Click on a letter below to see LGBTQ* language. This glossary is not meant to be exhaustive but as a reference to form a common culture around gender and sexual diversity.



In the LGBTQ* context, a person who supports and honors sexual and gender diversity, acts against heterosexist, and transphobic remarks and behaviors, and is willing to explore and understand these forms of bias within hirself.

Anyone without sexual drive and/or attraction. Many asexual individuals have deep and meaningful relationships with others exclusive of sexual intimacy. The term is also sometimes used as a “gender identity” by those who believe their lack of sexual attraction places them outside the standard definitions of gender.


Bi or Bisexual
A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, and/or relationally attracted to people of more than one gender, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. Some people who are attracted to more than one gender may still identify as “lesbian,” “gay,” or “straight,” because of their own personal definitions of those terms or feelings relating to their sexuality. On the other hand, some bisexuals consider themselves distinct from gays and lesbians but part of the larger LGBTQ* or queer community.

The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of bisexuals by people of any sexual orientation. Biphobic stereotypes may include promiscuity or confusion towards their sexual orientation. IN some cases, bisexuals are accused of bringing sexually transmitted disease into the heterosexual community. Gays and lesbians who express biphobia might accuse bisexuals of maintaining heterosexual privilege and collaborating with homophobes. The belief that bisexuality does not truly exist is another example of biphobia.

Bio-Man or Bio-Woman
Someone born as a biological man or woman. This is complicated language because of the nature of knowing what makes up biology.

Anyone whose gender identity or expression is boyish (regardless of sex).

Used as an adjective or noun, the term is used to describe someone of any gender who takes on or embodies culturally defined masculine traits. These may include dressing in traditionally masculine ways, enjoying traditionally masculine things, and does not necessarily imply a sexual orientation.


Cis-gender and Cis-sexual
Describe related types of gender identity where an individual's experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth. (often abbreviated to simply cis)

Being “in the closet” means keeping your sexual orientation in the closet because of fear of rejection, harassment, and anti-gay violence. However, like an actual closet, many LGBTQ* people find that this mental closet is an isolated, stifling place. “Closeted” an adjective describing a LGBTQ* person who represents him or herself as heterosexual or cis-gendered. A person may be “closeted” to some and “out” to others at the same time.

Coming Out
The developmental process in which a person acknowledges, accepts, and appreciates hir sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual identity. Coming out is a life long process, starting with coming out to oneself and then to others. An individual may be “out” in some situations or to certain family members or associates and not others.


Domestic Partners
Adults who are not legally married, but who share resources and responsibilities for decisions, share values and goals, and have commitments to one another over a period of time. Definitions may vary among city, ordinances, corporate policies, and even among those who identify themselves as domestic partners.

Double Men’s Symbol
Representing the planet Mars, this symbol represents men loving men.

Double Women’s Symbol
Representing the planet Venus, this symbol represents women loving women.

Down Low
A term used to refer to men who maintain a heterosexual identity in their daily lives, but engage in same-sex intercourse as a private part of their lives.

The act of dressing in gendered clothing as part of a performance. Drag may be performed as a political comment on gender, as parody or simply as entertainment. Drag performance does not indicate sexuality, gender identity or sex identity.

Drag Queen
A performer who uses exaggerated forms of feminine attire and attitudes, usually for entertainment purposes.

Drag King
A performer who uses exaggerated forms of masculine attire and attitudes, usually for entertainment purposes.

A derogatory slur for lesbians, now reclaimed by some as a term of pride.


En femme
A cross-dressing man when ze is wearing women’s clothing.

En drab
A cross-dressing man when ze is wearing men’s clothing.


Fag or Faggot
A derogatory slur for gay men, now reclaimed by some as a term of pride. Derived for the word faggot (literally “small bundle of sticks”), it is an allusion to the concept of flaunting sexuality, being “obvious” or “flaming.

Colloquial term used to identify other LGBTQ* community members. For example, an LGBTQ* person saying, “that person is family,” often means that the person they are referring to is LGBTQ* as well.

Family of Choice (chosen family)
Persons or groups of people who form an individual’s close social support network, often fulfilling the functions of blood relatives. Many LGBTQ* individuals face alienation or rejection form their families because of their identities, while others remain closeted to biological relatives. In many cases, it is the families of choice who will be called on in times of illness or personal crisis.

Family of Origin
Biological Family or the family in which one was raised, which may or may not be part of a person’s current support system.

Used as an adjective or noun, the term is used to describe someone of any gender who takes on or embody culturally defined feminine traits. These may include dressing in traditionally feminine ways, enjoying traditionally feminine things, and does not necessarily imply a sexual orientation.

Freedom Rings
Often used in necklaces, bracelets, rings and key chains, these six-colored aluminum rings are linked together and reminiscent of the Rainbow Flag. Wearing them has come to symbolize independence and acceptance of others.

Female to male transgender or transsexual individual.


A male identified individual who is emotionally, physically and/ or sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Often used as the default term for the LGBTQ* community and preferred over the term homosexual, the word gay still limits the multiple facets of LGBTQ* people.

A socially constructed collection of traits, behaviors, and meanings that have been historically attributed to biological differences.

Gender Binary
The idea that there are only two genders or sexes- male/female or man/ women, and that a person must be strictly either/or.

Gender Cues
Physical or social markers we use to read the gender/sex of another person. Examples include clothing, hairstyles, vocal inflection, body shape, body movement and gestures, facial hair, etc. Gender Cues vary by culture and context.

Gender Dysphonia
A term used to describe the feelings of pain and anguish that arise from a transgendered person’s conflict between gender identity (internal experience) and biological sex (external experience).

Gender Expression
Outward behavior and appearances (e.g. hair, clothing, voice, body language) by which people manifest their gender identity.

Gender Identity
Our inner sense of being a particular gender (e.g. feminine, masculine, butch, androgynous, femme, etc.); “how the mind and the heart regard the body.”

Nondiscriminatory language usage that can apply equal to people of any gender identity. “Spouse” and “Partner” are gender neutral alternatives to the gender specific words “husband,” “wife,” “boyfriend,” and “girlfriend.” The use of the gender neutral pronouns “ze” (instead of she/he) and “hir” (instead of his/her) are preferred by some as a way to be inclusive of all genders in language use.

Gender Normative/Cisgender
A person who, by nature or by choice, conforms to mainstream gender-based expectations of society.

Genderqueer/Gender Bender/ Gender Outlaw
A self-identify term for someone who merges characteristics of gender in subtle or intentional ways, merging/ blurring cultural/ stereotypical gender norms as part of their gender expression or for the purpose of shocking others.

Gender Reassignment
Surgery (GRS)/ Gender Affirmation Surgery/ Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS): For Transsexuals, surgery to make one’s outward physical appearance conform more closely with the inner gender identity, as expected by gender cultural norms. Not all trans people seek surgery. However, surgery is required in most states to change the sex on one’s birth certificate, driver’s license, or passport, etc.

Gender Roles
Socially constructed and culturally accepted norms of behavior and appearance. Expectations imposed based on assigned sex at birth (i.e. femininity and masculinity).

Gender-Variant/Gender Non-Conforming
Displaying culturally specific gender traits that are non-normative associated with the biological sex “feminine” behavior or appearance in a male is gender-variant as is “masculine” behavior or appearance a female.

Getting Read
The opposite of passing. Meaning being perceived as a person who is cross-dressing, transgendered, or transsexual.


Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA)
A professional organization devoted to the understanding and treatment of gender identity disorders. The organization is named after one of the earliest positions to work with transsexuals, Dr. Harry Benjamin. The HBIGDA is best known for publishing the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (HBSOC) for Gender Identity Disorders. See also “Harry Benjamin Standards of Care.”

Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (HBSOC)
The most widespread set of standards and guidelines used by professionals for the medical and mental treatment of transsexuals. The HBSOC are periodically updated and revised as new scientific and medical information becomes available.
Heterosexism: Institutionalized assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is inherently superior, the norm, and preferable. The systematic oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex individuals. Any attitude, action, or practice-backed by an institutional power-which subordinates people because of their sexual orientation.

A person who is primarily or exclusively emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately and/or relationally attracted to people of the opposite sex.

Heterosexual Privilege
Benefits derived automatically by being (or being perceived as) heterosexual that are denied to LGBTQ* people.

The gender-neutral pronoun for his or her.

A person who is primarily or exclusively attracted to people of the same sex. This term is less preferred among LGBTQ* individuals as it is derived from the diagnosis of non-heterosexuality as a mental disorder.

Hormone Therapy
Hormone treatment taken by transgender or transsexual individuals to enable their outward appearance to conform more closely to their inner gender identity.

The irrational fear of homosexuals, homosexuality or any behavior, belief, or attitude of self or others, which does not conform to rigid sex and gender-role stereotypes. Homophobia includes prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, bigotry, harassment, and acts of violence against others but also in oneself, for not acting within heterosexual norms.


In the Closet
To hide ones sexual orientation in order to maintain ones job, housing situation, friends, family or in some other way to survive life in a heterosexist culture. Many LGBTQ* persons are out in some circumstances, but closeted in others.

Internalized Homophobia
The experience of shame, aversion, or self-hatred in reaction to one’s own feelings or attraction for a person of the same sex. This occurs at different levels of intensity, for many gay and lesbian individuals who have learned negative ideas about homosexuality throughout childhood. Once gay and lesbian youth realize that they belong to a group of people that is often despised and rejected in or society many internalize and incorporate the stigmatization of homosexuality and fear or hate themselves.

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

The condition of being born with genitalia that is difficult to be labeled as male or female, and /or developing secondary sex characteristics of indeterminate sex, or which combine features of both sexes. The term “hermaphrodite” has been used in the past to refer to intersex persons but intersex is not typically considered a subset of transgender, nor transgender a subset of intersex. Many intersex infants and children are subject to genitalia surgeries and hormone treatments in order to conform their bodies to the standard of either “male” or “female;” when they are incapable of consent and with/without their parent’s knowledge. There is a growing movement to prevent such surgeries in children.




This Greek letter was adopted by the Gay Activist Alliance in 1970 as a symbol of the gay movement. An ancient Greek regiment of warriors who carried a flag emblazoned with the lambda marched into battle with their male lovers. The group was noted for their fierceness and willingness to fight until death.

A woman with emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction to some other women, and who self identifies as a lesbian.


Male to female transgender or transsexual individual.



Outing, to out
Revealing the sexual orientation of someone else without their consent. Some people may blatantly out someone. Others may do so unintentionally, such as when a person mentions the name of someone he/she knows to be LGBTQ*, thus inadvertently revealing that person’s sexual orientation to people who might otherwise not be aware of it, and who the individual might not have chosen to tell. Outing occurs frequently, as people share stories about their lives, seek to come to know their community, try to make new contacts, and so forth. Straight people, of course, are assumed to be such already; the sharing of information about sexual orientation is only a risk for LGBTQ* individuals, for whom even inadvertent and apparently innocent outing can be damaging.


A person for whom sex and gender are less significant in determining attraction. They may identify as being fluid in their own sexual orientation and/or gender or sex identity.
Passing: Related to gender, to successfully be perceived as a member of your preferred gender regardless of actual birth sex. Some trans people object to the term “passing” as it implies that one is being mistaken for something they are not. A preferable phrasing is “being read as a man” or “being read as a woman.”

Pink Triangle
An inverted pink triangle was a Nazi symbol used to identify homosexuals during the Holocaust. The symbol was adopted by gay and lesbian activist to remember those who were tortured and killed in Nazi concentration camps.

The practice of having or being open to having, multiple romantic relationships.


Used to describe “over the top” femininity, usually in gay men.

Not straight; outside of gender or sexual identity socially- constructed norms. Originally a pejorative term for LGBTQ* individuals, “queer” has now been reclaimed by many to represent gender/sex fluidity. Moreover, academic discourse around Queer Theory has risen in popularity, and queer arts and political movements have formed across the globe. It was first reclaimed by more radical LGBTQ* activist during the 1980s and used in the slogans of ACT UP and Queer Nation (“We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”). Some people still are uncomfortable labeling themselves or using the word “queer,” but many younger LGBTQ* people use “queer” as both a political statement and a reflection of their approach to sexuality and gender.


Rainbow Flag
This flag, originally designed by San Franciso artist, Gilber Baker, in 1978, was intended to be a symbol of gay and lesbian pride. It was inspired by the Flag of the Races, which had five stripes, each on representing the colors of human kind. The six colors of the flag- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple- represent the diversity and unity within the LGBTQ* movement. The widespread use of the flag is due less to any official recognition of it as a symbol and more to its adoption by members of the LGBT* community.

Real Life Test (RLT)
Suggested by the medical field, this refers to the generally required period of time during which a transgender person lives in the “target” gender (the gender a transsexual knows hirself to be) before undergoing surgery.


A medically assigned identity based on biology-chromosomes, hormones sexual/ reproductive organs, and genitalia. Sex terms include male, female, transsexual, and intersex.
Sexual Behavior: What a person does in terms of erotic or sexual acts, such as masturbate, kiss, make out, be sexually inexperienced or same-sex experienced or multiple-sex experienced or other-sex experienced be monogamous or non-monogamous, be abstinent or sexually active with men, women, etc.

Sexual Orientation
An enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, affection, and relational attraction to another person. Can involve fantasy behavior, and self-identification; a person’s general makeup or alignment in terms of partner attraction. Sexual orientation is fluid and may range from or encompass identifications including but not limited to, same-sex orientations, male-female orientations, or bisexual orientations.

Sexual Preference
What a person likes or prefers to do sexually. A conscious recognition or choice not to be confused with the sexual orientation one identifies with.

On June28, 1969, New York City police attempted a routine raid on the Stonewall Inn, a working-class LGBTQ* bar in Greenwich Village. Unexpectedly the patrons resisted, and the incident escalated into a riot that continued for several days. Most people look to this event as the beginning of the American Gay Liberation movement and al subsequent LGBTQ* movements.

Sex Identity
The way in which someone self-identifies hir sex.

Someone who is attracted to a gender other than hir own. Commonly thought of as “attraction to the opposite gender,” but since there are not only two genders (see transgender) this definition is inaccurate.


Top Surgery
Surgery to reduce the size of one’s breasts and/or to reconstruct one’s chest.

Slang for transsexual, usually considered derogatory (though sometimes used as in-group slang).

Transgender (Trans, or TG)
Often used as an umbrella term and refers most broadly to those outside societal gender norms or expectations. Transgender is often used to include people who identify as androgynous, as cross-dressers, as gender-benders or gender queer; and as transsexual: The boundaries of the term transgender are not rigid and the term is used differently in different contexts (i.e.: medical/psychological, academic, etc.)

The act(s) of changing ones sex/gender, and/or appearance as part of sex/ gender change. For most transgendered individuals, transition is not a single discrete event, but a gradual set of changes and challenges over a period of time. As such, it is difficult to determine exactly when transition begins and when it ends. Some feel that their transition begins the day they begin hormone treatment. Some feel it begins when they tell their loved ones about their identity. Some feel they are “in transition” for a few years while hormonal changes settle in. Some feel that their transition has officially ended when they are legally recognized as their true sex. Some feel their transition is complete when they have completed genital reconstruction surgery.

Fear; hatred, or discomfort with transgender people and with the blurring of gender boundaries manifested through violence, harassment and various forms of discrimination and invisibility.

A person whose gender identity differs from what is culturally associated with their biological sex at birth. Some, but not all, transsexuals wish to change their bodies to be congruent with their gender identity through sex reassignment surgery. Many transsexual people refer to themselves as transgendered.

Transvestite or Cross-dresser
An individual who enjoys wearing the clothes of and/or appearing as another gender. While many transvestites are heterosexual, the use of transvestitism in the gay “drag” culture is well documented.

An umbrella term for third-gender people used among Native American and Canadian First Nations tribes. It usually implies a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit living in the same body. It is also used more generally by LGBT* and intersex Native Americans to describe themselves. Two-Spirited people traditionally had distinct gender and social roles in their tribes. Some are counselors while others are medicine persons or spiritual functionaries. They study skills including storytelling, theater, magic, hypnotism, healing, herbal medicine, ventriloquism, singing, music and dance.







The gender-neutral pronoun for she or he.