Terminology and Definitions
A note about these definitions:
These definitions are taken, compiled and adapted from various online resources and combined with the Terminology Sheet created by Eli R. Green (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Eric N. Peterson at the LGBT Resource Center at UC Riverside 2003-2004. We have done our best to represent the most popular uses of the terms listed; however there may be some variation in definitions depending on geographical location. Please note that each person who uses any or all of these terms does so in unique ways (especially terms that are used in the context of an identity label). If you do not understand the context in which a person is using one of these terms, it is always appropriate to ask. This is especially recommended when using terms that we have noted that can have a derogatory connotation.
Ally – 1. Someone who confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and genderstraight privilege in themselves and others; a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people; and a belief that heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are social justice issues. 2. A person who does not identify as LGBT, but who fully and actively supports efforts towards LGBT equality, inclusion and liberation.
Androgyne – Person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.
Asexual – Person who is not sexually attracted to anyone or does not have a sexual orientation.
Bicurious – A curiosity about having sexual relations with a same gender/sex person.
Binding – The process of flattening one’s breasts to have a more masculine or flat appearing chest.
Binary Gender System - A culturally/socially deigned code of acceptable behaviors which teach that there are men and women, who are masculine and feminine respectively, and that there is nothing outside of this system. For example, men are not born with a desire to play with trucks, and women are not born with a desire to wear dresses. These are expressions of gender taught by the culture-at-large.
Biphobia - The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of bisexuals, which is often times related to the current binary standard. Biphobia can be seen within the LGBTQI community, as well as in general society.
Bisexual – A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to males/men and females/women. This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders and there may be a preference for one gender over others. (clinical term).
Bottom Surgery – Surgery on the genitals designed to create a body in harmony with a person’s preferred gender expression.
Butch – A person who identifies themselves as masculine, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. ‘Butch’ is sometimes used as a derogatory term for lesbians, but it can also be claimed as an affirmative identity label.
Cisgender – Term used to describe people who, for the most part, identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. Because, referring to cisgender people as ‘non trans’ implies that cisgender people are the default and that being trans is abnormal. Many people have said ‘transgender people’ and ‘normal people’, but when we say ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ neither is implied as more normal than the other. The colloquial use of cisgender suggests that it is the opposite of transgender. If you’re not trans*, then you’re cis (abbreviated form of cisgender). This is not entirely true, because there are people who transition (eg. take hormones, identify as a different gender than what they were assigned with at birth, surgeries, etc.) who do not identify as trans or transgender. Usage - Cisgender is an adjective and is sometimes used as “cisgendered.” Examples: “Cisgender folks will never know what it’s like to be trans.” OR “Hi, my name is Mary, and I am cisgender. I prefer she/her/hers as pronouns.”
Coming Out – 1. The process of becoming aware of, understanding, and accepting the sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression of oneself, and/or the process of disclosing one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression to others. 2. May refer to the process by which one accepts one’s own sexuality, gender identity, or status as an intersexed person (to “come out” to oneself). May also refer to the process by which one shares one’s sexuality, gender identity, or intersexed status with others (to “come out” to friends, etc.). This can be a continual, life-long process for homosexual, bisexual, transgendered, and intersexed individuals.
Cross-dresser – A person who, on occasion, wears the clothing considered typical for another gender, but who does not desire to change their gender. Generally, the term “cross-dresser” refers to heterosexual men who dress in women’s clothing for sexual/erotic pleasure. Previously, cross-dressers were referred to as “transvestites”, however, “transvestite” is not considered a part of generally accepted terminology today. It is inappropriate to refer to someone who identifies as transgender or transsexual as a “cross-dresser”.
D&D – An abbreviation for drug and disease free.
Discrimination – Prejudice + power. It occurs when members of a more powerful social group behave unjustly or cruelly to members of a less powerful social group. Discrimination can take many forms, including both individual acts of hatred or injustice and institutional denials of privileges normally accorded to other groups. Ongoing discrimination creates a climate of oppression for the affected group.
Drag - The performance of one or multiple genders theatrically.
Drag Queen/King: A person who dresses in clothing of generally considered typical for another gender for entertainment purposes and who does not desire to change their gender.
Dyke – Derogatory term referring to a masculine lesbian. Sometimes adopted affirmatively by lesbians (not necessarily masculine ones) to refer to themselves.
Fag – Derogatory term referring to someone perceived as non-heteronormative.
Fag Hag – A term primarily used to describe women who prefer the social company of gay men. While this term is claimed in an affirmative manner by some, it is largely regarded as derogatory.
Femme – Feminine identified person of any gender/sex.
FTM / F2M - Abbreviation for female-to-male transgender or transsexual person.
Gay – 1. Term used in some cultural settings to represent males who are attracted to males in a romantic, erotic and/or emotional sense. Not all men who engage in “homosexual behavior” identify as gay, and as such this label should be used with caution. 2. Term used to refer to the LGBTQI community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.
Gender Expression- How one expresses one’s gender externally to the outside world.
Gender Identity - The inner sense of being man/male, woman/female, both, neither, butch, femme, two-spirit, multi-gender, bi-gender, or another configuration of gender. Gender identity usually matches with one’s physical anatomy, but not always. Gender Identity includes one’s sense of self, the image that one presents to the world, and how one is perceived by the world.
Gender Normative – A person who by nature or by choice conforms to gender based expectations of society.
Gender Variant – A person who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society (e.g. transgender, transsexual, intersex, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc.).
Genderqueer – A gender variant person whose gender identity is neither male nor female, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. Often includes a political agenda to challenge gender stereotypes and the gender binary system.
Hermaphrodite—An out-of-date and offensive term for an intersexed person.
Heteronormativity—The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality and bisexuality.
Heterosexism – Prejudice against individuals and groups who display nonheterosexual behaviors or identities, combined with the majority power to impose such prejudice. Usually used to the advantage of the group in power. Any attitude, action, or practice – backed by institutional power – that subordinates people because of their sexual orientation.
HIV-phobia – The irrational fear or hatred of persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Homosexual – A clinical term used to describe one who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted primarily to those of the same gender. Often viewed with a negative connotation by many members of the LGBT community because of its historical use as a degrading term.
In the Closet – Refers to a homosexual, bisexual, transperson or intersex person who will not or cannot disclose their sex, sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, co-workers, or society.
Intersexed Person — A person born with anatomy or physiology of both male and female biological sex characteristics, or with biological sex characteristics that cannot be classified as either male or female. A person whose combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, gonads, and/or genitals differs from one of the two expected patterns. Previous terminology included “hermaphrodite”, however this language is not longer considered generally acceptable.
Lesbian – A person who identifies as a woman, and who is emotionally, spiritually, physically and/or sexually attracted primarily to members of the same gender.
Lesbian Baiting -The heterosexist notion that any woman who prefers the company of woman, or who does not have a male partner, is a lesbian.
LGBTQI – A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersexed community.
Metrosexual - First used in 1994 by British journalist Mark Simpson, who coined the term to refer to an urban, heterosexual male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. This term can be perceived as derogatory because it reinforces stereotypes that all gay men are fashion-conscious and materialistic.
MTF / M2F – Abbreviation for male-to-female transgender or transsexual person.
Oppression – The systematic subjugation of a group of people by another group with access to social power, the result of which benefits one group over the other and is maintained by social beliefs and practices.
Outing – Involuntary disclosure of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status.
Packing – Wearing a phallic device on the groin and under clothing for any purposes including: (for someone without a biological penis) the validation or confirmation of one’s masculine gender identity.
Pansexual – A person who is sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions.
Passing – Describes a person's ability to be accepted as their preferred gender/sex or race/ethnic identity or to be seen as heterosexual.
Prejudice – A conscious or unconscious negative belief about a whole group of people and its individual members.
QUILTBAG - Acronym standing for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer. It is meant to be a more inclusive term than GLBT/LGBT and to be more pronounceable (and memorable) than some of the other variations or extensions on the GLBT/LGBT abbreviation. Usage - Queer Dictionary is meant to be a repository where terminology that’s used in the QUILTBAG community is explained.
Queer – 1. An umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively- heterosexual-and-monogamous majority. Queer includes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transpeople, intersex persons, the radical sex communities, and many other sexually transgressive (underworld) explorers. 2. A reclaimed word that was formerly used solely as a slur but that has been semantically overturned by members of the maligned group, who use it as a term of defiant pride. Historically and presently used as a slur to describe those who transgress “norms” of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. This word has also been reclaimed by facets within the LGBT community as a self-descriptor and all-encompassing term, though it is considered offensive for someone who is not “in” the community to use this word. Extreme caution must be taken concerning their use when one is not a member of the group.
Sex (biological definition)- A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. Because usually subdivided into ‘male’ and ‘female’, this category does not recognize the existence of intersexed bodies.
Sex Identity – How a person identifies physically: female, male, in between, beyond, or neither.
Sexual Orientation – The desire for intimate emotional and/or sexual relationships with people of the same gender/sex, another gender/sex, or multiple genders/sexes.
Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) – A term used by some medical professionals to refer to a group of surgical options that alter a person’s “sex”.
Sexuality – A person’s exploration of sexual acts, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, and desire.
Straight - A word commonly used to refer to one who is heterosexual, or one who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted primarily to members of the opposite gender.
Straight-Acting – A term usually applied to gay men who readily pass as heterosexual. The term implies that there is a certain way that gay men should act that is significantly different from heterosexual men. Straight-acting gay men are often looked down upon in the LGBTQ community for seemingly accessing heterosexual privilege.
Top Surgery - This term usually refers to surgery for the construction of a maletype chest, but may also refer to breast augmentation.
Trans - An abbreviation that is sometimes used to refer to a gender variant person. This use allows a person to state a gender variant identity without having to disclose hormonal or surgical status/intentions. This term is sometimes used to refer to the gender variant community as a whole.
Transactivism- The political and social movement to create equality for gender variant persons.
Transgender – A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex. Transgender is an umbrella term that is used to describe those who transgress socially constructed gender norms. As an umbrella term, transgender can include various communities such as transsexuals, intersex individuals, cross-dressers, drag queens, etc. Most commonly, however, transgender is the preferred term used to refer to someone who identifies as transsexual, or a person whose biological sex does not match the person’s gender identity. Not all transgender people take steps to alter their physical presentation. Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity.
Transition – This term is primarily used to refer to the process a gender variant person undergoes when changing their bodily appearance either to be more congruent with the gender/sex they feel themselves to be and/or to be in harmony with their preferred gender expression.
Transman—An identity label sometimes adopted by female-to-male transsexuals to signify that they are men while still affirming their history as females.
Transphobia – The irrational fear of those who are gender variant and/or the inability to deal with gender ambiguity.
Transsexual – An individual who experiences intense discomfort with their body and self-image as a result of identifying with a gender that does not match their biological sex, and who takes steps to adapt their body, gender role and gender expression in order to achieve congruence with their gender identity. Transsexual is considered a more clinical term and is generally reserved for individuals who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery. Some individuals choose not to identify as transgender or transsexual once they have completed transition.
Transvestite – An outdated term refering someone who dresses in clothing generally identified with the opposite gender/sex. While the terms ‘homosexual’ and ‘transvestite’ have been used synonymously, they are in fact signify two different groups. The majority of transvestites are heterosexual males who derive pleasure from dressing in “women’s clothing”. (The preferred term is ‘cross-dresser,’ but the term ‘transvestite’ is still used in a positive sense in England.)
Transwoman- An identity label sometimes adopted by male-to-female transsexuals to signify that they are women while still affirming their history as males.
Native persons who have attributes of both genders, have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with mystical rituals (shamans).
Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some gender variant persons. Pronounced /zee/ and /here,/ they replace “he”/”she” and “his”/”hers” respectively.