differentiate between women who are trans and women who aren’t by saying trans women and cis women.

Gay | A person who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to members of the same gender. Cis/Trans men, Cis/Trans women, and non-binary people may use this term to describe themselves.

Genderqueer | Genderqueer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as “genderqueer” may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female, or as falling completely outside these categories.

Gender binary | A system in which gender is socially constructed into strict binary categories of male or female. Gender identity is expected to align with the sex assigned at birth, and gender expressions and roles are expected to fit traditional expectations. The gender binary, as described, is largely a part of Western culture and thought. Throughout recorded history and since time immemorial, thriving cultures have recognized, revered, and integrated more than two genders.

Gender dysphoria | The experience of distress or unease sometimes experienced from being misgendered and/or when someone’s gender and body personally don’t feel connected or congruent. Also a DSM-5 diagnosis characterized by a marked incongruence between one’s experienced gender and physical characteristics, and a strong desire for medical affirmation.

Gender-expansive | A person with a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system. Often used as an umbrella term when referring to people exploring the possibilities of their gender expression and/or gender identity.

Gender expression | External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, body characteristics, or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender identity | Each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is a person’s sense of being a man, woman, both, neither, or any other or no gender. This is different from sex assigned at birth. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity do not align.

Genderfluid | A person who does not identify with a single fixed gender or has a fluid or unfixed gender identity. 

Homophobia | The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Intersectionality | The complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, transphobia, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect. According to Kimberlé Crenshaw, it is “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LGBTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.”

Intersex | Intersex people are born with a variety of differences in their sex traits and reproductive anatomy. There is a wide variety of differences among intersex variations, including differences in genitalia, chromosomes, gonads, internal sex organs, hormone production, hormone response, and/or secondary sex traits.

Lesbian | A Cis/Trans woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women. Cis/Trans women and non-binary people may use this term to describe themselves.

Misgendering | Referring to someone by words or language that is not affirming for them, such as using a former name or pronoun, or making assumptions about their appearance.

Non-binary | An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do. Non-binary can also be used as an umbrella term encompassing identities such as agender, bigender, genderqueer, or gender-fluid.

Outing | Exposing someone’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, or other LGBTQIA+ identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety, or religious or family situations.

Pansexual | Describes someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to people of any gender though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. Sometimes used interchangeably with bisexual.

Queer | A term people often use to express a spectrum of identities and orientations that are counter to the mainstream. Queer is often used as a catch-all to include many people, including those who do not identify as exclusively straight and/or folks who have non-binary or gender-expansive identities. This term was previously used as a slur but has been reclaimed by many parts of the LGBTQ+ movement.

Questioning | A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Same-gender loving | A term some prefer to use instead of lesbian, gay, or bisexual to express attraction to and love of people of the same gender.

Sex assigned at birth | The sex — male, female, or intersex — that a doctor or midwife uses to describe a child at birth based on their external anatomy.

Sexual orientation | An enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people. Sexual orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation.

Transgender | An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Transitioning | A series of processes that some transgender people may undergo in order to live more fully as their true gender. This typically includes social transition, such as changing name and pronouns, medical transition, which may include hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries, and legal transition, which may include changing legal name and sex on government identity documents. Transgender people may choose to undergo some, all, or none of these processes.

Transphobia | Fear or hatred towards transgender people, or the belief or idea that transgender people aren’t real or are somehow not valid in their own identity. Transphobia is deeply institutionalized and causes direct harm and loss of life for transgender people.  

Two-Spirit | The vast majority of Indigenous languages spoken in North America have specific terms that refer to people whose gender identity does not fit within a male/female gender binary. Many of these are difficult to translate into English because they describe identities that are at once about one’s role in a spiritual and cultural system, as well as expressive of gender identity and/or sexuality. Two-Spirit is an English term that is sometimes used in lieu of these terms in Indigenous languages. In some cases, Two-Spirit is used as an umbrella term by Indigenous people who also identify with another LGBTQ+ identity (gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, etc.).