Diversity and Inclusivity

Glossary of Terms

LGBTQ is an acronym that originated in the 1990s and replaced what was formerly known as the “gay community.” The acronym was created to be more inclusive of diverse groups, which continuously form as folks find new terminology to describe their identities. Recently, it has been expanded to include two-spirit, questioning, intersex, asexual, and allies, thus making the full acronym LGBTQQIIA or also LGBTQ+. Below are working definitions of frequently used terms, but keep in mind that the vocabulary of gender will continue to evolve.

“‘Definition’ is perhaps too strong a word; if our gender is ambiguous, then so is the rest of our existence. These definitions are approximately correct, but they are soft around the edges.”-Diane Wilson

Sexual Orientations

This is not a fully inclusive list.

Term Definition
Asexual An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who asexuals are. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences relationships, attraction, and arousal differently.
Bisexual A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to males/men and females/women. This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders, and there may be a preference for one gender over others. 2) A fluid identity, describing sexual, emotional, and physical attraction to both sexes or to many genders.
Lesbian A woman-identified person who is primarily attracted to other women-identified people in a romantic, erotic, and/or emotional sense.
Gay Term used to refer to homosexual/same gender loving communities as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual or straight. 2) Term used in some cultural settings to specifically represent male-identified people who are attracted to other male-identified people in a romantic, erotic, and/or emotional sense.
Queer An umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively- heterosexual-and-monogamous majority. Queer includes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transpeople, intersex persons, the radical sex communities, and many other sexually transgressive (underworld) explorers. This term is sometimes used as a sexual orientation label as a way of stating a non-heterosexual orientation without having to state who they are attracted to.It is a reclaimed word that was formerly used solely as a slur but that has been semantically overturned by members of the maligned group, who use it as a term of defiant pride. ‘Queer’ is an example of a word undergoing this process. For decades ‘queer’ was used solely as a derogatory adjective for gays and lesbians, but in the 1980s the term began to be used by gay and lesbian activists as a term of self-identification. Eventually, it came to be used as an umbrella term that included gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. Nevertheless, a sizable percentage of people to whom this term might apply still hold ‘queer’ to be a hateful insult, and its use by heterosexuals is often considered offensive.
Pansexual A person who is capable of falling in love with and/or having sexual attraction to a person regardless of where they stand on the gender/sexuality spectrum. It is often insisted that the term here only describes consensual adult sexual behaviors.
Straight A person who is attracted to a gender other than their own. Commonly thought of as “attraction to the opposite gender,” but since there are not only two genders (see transgender), this definition is inaccurate. (also heterosexual)

Gender identities: a condensed version

Term Definition
Androgyne/androgynous A person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.
Butch A person who identifies themselves as masculine, whether it be physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. ‘Butch’ is sometimes used as a derogatory term for lesbians, but it can also be claimed as an affirmative identity label.
Cisgender Someone who feels comfortable with the gender identity and gender expressions expectations assigned to them based on their physical sex at birth. This term is preferable to “non-transgender” because it privileges neither experience of gender as more “normal.”
Genderqueer A blanket term used to describe people whose gender falls outside of the gender binary. 2) A person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. This identity is usually related to or in reaction to the social construction of gender, gender stereotypes and the gender binary system. Some identify under the transgender umbrella while others do not.
Gender-variant / gender non-conforming Displaying gender traits that are not normatively associated with their designated sex at birth.
Femme A gender identity in which someone (female, male or other) has an awareness of cultural standards of femininity and actively embodies a feminine appearance, role, or archetype. It is usually–but not always–associated with a gay or queer sexual identity/sexuality. It is usually more accentuated and intentional than a straight female gender identity or gender presentation and often challenges standards of femininity through exaggeration, parody or transgression of gender norms.
Intersex “Intersex” is 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.For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of their cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.Why we don’t use the word hermaphrodite: The mythological term “hermaphrodite” implies that a person is both fully male and fully female. This is a physiologic impossibility. The words “hermaphrodite” and “pseudo-hermaphrodite” are stigmatizing and misleading words. Unfortunately, some medical personnel still use them to refer to people with certain intersex conditions, because they still subscribe to an outdated nomenclature that uses gonadal anatomy (ovaries, testes) as the basis of sex classification.
Transgender A range of behaviors, expressions, and identifications which challenge the pervasive gender binary in a given culture. Transgender was originally a word coined to describe individuals who desired to change their gender expression without making hormonal or surgical changes to their bodies. 2) An umbrella term for transsexuals, cross-dressers (transvestites), transgenderists, gender queers, and people who identify as neither female nor male and/or as neither a man or as a woman. Transgender is not a sexual orientation; transgender people may have any sexual orientation. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such.
Transsexual An individual who strongly dis-identifies with their designated sex at birth and wishes to utilize hormones and/or sex reassignment surgery (or gender confirmation surgery) as a way to align their physical body with their internal gender identity. Some persons prefer the alternate spelling “transsexual”, some prefer trans*, transgender, transman, or transwoman. They can also be pre-operative, post-operative, or not intend to have an operation.
Two-spirit A Native American person who embodies both masculine and feminine genders; in many cultures they are respected and looked upon as people who more balanced than those who identify as men or women. Native Americans who are queer or transgender may self-identity as two-spirit. Different tribes may have specific titles, such as the Lakota term “wintke”, the Navajo term “nadleehe”, and the Cheyenne term “hee-man-eh”.

A few additional identity-related terms

Term Definition
Crossdresser A person who wears clothes, makeup, etc. that is considered to be appropriate for another gender but not one’s own (preferred term rather than “transvestite”). Considered part of the greater transgender umbrella community, cross-dressing may be considered “full time” or “part time”.
Drag The act of dressing in gendered clothing and adopting gendered behaviors as a part of a performance, most often clothing and behaviors typically not associated with your gender identity.
Drag king A person who consciously performs “masculinity,” usually in a show or theatre setting, presenting an exaggerated form of masculine expression, often times done by a woman; often confused with “transsexual” or “transvestite”
Drag queen A person who consciously performs “femininity,” usually in a show or theatre setting, presenting an exaggerated form of feminine expression, often times done by a man; often confused with “transsexual” or “transvestite”
Female-bodied A term used to recognize a person who was designated or assigned female sex at birth. 2) A person who identifies themselves as having had or currently having a female body.
Male-bodied A term used to recognize a person who was designated or assigned male sex at birth. 2) A person who identified themselves as having had or currently having a male body.
Transvestite A person who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression (“cross-dresses”) for any one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification; often called a “cross-dresser,” and often confused with “transsexual”

Terms and Concepts

This is not a fully inclusive list.

Term Definition
Ally In its verb form, ally means to unite or to form a connection between. In the gender community, it describes those who work to educate themselves about gender issues and actively confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual privilege in themselves and others. 2) Someone who has a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people.
Assigned/ Designated sex or gender The sex/gender one is labeled at birth, generally by a medical or birthing professional, based on a cursory examination of external and/or physical sex characteristics such as genitalia and cultural concepts of male and female sexed bodies. Sex designation is used to label one’s gender identity prior to self-identification.
Biphobia The irrational fear, hatred, or intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as bisexual.
Cissexism Prejudice and discrimination against people who are not cisgender and a belief that trans people’s genders are inferior to, or less authentic than, those who are cisgender. Common examples include purposeful misuse of preferred pronouns or insisting that trans persons use a different restroom.
Coming Out The process by which one accepts one’s own sexuality, gender identity, or intersex status (to come out to oneself). 2) The process, often continual and life-long, by which one shares one’s sexuality, gender identity, or intersex status with others (to come out to family, etc.)
Gender A social identity usually conflated with biological sex in a binary system that presumes one has either male/masculine characteristics and behavior, or female/feminine characteristics and behavior.
Gender Affirming Surgery Surgical procedures that alter or change physical sex characteristics in order to better express a person’s inner gender identity.
Gender binary The cultural insistence of two diametrically opposed, traditionally recognized genders— male and female. 2) The idea that there are only two gender/gender identities – male/female or man/woman and that a person must be strictly gendered as either/or.
Gender dysphoria Description of emotional or mental dissonance between one’s desired concept of their body and what their body actually is, especially in reference to body parts/features that do not align or promote one’s gender identity. 2) A term used in psychiatry to refer to the incongruence between an individual’s designated birth sex and their gender identity, with marked dissociation from one’s physical body.
Gender expression the external display of gender, through a combination of dress, demeanor, social behavior, and other factors, generally measured on a scale of masculinity and femininity
Gender fluidity Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Gender fluid children do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of girls or boys. Some days the child may feel like a girl or a boy, or possibly feel that neither term describes them accurately.
Gender identity The internal perception of an individual’s gender and how they label themselves. 2) The sense of “being” man, woman, transgender, genderqueer, etc.
Gender neutral Nondiscriminatory language to describe relationships—e.g. “spouse” and “partner” are gender-neutral alternatives to the gender-specific words “husband”, “wife”, “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”
Gender nonconforming A person who does not conform to society’s expectations of gender expression based on the gender binary, expectations of masculinity and femininity, or how they should identify their gender.
Gender role Socially defined expectations regarding behavior, mannerisms, dress, etc. as related to socially assigned gender. 2) How “masculine” or “feminine” an individual acts. Societies commonly have norms regarding how males and females should behave, expecting people to have personality characteristics and/or act a certain way based on their biological sex.
Heteronormativity A term used by social theorists in order to discuss the way in which gender and sexuality are separated into hierarchically organized categories. It is the cultural bias in favor of opposite- sex relationships of a sexual nature, and against same-sex relationships of a sexual nature. Examples include:

  • The underrepresentation of same-sex couples in advertising and entertainment media
  • Laws that actively discriminate against same-sex couples
Heterosexism Assuming every person to be heterosexual therefore marginalizing persons who do not identify as heterosexual. It involves belief that heterosexuality is superior and more “normal” than any different form of sexuality and all other sexual orientations.
Homophobia The irrational fear and intolerance of people who are homosexual or of homosexual feelings within oneself. This also assumes that heterosexuality is superior.
Sex Reassignment Surgery see Gender Affirming Surgery
Transition The process by which a transgender individual strives to have physical presentation that more closely aligns with their gender identity. Transition can occur in multiple ways, some of which include: social transition through non-permanent changes in clothing, hairstyle, name and/or pronouns; medical transition through the use of medicines such as hormones to promote gender-based body changes; and/or surgical transition in which an individual’s body is modified through the addition, alteration, or removal of gender-related physical traits.
Transphobia Fear or hatred of all those individuals who transgress, violate, or blur the dominant gender categories in a given society. Transphobic attitudes lead to massive discrimination, oppression, and violence against the trans, drag, and intersex communities.

This resource list was compiled and adapted from the following resources: