LGBT+ Terminology & Definitions

A few notes about these definitions:
Each of these definitions have been carefully researched and closely analyzed from theoretical and practical perspectives for inclusiveness, cultural sensitivity, common usage, and general appropriateness. 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 location. Please note that each person who uses any or all of these terms does so in a unique way (especially terms that are used in the context of an identity label). Asking people for further information and/or clarification about the way in which they use the terms is encouraged. This is especially recommended when using terms which have been noted as having a potentially derogatory connotation.


Agender also referred to as "gender-neutral", is a term used to describe a person who does not identify with a particular gender. This person can be any physical sex, but their body does not necessarily correspond with their lack of gender identity. Often, agender persons are not concerned with their physical sex, but may seek to look androgynous.

Ally — A person who openly and actively advocates for the basic human rights of another community other than the one they identify with.

Androgyne / Androgynous — A person who appears and/or identifies as neither man nor woman, may present or identify as agender, can be mixed or neutral.

Asexual — A person who experiences little to no sexual attraction to others. People who identify as this may fall on a continuum of people who experience no sexual attraction, to those with low levels of sexual attraction, or only experience it under certain conditions.

Bicurious — A curiosity about having sexual relations with a same gender/sex person.

Bigender — A gender identity which encompasses two genders.

Biphobia — The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of bisexuals, which is often times related to the current binary societal standard of male/female. Biphobia can be seen within the LGBT+ community, as well as in general society.

Bisexual — A person who is sexually attracted two or more genders. This attraction is not necessarily equally split between the two and there may be a preference for one over the other.

Cisgender — A person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. This may also be referred to as “gender normative”.

Cisgender Privilege — Those societal benefits which are derived automatically from other’s perception of their gender and assigned sex at birth aligning and not having to think about or address topics that those without this have to deal with.

Coming Out — May refer to the process by which one accepts one’s own sexuality, gender identity, or status as an intersex person (to come out to oneself). May also refer to the process by which one shares one’s sexuality, gender identity, or intersex status with others (to come out to friends, etc.). This can be a continual, life-long process for homosexual, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals.

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 King — A person who performs masculinity theatrically.

Drag Queen — A person who performs femininity theatrically.

Erasure – When an identity is not represented or invalidated, often in reference to inclusion in media, societal structure, and in discourse even within the community.

Femme — Feminine identified person of any gender/sex.

FTM / F2M — Abbreviation for female-to-male transgender or transsexual person.

Gay — A person who is primarily attracted to others of the same sex or gender. Most commonly used when referring to men, and may be used by some as an umbrella term for the whole LGBT+ community.

Gender — In the context of the self, it is perception of self as a man, woman, both, neither, or somewhere in between. In the context of society, it is a system of classification rooted in societal ideas based in masculinity and femininity (the meanings of which may vary from culture to culture or society to society).

Gender Affirmation Surgery — A term used by medical professionals to refer to a group of surgical options (surgeries) that alter a person’s physical anatomy in ways that better align their body with their identified gender. In most states, one or multiple surgeries are required to achieve legal recognition of gender variance. It is a common misconception however that all transgender individuals must undergo gender affirmation surgery as part of their transition.

Gender Binary — The idea that there are only two genders male/female or man/woman and that a person must be strictly gendered as either/or.

Gender Expression — A person’s external display of their identified gender through their demeanor, social behavior, or other factors. This may change from day to day and is often viewed on a scale which includes androgyny, femininity, and masculinity.

Genderfluid  Someone who’s feeling of their own gender may change over time. This can be between binary genders or any number of other genders (e.g. someone who feels like a girl one day and a boy the next day identifies as gender fluid; so does someone who feels like a boy and throughout the month feels nonbinary and later agender).

Gender Identity — A person’s internal perception of their own gender and how they label themselves. This may or may not align with the societally accepted definition of gender norms.

Gender Nonconforming — A way of expressing ones gender or physical appearance that indicates a gender identity or gender presentation which falls outside of the male/female gender binary that society often expects people to fall under, and which may not be considered a traditional form of expressing ones gender.

Gender Normative — See 'Cisgender'.

Genderqueer — A person whose gender exists outside of or beyond society’s concept of gender. This identity can be related to or in reaction to the social construction of gender, gender stereotypes and the gender binary system.

Getting / Being Read — How a person’s gender is perceived by a casual observer, based on gender cues / expression. (e.g. a butch woman being perceived as a man). Sometimes refers to a transperson being perceived as transgender, or another gender other than the gender they wish to be perceived by.

Heteronormative — The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, that being heterosexual is the norm, and that heterosexuality is superior to other sexual orientations.

Heterosexism — Prejudice against individuals and groups who display non-heterosexual 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.

Heterosexual Privilege — Those benefits derived automatically by being heterosexual that are denied to homosexuals and bisexuals. Also, the benefits homosexuals and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming heterosexual identity or denying homosexual or bisexual identity.

HIV-phobia — The irrational fear or hatred of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Homophobia — The irrational fear or hatred of homosexuals, homosexuality, or any behavior or belief that does not conform to rigid sex role stereotypes. It is this fear that enforces sexism as well as heterosexism. (See also, biphobia and transphobia)

Homosexual — A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Term is still used academically and in the medical field, but may be considered outdated by some individuals.

In the Closet — Refers to a homosexual, bisexual, transgender 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. An intersex person may be closeted due to ignorance about their status since standard medical practice is to correct, whenever possible, intersex conditions early in childhood and to hide the medical history from the patient. There are varying degrees of being in the closet; for example, a person can be out in their social life, but in the closet at work, or with their family. Also known as ‘being on the downlow'.

Institutional Oppression — Arrangements of a society used to benefit one group at the expense of another through the use of language, media, education, religion, economics, etc.

Internalized Oppression — The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.

Intersex Person — A person who is born with any combination of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or sexual reproductive organs which may not fit the typical definitions of male and female bodies. It is possible for these characteristics to be present internally and not present externally.

Lesbian — A person who identifies as female and is primarily attracted to others of the same sex or gender.

LGBT+ — A common abbreviation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. There are many other communities within the broader LGBT+ community. These include but are not limited to Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, Sapiosexual, and Pansexual (LGBTQQIAASP). Commonly, LGBT+ is used as an all-inclusive abbreviation of the former ‘LGBTQQIAASP’.

MTF / M2F — Abbreviation for male-to-female transgender person. Some transgender people use this term, but others prefer MTM, to point out that, while their sex was assigned male, their gender was always still male.

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.

Pansexual — A person whose romantic or sexual attraction to others is not based on the other person’s sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity/expression.

Personal Gender pronoun — The pronouns that a person uses for themselves when they are referring to themselves in the third person or when someone else is referring to them.. (See also “Spivakian pronouns” and “Ze/Hir/Hirs”)

Prejudice — A conscious or unconscious negative belief about a whole group of people and its individual members.

Romantic attraction — a feeling that causes people to desire a romantic relationship with a specific other person. Romantic attraction may exist with, or without, sexual attraction.

Romantic orientation — an individual's pattern of romantic attraction based on a person's gender. This is considered distinct from sexual orientation, which refers specifically to a person’s patterns of sexual attraction, which is distinct from romantic attraction. Related terms include heteroromantic –romantic attraction to a person of a different sex or gender-, homoromantic –romantic attraction to a person of the same sex or gender-, etc.

Queer — A slur that has been reclaimed by some members of the LGBT+ community. This term may be used as a person’s own identity label or as an umbrella term for the broader LGBT+ community, however LGBT+ individuals may consider this term highly offensive when being used as an umbrella term rather than as a person’s individual identity. The term refers to people with non-normative sexuality or gender. It is still used by some homophobic people today as a slur.

Questioning — A person is in the process of questioning their sexual or gender identity.

Sapiosexual — Experiencing sexual attraction to individuals on a cerebral rather than physical basis. Someone who is attracted to another person's display of intelligence.

Sex — 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 intersex bodies.

Sexual Orientation — A person’s inherent sense of emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to others of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to both or more sexes or genders.

Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) — See Gender Affirmation Surgery.

Sexuality — Categorization of who someone is sexually attracted to. Also called sexual orientation. (E.g. gay, bisexual, asexual, etc.).

Spivakian pronouns — New terms proposed to serve as gender-neutral, third-person, singular, personal pronouns in the English language. These neologisms are used by some people who feel that there are problems with gender-specific pronouns because they imply sex and/or gender. (See also, Personal Gender Pronouns)

Stereotype — A preconceived or oversimplified generalization about an entire group of people without regard for their individual differences. Though often negative, can also be complimentary. Even positive stereotypes can have a negative impact, however, simply because they involve broad generalizations that ignore individual realities.

Straight — Another term for heterosexual.

Straight-Acting — A term usually applied to gay men who readily pass as heterosexual. The term reinforces heteronormative thinking and implies that there is a certain way that gay men should act that is significantly different from heterosexual men.

Transgender (Trans) — A person whose gender does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth.. Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity. Abbreviated as ‘Trans’.

Transition — This term is primarily used to refer to the process a trans or non-binary person goes through to be comfortable with their gender. This can include social transitioning, such as name or pronoun changes or medical transition, such as starting hormones or undergoing gender affirmation surgery. Not all transgender people take the same steps to transition and some may decide not to transition in certain ways at all.

Transman — An individual who was assigned female at birth who now identifies as male. (See also, FTM / F2M)

Transphobia — The irrational fear of those who are gender diverse and/or the inability to deal with gender ambiguity. It is this fear that enforces sexism as well as cissexism.

Transwoman — An individual who was assigned male at birth who now identifies as female. (See also, MTF / M2F)

Two-Spirited — An umbrella term for a variety of non-binary gender identities seen across a variety of Native tribes across North America. Many have (or had) distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with mystical rituals (shamans). The term two-spirit is usually considered too specific to the Zuni tribe. Similar identity labels vary by tribe and include one-spirit and wintke.

Ze/Hir/Hirs — Gender neutral pronouns that are all-gender and preferred by some gender nonconforming and non-binary persons. (Pronounced zee/here/heres, they replace he/she, him/her, his/hers respectively.)


This list of terms was adapted from the LGBT Campus Resource Center at UCLA — www.lgbt.ucla.edu