LGBTQAIP2+ Terminology Deep Dive - 2021
Why are labels important to some people?
Not everyone is fond of labels or finds them useful for themselves, but in general the invention of a label to describe something is an important step towards society recognising and acknowledging its existence.
When it comes to gender and sexuality, coining the term can be a step along the way to more widespread understanding and acceptance, and offers opportunity for others to recognise themselves in that term.
Not everyone needs a label to feel confident in their identity, but to others it can be a useful structure, starting point, or cornerstone of their identity.
Especially with the internet, new terms are always being coined and old ones may change their meaning over time, making it difficult to stay ‘up to date’ on everything. Not knowing what a label means is nothing to be ashamed of; instead it’s an opportunity to learn something new. If you’re unsure about the label someone is using for themself, if it’s an appropriate time it’s probably best to ask them about it – even established terms mean something slightly different to everyone.
Language is always changing and updating, which is why we’re keeping this extensive glossary of LGBTQ+ terminology up to date for 2021. We’ve done our best to include everything we can think of, but if there’s something you feel we’ve missed please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please keep in mind that individuals may be using terminology differently to how we define it here, and be respectful of that.
There are a couple of terms that you may already be familiar with defined here with how they will be used in the rest of the glossary. Understanding this fundamental terminology will help you make sense of the other LGBTQ+ terms and avoid misunderstandings.
A biological construct that distinguishes between male, female, and intersex. It is not binary as people often mistakenly believe, but is based on a combination of elements such as genital appearance, hormone levels, sexual characteristics, and chromosomes.
XY chromosomes usually result 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 that describes a range of characteristics generally belonging to masculinity and femininity, and what differentiates them.
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, which you can read more about here.
The internal and personal experience or sense of gender. When this doesn't align with the sex assigned at birth, a person may identify as transgender. Not to be confused with gender expression, though 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, such as clothing, mannerisms, pronouns, appearance and speech.
Also known as "sex role," a gender role is a social role that requires certain behaviours, expressions, and attitudes that are commonly seen as accepted or desired for a person based on their perceived biological sex.
This term describes the genders someone experiences sexual/physical attraction to in relation to their own gender. Sexual orientation can’t be controlled or decided, and people can only decide their sexual behaviour, which might not align with their sexual orientation.
This term describes the genders someone experiences romantic/emotional attraction to, in relation to their own gender. As with sexual orientation, it can’t be controlled or chosen. Most people’s romantic and sexual orientation align, but it’s also common for there to be less overlap and more differences. It’s possible to experience only romantic attraction or only sexual attraction also.
Abrosexuality - orientation
A person who experiences frequent changes in their sexuality and fluctuations between various sexual orientations may identify as abrosexual. These changes can be erratic or regular. Abrosexuality differs from novosexuality and sexually fluid in that this sexuality is exceptionally fluid. For example, 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."
Agender – gender identity
‘Agender’ literally means ‘without gender,’ but when used as a label sometimes it has more nuance than that. It may mean someone feels they don’t have a gender, are unable to experience gender, or exist outside the concept of gender.
Aliagender/ Aliusgender – gender identity
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.
Allosexual - Orientation
This word means anyone who is not asexual and experience sexual attraction.
Alloromantic - Orientation
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.
An acronym, which means "assigned male at birth." The counterpart to AFAB.
Androgyne – Gender Identity
A non-binary identity with features of both masculinity and femininity. Someone may feel they are simultaneously male and female, in between male and female, or in between the two.
Androgynosexuality - Orientation
A sexual orientation in which a person experiences sexual attraction towards androgynous people.
Androsexuality - Orientation
A orientation in which a person experiences attraction towards masculinity, regardless of whether the object of attraction was assigned male at birth. The opposite of androsexuality is gynosexuality.
It may be useful to non-binary people to describe their orientation because many words such a heterosexual and homosexual are focused on the binary gender of the person themself.
Aporagender – Gender Identity
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. Similar to aliagender.
Aromantic - Orientation
A romantic orientation in which a person experiences no or very little romantic attraction towards other people.
Asexuality - Orientation
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).
Just because someone is asexual doesn’t mean they will be celibate (not having sex at all.) They can still have sex and enjoy it, but they don’t experience the sexual attraction aspect.
Bear - Identity
A slang term describing a gay man who is large and has a lot of body hair. The bear subculture originated from San Francisco in the 1980s, partly in response to the popular image of a gay man as small and effeminate.
Bicurious - Orientation
Someone who may be questioning if they are bisexual, or feel they would like to experiment to find out if they are bisexual, may describe themself as bicurious.
A gender system and society based on strictly two opposing parts. For example, male/female, man/woman, masculinity/femininity.
A technique used to flatten the appearance of the chest or to correct a posture. Usually through use of a binder for this specific purpose, which compresses the chest to give a flatter appearance.
Bi Lesbian - Orientation
Bi Lesbian is a historical term originating from the lesbian separatism movement of the 1970s. Previously, ‘lesbian’ had just meant any woman who was attracted to women, regardless of attraction to men. Lesbian separatists claiming the word lesbian excluding attraction to men meant many women added the term bisexual to their identity.
Nowadays it can have different meanings to people, for example it could mean a bisexual woman who chooses to only pursue relationships with women, someone who is bisexual and homoromantic, someone who has fluid attraction and so identifies as bisexual and lesbian at once, or someone who is attracted to women and feminine non-binary people.
Biromantic - Orientation
A romantic orientation in which a person experiences romantic attraction towards people from two or more genders.
Bisexuality - Orientation
A sexual orientation in which a person experiences sexual attraction towards people from two or more genders. Similar to pansexual.
Boi – gender identity
Someone who presents masculinely but not in a cisherteronormative way. The term comes from AAVE so is normally used by Black individuals.
Butch - Identity
A term that describes a person who expresses themself in a way that is considered masculine. It is often used for gay women and gay men.
It can also be a gender identity, especially for butch lesbians. Butches may wear men’s clothing, not shave, use he/him pronouns, chest bind, pack, or do none of those things.
Ceterosexual - Orientation
An orientation in which a non-binary person experiences attraction exclusively towards other non-binary people.
Slang for someone who has not come out publicly and is trying to appear cisgender and heterosexual.
Cisgender – Gender Identity
Cisgender means someone’s gender matches their Assigned Gender At Birth (AGAB.)
The assumption that all people are cisgender. This can lead to transgender people being ignored and erased.
For example, someone might say, “All women need pap smears,” which ignores the fact that not all women have a vagina, as well as the fact that trans men’s health should also be considered when talking about vagina related healthcare. It would be more accurate to say “All adults with a vagina need pap smears.”
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 as something other than cisgender heterosexual heteroromantic.
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.
Demiromantic - Orientation
An orientation in which the person only experiences romantic attraction to people they have an already existing deep emotional connection with.
Demisexuality – Orientation
An orientation where the person only experiences sexual attraction to someone they have a deep emotional connection with.
A performer who plays a masculine character, usually a caricature of stereotypical masculinity in a subversive way.
A performer who plays a feminine character, usually a caricature of stereotypical femininity in a subversive way.
Slang term for non-binary. It comes from saying the initials NB out loud. You shouldn’t refer to a non-binary person as ‘an enby’ without their permission though, as some find the term infantilising.
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 from academic, historical, and pop-cultural narratives. This especially happens to non-white cultures, such as Native American two-spirit culture.
Describes a person who is assigned female at birth but is transitioning to male.
Feminine-of-center – Gender Identity
Describes a person who considers their gender identity as feminine or femme. They doesn't necessarily have to identify as a woman.
Describes a person who has a gender expression that is characterized as feminine. It's related to external representation.
Femme – Gender Identity
A description of a gender identity or expression that is characterized as being feminine or leaning towards feminine. Femmes often express femininity in a subversive way, such as femme lesbians being feminine for their own enjoyment rather than the male gaze.
Fem(me)sexual / Finsexual - Orientation
When someone is attracted to femininity. Anybody can identify as femsexual irrespective of their own gender identity or biological sex. This term is especially useful for people who identify as nonbinary as the term doesn’t need the user to specify their own gender identity.
Fraysexual - Orientation
Someone who only experiences sexual attraction towards people they do not have an emotional connection with. Fraysexuals often lose that sexual attraction once they get to know someone better. It's also called ignatosexuality.
Gay - Orientation
Usually meant as a word for homosexual people, but sometimes used as a catchall term for LGBTQIA+ people as a whole.
Gender apathetic – Gender Identity
Not identifying with any gender in specific, or not caring what gender others think they are.
A perspective in which gender is viewed strictly as being either man or woman , 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 may transition through clothing, appearance, Hormone Replacement Therapy and gender affirming surgery to help alleviate their dysphoria.
This is different to Body Dysmorphia, which is not gender related but about someone being distressed by their distorted view of their both. Read more about the difference here.
When someone presents in a way that doesn’t match society’s expectation for their gender identity. They do not need to be transgender or non-binary to be gender non-conforming (often shortened to GNC.)
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 cisgender people.
Not conforming to the gender expectations of culture and/or society, including transgender, transsexual, intersex, nonbinary, gender-queer, and cross-dressers.
Genderfluid – Identity
Someone whose gender identity changes over time, changing between multiple genders, may use the term genderfluid. The time period over which their gender changes, and how many genders they experience, varies by person. 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 challenging the status quo of gender within society and existing gender roles.
Genderqueer – Gender Identity
A term used by people who feel they have a queer or non-cisheteronormative experience of gender. It can be used as a synonym for non-binary, a description of someone’s gender, or as an identity on it’s own.
Greygender – gender identity
A gender identity of a person who feels that their gender falls (partially) outside of the socially constructed binary gender norm, but don’t have a strong feeling about it.
Greyromantic - Orientation
A romantic orientation in which the person rarely experiences romantic attraction towards other people, under the aromantic umbrella.
Greysexual - orientation
A sexual orientation in which the person rarely experiences sexual attraction towards other people, under the asexual umbrella.
Gynosexual - orientation
A sexual orientation in which a person exclusively experiences sexual attraction towards females.
An outdated term for interex, now considered offensive. It is still a term in biology referring to plants and animals.
Heteroflexible - Orientation
A slang term for 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 erases other sexualities and is harmful in many ways.
Heteroromantic – Orientation
When someone is only romantically attracted to people of a different gender than themself.
Heterosexuality - Orientation
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.
Homoromantic - Orientation
A romantic orientation in which a person is only romantically attracted to people of the same gender.
Homosexuality - Orientation
A sexual orientation in which a person is only sexually attracted to people of the same sex or gender.
Intergender – Gender Identity
A gender identity that falls in the middle of the two binary gender identities of man and woman.
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 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.
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