The language and terminology folks use to describe their experiences of gender and sexual orientation is ever-evolving and the same term might have different meanings for different people. However, here is a glossary of some of the most commonly used terms. Have questions or want to learn more? Wondering what all of those letters mean? Here is a glossary of some of the most commonly used terms. Questions or want to learn more? Register for an upcoming D.E.A.C. Allies workshop or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ally – An ally is an individual who speaks out and stands up for a person or group that is targeted and discriminated against. An ally works to end oppression by supporting and advocating for people who are stigmatized, discriminated against or treated unfairly. For the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) communities, an ally is any person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
Asexual – A person who does not experience sexual attraction; they may or may not experience emotional, physical, or romantic attraction. Asexuality differs from celibacy in that it is a sexual orientation, not a choice.
Assigned at Birth – Commonly utilized by trans individuals, the term illustrates that the individual’s sex (and subsequently gender in early life) was assigned without involving the person whose sex was being assigned. Commonly seen as “Female Assigned at Birth” (FAAB or AFAB) and “Male Assigned At Birth” (MAAB or AMAB).
Bisexual – A person who is attracted to members of more than one gender; does not have to be a preference for one gender over another.
Cisgender – Someone who identifies with the gender identity/expression expectations assigned to them based on their physical sex at birth.
Gay – A common term for men who are attracted to other men; also an umbrella term used to refer to the LGBTQ community as a whole.
Gender Binary – The division of gender into two distinct and opposite categories (man and woman). The gender binary is recognized as a social construct, as there are many identities in-between and outside of these categories.
Gender Expression – The external display of one’s gender, through a combination of dress, demeanor, social behavior, and other factors, generally measured on scales of masculinity and femininity. Also referred to as “gender presentation.”
Gender Identity – The internal perception of one’s gender, and how they label themselves, based on how much they align or don’t align with what they understand their options for gender to be.
Heterosexism – The societal/cultural, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege heterosexuals and disparage LGBQ people. The critical element that differentiates heterosexism (or any other “ism”) from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systematic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects.
Intersex – 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.
Lesbian – A common term for women who are attracted to other women
Nonbinary – An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do
Pansexual – Attraction toward people of all genders, including those who identify as transgender, transsexual, androgynous, genderqueer, agender, and all other gender identifications, as well as those who do not feel they have a gender; pansexuality is often confused or intermeshed in definition with bisexuality.
Polyamory – The state of having multiple sexually or romantically committed relationships at the same time, with the consent of all partners involved.
Queer – An umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively- heterosexual-and-monogamous majority; also a sexual orientation or gender identity label denoting a non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender orientation. This term was previously used as a slur, but has been reclaimed by many parts of the LGBTQ+ movement.
Questioning – The process of exploring one’s own sexual orientation or gender identity, investigating influences that may come from their family, religious upbringing, and internal motivations.
Romantic Orientation – Describes an individual’s pattern of romantic attraction based on a person’s gender(s) regardless of one’s sexual orientation.
Same Gender Loving (SGL) – 1. A term used by some members of the Black community to express same-sex/gender attractions. 2. An alternative to Eurocentric LGBQ identities that do not culturally affirm the history of all queer communities.
Sex – A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. Usually subdivided into “male” and “female”, this category does not recognize the existence of intersex bodies.
Sexual Orientation – The type of sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction one feels for others, often labeled based on the gender relationship between the person and the people they are attracted to; often mistakenly referred to as “sexual preference”.
Transgender – An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression does not conform to that typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.