Agender: A person who does not conform to any gender.
Ally: A term used to describe someone who does not identify as LGBT but who is supportive of LGBT equality through a wide variety of different expressions, both personal and private.
Androgynous: A non-binary identity, having both of what are traditionally seen as male and female characteristics. Can be used to describe people’s appearance.
Assigned Sex: The sex (male, female, intersex) that is assigned to an infant at birth, typically based on the baby’s external genitals.
Bisexual: An individual who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to men and women. This is sometimes stated as “bi.” People who are bisexual need not have had equal sexual experience with both men and women or any sexual experience at all. It is attraction that determines orientation.
Cisgender: A word used to describe someone whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth. This term is sometimes preferable to “non-transgender”.
Closeted: Describes a person who is not open about their sexual orientation, or an ally who is not open about their support. This term is not appropriate to use when referring to people who identify as transgender — see Disclosure.
Coming Out: For people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), the process of self-acceptance that continues throughout one’s life. People often establish an LGBT identity to themselves first and then may decide to reveal it to others. Coming out can also apply to the family and allies of people who are LGBT. There are many different degrees of being out: some may be out to friends only, some may be out publicly, and some may be out only to themselves.
Disclosure: The act or process of revealing one’s transgender or gender nonconforming identity to another person in a specific instance. Related to but not the same as coming out.
Drag king/Drag queen: Someone who dresses in either male (king) or female (queen) clothing as performance. People of all assigned sexes and gender identities can perform drag, and it does not necessarily follow that the individual will identify as transgender.
FTM (Female-to-Male): A term that describes someone who was assigned a female sex and gender at birth and has a male gender identity. The individual may or may not have had surgery or taken hormones to physically alter their appearance. “Affirmed male” is sometimes a preferred terminology.
Gay: The adjective used to describe people whose emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction is to people of the same sex (e.g., gay man, gay people). In contemporary contexts, “lesbian” is often a preferred term for women. People who are gay need not have had any sexual experience. Attraction determines orientation. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals” — see Homosexual.
Gender Expression: The manner in which a person chooses to communicate their gender identity to others through external means such as clothing and/or mannerisms. This communication may be conscious or subconscious and may or may not reflect their gender identity or sexual orientation. While most people’s understandings of gender expressions relate to masculinity and femininity, there are countless combinations that may incorporate both masculine and feminine expressions—or neither— through androgynous expressions. The important thing to remember and respect is that every gender expression is valid.
Gender Identity: Deeply held personal, internal sense of being male, female, some of both, or neither. Gender identity doesn’t always correspond to biological sex (i.e., a person assigned female at birth identifying as male, or a person assigned male at birth identifying as female). Awareness of gender identity is usually experienced in infancy and reinforced in adolescence.
Gender Nonconforming: A person who views their gender identity as one of many genders beyond the binaries of female or male. This is an umbrella term that can encompass other terms such as “gender creative,” “gender expansive,” “genderqueer,” “gender fluid”, “gender neutral,” “bigender,” “androgynous,” or “gender diverse.”
Gender Norm: Societal expectations about how people of different genders are supposed to act, live, and look.
Gender Policing: Enforcing gender norms and attempting to impose gender-based behaviors on another person.
Genderqueer: A term that is sometimes used to describe someone who defines their gender outside the constructs of male and female. This can include having no gender (agender), being androgynous, or having elements of multiple genders.
Homosexual: An outdated clinical term often considered offensive, as opposed to the preferred terms, gay and lesbian.
Intersex/disorders of sex development (DSD): A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy or genetic construct that does not fit the typical definitions of male and female. Not everyone who has one of these conditions identifies as intersex. This term is not interchangeable with transgender.
Lesbian: A woman whose emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction is to other women. People who are lesbians need not have had any sexual experience. Attraction determines orientation.
LGBT/GLBT: An acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender which refers to these individuals collectively. It is sometimes stated as “GLBT” (gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender). Occasionally, the acronym is stated as “LGBTA” to include allies, or “LGBTQ,” with “Q” representing queer or questioning.
Lifestyle: A negative term often incorrectly used to describe the lives of LGBT people. The term is disliked by the LGBT community because it implies that being LGBT is a choice.
Equality Terminology (continued)
MTF (Male-to-Female): A term that describes someone who was assigned a male sex and gender at birth and has a female gender identity. The individual may or may not have had surgery or taken hormones to physically alter their appearance. “Affirmed female” is sometimes a preferred term for FTM.
Out: People who self-identify as LGBT or allies in their public and/or professional lives.
Partner/Spouse: A way to talk about someone’s boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife without mentioning gender. Using these words allows you to be more inclusive, putting LGBT people at ease. This is sometimes referred to as “inclusive language”.
Queer: Traditionally a negative term for people who are gay, “queer” is disliked by some who find it offensive. However, it currently is used by some people—particularly youth—to describe themselves and/or their community. Some value the term for its defiance, some like it because it can be inclusive of the entire community, and others find it to be an appropriate term to describe their fluid identities. Due to its varying meanings, this word should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who identifies as queer
(e.g., “My cousin self-identifies as queer.”)
Sexual Orientation: Emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings toward other people. Sexual orientation is part of the human condition, while sexual behavior involves acting on one’s sexual orientation. A person’s sexual activity does not define who they are with regard to their sexual orientation. It is their attraction that determines orientation.
Trans Man: A person who is transgender who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a man.
Trans Woman: A person who is transgender who was assigned male at birth and identifies as a woman.
Transgender: A term used to describe people whose gender expression does not conform to the cultural norms and/or whose gender identity is different from their sex assigned at birth. Transgender is considered by some to be an “umbrella term” that encompasses a number of identities which transcend the conventional expectations of gender identity and expression, including FTM, MTF, genderqueer, and gender expansive. People who identify as transgender may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity.
Transition: The process one goes through to discover and/or affirm their gender identity. Transitioning often happens in two realms: the social transition, which includes elements in the context of everyday life, social space, and legal realm, and the physical/medical transition, which may include taking hormones, having surgeries, or going through therapy. A physical/medical transition is not a “requirement” for being transgender.
Transexual: A term used to describe those who have undergone some form of gender-related surgery. Some people who identify as transsexual do not identify as transgender and vice versa.