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LGBTQ Education: Glossary

Glossary of Terms

  • AFAB : Acronym for Assigned Female at Birth.
  • Agender : Refers to a person who does not identify with any gender.
  • AMAB : Acronym for Assigned Male at Birth.
  • Asexual : A spectrum of orientations which experience little to no sexual attraction. Often shortened to ace.
  • Bigender : Having two genders, exhibiting cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine roles.
  • Bisexual : A sexual orientation which experiences attraction to same and different genders. Sometimes used interchangeably with pansexual. Often shortened to bi.
  • Cishet : A portmanteau of cisgender and heterosexual.
  • Cisgender : Refers to an individual whose gender identity aligns with the one typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. Often shortened to cis.
  • Closeted : Describes a person who is not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Coming Out : The process of voluntarily sharing one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity with others.
  • Deadnaming : When someone, intentionally or not, refers to a trans person by the name they used before they transitioned or came out.
  • Gay : A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender. Sometimes used as an umbrella term.
  • Gender : From the French genre, gender is a social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity.
  • Gender Dysphoria : The distress caused when a person's assigned sex at birth and assumed gender is not the same as the one with which they identify.
  • Gender Euphoria : The comfort or joy experienced when one presents as, or is viewed as, one's true gender and/or joy experienced when imagining oneself as a given gender.
  • Gender Expression : The manner in which a person communicates about gender to others through external means such as clothing, appearance, or mannerisms. This communication may be conscious or subconscious and may or may not reflect their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Gender Identity : One's internal understanding and experience of gender. Each person’s experience with their gender identity is unique and personal.
  • Gender Nonconforming : Adjective for people who do not subscribe to societal expectations of typical gender expressions or roles.
  • Genderfluid : Describes a person who does not consistently identify with one fixed gender, and who may move between gender identities.
  • Genderqueer : A gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal norm for assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them.
  • Heteronormativity : The assumption that everyone is heterosexual or treating heterosexuality as the default.
  • Heterosexism : The assumption that heterosexuality is preferred or "normal."
  • Homophobia : An aversion to lesbian or gay people that often manifests itself in the form of prejudice and bias.
  • Intersex : Used to describe people who are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that can’t be classified as typically male or female.
  • Lesbian : A woman who is predominantly attracted to other women.
  • LGBT : A common acronym and umbrella term that refers to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
  • LGBTQIA+ : Another acronym and umbrella term that includes people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex, asexual, or otherwise not cisgender or heterosexual.
  • Misgender :  To refer to someone, especially a transgender or gender-expansive person, using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, which does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify.
  • Neopronoun : Any set of singular third-person pronouns that are not officially recognized in the language they are used in, typically created with the intent of being a gender neutral pronoun set.
  • Nonbinary : Used to describe people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as outside of the male-female gender binary. Many other words for identities outside the traditional categories of man and woman may be used, such as genderfluid, genderqueer, polygender, bigender, demi gender, or agender. These identities, while similar, are not necessarily interchangeable or synonymous.
  • Out (adj.) : Generally describes people who openly self-identify as LGBTQ+ in their private, public, and/or professional lives.
  • Out (verb) : The deliberate or accidental sharing of another person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression without their consent. Outing is considered disrespectful and a potentially dangerous act for LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Pansexual : Used to describe people who are attracted to people of any gender or to people regardless of their gender. Some people may use the words bisexual and pansexual interchangeably, and others use only one word exclusively to describe themselves. Often shortened to pan.
  • Queer : An umbrella term used to refer to an identity that expands outside of heterosexuality. Due to its history as a reclaimed slur and use in political movements, queer still holds political significance.
  • Questioning : Used to describe a person who may be processing or questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • Sexual Orientation : A person’s physical, romantic, emotional, and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Everyone has a sexual orientation.
  • Transgender : A term describing a person’s gender identity that does not match their assigned sex at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically. Also used as an umbrella term for people who transcend conventional expectations of gender identity or expression. Often shortened to trans.
  • Transition : A term sometimes used to refer to the process—social, legal, and/or medical—one goes through to discover and/or affirm one’s gender identity. This may, but does not always, include taking hormones; having surgeries; and changing names, pronouns, identification documents, and more. Many individuals choose not to or are unable to transition for a wide range of reasons both within and beyond their control. The validity of an individual’s gender identity does not depend on any social, legal, and/or medical transition; the self-identification itself is what validates the gender identity.

Terms to Avoid

Term or Phrase Rationale
Born a boy (or girl) No matter how old a transgender person is when they come out, it's important to acknowledge they may feel their gender has always been the same one they are just now publicly claiming.
Homosexual (noun or adjective) Because of the clinical history of the word “homosexual,” it is aggressively used by anti-LGBTQ extremists to suggest that people attracted to the same sex are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered – notions discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Please avoid using “homosexual” except in direct quotes.
Identifies as This qualifying phrase can sometimes be used to trivialize or delegitimize an individual's identity or lived experience; for example, rather than saying "Adira identifies as nonbinary," instead try "Adira is nonbinary." See also: self-identified.
Preferred Pronouns While this phrase is usually well-intended, the qualifier "preferred" implies that pronouns other than the ones specified are acceptable.
Self-Identified This qualifying phrase may suggest a person's identity isn't valid; in most cases, you can simply drop the "self-identified" qualifier. See also: identifies as.
Sexual Preference The term "sexual preference" is typically used to suggest that being attracted to the same sex is a choice and therefore can and should be "cured."
Transgendered Dated; use transgender or trans instead.

References: GLAAD Media Reference Guide and "5 accidentally transphobic phrases allies use — and what to say instead" from Mashable.