This glossary contains commonly used terms related to sexuality, gender identity and gender expression. It is organised alphabetically, with terms linked to their antonym, synonyms, or closely related terms.
Antonym - opposite meaning or counterpart (e.g. Transgender/Cisgender)
Synonym - same meaning (Homosexual/Gay)
Closely related term - Terms that have different meanings, but may arise in similar contexts (Nutrois/Non-binary)
Please note, the terms included in this glossary are not meant to be exhaustive. The language used by LGBTIQA+ communities to describe themselves and their experiences are constantly evolving and new terms or usages can quickly gain currency. If in doubt, always defer to people with LGBTIQA+ lived experience when using language that describes them.
This glossary is loosely based on the Glossary produced by the UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Centre.
The action of working to end the oppression of a group or identity outside of one’s own experience.
A spectrum of sexual orientations characterized by feeling varying degrees of a lack of sexual attraction towards others. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity, despite sexual desire (See Demisexual).
Binary gender is the classification of gender into two distinct, opposite forms of masculine (boys/men) and feminine (girls/women). It is important to note that while many transgender people personally identify as fitting into the binary system of gender, others do not. All forms of self identification of gender, whether falling within or outside of the binary model, are equally valid.
People who recognise their Black identity as an instrinsic part of their LGBTQIA+ identity. For people who are both Black and queer, these identities are inseparable.
Any behaviour which attempts to correct or control a person's actions regarding their own physical body, frequently with regards to gender expression.
Cultural terms used to describe a transmasculine person in some Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities. Not limited to binary trans identities. Note: While many First Nations transmasculine people identify with these terms, not all will do so. (see Sistergirl/Sister-girl/Sistagirl)
Having an appearance and/or other traits that are viewed as typically masculine. The term is sometimes used within lesbian communities to refer to women whose gender expression (hair cut, clothing, etc.) embodies traditionally masculine traits and characteristics.
See also: Femme (Antonym)
Refers to a match between gender identity and sex characteristics observed at birth, i.e., a person born with female anatomy who identifies as a girl/woman. The prefix cis- means "on this side of" or "not across."
See also: Transgender/Trans (Antonym)
The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion against transgender people. Founded on the belief that being cisgender is more natural or legitimate than being transgender. The notion that there are, and should be, only two genders, and that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex.
Cross-dressing involves the wearing of clothing not commonly associated with one's gender. There are many reasons for cross dressing, including disguise, comfort, performance, and self-expression. The act of cross dressing does not mean someone identifies as transgender or non-binary.
Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond. Demisexuals are considered to be on the asexual spectrum (See Asexual).
See also: Asexual (related term)
A person (often a woman) who dresses in highly masculine attire, usually for an act or performance (See Drag Queen). Individuals who dress in drag may or may not consider themselves to be transgender.
See also: Drag Queen (antonym)
A person (often a man) who dresses in highly feminine attire, usually for an act or performance (See Drag King). Individuals who dress in drag may or may not consider themselves to be transgender.
See also: Drag King (antonym)
Faʻafafine are people who are assigned male at birth, but identify themselves as having a third gender or non-binary role in Samoan culture. Faʻafafine embody both masculine and feminine gender traits in a way unique to Polynesia.
Acronym for Feminism-Appropriating Reactionary Transphobe. A pun acronym used as an alternative to TERF (Trans-exclusionary Radical Feminist). Used to call attention to the fact that TERF arguments have more in common with biological essentialism than any form of feminism.
A gender expression that fits societal definitions of femininity (See Butch). Historically used in the lesbian community in reference to feminine lesbians, especially ones attracted to masculine or butch lesbians. Increasingly used by others in the LGBTIQA+ community to describe gender expressions claiming or disrupting ideas of femininity.
See also: Butch (Antonym)
The act of deciding who does or does not have access to a community or identity - and by extension, the resources available to that community (E.g. Gay people who refuse to acknowledge bisexuals, binary trans people who refuse to accept non-binary people as trans). A specific form of gatekeeping is medical gatekeeping, where health professionals place unnecessary or unfair hurdles in the path of affirming treatment for trans and GNC patients.
The feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.
See also: Gender euphoria (antonym)
The feeling of joy or comfort when one’s gender identity is affirmed. Euphoria can be focused upon physical attributes, one’s own self-image or affirming treatment from others.
See also: Gender Discordance/Incongruence (antonym)
The personal sense of one’s own gender. Gender identity can be binary (male or female) or non-binary (including but not limited to: genderqueer, genderfluid, bi-gender, demi-girl, demi-boy, androgyne, nutrois etc.) and may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.
A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the cultural norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them. Genderqueer people may or may not identify as transgender.
Attitudes and behaviours that assume (often subconsciously) that people will align with conventional cultural expectations for gender identity and sexual attraction. Often also assumes that heterosexuality is superior to other sexual orientations.
See also: Cissexism (related term)
A sexual orientation in which a person feels sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to a gender other than one's own. Usually means women attracted to men and vice versa. Also referred to as 'straight'.
A person in the Indian subcontinent who doesn't conform to typical ideas of gender as being male or female. Many Hijira live together in organised communities. Despite being part of longstanding cultural tradition and now legally recognised as a third gender, Hijira still face widespread discrimination in daily life.
A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically attracted to people of their own gender. The term is considered outdated in many in the LGBTIQA+ community.
See also: Bisexual/Bisexuality (related term), Gay (synonym), Heterosexual/Heterosexuality (Antonym), Lesbian (related term), Men Loving Men (related term), Pansexual/Omnisexual/Polysexual (related terms)
A framework for understanding how social characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, and age combine together to shape individual identities and experiences, including experiences of privilege and/or discrimination (e.g. Black and gay, or deaf and poor, etc.). Term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s.
See also: BlaQ/BlaQueer (related term)
An umbrella term to describe a wide range of natural variations in biological sex traits (genitals, hormones etc) that do not fit neatly into conventional definitions of male or female. Intersex variations may include, but are not limited to, variations in chromosome compositions, hormone concentrations, and physical characteristics. Some intersex conditions are detected at birth, but others may only become apparent over the course of someone's life.
See also: Sex / sex assigned at birth / biological sex (related term)
Abbreviation for Men who Love Men. This term encompasses gay and bisexual men as well as men who are attracted to men, but who primarily identify as heterosexual. It is often used in healthcare contexts and public health campaigns to reach a broader audience.
Brief and subtle behaviors, whether intentional or not, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages of commonly oppressed identities. These actions cause harm through the invalidation of the target person’s identity and may reinforce stereotypes. Examples of microaggressions include a person who is not white being told they speak “good English” or someone saying something is “gay” to mean they think something is bad.
Attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect/does not align with their gender identity. Can occur when using pronouns ("She took my order.", gendered language (i.e. “Hello ladies!” “Hey guys”), or assigning genders to people without knowing how they identify (i.e. “Well, since we’re all women in this room, we understand…”).
Neopronouns are a category of new pronouns that are used in place of 'she/her' and 'he/him' when referring to a person. Some examples include 'zie/hir', 'ey/em' and 'xe/xem'. Neopronouns can be used by anyone, though they are most often used by non-binary and gender non-conforming people.
A gender identity and experience that lies beyond the male/female gender binary. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self and gender.
Outing is the act of deliberately sharing information about someone’s LGBTIQA+ identity without their permission. Outing someone can have serious consequences for the person being outed, including loss of employment, loss of religious or social supports, or threats to personal safety.
See also: Coming out (antonym)
Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual or emotional desire for people of all genders and sexes. Has some overlap with bisexuality and polysexuality (not to be confused with polyamory).
Consensually being in or open to multiple loving relationships at the same time, with knowledge and consent of all partners. Sometimes used as an umbrella term for all forms of ethical and consensual non-monogamy.
See also: Monogamy (antonym)
Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person, most commonly she/her/hers and he/him/his. Gender neutral examples include they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs. In English and some other languages, pronouns have been tied to gender and are a common site of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect.)
See also: Misgendering (related term)
Self-descriptor for members of the LGBTIQA+ community with a contested history. Originally meaning strange or peculiar, it has a history of being used as a slur used against LGBTIQA+ people since the late 19th century. In the late 1980’s activists began reclaiming the word as a political statement against conservative trend of gay assimilation into the mainstream. It is particularly popular amongst youth as a source of pride and political identity. It has been adopted by academia and been widely used as a blanket term for the LGBTIQA+ community. Its use can still be offensive to some people, so should only be used when self identifying or quoting someone or a group of people who use the term to self-identify.
See also: Genderqueer (related term)
The process of exploring one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some people may also use this term to name their identity within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Cultural terms used to describe a transfeminine person in some Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities. Not limited to binary trans identities. Note: While many First Nations transfeminine people identify with these terms, not all will do so.
A medically constructed categorisation (female, male or intersex) assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth. In reality, biological sex is more complicated, referring to a combination of anatomical, physiological, genetic, and physical attributes. These include genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, genes, and secondary sex characteristics. The phrase "sex assigned at birth" is used by some to emphasize that genitalia alone are not always a sufficient indication of a person's sex, as well as the fact that a person's gender identity is not always aligned with the sex characteristics observed at birth.
See also: Intersex (related term)
Sexual Orientation is an emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people based on certain characteristics or identities. Sexual orientation can be either static or fluid. Common labels used are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual. Transgender people may identify with any sexual orientation.
See also: Orientation (synonym)
Takatāpui is a Māori word meaning 'devoted partner of the same sex'. The term encompasses not only ones sexuality but also Māori cultural identity. In recent years it has become an umbrella term to build solidarity among the LGBTIQA+ Māori community.
See also: Intersectionality (related term)
Acronym for Trans-exclusionary Radical Feminist. The term originally applied to a minority of feminists promoting views that other feminists considered transphobic, such as rejecting transwomen as women, excluding transwomen from women's spaces, and opposing transgender rights legislation. The meaning has since expanded to refer more broadly to people with trans-exclusionary views who have no involvement with radical feminism.
Describes a person whose gender identity does not match cultural expectations based on their sex characteristics observed at birth. 'Trans' is an abbreviated form of transgender. Trans people may or may not undergo any medical alterations (hormones/surgery).
See also: Cisgender/Cis (Antonym), Genderfluid (related term), Gender Non-conforming (related term), Genderqueer (related term), Non-binary (related term), Neutrois (related term) Transmasculine/trans man (related term), Transfeminine/trans woman (related term)
Self-descriptor for people born with female sex characteristics but whose gender identity is more masculine than feminine. (See Transfeminine / trans woman)
A range of negative attitudes and feelings towards transgender people and the expansion of gender identities that lie beyond the binary of male and female. Often is accompanied by some degree of heteronormativity and homophobia, although it can exist in some subgroups within the LGBTIQA+ community as well.
Transitioning is the process of taking steps to live as one’s true gender identity. Transitioning is different for each individual and may or may not involve medical interventions like taking hormones or having surgery. Elements of socially transitioning are very common, such as going by certain pronouns, changing given names, and changes in hair style, clothing and cosmetic adjustments. The extent of someone’s transition does not make that person’s gender identity any less or more valid. Also referred to as 'gender affirmation'.
See also: Transgender/Trans (related term)
Two Spirit is an Indigenous Native American cultural term, reserved for those who fulfill both masculine and feminine traits and roles in those communities. Two Spirit people often serve important cultural roles, such as healers or leaders. Although the term itself became more commonly used around 1990, two spirit people have existed for centuries.
Abbreviation for Women who Love Women. This term encompasses gay and bisexual women as well as women who are attracted to women, but who primarily identify as heterosexual.