Terminology

Below is a list of words used in the LGBTQA+ community. The information below was compiled from multiple resources. A list of those resources can be found at the bottom of this page. No glossary will encompass the complete range of identities and terms that are used within LGBTQ communities. Over time, language and terminology may shift. Pay close attention to and mirror the language the individual uses to identify. 


A/Ace: Colloquial abbreviation of “asexual”.  Often used to refer to asexual people in a similar manner as “gay” or “straight” are used to refer to homosexual or heterosexual people.

Ace Spectrum: The grouping of asexual, demisexual, and gray-asexual under a single umbrella of related sexual orientation.

Aesthetic Attraction: Attraction to someone’s appearance, without it being romantic or sexual.

AFAB: Abbreviation for “assigned female at birth.”

Affectional Orientation: See ‘Romantic Orientation.’

Ag/Aggressive: See ‘Stud.’

Agender: A person without gender. An agender individual’s body does not necessarily correspond with their lack of gender identity. Often, agender individuals are not concerned with their physical sex, but some may seek to look androgynous.

Ally: A person who supports and respects sexual diversity, acts accordingly to challenge homophobic and heterosexist remarks and behaviors, and is willing to explore and understand these forms of bias within themselves. Often describes a heterosexual individual who is nevertheless part of the LGBTQ community.

AMAB: Abbreviation for “assigned male at birth.”

Androgyne:  Person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.

Androsexual: sexual orientation of anyone who has sexual feelings towards a man.

Aromantic: A person who experiences little or no romantic attraction. The aromantic attribute is usually considered an innate attribute rather than a choice. Aromantic people typically get their empathetic support from platonic relationships.

Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction towards other people, and who identifies as asexual. May or may not experience romantic, emotional, or physical attractions to other people.

Bear: 1. A gay or bisexual man who has facial/body hair and a cuddly body. 2. An umbrella term that is often defined as more of an attitude or sense of comfort with natural masculinity and bodies.

Bicurious: An individual who identifies as gay or straight while showing some curiosity for a relationship or sexual activity with a person of the sex they do not favor. (Related terms: heteroflexible, homoflexible)

Biphobia: Fear of, hatred of, or discomfort with people who are bisexual. Biphobia can be seen within the LGBTQ community, as well as in general society.

Biromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to both sexes or genders. Biromantics are not necessarily sexually attracted to both/any sexes or genders.

Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to both men and women, or someone who identifies as a member of the bisexual community.

Boi (pronounced “boy”): 1. A female-bodied person who expresses or presents themselves in a culturally/stereotypically masculine, particularly boyish, way. 2. One who enjoys being perceived as a young male and intentionally identifies with being a “boy” rather than a “man”

Butch: 1. A person who identifies as masculine, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. 2. Sometimes used as a derogatory term for lesbians, but it can also be claimed as affirmative identity label.

Cisgender: A person who feels as if their biological sex matches their gender identity. (Cisgender has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning "to/this the near side," which is antonymous with the Latin-derived prefix trans).

Cissexism: Norms and behaviors that result from the assumption that all people are or should be cisgender. This system of oppression assumes that being cisgender is inherently normal and superior and negates transgender individuals’ lives and relationships.

Closet: Used as slang for the state of not publicizing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, keeping it private, living an outwardly heterosexual life while identifying as LGBTQ, or not being forthcoming about one’s identity. At times, being in the closet also means not wanting to admit one’s sexual identity to oneself.

Coming Out: The process of recognizing, accepting, and sharing with others one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  “Coming Out” can also refer to the time when a person comes out to themselves. 

Crossdresser: Individual who dresses in the “opposite” gender clothing for a variety of reasons, sometimes for sexual pleasure. Crossdressing is not indicative of sexual orientation. This term replaces the sometimes pejorative term transvestite.

Crush: A (possibly temporary) romantic attraction to someone, that may or may not be acted upon.

Cruising: To search (as in public places) for a sexual partner.

Cub: A young or younger looking version of a bear, usually with a smaller frame. Sometimes used to imply being the passive partner in the relationship.

Demiromantic: A person who does not experience a romantic attraction unless they have formed a strong emotional bond.A demiromantic person may or may not experience sexual attraction. 

Demisexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they have a strong emotional connection (such as a romantic relationship or deep friendship). Demisexuality is not a choice, it is an innate orientation.

Dolphin: A slender, athletic, hairless bear. 

Down-low: Men who identify as straight, but have sex with men on the side without disclosing this to their female partner(s) (if any). The down-low community is traditionally associated with African American and Latino men. Sometimes referred to as “on the DL.”

Drag King: A female-bodied individual who dresses in masculine or male-designated clothing. A Drag King’s cross-dressing is usually on a part-time basis and many work as entertainers at LGBTQ or straight nightclubs.

Drag Queen: A male-bodied individual who wears female-designated or feminine clothing. Drag Queens usually cross-dress on a part-time basis and often perform in nightclubs by singing, dancing, or lip-synching.

Dyke: Derogatory term referring to a masculine lesbian. Sometimes adopted affirmatively by lesbians (not necessarily masculine ones) to refer to themselves.

Faggot/Fag: Derogatory term referring to someone perceived as non-heteronormative. Sometimes adopted affirmatively by gay men to refer to themselves.

Faghag/Fruitfly: A woman who associates mostly or exclusive with gay or bisexual men.

Fairy: Derogatory term referring to someone perceived as non-heteronormative. Sometimes adopted affirmatively by gam men to refer to themselves.

Female: a person with a specific set of sexual anatomy (e.g. 46, XX phenotype, vagina, ovaries, uterus, breasts, higher levels of estrogen, fine body hair) pursuant to this label.

Femininity:  refers to qualities that are thought of as being womanly, that are typically ascribed to women, and that are considered to be socially appropriate for a woman's behavior. People who exhibit self-described femininity do not necessarily think of themselves as women: some men (including trans men) are feminine, some women are, some genderqueer or androgynous people are.

Femme: Generally used to describe a person who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics. This term is also used to describe a specific lesbian identity (ie. butch/femme). Use the term with caution since in some contexts it can be perceived as offensive.

Fluid: A sexual or gender identity that exists beyond a binary system of either gay or straight, man or woman. People with a fluid identity may resist using labels or choosing boxes to define themselves. Also used by people whose sexual or gender identity is not fixed on one point of a continuum.

FTM: An abbreviation for a female-to-male transgender individual. This person most likely uses masculine pronouns.

Gay: At times, “gay” is used to refer to all people, regardless of sex, who have their primary sexual and or romantic attractions to people of the same sex. The term can also exclusively refer to men who are emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to other men, or who identify as members of the gay community.  Lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals may feel excluded by the term “gay.”

Gender: A set of social, physical, psychological and emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations, that classify an individual as feminine, masculine, androgynous or other.   

Gender Binary: The division of gender separated into two distinct and opposite categories (man and woman). The gender binary is recognized as a construct, as there are many identities in-between and outside of these categories.

Gender Confirmation Surgery: Permanent surgical body modification that seeks to attain congruence between one’s body and one’s gender identity.

Gender Expression: An individual’s physical characteristics, behaviors and presentation that are linked traditionally, to either masculinity or femininity, such as: appearance, dress, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. 

GenderFuck: Someone whose gender expression is a political commentary on the conventional gender binary system.

Gender Identity: How one perceives oneself – as a man, a woman, or otherwise.

Gender Inclusive: a term used to eliminate exclusion when discussing gender. A form of linguistic prescriptivism that aims to eliminate reference to gender in terms that describe people.

Gender Non-Conforming: A person who is either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender based expectations of society (ex. Transgender, transexual, intersex, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc.)

Gender Neutral: noting or pertaining to a word that does not refer to one sex only. Typically used in an effort be inclusive of gender nonconformity, however, a better phrase to use would be “Gender Inclusive.” “Gender Neutral” is often insulting to many trans people and can be compared the phrase “color blind” often heard in reference to “not seeing” race. 

Gender Presentation: An individual’s physical characteristics, such as physical appearance or dress, that outwardly shows their own gender identity.

Gender Role: Norms of expected behavior for men and women assigned primarily on the basis of biological sex; a sociological construct which varies from culture to culture. 

Gender Transition: The social, psychological or medical process of transitioning from one gender to another. Gender transition is an individualized process and does not involve the same steps for everyone. Transition may include telling one’s social support network; legally changing one’s name or sex; therapeutic treatment with hormones; and possibly, though in not all instances, surgery. 

Gender Variant: 1: A term that describes those who dress, behave, or express themselves in a way that does not conform with dominant gender norms. 2: Thought to be similar to gender non-conforming, gender variance can describe behavior or gender expression by an individual that does not match masculine and feminine gender norms. Some people do not use this term because they feel it suggests these identities are abnormal, preferring terms such as "gender creative" and "gender expansive."

Genderqueer: A gender variant person whose gender identity is neither male nor female, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. Individuals that identify as genderqueer often challenge gender stereotypes and the gender binary system.

Goldilocks: A straight woman who associates mostly or exclusively with bears.

Grey-A: The grey area between asexuality and sexuality. Some people identify as being somewhere between asexuality and sexuality. Grey-A identifying persons can include people who do not normally experience sexual attraction, but do experience it sometimes; experience sexual attraction, but a low sex drive; experience sexual attraction and drive, but not strongly enough to want to act on them; people who can enjoy and desire sex, but only under very limited and specific circumstances.

Greyromantic: The grey area between being aromantic and experiencing romantic attraction. Some people identify as being somewhere between being aromantic and experiencing romantic attraction. Greyromantic identifying persons can include people who do not normally experience romantic attraction, but do experience it sometimes; experience romantic attraction, but not strongly enough to want to act on it; people who experience romantic attraction but only under very limited and specific circumstances.

Gynosexual:  A sexual orientation of anyone who has sexual feelings towards a woman

He-she: A derogatory term used to describe transgender/ transsexual, intersex, or gender non-conforming people that refuses to acknowledge the person’s gender.

Hermaphrodite—An out-of-date and offensive term for an intersex person. (See ‘Intersex’)

Heteroflexible: A person who is predominantly heterosexual, but not exclusively so. 10

Heteronormativity: The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality and bisexuality.

Heteroromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to a member of the opposite sex. A heteroromantic person is not necessarily sexually attracted to the opposite sex. 

Heterosexism: Norms and behaviors that result from the assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. This system of oppression assumes that heterosexuality is inherently normal and superior and negates LGBTQ peoples’ lives and relationships.

Heterosexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to members of the opposite sex or gender. Often called a "straight" person. 

Heterosexual Privilege: The benefits and advantages that heterosexuals receive in a heterosexist culture. Also, the benefits that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming a heterosexual identity and denying a lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity.

Homoflexible: A person who is mostly attracted to the same sex/gender, but can, on occasion be attracted to the opposite sex/gender.

Homophobia: Fear of, hatred of, or discomfort with people who love and sexually desire members of the same sex. Homophobic reactions often lead to intolerance, bigotry, and violence against anyone not acting within socio-cultural norms of heterosexuality. Because most LGBTQ people are raised in the same society as heterosexuals, they learn the same beliefs and stereotypes prevalent in the dominant society, leading to a phenomenon known as internalized homophobia, whereas LGBTQ-identified individuals feel shame, guilt, or hatred towards the part of themselves identified as LGBTQ.  

Homoromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to a member of the same sex. A homoromantic person is not necessarily sexually attracted to the same sex.

Homosexual: The clinical term, coined in the field of psychology, for people with a same-sex sexual attraction. The word is often associated with the idea that same-sex attractions are a mental disorder, and is therefore potentially offensive to some people.

Internalized Homophobia: The fear and self-hate of one’s own homosexuality or bisexuality in individuals who have learned negative ideas about homosexuality throughout childhood. One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group. It can result in depression, alienation, anxiety, and, in extreme cases, suicide. 

Intersex: Term used for a variety of medical conditions in which a person is born with chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sexual characteristics that are inconsistent with the typical definition of a male or female body. Intersex individuals are not always aware that they have this condition. Replaces the inaccurate term “hermaphrodite.”

Kinsey Scale: The continuum model devised by Alfred Kinsey in 1948 that plotted sexuality from 0 to 6; 0 being exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual. It was the first scale to account for bisexuality. According to a 1954 survey using the scale, 70% of people fell between 1 and 5. It’s been criticized for being too linear and only accounting for behavior and not sexual identity and is no longer widely used.

Leather: The leather subculture denotes practices and styles of dress organized around sexual activities. Wearing leather garments is one way that participants in this culture self-consciously distinguish themselves from mainstream sexual cultures. Leather culture is most visible in gay communities and most often associated with gay men ("leathermen"), but it is also reflected in various ways in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual worlds. Many people associate leather culture with BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sado/Masochism)

Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to other women, or someone who identifies as a member of the lesbian community. Bisexual women may or may not feel included by this term.

LGBTQ – 1. A common abbreviation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community. 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 allies/asexual, or shortened to LGBQ when only discussing sexual orientation. 2. A descriptive adjective (ex. “I am an LGBTQ individual”).         

Lifestyle: A word often used outside the LGBTQ community to describe life as an LGBTQ person, e.g. “the homosexual lifestyle.” Many people find this word inappropriate because it trivializes identity, implies that sexual orientation is a choice, and ignores the variety of lifestyles that LGBTQ people live.

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.

MSM: An abbreviation for men who have sex with men. This term emphasizes the behavior, rather than the identities of the individuals involved.

MTF: An abbreviation for a male-to-female transgender individual. This person most likely uses feminine pronouns.

Male: a person with a specific set of sexual anatomy (e.g.,  46,XY phenotype, penis, testis, higher levels of testosterone, coarse body hair, facial hair) pursuant to this label.

Masculinity: refers to qualities that are thought of as being manly, that are typically ascribed to men, and that are considered to be socially appropriate for a man's behavior. People who exhibit self-described masculinity do not necessarily think of themselves as men: some women (including trans women) are masculine, some men are, some genderqueer or androgynous people are.

Metrosexual: A term popularized in the 1990s referring to a heterosexual male who assumes characteristics traditionally associated with gay male stereotypes. While the term seems to imply a shift in sexual orientation it more accurately reflects a loosening of restrictions around male gender role adherence and is not related to sexuality.

Neutrois: A person who is not regularly internally gendered.

No Homo: An offensive phrase often used after someone has inadvertently said something that others may consider gay.

Omnisexual: A person who is sexually attracted to all sexes/genders. Similar to bisexual, except omnisexual’s attractions are not constrained by the gender binary.

Othering: The process of perceiving or portraying someone or something as fundamentally different or alien.12

Otter: A slender, hairy member of the bear community with a passive personality.

Outing: When someone discloses information about another’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their knowledge and/or consent.

Panromantic: A person whose romantic attractions are not influenced by sex or gender identity.

Pansexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to people regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. Use of the term usually signals a repudiation of the concept of binary (two) sexes (a concept sometimes implied by “bisexual”).

Passing: Being taken for a member of the dominant group–white, straight, cisgender (non-transgender), for example, LGBTQI people who have the ability to pass can choose to conceal the stigma associated with being a member of a sexual minority. 

Per: A gender-inclusive alternative pronoun to he or she. Derives from "person."

Pride: A healthy self-respect, which, in the context of the gay community, promotes empowerment, education, safe living, and the sense that it is “okay to be LGBT+.”

Privilege:A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to one person or group of people. Operates on personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels, gives advantages, favors, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups, and people in dominant groups are frequently unaware that they are members of the dominant group due to the privilege of being able to see themselves as persons rather than stereotypes.

Pronouns: One class of words that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual (for example: he/him/his, she/her/hers, or ze/hir/hirs).

Polyamorous: A person who finds themselves romantically, physically, and/or sexually attracted to multiple individuals, and finds that pursuing multiple relationships is the most satisfying course of action in their lives.

Polyromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to all or many genders or gender expressions.5

Queen: A slang term used to refer to flamboyant or effeminate gay men. The term can either be pejorative or celebrated as a type of self-identification.

Queer: Term describing people who have a non-normative gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual anatomy—includes lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people and allies. Since the term is sometimes used as a slur, it has a negative connotation for some LGBTQ people; however, others have reclaimed it and are comfortable using it to describe themselves.

Queerplatonic: A type of non-romantic relationship where there is a strong emotional bond and commitment amongst everyone involved that goes beyond what is traditionally thought of as friendship. A-romantic people may or may not experience these types of relationships (among other kinds).

Questioning: The process of examining one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Can be used as an adjective.

Romantic Orientation: A term used to refer to variations in object of emotional and sexual attraction. The term is also used by those who consider themselves asexual to describe the gender(s) to which they are romantically attracted. The term is preferred by some over “sexual orientation” because it indicates that the feelings and commitments involved are not solely (or even primarily, for some people) sexual. The term stresses the affective emotional component of attractions and relationships, regardless or orientation. Is also referred to as affectional orientation. 

Same-Gender Loving (SGL): A term used by some African-American individuals to describe their sexual orientation, as a result of the perception that “gay” and “lesbian” are primarily white terms. “Same-sex loving” is also in use.

Sapiosexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to intelligence and its use.

Sensual Attraction: Desire to have physical non-sexual contact with someone else, like affectionate touching.

Sex: 1. A biological term dividing a species into male or female, usually on the basis of sex chromosomes (XX = female, XY = male); hormone levels, secondary sex characteristics, and internal and external genitalia may also be considered criteria. 2. Another term for sexual behavior or gratification. Sex is a biological fact or a physical act.

Sex Change/Sex Reassignment Surgery: Outdated, often times found to be offensive. See gender confirmation surgery.

Sexual Attraction: Desire to have sexual contact with someone else, to share our sexuality with them.1

Sexual Orientation: A person’s emotional, physical, and sexual attraction to other people and the expression of that attraction.

Sexuality: The complex range of components which make us sexual beings; includes emotional, physical, and sexual aspects, as well as self-identification (including sexual orientation and gender), behavioral preferences and practices, fantasies, and feelings of affection and emotional affinity.

Shemale: A derogatory term used to describe transgender/transexual, intersex, or gender non-conforming people that refuses to acknowledge the person’s gender.

Skoliosexual: an attraction to non-binary identified individuals. This does not generally describe an attraction to specific genitalia or birth assignments but rather is an inclusive term.

Squish: a term used to describe an interest in somebody that goes beyond traditional friendship roles and experiences. An aromantic “crush,” a desire for a platonic relationship with someone.

Stealth: This term refers to when a person chooses to be secretive in the public sphere about their gender history, either after transitioning or while successful passing. (Also referred to as: going stealth)

Stereotype: An oversimplified generalization about a group of people without regard for their individual differences. Some stereotypes can be positive, however, they can have a negative impact, simply because they involve broad generalizations that ignore individual realities.

Straight-Acting: A term, usually applied to gay men, who readily pass as heterosexual. The term implies that there is a stereotypical way gay men act that is significantly different from heterosexual men.5

Stud: An African-American and/or Latina masculine lesbian. Also known as ‘aggressive’ or ‘ag.’

That’s So Gay: A phrase commonly used to describe something as foolish, stupid, or negative. 

Third Gender: A term for those who belong to a category other than masculine or feminine. For example, Native American two-spirit people, hijira in India, kathoeys in Thailand, and travestis in Brazil.

Tranny: Usually a pejorative term used for a transgender person, although some transgender people have reclaimed the term.

Trans*: An umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum. Over the years, trans people have viewed trans* to be exclusive, unnecessary, inaccessible, and commonly used to create binaries and silence trans women of color. 

Transfeminine: Identity label preferred by some male-to-female transgender people. 

Transgender: An umbrella term for those individuals whose gender identity does not match with that assigned for their physical sex. Includes, among others, transmen, transwomen, genderqueer people, crossdressers, and drag queens/kings. In its general sense, it refers to anyone whose behavior or identity falls outside of stereotypical expectations for their gender. Transgender people may identify as straight, gay, bisexual, or some other sexual orientation. Sometimes shortened as trans.

Trans man: A person who was assigned female at birth, but who identifies as male. Some transmen may intend to undergo physical changes to align their body with their gender identity.

Transmasculine: Identity label preferred by some female-to-male transgender people.

Transphobia: Fear of, hatred of, or discomfort with people who are transgender or otherwise gender non-normative.

Transsexual: A term that is specific to trans people who have transitioned their sex through hormones and/or surgery. This term is sometimes perceived to be outdated or offensive referring to a person whose gender identity consistently differs from what is culturally associated with his/her biological sex at birth.  The terms “trans man” and “trans woman” are more commonly used. See also “Transgender.” 

Transvestite: A dated term referring to someone who dresses in clothing generally identified with the opposite gender/sex. (For a preferred term see: Cross-dressing)

Trans woman: A person who was assigned male at birth, but who identifies as female. Some transwomen may intend to undergo physical changes to align their body with their gender identity.

Twink: A slang term used to describe a young or young-looking man with little or no facial or body hair. Can be pejorative.

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 also often used by contemporary LGBTQ Native American people to describe themselves.

WSW: An abbreviation for women who have sex with women. This term emphasizes the behavior, rather than the identities of the individuals involved. 

Wolf: An aggressive, more dominant and hairy slender bear.

Ze/Hir: A gender-neutral pronoun used by some transgender individuals (Pronounced Zee) in lieu of he or she. The possessive adjective “hir” (pronounced here) usually follows in place of his or her. Some individuals may use other gender-neutral pronouns.


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