LGBTQ+ terminology and concepts are constantly evolving, expanding and changing. It can be confusing keeping up with the most current terms! When confronted with a new or different term, it is important to remember that it is ok to question your understanding of the word or concept, as long as it is asked in a respectful and clarifying manner.

The following is a list of most commonly used LGBTQ+ words/terms and their definitions...but is by no means exhaustive.

  1. Ally: A straight-identified, cisgendered person who supports and respects LGBTQ+ people.
  2. Biological Sex: a person’s physical designation which is based on external genitalia, internal reproductive structures, chromosomes, hormones, etc. A baby is usually given a male or female designation based on their physical, anatomical genitalia when they are born.
  3. Cisgender: when a person’s biological sex assigned at birth matches cultural expectations for appropriate male/female genders.
  4. Gender: when a society pre-determines roles, behaviors, activities, interests and psychological attributes based on what it considers “appropriate” to being male or female.
  5. Genderqueer: an umbrella term used to describe someone (typically an older teen or adult) who feels they are non-binary, i.e. identify on a spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation. Genderqueer people embrace a fluid range of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. They like people based on who they are, how they look, their personality, and/or what they believe in, rather than their specific gender or sexual orientation.
  6. Gender Expression: External behaviors and attributes that visibly convey one’s gender identity to others, such as the way one dresses, wears their hair, uses mannerisms, toys/games they prefer, etc. This is different from gender identity, which is an internal feeling.
  7. Gender Fluid: when a person conveys a changing range of gender expression. They may feel they are a boy one day and then a girl the next day OR they may feel that neither term accurately describes them. This is not rebellious or attention-seeking behavior and should be respected and accepted.
  8. Gender Identity: a person’s deeply-felt, internalized sense of being a male, a female, or may be something in-between, neither, both, or something other. It can be different from their biological sex assigned at birth. Gender identity is usually established by about age 4.
  9. Gender Non-Conforming: this term is already becoming not as accepted and non-binary is used instead. However, it refers to people who do not follow other people's ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth.
  10. Gender Transition: a process or experience whereby a person goes from living and identifying as one gender, to living and identifying as another gender.
    • Social Transition: when a person undergoes the change to living as the gender they identify as, without any medical intervention. This can be changing their name and the use of pronouns as well as changing their hair, clothes, make-up, etc.
    • Medical Transition: when a person augments the social transition to their gender identify with medical and/or surgical intervention. This can include hormone suppressants or blockers, and gender-confirming surgeries.
  11. LGBTQ: Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning
  12. LGBTQIA: Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual
  13. Non-binary: Refers to someone who doesn't feel they are male or female. A non-binary person doesn't follow other people's ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act based on the sex they were assigned at birth.
  14. Pansexual: when a person’s emotional, sexual or romantic attraction to someone is not based on gender or sex. Sometimes referred to as “gender-blind”, pansexual people feel gender is irrelevant in determining their attraction toward someone.
  15. Queer: Once considered derogatory, this term has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community as an affirming and positive term. Similar to genderqueer, this term is used by those who feel LGBT is too limiting and has implied cultural connotations that don’t accurately describe who they feel they are.
  16. Sexual Orientation: an enduring and emotional, sexual or romantic attraction one feels toward men, women or both. Sexual orientation is usually established by about age 11.
  17. Transgender: a person whose biological sex at birth does not match their internalized feelings about their own gender, as defined by stereotypical, cultural norms. In other words, the feeling of who they are in their head does not match what is between their hips. This feeling is persistent, consistent and insistent.

Additional Resources

  • A one page handout listing the top 10 gender terms/concepts and their definitions and how to use pronouns when speaking to transgender or gender nonconforming people.

  • by Trans Student Educational Resources, this is visual graphic that attempts to explain how some trans and genderqueer people look at gender as a non-binary option.
  • Printable version of The Gender Unicorn.

  • A visual tool to understand the difference between gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and biological sex.
  • Printable version of The Genderbread Person

  • The use of gender neutral or non-binary pronouns can be used to describe an individual in a way which does not associate a gender with the person being referred to. See text box below.

  • The list documented above is by no means exhaustive and thus, this LGBTQIA glossary expands upon current LGBTQ+ terms.