TERMINOLOGY

A Note about Terminology

The language we use to discuss identity is constantly changing. Although we have attempted to include as many general terms as we can that are relevant to LGBTQ+ youth, new terms are always appearing and the usage of existing terms is evolving. The best approach is to ask youth themselves which terms they prefer and what those terms mean to them.

A


ALLY

A person who actively works to eliminate the oppression and marginalization of people within an identity group of which they do not self-identify. This includes educating oneself and others, providing support to individuals, and challenging oppressive remarks, behaviors, policies, and institutional structures.


AGENDER

A person who does not identify with any gender or who identifies as genderless.


AROMANTIC

A person who does not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic is not the same as asexual (see below).


ASEXUAL

A person who does not experience sexual attraction. Asexual people can still be romantically attracted to others, and as such, might have a specific romantic identity depending on what gender(s) they are attracted to. For example, an asexual person attracted to people of the same gender might identify as gay or homoromantic.


B


BIGENDER

A person who identifies with more than one gender.


BIPHOBIA

The irrational fear of or aversion to bisexuality or bisexual people.


BISEXUAL

A person who experiences romantic, emotional, and/or sexual attraction to people of two or more genders.


BREEDERS

A derogatory term sometimes used to refer to heterosexual people, especially heterosexual couples. This term is widely considered offensive, and has uneasy parallels to language used throughout American history in reference to slaves.


BUTCH

A person who identifies as masculine, whether in their gender expression and aesthetic, in their gender role, or as a gender identity.


C


CISGENDER

A person whose gender identity and/or expression is aligned with their sex assigned at birth.


COMING OUT

The process of disclosing one's sexual orientation or gender identity to others. Coming out is not a discrete event but a lifelong process.


CROSS DRESSING

The act of regularly or occasionally wearing clothing that is socially assigned to a gender other than one’s own. Cross dressing does not indicate that a person is conflicted about their gender identity.


D


DRAG

The act of performatively dressing up as adifferent gender. Drag queens are people who dress up as women and drag kings are people who dress up as men.


DEMIBOY

A person whose gender identity is partially male. This identity can apply to someone of any sex assigned at birth. A person who identifies as a demiboy might also identify with another gender, or not.


DEMIGIRL

A person whose gender identity is partially female. This identity can apply to someone of any sex assigned at birth. A person who identifies as a demigirl might also identify with another gender, or not.


DEMISEXUAL

A person who only experiences sexual attraction after having developed a strong emotional connection with someone.


E

is for EVERYONE!

F


FEMME

A person who identifies as feminine, whether in their gender expression and aesthetic, in their gender role, or as a gender identity.


G


GAY

1. A person who experiences romantic, emotional, and/or sexual attraction to people of the same gender as themselves.

2. An umbrella term to denote something or someone as LGBTQ. This use of the word has become less common as the term queer has taken on the same meaning.


GENDER

A social construct based on a group of emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics attached to a person’s sex assigned at birth. Gender has several components, including gender identity, gender expression, and gender role.


GENDER BINARY

The system of framing gender as consisting of only two categories, male and female, which are opposites. Within this system, everyone must exclusively identify with one of these two categories.


GENDER DYSPHORIA

Gender dysphoria is 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. The feeling of gender dysphoria does not require a medical diagnosis.


GENDER EXPRESSION

An individual’s physical characteristics, behaviors, and presentation that intentionally or unintentionally serve as social markers of masculinity, femininity, or androgyny. Forms of gender expression include appearance, dress, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions.


GENDER FLUID

A person whose gender identity is changeable or not fixed.


GENDER IDENTITY

A person’s internal sense of who they are in regard to gender, regardless of their sex assigned at birth.


GENDERISM/CISSEXISM

A set of attitudes, bias, and discrimination that privileges cisgender people and those who conform to the traditional gender expectations aligned with their sex assigned at birth. It includes the belief that people need to conform to the gender role assigned to them based on a gender binary system, which allows only female and male.


GENDER NEUTRAL PRONOUNS

Pronouns often used by people who do not identify solely with one of the two binary genders. Gender neutral pronouns like the singular “they” can also be used when the gender identity of a person is unknown (“someone dropped their money”). Examples of gender neutral pronouns include they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, and xe/xem/xyr.


GENDER NON-BINARY

A person whose gender identity does not fit within the gender binary, whether because they do not identify with either binary gender or because they identify with both.


GENDER NON-CONFORMING/GENDER VARIANT

A person whose gender identity, gender expression, and/or behaviors do not conform to traditional societal gender expectations.


GENDERQUEER

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not fit within the gender binary or restrictive societal gender norms. Genderqueer can also be a gender identity itself.


H


HETEROSEXISM

A set of attitudes, bias, and discrimination that privileges heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships. It includes the assumption that everyone is heterosexual or that heterosexual attractions and relationships are the norm and therefore superior. It is the belief that everyone is or should be straight.


HIJRA

A term for culturally specific third gender or intersex identities in South Asia.


HOMOPHOBIA

Refers to an irrational fear of or aversion to homosexuality or lesbian, gay, or bisexual


I


IDENTITY

The set of characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, that make up who a person is. Identity is complex and can change over time or in different contexts.


INTERSEX

A person born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not conform exclusively to typical definitions of male or female in terms of physiological sex characteristics such as variations of genetics, reproductive structures, or hormones.


J


JOY

The feeling a youth has when an adult uses their preferred pronouns.

K


L


LESBIAN

A woman who experiences emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to other women.


LGBTQ+

An umbrella term that stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer" people. The Q can also stand for questioning. LGBTQIA is another common version of this acronym, one that includes letters for intersex and asexuality.


M


MISGENDERING

The act of referring to someone as a gender with which they do not identify. Misgendering can include using the wrong pronouns, honorifics, name, etc. It can also include making other gender related comments.


N


NON-BINARY

Does not identify within the gender-binary (100% male or 100% female).


o


OUTING

The unauthorized disclosure by one person of another's gender identity or sexual orientation.

P


PANSEXUAL

A person who experiences emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to people regardless of their gender. People who identify as pansexual often say that gender is not a factor in determining their attraction to someone. This differs from bisexuality, where a person is attracted to multiple genders, but gender can still be a factor in that attraction.


PERSONAL PRONOUNS

Pronouns that refer to an individual in the third person. In English, such pronouns are gendered, so it is important to ask what someone’s pronouns are rather than misgender them by incorrectly assuming their pronouns. Examples include: she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, xe/xem/xyr, etc.

Q


QUEER

An umbrella term for anyone whose sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression are outside of societal norms (i.e. not straight or cisgender). Historically the term queer was used as a slur, so although it has been largely reclaimed by the LGBTQ community, some individuals might still find it offensive.


QUESTIONING

A person who is unsure of or in the process of figuring out their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Questioning can also refer to any person who is feeling uncomfortable with, unwilling, or unable to self-categorize within traditional labels such as gay, straight, female, male, etc.

R


RAINBOW FLAG

A flag of rainbow stripes created in 1978 to represent the LGBTQ+ community. There are variations of the flag, including the Philly rainbow flag which includes brown and black stripes to represent people of color in the LGBTQ+ community.

S


SAFE SPACE

A physical space or group that has been intentionally designated as an environment where people of marginalized identities can feel safe from discrimination and bias. Ideally, safe spaces are intended to be places where everyone can feel comfortable being themselves. In practice, the effectiveness of safe spaces are contingent upon those facilitating the group to ensure that everyone in the space abides by this level of respect.


SEX ASSIGNED AT BIRTH

The designation of male, female, or intersex that a person is given at birth, often based upon the appearance of their genitalia.


SEXUAL ORIENTATION

One’s emotional and sexual attraction to others. Sexual orientation includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, pansexual, demisexual, asexual, etc. May also be referred to as sexual identity.


STRAIGHT/HETEROSEXUAL

A person who is romantically, emotionally, and/or sexually attracted to people of a gender other than their own.

T


TERF

Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. A person who self-identifies as a feminist but who believes that gender is determined by sex and therefore trans women are not women.


TRANSGENDER

An adjective describing a person whose gender identity is not aligned with their sex assigned at birth and/or whose gender expression is non-conforming. Transgender people may undergo medical treatments to change their physical body to match their innate sense of their gender identity through hormone treatments and/or surgery.


TRANSEXUAL

An outdated term for a person whose gender identity is different from their sex assigned at birth. Transexual sometimes implies that the person has undergone a medical transition. While this term is considered pejorative by many trans people, some still use it.


TRANSPHOBIA

The irrational fear or aversion to transgender people of those who are perceived to break or blur societal norms regarding gender identity or gender expression.


TWO SPIRIT

An umbrella word for any of the culturally specific third gender or gender non-binary identities that exist in different indigenous North American tribes.

U

is for UNIQUE!


V

is for feeling VALIDATED.

W

is for WELLNESS.

X


XE/XEM/XYR

Gender neutral pronouns. "Xe walked xyr dog."

Y


YAS QUEEN

Expression originating from ball culture. Used as encouragement, similar to "you go!"

Z


ZE/ZEM/ZIR

Gender neutral pronouns. "Ze walked zir dog."