Chances are, if you have stumbled onto The Wonderful Wallflower (aka the blog for queer introverts), you identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. If not though, that’s okay too, we welcome everybody here. Regardless of how you identify, when it comes to all the LGBTQ+ identities and labels out there, it can get a little bit confusing. So whether you are questioning your identity or are simply trying to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, in this blog post, I will give you the rundown on all the LGBTQ+ terms you need to know.
Tips for understanding LGBTQ+ terms:
First though, here are some helpful tips for understanding LGBTQ+ terms both for yourself and for others:
- The saying goes “if you think you are, chances are, you are.” That’s just to say that if you think you identify with a certain LGBTQ+ term (i.e. non-binary, gay, ace, etc.) but you’re not entirely sure, it’s pretty likely that you are.
- You don’t have to use any of these LGBTQ+ terms if you don’t want to. For some people in the LGBTQ+ community, these labels and terms bring them comfort. For others, not so much. So it’s really up to you.
- If you identify with one label now but find yourself identifying with another label more later on, that’s completely okay. Sexuality is a fluid thing and it’s totally fine to change your mind.
- Just like with a person’s pronouns, if somebody comes out to you, make sure to respect how they identify. Like if someone comes out to you as pansexual, make sure you’re not saying invalidating things (i.e. “that’s not real”) or using other terms that they don’t identify as (i.e. “you’re basically just gay right?”).
- Try to remember that the LGBTQ+ community should be a warm and welcoming community for everyone. Sometimes there’s some gatekeeper action that goes on where some LGBTQ+ identities aren’t welcome in queer spaces (i.e. bisexuals, asexuals, etc.). Not cool. Everybody is welcome here.
- While this guide will give you a good idea of the common terms used within the LGBTQ+ community, language is ever-evolving and there are so many more words out there to represent the largely diverse LGBTQ+ community.
Alright great, we got that out of the way. Now, with the help of trusty LGBTQ+ sources like PFLAG and It Gets Better, here is your A to Z guide for all the LGBTQ+ terms and what they all mean.
AFAB or assigned Female at Birth: Acronym for people who may or may not identify as female some or all of the time.
Affirmed gender: A person’s true gender, different from their gender assigned at birth. Meant to replace terms like new gender or chosen gender, which implies that a person chooses their gender.
Agender: Someone who doesn’t identify with or experience any gender.
Alloromantic: Someone who does experience romantic attraction. An alloromantic person may be allosexual as well, but not necessarily.
Allosexual: Someone who does experience sexual attraction, and therefore not on the ace spectrum.
Ally: Someone who supports civil rights, equality, social movements, and marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community. These people are often heterosexual and cisgender, but they advocate for others and challenge discrimination in all its forms.
AMAB or assigned Male at Birth: Acronym for people who may or may not identify as male some or all of the time.
Androgynous or androgyne: Someone who presents as neither male nor female, mixed, or neutral.
Aromantic or aro: Someone who doesn’t experience romantic attraction.
Asexual or ace: Someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction.
Bigender: Someone whose gender identity encompasses two genders, (often man and woman, but not exclusively) or is moving between two genders.
BIPOC: Acronym for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. It acknowledges the specific histories of Black, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islanders, and Native people within the United States without collapsing them into a homogenous category of people of colour.
Binary: Someone who fits into the gender binary.
Biphobia: Hatred or dislike of bisexual people which often comes in the form of prejudice or bias. Biphobia usually comes from a lack of knowledge about bisexual people and the issues they face, and can sometimes be lessened with education and support.
Bisexual, biromantic or bi: Someone who is romantically, emotionally and/or sexually attracted to more than one gender, often to people of the same gender as them as well as different genders.
Black Lives Matter: An international activist movement bringing justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe.
Butch: Someone whose gender expression (aka clothing, hair, behaviour) is masculine. It is often used in a lesbian context but not always.
Chosen Family or found family: People who support an LGBTQ+ person, but are not biologically related, and will often fill the role of the biological family if an LGBTQ+ person’s family is not supportive of them.
Cisgender or cis: Someone whose gender identity aligns with the one associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Cishet: Someone who is both cisgender and heterosexual.
Cisnormativity: The assumption that everyone is cisgender and that being cisgender is better than all other genders. This includes the idea that being cisgender is the norm and that other genders are “different” or “abnormal.”
Cissexism: Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of sex, specifically towards transgender and gender-expansive people.
Closeted or in the closet: Someone who is not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. There are many levels to being closeted – closeted people may be out to just themselves, close friends, or to their larger network.
Coming out: The process through which a person accepts their sexual orientation and/or gender identity as part of their overall identity.
Deadnaming: When a person, intentionally or not, refers to the name that a transgender or gender-expansive individual used at a different time in their life. Avoid deadnaming people, as it can cause trauma, stress, embarrassment, and even danger. Dead names can also be referred to as birth names, given names, or old names.
Demiromantic: Someone who experiences romantic attraction only after forming an emotional connection.
Demisexual: Someone who experiences sexual attraction only after forming an emotional connection.
Demiboy: Someone whose gender identity is only partly male, regardless of their assigned sex at birth.
Demigirl: Someone whose gender identity is only partly female, regardless of their assigned sex at birth.
Disclosure: The process of revealing one’s transgender or gender-expansive identity to another person. Some find the term offensive, implying the need to disclose something shameful, and prefer to use the term coming out, whereas others find coming out offensive, and prefer to use disclosure.
Drag: The act of performing a gender or presenting as a different gender, usually for the purpose of entertainment (i.e. drag kings and queens).
Femme: Someone whose gender expression (aka clothing, hair, behaviour) is feminine. It is often used in a lesbian context but not always.
Gatekeeping: The process by which a person decides who does or does not belong to a certain community, group, or identity. Gatekeeping, which can come from inside or outside the LGBTQ+ community should be avoided, as it is painful and invalidating to the recipient in either instance.
Gay: Someone who are emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to people of the same gender. Lesbian is often a preferred term for women, though many women use the term gay to describe themselves.
Gender: A set of socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate.
Gender binary: The disproven concept that there are only two genders, male and female, and that everyone must be one or the other. Also often misused to assert that gender is biologically determined.
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: A positive feeling often experienced when one’s gender is recognized and respected by others, when one’s body aligns with one’s gender, or when one expresses themselves in accordance with their gender.
Gender expression: The external manifestations of gender, expressed through such things as names, pronouns, clothing, haircuts, behaviour, voice, body characteristics, and more.
Genderfluid: Someone who does not consistently adhere to one fixed gender and who may move among genders.
Gender identity: One’s internal, deeply held sense of gender.
Gender expansive, Genderqueer, Gender nonconforming: Someone whose gender identity and/or gender expression expands beyond, actively resists, and/or does not conform to the current cultural or social expectations of gender, particularly in relation to male or female.
Grey-(a)romantic: Someone who sometimes, occasionally, or rarely experiences romantic attraction. The attraction they experience may be weak or infrequent. Also used as an umbrella term for all romantic orientations that fall between alloromantic and aromantic.
Grey-(a)sexual: Someone who sometimes, occasionally, or rarely experiences sexual attraction. The attraction they experience may be weak, or infrequent. Greysexuality describes any sexual orientation that falls somewhere between asexual and allosexual. It is often used as an umbrella term to encompass other identities on the grey area of the spectrum, including demisexuals, ace flux, etc.
Heteronormativity: The assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities. This includes the often implicitly held idea that heterosexuality is the norm and that other sexualities are “different” or “abnormal.”
Heterosexual or straight: Someone who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to a person of a different gender.
Homophobia: Hatred or dislike of LGBTQ+ people that often comes in the form of prejudice and bias. Homophobia often stems from a lack of knowledge about LGBTQ+ people and the issues they face and can sometimes be lessened with education and support.
Homosexual: A term to describe gay, lesbian, or queer people which may be offensive depending on the person. While it was originally used as a scientific clinical term to describe LGBTQ+ people, the word has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community and may be used by an LGBTQ+ person to reference themselves or another member of the community. Non-LGBTQ+ people should avoid using the term.
Intersectionality: The overlap of social categorizations or identities such as race and ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability, geography, and class that exist in an individual or group of people that can contribute to discrimination or disadvantage.
Intersex: Someone who, due to a variety of factors, has reproductive or sexual anatomy that do not seem to fit the typical definitions for the female or male sex. Some people who are intersex may identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, while many others do not.
Latinx: An inclusive, gender-neutral term–sometimes used in place of the gendered, binary terms Latino or Latina–used to describe a person of Latin-American origin or descent.
Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to other women. Some lesbians prefer to identify as gay women.
LGBTQ+: The acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning.” The plus sign represents those who are part of the community, but the LGBTQ labels don’t accurately capture or reflect their identity.
Misgender: To refer to someone using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, which does not correctly reflect their gender. This is offensive and harmful. To accidentally misgender or deadname someone can be understandable, but should be corrected quickly and can be avoided with practice.
Mispronoun: To refer to a person with incorrect pronouns. This is offensive and harmful. To accidentally mispronoun or misgender someone can be understandable, but should be corrected quickly and can be avoided with practice.
Nonbinary: Someone who does not subscribe to the gender binary. They might exist between or beyond the man-woman binary. Some use the term exclusively, while others may use it interchangeably with terms like genderqueer, genderfluid, gender non-conforming, gender diverse, or gender expansive.
Out: When someone openly self-identifies as LGBTQ+ in their private, public, and/or professional lives. There are many states of being out – a person can be out only to themselves, close friends, or everyone.
Pansexual: Someone whose emotional, romantic and/or physical attraction is to people inclusive of all genders.
Polyamorous: Someone who has the desire for multiple consenting intimate relationships at the same time. Consent and transparency are key components of polyamorous relationships.
Pride: The celebration of LGBTQ+ identities, and of the global LGBTQ+ community’s resistance against discrimination and violence.
Pronouns: The words used to refer to a person other than their name. Common pronouns are they/them, he/him, and she/her. Neopronouns are pronouns created to be specifically gender-neutral including xe/xem, ze/zir and fae/faer.
QTPOC or Queer and Trans People of Colour: Acronym that emphasizes the intersections of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
Queer: A term used by some LGBTQ+ people to describe themselves and/or their community. Reclaimed from its earlier negative use—and valued by some for its defiance—the term is also considered by some to be inclusive of the entire community, and by others who find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities.
Queerbaiting: A marketing technique where the media alludes to the presence of LGBTQ+ characters or relationships within their content, but fails to include actual representation so as not to lose non-LGBTQ+ viewers.
Questioning: Someone who is in a process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof.
Sapphic: A term used to refer to lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or otherwise same-gender-loving women.
Sex assigned at birth: At birth, infants are commonly assigned a sex. This is usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy and is often confused with gender.
Sexual orientation: Emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings toward other people or no people. Typically, it is the attraction that helps determine orientation.
Stemme/stem: Someone whose gender expression is both masculine and feminine.
Stud: A term for Black lesbians who take on a more butch or masculine role. Also known as ag/aggressive or butch. Not appropriate for non-Black lesbians to use.
Transfem/transfemme or transfeminine: An AMAB person who is closer to femininity than masculinity but is not a binary woman.
Transgender: Someone whose gender identity doesn’t necessarily match their assigned sex at birth.
Transmasc or transmasculine: An AFAB person who is closer to masculinity than femininity but is not a binary man.
Transphobia: Hatred or dislike of trans and gender-expansive people that often comes in the form of prejudice and bias. Transphobia often stems from a lack of knowledge about transgender people and the issues they face and can be lessened with education and support.
Transition: The process one goes through to affirm one’s gender identity. This can include taking hormones, having surgeries, changing names, pronouns, identification documents, and more. A person’s gender doesn’t depend on any social, legal, and/or medical transition, how they themselves identify is what validates their gender identity.
Two-Spirit: A modern umbrella term used within Indigenous communities of North America that bridges Indigenous and Western understandings of gender and sexuality. It refers to someone who identifies as having both a male and a female essence or spirit. Non-indigenous people should not use this term.
From AMAB to cishet to transmasc, knowing all the LGBTQ+ terms can be confusing sometimes. With this glossary of terms though, you will now have a better idea of the many, many identities within the LGBTQ+ community.