LGBTQA+ Glossary

This is a list of carefully researched and thoughtfully discussed definitions for key gender and sexuality terms.  It is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a good place for us to start. Identity terms mean very particular things to different individuals.  The definitions provided in this document reflect the current general understanding of these terms. We understand that language around sexuality and gender is always changing and we will review these terms regularly. 


If there is a term that you feel should be included here, please let us know.  You can email and/or call the LBGT Resource Center at lgbtrc@msu.edu or 517-883-9520.


AccompliceA term coined by Indigenous Action Network to critique the ways in which “ally” as an identity term has been deployed absent of action, accountability, or risk-taking.  See Allyship.

Ace – Someone who identifies as asexual. See asexual. 

AFAB – An abbreviation for “assigned-female-at-birth,” a term frequently used, often by the transmasculine community, as a self-descriptor. “Assigned-at-birth” serves to imply that sex assignment is without the agency of the individual.

Agender – an identity for individuals who often conceptualize their gender as not aligning with gender categories, having no other words that quite fit, and not caring about the project of gender altogether. 

Aggressive (AG) – term used to describe women of color, usually lesbians, who express their gender in masculine ways. Coined by lesbian communities of color in New York City.

Allosexual – A person who experiences sexual attraction. 

Alloromantic – A person who experiences romantic attraction. 

Ally – See Allyship.

Allyship – The lifelong process of building relationships with marginalized communities to which one does not belong.  This is a practice of showing up, working in solidarity with, and centering the needs and voices of marginalized groups.  This work should be done as directed by those communities. These efforts can be named as allyship only by the marginalized group.  To be acting in allyship means that you are actively working to dismantle structures of oppression. See Accomplice for more information.

AMAB – An abbreviation for “assigned-male-at-birth,” a term frequently used, often by the transfeminine community, as a self-descriptor. “Assigned-at-birth” serves to imply that sex assignment is without the agency of the individual.

Amatonormativity – The assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal, and that such a relationship is normative, in the sense that it should be aimed at in preference to other relationship types.

Aro – Someone who identifies as aromantic. See aromantic. 

Aromantic – An identity term for a person who experiences little to no romantic attraction to others and/or has a lack of interest in romantic relationships, activities, or connections. Not all aromantic people are asexual. 

Asexual – An identity term for a people who do not feel sexual attraction, experience little sexual attraction to others, or do not feel desire for a sexual partner or partners.  Asexuality can be conceptualized as a continuum with identities along said continuum possessing their own identity labels. Some asexual individials may still experience romantic attractions.  Asexuality is distinct from celibacy because celibacy is a choice. Not all asexual people are aromantic.

BDSM    – An acronym used in the kink and fetish communities that stands for “Bondage & Discipline,” “Dominance & Submission” and “Sadism & Masochism.” These practices are often misunderstood as abusive, but when practiced in a safe, sane, and consensual manner they can be a part of a healthy sex life. Trust, consent, and intimacy are all important parts of BDSM. Please see “Safe, Sane and Consensual” for more information. 

Bear –  Subcategory in the queer community.  A bear is typically used to describe a larger man (trans or cis) with a lot of body and facial hair and a cuddly body.  Many people masculine of center use this term who do not have all of these characteristics. The Bear community is focused on body positivity and friendliness and some describe being a bear as more of an attitude than anything else.   

Bi Erasure – a pervasive problem within mainstream culture and also in the LGBTQA+ community in which the existence and/or legitimacy of bisexuality is questioned or denied. 

Bicurious – an interest in engaging in sexual activities with more than one gender. Often this term is used when desire or interest is present, but a person has yet to act. 

Bigender – identifying as two genders, either simultaneously or varying between the two. 

Binding – a method of reducing or flattening the appearance of one’s chest. 

Biphobia – The fear, hatred, and intolerance of bisexual, pansexual, and fluid people. 

Birth-Assigned Sex – the designation that refers to a person’s biological, morphological, hormonal, and genetic composition. One’s sex is typically assigned at birth and classified as either male or female. “Assigned-at-birth” serves to imply that sex assignment is without the agency of the individual.

Bisexual – An identity term that most often refers to a person who is attracted to people of multiple genders. Some people conceptualize bisexuality to mean attraction to two genders, usually men and women. However, many others feel this definition is reductive and not inclusive of transgender, nonbinary, and genderqueer identities. Some consider bisexual to be an umbrella term that encompasses all non-monosexual identities. Bisexual is commonly shorted to “bi.” 

Boi – term first coined to describe masculine presenting queer black women whose gender presentation can be more fluid and/or androgynous than completely masculine. Purposely coined to be different than stud/ag because of the rigid conformity to masculinity in those communities. 

Brown Boi – A masculine of center person of color.

ButchAn identity term often used to by queer women, particularly by lesbians, who express themselves in masculine ways. Some consider butch to be its own gender identity. While an identity term to some, it can be used as a pejorative. 

Cisgender – an identity term for individuals whose gender identity aligns with their birth-assigned sex.  Cisgender people receive benefits that trans and nonbinary don’t have. 

Cisgender privilege – a set of unearned advantages that cisgender people are granted by virtue of their gender identity. 

Cisheteronormativity – A pervasive system of belief that centers and naturalizes  heterosexuality and a binary system of assigned sex/gender where there are two rigid, distinct ways of being: assigned-male-at-birth masculine man and assigned-female-at-birth feminine woman. 

Cisheteropatriarchy – A socio-political system in which cisgender heterosexual men have authority over everyone else.  Also, the way we describe society as fundamentally based on heterosexism, cissexism, sexism, and male dominance. Here, all actors are presumed to be heterosexual, cisgender, and operate in alignment with strict gender binary roles. Patriarchy is reliant upon ideologies of domination and the exploitation of all things related to the feminine, queerness, and transness. 

Cissexism – The system of oppression that values and privileges cisgender people, upholds the gender binary, and marginalizes, oppresses, and makes invisible the lives and experiences of transgender and nonbinary people. 

Civil Marriage – Marriage that is performed and carried out by a government institution in accordance with the marriage laws of the jurisdiction. In order for a marriage to be recognized by the state, it must be a civil marriage. For many people, there is a religious or community ceremony in addition to the legal requirements of a civil marriage. 

Civil Union – A civil union is a legal relationship between two people that provides legal protections to the couple only at the state level. Civil unions do not provide federal protections, benefits, or responsibilities to couples, and a civil union may not be recognized by all states. Civil unions, similar to domestic partnerships in some ways, were established primarily as an alternative for same-sex couples in states where marriage was unavailable.

Coming Out – the process by which queer and trans folks recognize, accept, typically appreciate, and often celebrate their sexual identity, sexuality, or gender identity/expression. Coming out is different across communities and cultures. There is no right or wrong way to be a queer or trans person and coming out is not a possibility for everyone. 

Consent – A mutual agreement between people to engage in sexual and/or romantic behavior.  It should be continuous and sober.  Consent can’t be implied and consent for one behavior is not consent for all behaviors.  Having agreed to do something previously, does not mean that a person gives consent in the present.  Consent can be given in words and actions, but it’s important to remember that nonverbal can be misinterpreted, and the clearest way to know that you have consent is to make sure that you ask.

Cross-dressing – Wearing clothing that conflicts with the traditional gender expression of your sex and gender identity (e.g., a man wearing a dress) for any one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification.

Deadname – the previously given name of a person who has decided to change their name in order to better align with their gender identity. As a verb, to deadname someone means to misgender someone by using a name they no longer use. This can be intentional or unintentional. 

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – A United States federal law that was passed by the 104th US congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. DOMA allowed US states to refuse the recognition of same-gender marriages performed in other states or countries outside of the United States (Section II) and defined marriage on the federal level as the union of one man and one woman (Section III). Section III prevented the federal government from recognizing any marriages between gay and lesbian couples for the purposes of federal laws or programs, even if these couples were married in their home states. In United States vs. Windsor, Section III of the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause by the US Supreme Court (2013). In Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the US Supreme Court held that same-sex marriage was a fundamental right protected by both the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause. This rendered Section II of DOMA unenforceable. All states were now required to perform marriages and recognize marriages performed in other states. Please see Windsor v. United States and Obergefell v. Hodges

Demiromantic – A romantic identity term for people who feel romantic attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond.  Demiromantic people vary in the quality and intensity of their romantic desire, with many feeling romantic attraction rarely and some having little to no interest in romantic activity,.  Some conceptualize demiromantic as a part of the aromantic spectrum.

Demisexual – A sexual identity term for people who feel sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond.  Demisexuals vary in the quality and intensity of their sexual desire, many feeling sexual attraction rarely and some having little to no interest in sexual activity.  Some conceptualize demisexuality as a form of asexuality.   

Domestic Partnership – Legal recognition of unmarried couples, offered by some state and local governments.  Domestic partnerships offer some of the same benefits enjoyed by married persons- – including the right to share health insurance coverage, and rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Dominant – Person who exercises control in a Dominant/Submissive relationship or BDSM activities.  Can be used for any gender. (Masculine: Dom, Feminine: Domme)

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – The official US Military Policy regarnding lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was created under the Clinton Administration. It took effect in 1994 and ended on September 20th 2011. The policy barred openly LGB service members and applicants from military service and prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing LGB service members or applicants. 

Down Low – A term used to refer to men who may or may not explicitly identify as hetersosexual, who engage in relationships with women, but who engage in sex with men.  Typically, these men do not identify themselves as gay or bisexual. The term originated in the Black community, but the behaviour is not unique to any race, ethnicity, or culture.

Drag King – a person who enacts gender and masculinity for the pleasure and entertainment of others in the act of performance. 

Drag Performera person who enacts gender for the pleasure and entertainment of others in the act of performance. 

Drag Queen – a person who enacts gender and femininity for the pleasure and entertainment of others in the act of performance. 

Dyke – Originally a derogatory term for a lesbian, with lesbians beginning to reclaim the word in the 1970’s.  Today, many lesbians affirmatively refer to themselves as dykes, but it is still commonly used as an insult and should be avoided by those outside of the lesbian community.

Egg – Slang term for someone who is trans but doesn’t know it yet. Someone who is still an embryo of the trans person they will eventually hatch into.

Equality Act – A bill in the US Congress that, if passed, would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include prohibitions on the discrimination based on gender identity or sexual identity in employment, housing, public accomodations, federal funding credit, public education, and the jury system. The Equality Act passed in the House of Representative on March 13, 2019 and is awaiting a hearing by the Senate. There are currently no federal laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQA+ people on the basis of gender identity and/or sexual identity. Only 21 states and DC have comprehensive laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or sexual identity. 

Fag – A derogatory word used to denote a gay man.  Occasionally used as a self-identity affirming term by some members of the queer and trans community, but should be avoided by those outside of the community.

Family – Colloquial term used to identify other LGBTQA+ community members.

Family of Choice – Persons or a group of people an individual sees as significant in one’s life. It may include none, all, or some members of their own family of origin. In addition, it may include individuals such as significant others, domestic partners, friends, and/or coworkers

Femininity – A set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with girls and women. Performing femininity in a culturally established way is expected of people assigned female-at-birth. 

FemmeAn identity term often used to by queer people, who express themselves in feminine ways. Some consider “femme” to be its own gender identity. While an gender identity term to some, it can be used as a pejorative, specifically in gay/queer men’s community. 

Fluid – Generally with another term attached, like “genderfluid” or fluid-sexuality,” “fluid(ity)” describes an identity that may change of shift over time between/within/without various identities.

FTM – Abbreviation for Female-to-Male. A term referring to men who were assigned female-at-birth. Some trans men reject this term because they have always been a man, regardless of sex assignment. This term is considered by some to be outdated and overly focused on medical transition, while others embrace it as an identity term. 

GaffCompressive underwear used to make tucking easier that is designed for trans women and transfeminine people. 

Gay – A sexual identity term that most often refers to a person who is sexually attracted to a person of a similar gender.

Gender Socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society deems masculine or feminine. This social construct is often linked to and confused with the biological construct of sex. Many, if not all people display traits associated with more than one gender.

Gender Attribution – the act of attributing a gender to another with or without knowledge of that person’s gender identity. In Western culture, these assumptions are rooted in our cultural understanding of gender as a binary system and how gender is socialized. Assuming a person’s gender pronouns is one example of gender attribution. 

Gender Affirmation Surgeries – Surgical procedures that some trans folks pursue that create congruence between one’s body and one’s gender identity. Historically, gender affirmation surgery has been referred to as sex reassignment surgery.

Gender BinaryA socially constructed gender system in which gender is classified into two distinct and opposite categories. These gender categories are both narrowly defined and disconnected from one another. They are strictly enforced through rigid gender roles and expectations. Further, there is a hierarchy inherent to the classification, in which one gender, men/boys/masculinity, has access to power and privilege and the other, women/girls/femininity, is marginalized and oppressed. These classifications are seen as immutable; those assigned male at birth should identify as men and embody masculinity and those assigned female at birth should identify as women and embody femininity. This binary system excludes nonbinary, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming individuals. All people are harmed by the gender binary system, but your place within the system determines the degree and quality of harm. The gender binary is weaponized through conquest, colonization, and continued occupation of indigenous peoples lands. The gender binary system is inherently violent and foregrounds all gender-based oppression. 

Gender Dysphoria – discomfort and/or distress that varies in intensity, duration, and interval for an individual extending from the disjuncture between one’s conceptualization of their gender and the way their body is. Serves as a medical term and diagnosis in the the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which contributes to the stigmatization of transgender identities as a mental disorder. Clinically speaking, gender dysphoria is present when a person experiences significant distress related to their gender. The concept of dysphoria, rather than the diagnosis, is employed frequently by the trans/nonbinary community to name their experience. No everyone views gender dysphoria as a mental health diagnosis. 

Gender Essentialism –  Gender essentialism is related to both biologism and biological determinism. It is rooted in the notion of a universal experience of gender that often fails to address the intersections of race, class, and sexuality. 

Gender Expression – The way in which someone expresses their gender, either consciously or unconsciously. This can encompass everything that communicates our gender to others, including clothing, hairstyle, body language, manner of speaking, social interactions, and gender roles. Most people have some blend of masculine and feminine qualities that comprise their gender expression, and this expression can also vary depending on the social context. There is not always a direct translation between gender identity and gender expression. A person’s gender expression may or may not align with the way people attribute gender to that person. 

Gender Fluid An identity or umbrella term for people whose gender expression is variable across time and space.

Gender Identity – the way in which a person conceptualizes themself as a gendered being or the language a person uses to describe their internal understanding of their gender. Also, one’s innate and personal experience of gender. This may or may not align with one’s gender expression or gender attribution.

Gender-Inclusive – a term used to describe language and spaces that validate the existence and experiences of all gender identities and expressions, especially marginalized gender identities. 

Gender Markers – the identification of your gender on legal documents, often conflated with legal sex.

Gender Nonconforming an identity term for a person who does not conform to cisheteronormative constructs of gender and binary gender roles. This can also be used as an umbrella term to represent queer gender identities.

Gender Roles – A set of social and behavioral norms that are considered appropriate for particular genders. Gender roles change across time, space, culture, region, and context. When viewed in Western culture, gender roles are expressed within the gender binary system. 

Genderqueer  a gender identity term for people who conceptualize their gender as existing outside of, not included within, or beyond the gender binary. Please see queer theory.

Goodridge v. Department of Public HealthThe 2003 landmark Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Case in which the Court held that same-gender couples could no longer be excluded from civil marriage rights in Massachusetts. The first marriage licenses were issued to same-gender couples on May 17, 2004. 

Grey Ace – Someone who identifies as part of the asexual community but does not identify as completely asexual. This differs from demisexuality in that being demisexual is a specific orientation and a grey ace is used as a catch all for any unspecified identity under the Ace umbrella.

Greyromantic – Someone who identifies as part of the aromantic community but does not identify as completely aromantic. This differs from demiromanticism in that being demiromantic is a specific identity and greyromantic is used as a catch all for any unspecified identity under the aromantic umbrella.

Hermaphrodite – an outdated term for a intersex person/a person with intersex condition. While some in the intersex community may reclaim/self-describe with the term, it is considered offensive and should not be used by those outside the community. See intersex. 

Heteroromantic – A romantic identity term that most often refers to a person who is romantically attracted to people of a different gender.

Heterosexism – The system of oppression that values and centers heterosexual people, upholds heterosexuality as normative and natural, and marginalizes queer people and communities. Heterosexism enacts violence through erasure, pathologization, and invalidation. 

Heterosexual – An sexual identity term that most often refers to a person who is sexually attracted to people of different genders from theirs. 

Heterosexual Privilege – Term that refers to the ways in which the structure of cisheteronormative society provides advantages to hetersexual people that are not afforded to members of the LGBTQA+ community.  These advantages are so embedded into all dimensions of society that they are taken for granted and practically unrecognizable to hetersexual people.

High Femme – a femme person who expresses their gender in ultra feminine ways. Often, but not exclusively, this refers to a queer woman. 

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

Homoromantic – A romantic identity term that most often refers to a person who is romantically attracted to people of their same gender.

Homosexual – A sexual identity term that most often refers to a person who is sexually attracted to people of their same gender.  Presently considered offensive and dated to many in the LGBTQA+ community, though some still claim it as an identity.

Homonormativity – A concept crystallized by Lisa Duggan that describes the ever-present phenomenon where members of the LGBTQA+ community subscribe to heteronormative approximations of intimate, romantic, and sexual lives.

HomophobiaThe fear, hatred, and intolerance of gay and/or queer people.  Sometimes used as an umbrella term encompassion phobias associated with marginalized sexual and gender identities. 

Hormone Replacement TherapyAlso known as HRT, a hormone therapy taken by some trans folks to alter the hormonal composition of the body. Some people will choose to undergo a gender-affirmation surgery in conjunction to HRT and some will not.

Internalized ________ phobia – The fear or self hatred of one’s own identity. LGBTQA+ individuals are subjected to the fear, hatred, and intolerance of LGBTQA+ identities within cisheteropatriarchal society. Due to their socialization, they LGBTQA+ individuals learn negative ideas about their community and identity and begin to view them as true. One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group. Common types of internalized oppression include: internalized homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. An example of internalized homophobia in when a gay person polices fellow LGBTQA+ community members for being “too queer” or “too femme” (read: outside of cisheteronormitivity). 

Intersex a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a individual’s reproductive or sexual anatomy (re: genitals, secondary sex characteristics, chromosomes, and/or hormone levels) do not fit into the medical/societal definition of male or female. Some members of the intersex community prefer to use person first language to describe themselves (e.g. a person with intersex condition) and conceptualize their condition as one of medical diagnosis. Others (re)claim intersex as identity. Some people with intersex conditions do not consider themselves to be members of the LGBTQA+ community and some do. 

Lawrence v. Texas – The 2003 landmark US Supreme Court ruling that struck down laws prohibiting private same-gender sexual activity between consenting adults. 

United States v. Windsor – The 2013 landmark US Supreme Court civil rights case concerning same-sex marriage. The Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Leather Community – A community which encompasses those who are into leather, sado-masochism, bondage and domination, uniform, cowboys, rubber, and other fetishes. Although the leather community is often associated with the queer community, it is not a “gay-only” community.

Lesbian: An identity term for women who are attracted to women. 

LGBTQ – A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people. The acronym is used as an umbrella term when talking about non heterosexual and non-cisgender identities, and does not always reflect members of the community. The acronym may be expanded to LGBTQIA to include intersex individuals, and asexuals, or shortened to LGBQ when discussing only sexual identity.

Lipstick Lesbian – Usually refers to a lesbian with a feminine gender expression. Can be used in a positive or a derogatory way, depending on who is using it. Is sometimes also used to refer to a lesbian who is seen as automatically passing for heterosexual.

Lifestyle – An offensive term attributed to the queer and trans community, often deployed by people to trivialize these identities and experiences.  This term supports an understanding of sexual and gender identity as “a choice” or behavior that can be “corrected.”

Living Full-Time – When a trans person is living full-time in their gender. This is often a requirement to obtaining gender affirmation surgery. 

Masculine of Center – a person whose gender expression is more masculine than feminine. If gender is viewed as a spectrum, someone who is masculine of center would express their gender on the masculine side of the spectrum. 

Masculinity – a socially constructed set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with boys and men. Performing masculinity in a culturally established way is expected of people assigned-male-at-birth. 

Misgender – intentionally or unintentionally using language which do not align with the person’s gender identity, e.g. gender identity terms, pronouns, honorifics, deadname, gendered terms of endearment. Misgendering a person can cause a great deal of pain and can potentially put the person’s life, safety, or security at risk. 

Microdosing – a form of hormone replacement therapy in which a person takes a significantly lower dose of hormones than someone would typically take. Microdosing may result in more subtle physical and emotional changes and can be an appropriate medical intervention for some trans folks, particularly nonbinary, genderqueer, or agender individuals. Microdosing, like all forms of HRT, should be supervised by a medical professional. 

Monogamy – Relationship structure that centers on the practice of having only one partner/significant other at a time or of having only one sexual and/ or romantic partner at a time.

Monosexual Identities – Sexual identity terms, like gay, straight, and lesbian, in which a person is attracted on one gender. This term is considered to be the opposite of polysexuality or bisexuality. 

MSM – “Men who have sex with men,” men who engage in same-gender sexual behavior, but who may not necessarily self-identify as gay or queer.

MTF – Abbreviation for Male-to-Female. A term referring to women who were assigned-male-at-birth. Some trans women reject this term because they have always been female, regardless of sex assignment. This term is considered by some to be outdated and overly focused on medical transition, while others embrace it as an identity term. 

Mx. – (pronounced as mixter, or mix) a gender-inclusive honorific. 

Nonbinary – an identity term for a person who identifies outside of the gender binary.

Neutrois – an identity term for a person with a nonbinary gender identity who identifies as having a neutral or null gender identity. This is similar to agender identity.

Obergefell v. Hodges – The 2015 landmark civil rights case in which the US Supreme Court held that marriage is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. This decision rendered Section II of the Defense of Marriage Act unenforceable. States were now required to recognize marriages performed in other states. This case overturned Baker v. Nelson and found that against same-gender marriage were unconstitutional. 

Omnisexual – A sexual identity term that most often refers to a person who experiences sexual attraction to people of all and/or many gender identities/expressions.  Also commonly shortened to “omni.”

Outing – the act of disclosing, intentionally or unintentionally, a person’s identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious consequences on their safety, employment, family situation, etc. 

Packing – the act of wearing padding or a prosthesis to give the appearance of having a penis. 

Packer – a phallic object worn in the underwear to pack or to give the appearance of having a penis. Packers range from padded forms to rolled up socks to prosthetics. This is most often used by trans men or masculine presenting people who were not assigned-male-at-birth. 

Panromantic – Someone who has romantic feelings for a person regardless of their sex or gender.

Pansexual – An identity term that most often refers to a person who experiences sexual attraction to people of all and/or many gender identities/expressions.  Also commonly shortened to “pan.”

Polyamory – Relationship structure that centers on the practice of consensually having or being open to having more than one partner/significant other.  Sometimes used as an umbrella term for all forms of ethical, consensual, and loving non-monogamy.

Polysexual Identities – Sexual identity terms, like bisexual and pansexual, in which a person is attracted to more than one gender. This term is considered by some to be the opposite of monosexual identities. 

Pronouns linguistic tools we use to refer to proper nouns. In the context of gender, pronouns are used to refer to people, and are often gendered. Some examples of pronouns include: they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his, and ze/hir/hirs. Most pronouns are gendered and binary, although there are personal pronouns in many languages that are not gender specific. We use pronouns to attribute gender (see gender attribution). Using incorrect pronouns or assuming them based on appearance, is a way to misgender someone (see misgender). 

Queer – Reclaimed* derogatory term that is used in a few different ways: a catchall term for the LGBTQA+ community; a sexual idetnities term that is often characterized by the incorporation of fluidity and anti-normativity; academic nomenclature to represent a prolific postmodern feminist theoretical project centered on sexuality and gender.  Simultaneously appears in the academic and organizing circles in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

*not reclaimed by everyone

Queer Theory – a collection of academic and intellectual pursuits growing out of feminist theory in the early to mid 1990’s, presents a post-structuralist, post-modern complication of sex, gender, and sexuality characterized by destruction/destabilization of said categories and positions ‘the queer’ as definitively anti-normative. It offers up the challenge to investigate manifestations of fixed identity, to consider its permutations in varied and non-predictable way. 

Questioning – An identity term for a person who is exploring their sexuality and/or gender. People may be questioning at different times in their lives, because gender and sexuality can be experienced as fluid and/or ever-changing. It does not have to be a linear experience or progression.

Romantic Identity – The language someone uses to describe themself as a romantic being. One’s romantic identity may or may not align with one’s sexual identity. A few common sexual identity terms include aromantic, grayromantic, panromantic, and heteroromantic. 

Romantic Behavior – The way a person acts or behaves romantically. Romantic behavior may or may not align with sexual behavior or romantic identity. Romantic behavior includes the romantic activities that a person engages in (or does not engage in). 

Safe, Sane, and Consensual – The phrase “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” sometimes shortened to SSC can be traced back to a Gay-Male-S/M Activits report from August 1983, which appears to be its earliest mention.  It is thought that the “safe” and “sane” originated from the sayings of having a “safe and sane” 4th of July celebration. The idea of having a good time while being careful seemed appropriate for BDSM and began to pick up in popularity.  As BDSM communities became more cohesive and an accepted place to express our kinky interests, it became a saying of safety and ethical practice. The idea has continued to evolve among the BDSM culture.

Same Gender Loving – An identity term often attributed to Cleo Manago to describe queer sexual identities among black queer and trans communities.  Manago created the term as an Afrocentric alternative to more white, academic, elite terms like queer, gay, and lesbian.

Sex – n. See Birth-Assigned Sex.

Sexuality – a person’s sexual feelings, thoughts, desires, identities, values, and behaviors. This includes one’s sexual identity and romantic identity. Sexuality also includes the “who/what/where/when/why/how” of how each of us engages (or not) in sexual activity. 

Sexual Behavior – the way a person acts or behaves sexually. Sexual behavior may or may not align with one’s sexual identity or sexual attractions. Sexual behavior includes the sexual activities that a person engages in (or does not engage in). 

Sexual Identity – the language a person uses to describe themself as a sexual being. This is the preferred term for sexual orientation. One’s sexual identity may or may not align with one’s sexual behavior or sexual attractions. A few common sexual identity terms include bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, gay, and straight. 

Sexual Orientation – See Sexual Identity. 

Soft Butch – an identity term often used by queer women or lesbian who exhibits some stereotypical butch traits without entirely fitting the masculine stereotype associated with butch lesbians. 

Squish – An intense feeling of platonic attraction and appreciation toward a particular person; the platonic version of a crush.

Straight – First used in gay communities as slang: to “go straight: was to stop engaging in any form of queer sex or romantic behavior. Straight is also slang for heterosexual. 

Stealth – Similar to passing, a term that describes when a transgender person lives full-time as their gender identity and does not claim their transgender identity. Being stealth isn’t the goal of all trans folks, but it is for some. Oftentimes, this means acting in ways that are gender normative. 

Stud – term used to describe black masculine presenting women. Coined from black lesbian communities to separate from the term ‘butch’.

Submissive – Person who allows themself to be dominated by a partner who may hold the identity of a dominant or dom within BDSM activities.  This could take the form of a 24/7 dynamic, or an occasional one.

Switch – A person who switches between roles.  Both dominant/submissive, top/bottom, etc.

Third Gender – 1. A person who does not identify with the traditional genders of “man” or “woman,” but identifies with another gender; 2. The gender category available in societies that recognize three or more genders.

Trans Exclusive Radical Feminism (TERF)– a term for feminists who define and celebrate womanhood through the medically defined “female” body. TERFs believe that trans woman are not women because they were socialized as boys.  This is a biological essentialist argument. By and large, TERF ideology is rejected by mainstream feminism, as well as most queer and trans communities. However, TERF ideology does still infiltrate many women’s spaces. 

Transgender or Trans – this term refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match or is at some distance from their assigned-sex-at-birth. For some folks,  transgender and/or trans are considered to be an umbrella terms.

Transitioning – the process in which a trans or nonbinary person begins to live as their gender identity. It may include changing one’s name, taking hormones, having surgery, and/or altering legal documents. Transitioning means very different things to different people. There is no right way to transition and each trans person has their own path. There are different types of transition:

Legal Transition – the process of changing how one’s gender is represented on legal documents, inclusive of one’s birth certificate, driver’s license, social security, insurance, and/or passport. Many countries and US states have legal barriers that make it expensive and difficult for trans people to legally transition. 

Medical Transition – a medical transition includes hormones and/or surgeries. Please see Hormone Replacement Therapy and Gender Affirmation Surgery.

Social Transition – a social transition includes transition from one gender to another by changing mannerisms, dress, hair, pronouns, name, and a variety of other means. A social transition involves elements of a transition that are not necessarily medical or legal. 

Transphobia – Fear, hatred, and intolerance of transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming people, or those who break, blur, or transgress assigned gender roles and the gender binary. 

Transsexual – Individuals whose assigned sex at birth does not match their gender identity and who, through gender affirmation surgery and/or hormone treatments, seek to change their physical body to better align with their gender identity. The term “transsexual” is not interchangeable with the term “transgender.” This term is considered by many to be outdated, but remains an important and salient identity term for some. 

Trans Man – a man who was assigned female (or intersex) at birth. 

Trans Woman – a woman who was assigned male (or intersex) at birth. 

Tucking – the practice of concealing the penis and testes so that the person’s front is flat, or without a bulge, especially in tight clothing. Tucking usually involves pushing the penis between one’s legs and then putting underwear or tape on to keep it in place. It can also involve tucking the testes back up inside the person. 

Two-Spirit – A Native American term for people who blend the masculine and the feminine. It is commonly used to describe individuals who historically crossed gender. It is often used by contemporary LGBTQ Native American people to describe themselves.

WSW – “women who have sex with women,” women who engage in same-sex behavior, but who may not necessarily self-identify as lesbians.

XTX – A response by trans folks who reject the terms FTM and MTF, claiming that they were always their gender identity, regardless of birth assigned sex. Sometimes using XTF and XTM to describe their gender.


Last updated on 8/01/2019.