What's in an Acronym? Exploring LGBTQIAP2+, Part I
The most extensive glossary of LGBTQAIP2+ terminology you need to know
A label means existence in society
While not everybody is fond of labels or being labeled themselves, language remains an integral part of society, and ultimately, one of the things makes us human in the first place. The words we use to describe the world around us have a significant influence on the way we perceive it. Naming something —or labeling it — means acknowledging its existence; these are huge steps forward in the case of terms related to gender and sexuality.
Additionally, without a label or fully formed and accepted identity, people can often think that there is something wrong with them. Through (new) labels, people can construct their identity, and this can help them to connect with others and find answers for their thoughts and experiences. Ultimately, leading them onto a road of self-acceptance and self-love, and we believe that makes the world a better place.
For this reason, we find it essential to address the various labels that exist in the rich and complex world of gender and sexuality. We have compiled one of the most extensive LGBT+ glossaries of common and uncommon LGBT+ terminology. Please keep in mind that definitions and meanings of labels may vary depending on the person using them.
Some fundamental terminology beforehand
Some terms are important to understand before you take a deep dive into the extensive list of LGBT+ terminology. It will help you make sense of the terms and avoid misconceptions held within the LGBT+ community.
A biological construct that distinguishes between male, female, and intersex based on sexual characteristics and/or chromosome composition. Usually, an XY-chromosome composition results in male sex characteristics and XX-chromosome composition into female sex characteristics. Sex is often wrongfully used interchangeably with gender, as are the words male and female with the words man and woman, respectively.
A social construct to describe a range of characteristics belonging to and most commonly differentiating between masculinity and femininity. These characteristics can include biological sex (male, female, or intersex), gender roles, or gender identity. Most cultures use a binary gender system (man/woman), and those who fall outside of that system are non-binary. Some cultures, such as the hijras of South Asia, have a third gender.
The internal and personal experience or sense of gender. When this doesn't align with the sex assigned at birth, a person is a transgender. Not to be confused with gender expression, people often use these terms interchangeably.
The external manifestation of one's internal gender identity. It can be expressed in various ways and different degrees, from behavior to speech to appearance and body characteristics.
Also known as "sex role," a gender role is a social role that illustrates certain behaviors, expressions, and attitudes that are commonly seen as accepted or desired for a person based on their perceived biological sex.
An identity term used to describe a person's inherent sexual (physical) attraction towards individuals of a particular gender or particular genders. People tend to use the word sexual preference instead, but this implies a choice in the way sexual attraction manifests itself in a person. However, a person can't control their sexual orientation. They can only decide their sexual behavior, which might go against their sexual orientation.
An identity term used to describe a person's inherent romantic (emotional) attraction towards individuals of a particular gender or particular genders. A romantic orientation can align perfectly with a person's sexual orientation, but it's regularly the case that they only partly overlap or are entirely differentiated. It's also possible a person experiences only romantic attraction and no sexual attraction or vice versa.
With this information, you can now avoid the most common misconceptions about gender and sexuality!
A sexual orientation in which a person experiences frequent changes in their sexuality and fluctuations between various sexual orientations. These changes can be erratic or regular. Abrosexuality differs from novosexuality and sexually fluid in that this sexuality is exceptionally fluid, meaning one day someone can feel heterosexual and the next asexual.
A person who actively educates people supports social equality and wants to increase tolerance in society of marginalized groups. Famous LGBT+ advocates include Tammy Baldwin, Lily & Lana Wachowski, and Ellen Degeneres.
An acronym, which means "assigned female at birth."
A gender identity of people who don't assign to any specific gender. Agender literally means "without gender". This term shouldn't be confused with nonbinary, gender-queer or gender-neutral, because these terms imply there is a still an identification with some form of gender.
A gender identity that stands separate from existing social gender constructs. The term falls under the non-binary umbrella in which the person neither identifies as a man or as a woman. However, it doesn't imply the feeling of an absence of gender, as is the case with agender. Aliagender is a term that is often used by those who identify as third gender but wish to avoid any culture-specific implications with the word.
A sexual orientation in which a person experiences the presence of sexual attraction. When putting sexuality on a binary spectrum, allosexuality would be the counterpart of asexuality. The asexual community often uses the term.
Cisgender and/or heterosexual individual who actively supports (and respects) the LGBT+ community. This person understands the existing inequality and actively challenges homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination based on gender and sexuality. Famous allies include Beyonce, Emma Watson, and Willie Nelson.
An acronym, which means "assigned male at birth."
A gender expression or identity that is relatively gender-neutral — androgynous — or has both masculine and feminine characteristics.
A sexual orientation in which a person experiences sexual attraction towards people that are androgynous.
A sexual orientation in which a person experiences sexual attraction towards masculinity, regardless of whether the object of attraction was assigned male at birth. The opposite of androsexuality is gynosexuality. Nonbinary people often use terms like these to describe their sexual orientation, because the absence of a binary gender identity can't constitute the idea of the same gender or opposite gender. Therefore, homosexuality nor heterosexuality can help them identify their sexual orientation.
Simultaneously an umbrella term and separate gender identity that encompasses having a specific gender that is different from both man or woman or any possible combinations of the two.
A romantic orientation in which a person experiences no or very little romantic attraction towards other people. These people are often satisfied with friendships or other non-romantic relationships. Keep in mind that romantic orientation differs from sexual orientation and can be experienced separately in many people. In part 2, you can read about romantic orientations.
Umbrella term for romantic orientations in which a person experiences romantic attraction towards other people. Alloromantisicm is the counterpart of aromanticism in which a person feels no or very little romantic attraction.
A sexual orientation in which a person experiences very little or no sexual attraction towards other people. Just as with sexuality in general, we can put asexuality on a spectrum ranging from experiencing absolutely no sexual attraction to experiencing very low sensations of sexual attraction (greysexuality) or only experiencing it in specific scenarios (demisexuality).
A gay slang term describing a homosexual man who is large and has a lot of body hair.
A state in which a person has an intense interest in bisexuality and/or is very suspicious of being bisexual, but doesn't want to identify as such (yet).
A gender system and society based on strictly two opposing parts. For example, male/female, man/woman, masculinity/femininity, etc.
A technique used to flatten the chest or to correct a posture. It's especially popular with FTM transgender people and gender non-conforming people. Read all about chest binding in our article here.
In Latin, the word "bi" means two, and therefore biromanticism describes a romantic orientation in which a person experiences romantic attraction towards people from two distinct sexes or genders. Someone can be asexual and biromantic; in that case, that person would look for romantic relationships without being sexually attracted to their partner.
A sexual orientation in which a person experiences sexual attraction towards people from two distinct genders. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about bisexuality, which has led to stigmas and biphobia — even from within the LGBT+ community.
An anxiety disorder in which a person feels emotional and psychological distress from their physical appearance due to a distorted image and some parts of their body that feel "wrong." Body dysphoria is very often confused with gender dysphoria both within and outside of the transgender community. Read more about the difference here.
An LGBT+ slang term that describes a person who expresses themselves in a way that is considered "boyish."
An LGBT+ slang term that describes a person who expresses themselves in a way that is considered masculine. The opposite of butch is femme.
A sexual orientation in which a non-binary person experiences sexual attraction exclusively towards those who also identify as non-binary. More recently, the term is also used by binary individuals to replace the term skoliosexuality, which expresses an exclusive attraction to non-binary and transgender individuals. However, controversy erupted about the term because "skolio" means "broken" in Latin.
An adjective for a person that has not disclosed their gender identity and/or sexual orientation (yet).
People are cisgender when a person's gender identity matches their biological sex (and gender) assigned at birth. This gender identity is probably one of the most common in the world, while the majority of the cis-gendered people probably remain unaware of it themselves. Also known as gender straight.
The assumption that all people are cisgender. This assumption often leads to misgendering, and even though it's often unintentional, it can still be offensive for the person in question. The same frequently with heterosexuality due to heteronormativity.
Discrimination against people who aren't cisgender.
Comes from "coming out of the closet." It means disclosing one's gender identity and/or sexual orientation. This disclosure is usually an ongoing process that starts with self-acceptance and is done repeatedly during a lifetime (e.g., in new social environments). Here you find a guide to help you come out of the closet.
The structure or set-up of a polyamorous relationship. Read more about polyamory in part II.
The act of wearing clothes or items that are usually associated with the opposite sex. Someone can cross-dress for disguise, comfort or entertainment, such a drag. It's unrelated to someone's gender identity or sexual orientation.
A romantic orientation in which the person almost exclusively only experiences romantically attracted to people with whom they have a (deep) emotional connection.
A sexual orientation in which the person almost exclusively experiences sexual attraction towards people with whom they have a (deep) emotional connection. It's entirely unrelated to gender or sexual identity, meaning it can be a sexual identity that coexists with heterosexuality, homosexuality, pansexuality, or in cases even with asexuality. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can find fray- or ignotasexuality.
A person who identifies as a woman and dresses up as a man to perform caricatures of stereotypical masculinity.
A person who identifies as a man and dresses up as a woman to perform caricatures of stereotypical femininity.
An LGBT+ slang term used by lesbians to identify themselves and/or other lesbians. Usually meant derogative, but fortunately, it has been reclaimed by the community. Still, keep in mind; it's considered rude to use if you don't identify as a dyke yourself.
An attraction to someone's mind and spirit in which one feels very close to the other person. It has nothing to do with sexual attraction. Still, if the two are present at the same time, many relationship experts claim it forms a solid basis for a healthy relationship.
Another term for non-binary. It is pronounced as N.B.
The heteronormative practice of ignoring or erasing the existence of particular gender and/or sexual identities in society. It's often done by excluding queer people (lesbians, gay, bisexual, asexual, transgender, etc.) from academic, historical, and pop-cultural narratives. In the case of history, LGBT+ narratives or individuals are often excluded from public history, as is the case with the Native American two-spirit culture.
Describes a person who is female assigned at birth but whose gender identity and gender expression is (now) male.
Describes a person who considers their gender identity as feminine or femme. This person doesn't necessarily identify as a woman as well.
Describes a person who has a gender expression that is characterized as feminine. It's related to external representation.
A description of a gender identity or expression that is characterized as being feminine or leaning towards feminine.
Fem(me)sexuality or Finsexuality
A sexual orientation in which the person is sexually attracted to femininity. Anybody can identify as femsexual irrespective of their own gender identity or biological sex. Additionally, it doesn't regard the gender identity or sexual orientation of the object of affection. This term is especially useful for people who identify as nonbinary to describe their sexual attraction towards femininity as they're neither straight nor gay. The attraction towards masculinity is called massexuality.
An umbrella term for sexual orientations in which the person only or nearly exclusively feels sexual attraction towards fictional characters or people they could never possibly be in a relationship with.
A sexual orientation in which the person only experiences sexual attraction towards people with whom they do not have an emotional connection. Fraysexuals often lose that sexual attraction once they get to know someone better. It's also called ignatosexuality.
The Galactian Alignment System
A gender system created explicitly for non-binary people using the theme of space to help describe gender identities without having to use standard binary terms related to male or female. The main Galatican genders include; Aurorian, Singularian, Lunarian, Solarian, and Stellarian. The terms were coined in 2016 on a Discord server by several Tumblr users. To read more about the Galactic Alignment System, click here.
A well-known non-gender specific slang word for a homosexual person. Although it still has a lot of other conventional meanings such as "joyful."
Not identifying with any gender in specific. Or not caring about gender identities (that much).
A perspective in which gender is view strictly as being either man or woman and often based on biological sex.
The emotional and psychological distress a person experiences due to the mismatch between sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. People that have gender dysphoria are often transgender and decide to go through a transition that might involve gender-reconstructive surgery. Read more about this in part II.
A person who ignores the gender expressions normally associated with gender stereotypes and norms. Instead, they adopt their personal sense of style and behavior that fits their identity. It's not necessary to be transgender or nonbinary to be gender non-conforming; anybody can identify as gender non-conforming regardless of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
A state in which a person is questioning one or multiple aspects of their gender, such as their gender identity and/or expression.
Another term to describe cisgendered people.
Not conforming to the gender expectations of culture and/or society by conscious choice of by nature, including transgender, transsexual, intersex, nonbinary, gender-queer, and cross-dressers.
A nonbinary gender identity in which the gender identity of a person is not fixed and can change over time between two or more genders. These changes can happen in a matter of hours, days, or even months and often depend on the circumstances of the individual. Due to this potential fluctuation of gender identity expression, genderfluid people frequently prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as "they," "ze," or "hir." A famous genderfluid advocate and genderfluid as well is actress Ruby Rose.
The act of rebelling or destroying the binary gender system and/or gender stereotypes related to it. This can be done through gender expression and discourse about gender identity that challenges the status quo of society and the existing gender roles.
A gender identity that falls in between or completely outside of the socially constructed norm of the binary gender identities of man and woman. The term often overlaps with nonbinary and genderfluid.
A gender identity of a person who feels that their gender falls (partially) outside of the socially constructed binary gender norm. Many of these people feel as if they have a gender, including a desire for gender expression, but it's rather weak and leans more towards agender or gender apathy.
A romantic orientation in which the person rarely experiences romantic attraction towards other people. This romantic orientation lays between aromantic and (allo)romantic, but leans more towards aromantic. These people are often (also) demiromantic.
A sexual orientation in which the person rarely experiences sexual attraction towards other people. This sexual orientation lies between asexual and (allo)sexual and disregards gender identity or underlying sexual orientation.
A social app for gay and bisexual men. Also seen as the ultimate hookup app.
A sexual orientation in which a person exclusively experiences sexual attraction towards females or female body parts regardless of the gender or sex of the object of attraction. The opposite of gynosexuality is androsexuality. Gynosexuality shouldn't be confused with femmesexuality, which is a broader sexual attraction towards femininity.
A dating app for lesbians, bisexuals, non-binary and queer people.
An organism that possesses both male and female reproductive organs and while being viable to reproduce. The term was once also used to classify intersex people, but it's considered misleading because it refers only to plants and animals. Additionally, most intersex people are not reproductively viable.
Another way of saying, almost completely straight. In other words, primarily heterosexual, with small tendencies towards homosexual feelings and/or activities.
A perspective that views heterosexuality as being the only possibility or norm in regards to sexual orientations. It also comes with the wrong assumption that the people that one encounters in their life, all identify as heterosexual.
A romantic orientation in which a person is exclusively attracted to people of the opposite sex or gender. A romantic orientation doesn't have to interfere with sexual orientation but can be combined with one. For example, someone can be sexually attracted to all genders (pansexual), but only experience a romantic attraction towards people of the opposite sex (heteroromantic).
A sexual orientation in which the person is exclusively sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex. Heterosexuality is still by many considered to be the most common sexual orientation. The term was coined jointly with homosexuality by Karl Maria Kertbeny in 1869 but became more widely used only at the beginning of the 20th century. Interestingly, in 1923 the word was listed in Merriam-Webster's International Dictionary as a medical term for "morbid sexual passion for the opposite sex."
A romantic orientation in which a person is exclusively romantically attracted to people of the same sex or gender. A romantic orientation doesn't have to interfere with sexual orientation but can be combined with one. For example, someone can be sexually attracted to all genders (pansexual), but only experiences a romantic attraction towards people of the same sex (homoromantic).
A sexual orientation in which a person is strictly sexually attracted to people of the same sex or gender.
It's not a sexual orientation, but a state in which a person gets frequent or sudden rising in their libido. It's also known as sex addiction, and it's under discussion if this should be treated as a clinical diagnosis. Previously the terms Nymphomania and Satyriasis were used from women and men, respectively. Want to know if you could be addicted to sex? Do a 3-minute test here.
A gender identity that falls in the middle of the two binary gender identities of man and woman. It falls under the nonbinary umbrella, and some claim that it's a gender identity that can only be used by people who are, in fact, intersex.
An umbrella term for people who are born with sex characteristics such as genitals and/or chromosome composition that don't fit the typical binary sex system of strictly male or female. The number of intersex people in society is estimated to be around 1.7% (which is the same amount as redheads). Unfortunately, non-consensual medical interventions to try to fit the person into the binary gender system became widely practiced in the 1950s. Read more about it here.
The Kinsey Scale is a famous heterosexual-homosexual rating scale to describe a person's sexuality ranging from 0-6, with an additional category of "X." The scale was developed in the 1940s by Dr. Alfred Kinsey — the father of the sexual revolution — to demonstrate that sexuality is more complicated and not binary but somewhat fluid, and we should view it as being on a spectrum instead.
Lesbian is a word that evolved in the early 20th century and describes a homosexual woman and differentiates them from homosexual men. The word lesbian literally means a resident of the Isle of Lesbos, a Greek island of which the poet Sappho was a resident in 600 B.E. She wrote very explicit and erotic poems about her love for women. Much of her poetry was edited or even destroyed, which is a classic example of erasure.
Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, and Two-spirit. It started with the more commonly used term of LGBT in the 1980s and has been expanding ever since to be more inclusive. If you want to know more about it, go here.
A lesbian who is considered to be feminine in her appearance and behavior. Also known as femme.
Here we're at the end of part I of the LGBT+ glossary. We hope you enjoyed it so far and have been able to learn something new regardless of where you are in your journey in the discovery of the world of gender and sexuality. In part II, we'll continue with terminology from the letters M-Z.
Author Unknown. "Glossary of Sexual Orientation/Gender Terminology". Sexinfo Online. Link
Author Unknown. "A-Z List of Sexualities". Unite UK. June, 2018. Link
Mere Abrams. "64 Terms That Describe Gender Identity and Expression". Healthline. Link
Pinknews Staff Writer. "The Ultimate LGBT Glossary: all your questions answered. Nov, 2017. Pinknews. Link
Sam Killerman. "Comprehensive List of LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Definitions. Jan, 2013. It's Pronounced Metrosexual. Link