LGBT terminology glossary

Androgyny: A person who identifies as both or neither of the two culturally defined genders, a person who expresses merged culturally defined genders, or a person who expresses merged culturally/stereotypically feminine and masculine characteristics or mainly neutral characteristics.

Bi-gender and tri-gender: describes a person who feels they exhibit two or three genders. The genders may include male or female or any gender outside of the gender spectrum. Some bigender/trigender individuals distinctly switch genders, sometimes using different personas for either gender to feel comfortable in at any given time.

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.

Biological Sex: This can be considered our “packaging” and is determined by our chromosomes (XX for females; XY for males); our hormones (estrogen/progesterone for females, testosterone for males); and our internal and external genitalia (vulva, clitoris, vagina for females, penis and testicles for males). About 1.7% of the population can be defined as intersex—born with biological aspects of both sexes to varying degrees. So, in actuality, there are more than two sexes.

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.  Phrases such as, “being bisexual is a phase” or “bisexuality doesn’t exist” are examples of biphobic language.

Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to both men and women. Some people avoid this term because of its implications that there are only two sexes/genders to be sexually attracted to and this reinforces the binary gender system.  Many people use the term bisexual to include being attracted to intersex and trans* people.

Cisgender: Cisgender is a gender identity where an individual’s self-perception and presentation of their gender matches the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s assigned sex at birth.

Coming Out (of the closet): To be “in the closet” means to hide one’s identity. Many LGBT people are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others. To “come out” is to publicly declare one’s identity, sometimes to one person in conversation, sometimes to a group or in a public setting. Coming Out is a life-long process—in each new situation a person must decide whether or not to come out. Coming out can be difficult for some because reactions vary from complete acceptance and support to disapproval, rejection and violence.

Cross Dresser: Someone who enjoys wearing clothing typically assigned to a gender that the individual has not been socialized as, or does not identify as. Cross-dressers are of all sexual orientations and do not necessarily identify as transgender. Cross-dresser is frequently used today in place of the term transvestite.

Drag King: Typically, a female identified person who emulates a man in appearance and manner, for the purposes of entertainment and performance, and not necessarily because the person identifies as a man or as trans*.

Drag Queen: Typically, a male identified person  male who emulates a woman, in appearance and manner, for the purposes of entertainment and performance, and not necessarily because the person identifies as a woman or as trans*.

Gay: A homosexual person, usually used to describe men who are attracted to men but may be used to describe women attracted to women as well.

Gender Expression: How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Genderqueer: A term which refers to individuals or groups who problematize the hegemonic notions of sex, gender, and desire in a given society. Genderqueer people possess identities that fall outside of the widely accepted gender binary. Genderqueer may also refer to people who identify both as transgender and queer, ie. Individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.

Gender Role: This is the set of roles and behaviors assigned to females and males by society. Our culture recognizes two basic gender roles: masculine (having the qualities typically attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities typically attributed to females). People who step out of their socially assigned gender roles are sometimes referred to as transgender. Though transgender has increasingly become an umbrella term referring to people who cross gender/sex barriers, many people find any umbrella term problematic because it reduces different identities into one oversimplified category.

Heterosexism: Bias against non-heterosexuals based on a belief in the superiority of heterosexuality. Heterosexism does not imply the same fear and hatred as homophobia. It can describe seemingly innocent statements, such as “She’d drive any man wild” based on the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm.

Heterosexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted and committed to the members of a gender or sex that is seen to be the ‘opposite’ or other than the one with which they identify.

Homophobia: Refers to a fear or hatred of homosexuality, especially in others, but also in oneself (internalized homophobia).

Homosexual: A person who is primarily and/or exclusively attracted to members of what they identify as their own sex or gender. ‘Homosexual’ is a clinical term that originated in the late 1800s. Some avoid the word because it contains the base word ‘sex’. Orientation has more to do with the issue of attraction than of sex, and it is believed that the use of ‘homosexual’ devalues the orientation of individuals.

Intersex: a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. Intersex is a socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation (at least 1 in 1500 are born with some intersex condition). People who identify as trans* are usually people who are born with typical male or female anatomies. Whereas, people who have intersex conditions have anatomy that is not considered typically male or female.

Passing: A term used by trans* people to mean that they are seen as the gender they self-identify as.

Queer: Historically a negative term used against people perceived to be LGBT, “queer” has more recently been reclaimed by some people as a positive term describing all those who do not conform to rigid notions of gender and sexuality. Queer is often used in a political context and in academic settings to challenge traditional ideas about identity (“queer theory”). Used as an umbrella identity term encompassing gay, lesbian, questioning, bisexual, non-labelling, trans* people, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual.

Questioning: Refers to people who are uncertain as to their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are often seeking information and support during this stage of their identity development.

Sexual Identity: This is how we perceive and what we call ourselves. Such labels include “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “bi,” “queer,” “questioning,” “heterosexual,” “straight,” and others. Sexual Identity evolves through a developmental process that varies depending on the individual. Our sexual behavior and how we define ourselves (identity) can be chosen. Though some people claim their sexual orientation is also a choice, for others this does not seem to be the case.

Sexual Orientation: This is determined by our sexual and emotional attractions. Categories of sexual orientation include homosexuals—gay, lesbian—attracted to some members of the same sex; bisexuals, attracted to some members of more than one sex; and heterosexuals, attracted to some members of another sex. Though the origins of sexuality are not completely understood, it is generally believed to be established before the age of five.

SOFFA: which stands for Significant Other, Friends, Families, and Allies: refers to the people close to a person who is transitioning or transgender. These people, particularly partners and other family members, also go through a transition related to their relationship with the trans* person.

Straight Ally: Commonly recognized as a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in their own personal and professional life through support of and as an advocate with and for an oppressed population. The term ‘ally’ can be expanded to include LGBTQ identified people who are allies within their communities.

Trans*: Trans* (with an asterisk) is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the transgender identity spectrum. There’s a ton of diversity there, but we often group them all together (e.g., when we say “trans*” issues). Trans (without the asterisk) is best applied to trans men and trans women, while the asterisk makes special note in an effort to include all non- cisgender gender identities.

Transgender: Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth, including but not limited to transsexuals, crossdressers, androgynous people, genderqueers, and gender non- conforming people. Transgender is a broad term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.”

Transphobia: Fear or hatred of trans* people, or anyone who transgresses the gender binary system.  Transphobia is manifested in a number of ways, including violence, harassment, and discrimination.

Transsexual: A term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth. Often transsexual people alter or wish to alter their bodies through hormones or surgery in order to make their body match their gender identity.

Two-spirit: A contemporary term that references historical multiple-gender traditions in many First Nations cultures. Many Native/First Nations people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming identify as Two-Spirit; in many Nations, being Two-Spirit carries both great respect and additional commitments and responsibilities to one’s community.


Transgender / Transexual Medical References

Pre-op: Term used within some transgender circles to describe individuals who have not undergone and surgical changes to their bodies.

Post-op: Term used to describe individuals who have had a surgical procedure to change an aspect of their appearance.

Chest surgery/Top surgery: Typically refers to when a person is having their chest reconstructed to fit the sex they seek to identify with – this may mean having fuller breast implants or having breasts removed.

Facial Feminization: Various procedures that are done to change the shape of their face to make it more feminine.

Bottom Surgery: Typically refers to when a person is having their genitalia reconstructed to fit the sex they seek to identify with.

Penectomy – Removal of the penis, where the shaft of the penis is used to create the neo vagina.

Phalloplasty – Construction of a penis typically using skin from ones forearm

Vaginectomy – the closing of the vaginal opening from the bottom and opening from the top internally

Metoidioplasty – Releasing of an enlarged clitoris so that it resembles a penis

Labiaplasty – Typically done for MTFs when they use the scrotum to construct a new labia

Hysterectomy – removal of uterus (some states require people to have this procedure in order to legally transition)

Opherectomy – removal of the ovaries

Scrotoplasty – construction of the scrotum using labia

Cross-Hormonal Therapy: the use of testosterone (FTM) or estrogen (MTF) to biologically produce secondary physical characteristics.