LGBTQ+ Glossary

Language is an extremely powerful tool. It allows us to generate ideas, share stories, and learn and grow from others. Whether spoken, signed, or written, all languages are constantly evolving, and, despite their imperfections, can help us better understand our world and communicate our perspective with others.

Download PDF

Many LGBTQ+ people use labels to express who they are. These labels can help listeners like you and me understand who that person is and how they wish to identify. Some labels are often used universally by LGBTQ+ people, while others relate to the following concepts specifically:

Gender Expression (GE). The external manifestations of gender, expressed through such things as names, pronouns, clothing, haircuts, behavior, voice, body characteristics, and more.

Gender Identity (GI). One’s internal, deeply held sense of gender. Some people identify completely with the gender they were assigned at birth (usually male or female), while others may identify with only a part of that gender, or not at all. Some people identify with another gender entirely. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others.

Sex (S). At birth, infants are commonly assigned a sex. This is usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy, and is often confused with gender. However, a person’s sex is actually a combination of bodily characteristics including chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics. As a result, there are many more sexes than just male and female, just like there are many more genders than just male and female, as well.

Sexual Orientation (SO). The desire one has for emotional, romantic, and/or sexual relationships with others based on their gender expression, gender identity, and/or sex. Many people choose to label their sexual orientation, while others do not.

Please note that the following list of words is by no means comprehensive. There are many more words out there that represent the vast diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. For many, it’s a living and evolving language. To learn more, check out such great resources as the Gender Nation Glossaryfrom Refinery29 or the Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) website.

Ally

Noun. Someone who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ social movements; advocates on behalf of others; and challenges fear and discrimination in all its forms.

Androgynous or Stemme (GE)

Adjective. Androgynous, or androgyne, is someone who presents as neither male or female, mixed, or neutral. And stemme, or stem, is someone whose gender expression is both masculine and feminine.

Asexual, or ace (SO)

Adjective. Someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction, or who experiences attraction but doesn’t feel the need to act out that attraction sexually.

Bisexual, or bi (SO)

Adjective. Someone who is attracted to those of their same gender as well as to those of a different gender (for example, a woman who is attracted to both women and men).

Black Lives Matter (BLM)

Noun. An international activist movement bringing justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe.

Butch, or masc (GE)

Adjective. Someone whose gender expression is masculine. Butch is sometimes used as a derogatory term for lesbians, but it can also be claimed as an affirmative identity label.

Chosen Family

Noun. A group of people who are not necessarily biologically or legally related, but who play significant roles in each others lives, providing unconditional and mutual love and support.

Cisgender, or cis (GI)

Adjective. A person whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth.

Coming Out

Verb, noun. The process through which a person accepts their sexual orientation and/or gender identity as part of their overall identity.

Drag (GE)

Noun, adjective. The act of performing a gender or presenting as a different gender, usually for the purpose of entertainment (i.e. drag kings and queens).

Femme, or fem (GE)

Adjective. Someone whose gender expression is feminine.

Gay (SO)

Adjective. Someone who is attracted to those of their same gender. This is often used as an umbrella term, but is used more specifically to describe men who are attracted to men.

Gender Dysphoria, Gender Euphoria

Noun. Gender dysphoria is the feeling of significant discomfort or distress related to one's biological sex, gender identity, or expression. Gender euphoria is the feeling of significant right-ness or comfort with one's biological sex, gender identity, or expression.

Gender Expression, or GE

Noun. The external manifestations of gender, expressed through such things as names, pronouns, clothing, haircuts, behavior, voice, body characteristics, and more.

Gender Identity, or GI

Noun. One’s internal, deeply held sense of gender.

Gender Expansive, Genderqueer, Gender Nonconforming (GE, GI)

Adjectives. Someone whose gender identity and/or gender expression expands beyond, actively resists, and/or does not conform to the current cultural or social expectations of gender, particularly in relation to male or female.

Inclusive Language

Adjective. Expressions or words that do not exclude particular groups of people, identities, or experiences.

Intersectionality

Noun. The idea that people who find themselves at the crossroads of multiple identities (for example, in terms of race, gender, or sexuality) experience discrimination in a way uniquely different from those who they may only share one or some identities in common.

Intersex (S)

Adjective. Someone who, due to a variety of factors, has reproductive or sexual anatomy that do not seem to fit the typical definitions for the female or male sex. Some people who are intersex may identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, while many others do not.

Lesbian (SO)

Adjective, noun. A woman who is attracted to other women. Some lesbians prefer to identify as gay women.

LGBTQ+ (GE, GI, S, SO)

Adjective. The acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” (sometimes seen as “GLBT”).

Misgender, Deadname (GE, GI)

Verb. To refer to someone using a word, pronoun, or name that does not correctly reflect their gender identity. This is offensive and harmful. To accidentally misgender or deadname someone can be understandable, but should be corrected quickly and can be avoided with practice.

Nonbinary (GI)

Adjective. A person who's gender identity does not conform to the gender binary, which is the erroneous idea that only two distinct and opposite genders exist, male and female.

Pansexual, or pan (SO)

Adjective. Someone who is attracted to people of any or all genders.

Pride (GE, GI, S, SO)

Noun. The celebration of LGBTQ+ identities, and of the global LGBTQ+ community’s resistance against discrimination and violence.

Pronouns, Neopronouns (GI, GE)

Noun. A word used in place of a name to refer to someone, often in relation to their gender. Gendered pronouns include she/her/hers and he/him/his. (For example, "She marched in the Pride Parade.") Gender-neutral pronouns include they/them/theirs, used in the singular. (For example, "They are a member of the GSA.") There are also neopronouns that include ze/zir/zirs, ey/em/eirs, and per/per/pers, as well as many others.

Queer (GE, GI, S, SO)

Adjective. In a very basic sense, anyone who is not heterosexual and/or cisgender. In the past, queer was a negative or pejorative term for people who are gay, and thus it is sometimes disliked. But the term is increasingly being used to describe all identities and politics that go against normative beliefs.

Questioning (GI, GE, SO)

Noun, verb. A time in many people’s lives when they question or experiment with their gender expression, gender identity, and/or sexual orientation.

Sex Assigned at Birth, or S

Noun. At birth, infants are commonly assigned a sex. This is usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy, and is often confused with gender.

Sexual Orientation, or SO

Noun. The desire one has for emotional, romantic, and/or sexual relationships with others based on their gender expression, gender identity, and/or sex. Many people choose to label their sexual orientation, while others do not.

Social Construct

Noun. An idea or concept that was created, accepted, and perpetuated in a society (typically subconsciously).

Straight, or heterosexual (SO)

Adjective. A word to describe women who are attracted to men and men who are attracted to women.

They/Them/Their (GE)

Pronouns. One of many sets of gender-neutral singular pronouns in English that can be used as an alternative to he/him/his or she/her/hers.

Transgender, or trans (GI)

Adjective. Someone whose gender identity differs from the one that was assigned to them at birth.

Transition (GE)

Verb. The process through which some transgender people change their gender expression to more closely resemble how they view their gender identity.

Two-Spirit (GE, GI, S)

A modern umbrella term used within Indigenous communities of North America that bridges Indigenous and Western understandings of gender and sexuality.