LGBT terminology glossary
Androgyny (also androgynous, bi-gendered, no-gendered): A person who identifies as both or neither of the two culturally defined genders, a person who expresses merged culturally defined genders, or a person who expresses merged culturally/stereotypically feminine and masculine characteristics or mainly neutral characteristics.
Binary Gender: A system that defines and makes room for two and only two distinct and opposite genders (male and female). These two genders are defined in opposition to each other, such that masculinity and femininity are seen as mutually exclusive. In this system, there is no room for any ambiguity or intermingling of gender traits.
Biological Sex: This can be considered our “packaging” and is determined by our chromosomes (XX for females; XY for males); our hormones (estrogen/progesterone for females, testosterone for males); and our internal and external genitalia (vulva, clitoris, vagina for females, penis and testicles for males). About 1.7% of the population can be defined as intersexual—born with biological aspects of both sexes to varying degrees. So, in actuality, there are more than two sexes.
Biphobia: The fear or hatred of bisexual people. This term addresses the ways that prejudice against bisexuals differs from prejudice against other queer people. There is often biphobia in lesbian, gay, and transgender communities, as well as in straight communities.
Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to both men and women. Some people avoid this term because of its implications that there are only two sexes/genders to be sexually attracted to and this reinforces the binary gender system.
Coming Out (of the closet): To be “in the closet” means to hide one’s identity. Many LGBT people are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others. To “come out” is to publicly declare one’s identity, sometimes to one person in conversation, sometimes to a group or in a public setting. Coming Out is a life-long process—in each new situation a person must decide whether or not to come out. Coming out can be difficult for some because reactions vary from complete acceptance and support to disapproval, rejection and violence.
Complicity: Collusion, or partnership in wrongdoing, such as the oppression of a target group.
Cross Dresser: Someone who enjoys wearing clothing typically assigned to a gender that the individual has not been socialized as, or does not identify as. Cross-dressers are of all sexual orientations and do not necessarily identify as transgender. Cross-dresser is frequently used today in place of the term transvestite.
Drag King: A female who emulates a man in appearance and manner, generally for the purposes of entertainment, and not necessarily because the person identifies as a man or as transgender.
Drag Queen: A male who emulates a woman, in appearance and manner, generally for the purposes of entertainment, and not necessarily because the person identifies as a woman or as transgender.
Gay: A homosexual person, usually used to describe males but may be used to describe females as well.
Gender Expression: Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, and emphasizing, de-emphasizing, or changing their bodies’ characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex. Gender expression is not necessarily an indication of sexual orientation.
Gender Identity: Our innermost concept of self as “male” or “female”—what we perceive and call ourselves. Individuals are conscious of this between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Most people develop a gender identity that matches their biological sex. For some, however, their gender identity is different from their biological sex. We sometimes call these people transsexuals, some of whom hormonally and/or surgically change their sex to more fully match their gender identity.
Genderqueer: A term which refers to individuals or groups who problematize the hegemonic notions of sex, gender, and desire in a given society. Genderqueers possess identities that fall outside of the widely accepted sexual binary. Genderqueer may also refer to people who identify both as transgender and queer, ie. Individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.
Gender Role: This is the set of roles and behaviors assigned to females and males by society. Our culture recognizes two basic gender roles: masculine (having the qualities attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities attributed to females). People who step out of their socially assigned gender roles are sometimes referred to as transgender. Though transgender has increasingly become an umbrella term referring to people who cross gender/sex barriers, many people find any umbrella term problematic because it reduces different identities into one oversimplified category.
Heterosexism: Bias against non-heterosexuals based on a belief in the superiority of heterosexuality. Heterosexism does not imply the same fear and hatred as homophobia. It can describe seemingly innocent statements, such as “She’d drive any man wild” based on the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm.
Heterosexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted and committed to the members of a gender or sex that is seen to be the ‘opposite’ or other than the one with which they identify.
Homophobia: Refers to a fear or hatred of homosexuality, especially in others, but also in oneself (internalized homophobia).
Homosexual: A person who is primarily and/or exclusively attracted to members of what they identify as their own sex or gender. ‘Homosexual’ is a clinical term that originated in the late 1800s. Some avoid the word because it contains the base word ‘sex’. Orientation has more to do with the issue of love than of sex, and it is believed that the use of ‘homosexual’ devalues the orientation of individuals.
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.
Passing: A term used by transgender people to mean that they are seen as the gender they self-identify as.
Queer: Historically a negative term used against people perceived to be LGBT, “queer” has more recently been reclaimed by some people as a positive term describing all those who do not conform to rigid notions of gender and sexuality. Queer is often used in a political context and in academic settings to challenge traditional ideas about identity (“queer theory”). Used as an umbrella identity term encompassing gay, lesbian, questioning, bisexual, non-labelling, transgender people, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual.
Questioning: Refers to people who are uncertain as to their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are often seeking information and support during this stage of their identity development.
Sexual Identity: This is how we perceive and what we call ourselves. Such labels include “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “bi,” “queer,” “questioning,” “heterosexual,” “straight,” and others. Sexual Identity evolves through a developmental process that varies depending on the individual. Our sexual behavior and how we define ourselves (identity) can be chosen. Though some people claim their sexual orientation is also a choice, for others this does not seem to be the case.
Sexual Orientation: This is determined by our sexual and emotional attractions. Categories of sexual orientation include homosexuals—gay, lesbian—attracted to some members of the same sex; bisexuals, attracted to some members of more than one sex; and heterosexuals, attracted to some members of another sex. Orientation is influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics and hormones, as well as unknown environmental factors. Though the origins of sexuality are not completely understood, it is generally believed to be established before the age of five.
SOFFA: which stands for Significant Other, Friends, Families, and Allies: refers to the people close to the person who is transitioning or transgender. These people, particularly partners and other family members, also go through a transition related to their relationship with the trans person.
Straight Ally: Commonly recognized as a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in his or her own personal and professional life through support of and as an advocate with and for the oppressed population. The term ‘ally’ can be expanded to include LGBTQ identified people who are allies within their communities.
Transgender: Refers to those whose gender expression at least sometimes runs contrary to what others in the same culture would normally expect. Transgender is a broad term that includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens/kings, and people who do not identify as either of the two sexes as currently defined. When referring to transgender people, use the pronoun they have designated as appropriate, or the one that is consistent with their presentation of themselves.
Transphobia: Fear or hatred of transgender people; transphobia is manifested in a number of ways, including violence, harassment, and discrimination.
Two-spirit: A Native American person who embodies both masculine and feminine genders; Native Americans who are queer or transgender may self-identify as two-spirit. Historically, different tribes have specific titles for different kinds of two-spirit people.
Transgender / Transexual Medical References
Pre-op: Term used within some transgender circles to describe individuals who have not undergone and surgical changes to their bodies.
Post-op: Term used to describe individuals who have had a surgical procedure to change an aspect of their appearance.
Chest surgery: Typically refers to when a person is having their chest reconstructed to fit the sex they seek to identify with – this may mean having fuller breast implants or having breasts removed.
Facial Feminization: Various procedures that are done to change the shape of their face to make it more feminine.
Bottom Surgery: Typically refers to when a person is having their genitalia reconstructed to fit the sex they seek to identify with.
Penectomy – Removal of the penis, where the shaft of the penis is used to create the neo vagina.
Phalloplasty – Construction of a penis typically using skin from ones forearm
Vaginectomy – the closing of the vaginal opening from the bottom and opening from the top internally
Metoidioplasty – Releasing of an enlarged clitoris so that it resembles a penis
Labiaplasty – Typically done for MTFs when they use the scrotum to construct a new labia
Hysterectomy – removal of uterus (some states require people to have this procedure in order to legally transition)
Opherectomy – removal of the ovaries
Scrotoplasty – construction of the scrotum using labia
Cross-Hormonal Therapy: the use of testosterone (FTM) or estrogen (MTF) to biologically produce secondary physical characteristics.