Here are some of the words and acronyms that are commonly used for LGBT issues.
Ag / Aggressive : See ‘Stud.
Agendered: Person is internally ungendered.
Ally : Typically any non-LGBT person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people, though LGBT people can be allies, such as a lesbian who is an ally to a transgender person. In other words, Someone who confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and genderstraight privilege in themselves and others; a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people; and a belief that heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are social justice issues.
Androgyne: Person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.
Asexual: Person who is not sexually attracted to anyone or does not have a sexual orientation. Asexuality is not the same as celibacy.
BDSM: (Bondage, Discipline/Domination, Submission/Sadism, and Masochism ). The terms ‘submission/sadism’ and ‘masochism’ refer to deriving pleasure from inflicting or receiving pain, often in a sexual context. The terms ‘bondage’ and ‘domination’ refer to playing with various power roles, in both sexual and social context. These practices are often misunderstood as abusive, but when practiced in a safe, sane, and consensual manner can be a part of healthy sex life. (Sometimes referred to as ‘leather.’)
Bear: The most common definition of a ‘bear’ is a man who has facial/body hair, and a cuddly body. However, the word ‘bear’ means many things to different people, even within the bear movement. Many men who do not have one or all of these characteristics define themselves as bears, making the term a very loose one. ‘Bear’ is often defined as more of an attitude and a sense of comfort with natural masculinity and bodies.
Berdache: A generic term used to refer to a third gender person (woman-living-man). The term ‘berdache’ is generally rejected as inappropriate and offensive by Native Peoples because it is a term that was assigned by European settlers to differently gendered Native Peoples. Appropriate terms vary by tribe and
include: ‘one-spirit’, ‘two-spirit’, and ‘wintke.’
Bicurious: A curiosity about having sexual relations with a same gender/sex person.
Bigendered: A person whose gender identity is a combination of male/man and female/woman.
Binding: The process of flattening one’s breasts to have a more masculine or flat appearing chest.
Biphobia: Aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people as a social group or as individuals. People of any sexual orientation can experience such feelings of aversion. Biphobia is a source of discrimination against bisexuals, and may be based on negative bisexual stereotypes or irrational fear.
Bi-gender: Refers to people who define themselves as having the behavioral, cultural or psychological characteristics associated with both the male and female genders.
Bisexual: Bisexuals are sexually and/or romantically attracted to people of more than one gender. Not necessarily at the same time, in the same way or to the same degree. It can be shortened to ‘bi’.
Bottom: A person who is said to take a more submissive role during sexual interactions. Sometimes referred to as ‘pasivo’ in Latin American cultures. Also known as ‘Catcher.’ (See also ‘Top’.)
Bottom Surgery: Surgery on the genitals designed to create a body in harmony with a person’s preferred gender expression.
Butch: A person who identifies themselves as masculine, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. ‘Butch’ is sometimes used as a derogatory term for lesbians, but it can also be claimed as an affirmative identity label.
Catcher: See ‘Bottom.’ This term may be considered offensive by some people.
Cisgender: Types of gender identity where an individual’s experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
Civil Union: State-based relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples that offers some or all of the state (though none of the federal) rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage
Coming Out: The process of acknowledging one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity to other people. For most LGBT people this is a life-long process.
Cross-dresser: Someone who wears clothes of another gender/sex.
D&D: An abbreviation for drug and disease free.
Discrimination: Prejudice + power. It occurs when members of a more powerful social group behave unjustly or cruelly to members of a less powerful social group. Discrimination can take many forms, including both individual acts of hatred or injustice and institutional denials of privileges normally accorded to other groups. Ongoing discrimination creates a climate of oppression for the affected group.
Domestic Partnership: Civil/legal recognition of a committed relationship between two people that sometimes extends limited protections to them.
Down Low: See ‘In the Closet.’ Also referred to as ‘D/L.’
Drag: The performance of one or multiple genders theatrically.
Drag King: A person who performs masculinity theatrically.
Drag Queen: A person who performs femininity theatrically.
Dyke: Derogatory term referring to a masculine lesbian. Sometimes adopted affirmatively by lesbians (not necessarily masculine ones) to refer to themselves.
Fag: Derogatory term referring to someone perceived as non-heteronormative.
Fag Hag: A term primarily used to describe women who prefer the social company of gay men. While this term is claimed in an affirmative manner by some, it is largely regarded as derogatory.
Femme: Feminine identified person of any gender/sex.
FTM / F2M: Abbreviation for female-to-male transgender or transsexual person.
Gay: This term has traditionally been used to represent a diverse group or people who are attracted to people of the same gender or are in a relationship with someone of the same gender.
It is important to recognize, however, that different groups within the gay community exist, and that the term “gay” is not all-inclusive. For example, transsexuals and some people who identify as bisexual do not consider themselves to be gay.
Men who have had relationships with other men do not always identify themselves as gay. There is also a tremendous ethnic diversity among lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities which contributes to the different perceptions of the term “gay.”
Gender Binary: The idea that there are only two genders – male/female or man/woman and that a person must be strictly gendered as either/or. (See also ‘Identity Sphere.’)
Gender Confirming Surgery: Medical surgeries used to modify one’s body to be more congruent with one’s gender identity. See “Sex Reassignment Surgery.
Gender Cues: What human beings use to attempt to tell the gender/sex of another person. Examples include hairstyle, gait, vocal inflection, body shape, facial hair, etc. Cues vary by culture.
Gender expression : A term which refers to the ways in which we each manifest masculinity or femininity. It is usually an extension of our “gender identity,” our innate sense of being male, female, etc. Each of us expresses a particular gender every day – by the way we style our hair, select our clothing, or even the way we stand. Our appearance, speech, behavior, movement, and other factors signal that we feel – and wish to be understood – as masculine or feminine, or as a man or a woman.
Gender identity: The sense of “being” male, female, genderqueer, agender, etc. For some people, gender identity is in accord with physical anatomy. For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate and that you cannot assume how someone identifies in one category based on how they identify in another category.
Gender Normative: A person who by nature or by choice conforms to gender based expectations of society. (Also referred to as ‘Genderstraight’.)
Gender Oppression: The societal, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege cisgender (gender-typical people) and subordinate and disparage transgender or gender variant people. Also known as “genderism.”
Gender Variant: A person who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society (e.g. transgender, transsexual, intersex, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc.).
Genderism: see “Gender Oppression.”
Genderfuck: The idea of playing with ‘gender cues’ to purposely confuse “standard” or stereotypical gender expressions, usually through clothing.
Genderqueer: A term which refers to individuals or groups who “queer” or problematize the hegemonic notions of sex, gender and desire in a given society. Genderqueer people possess identities which fall outside of the widely accepted sexual binary (i.e. “men” and “women”). Genderqueer may also refer to people who identify as both transgendered AND queer, i.e. individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.
Genderstraight: See ‘Gender Normative.’
Hermaphrodite: An out-of-date and offensive term for an intersexed person. (See ‘Intersexed Person’.)
Heteronormativity: The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality and bisexuality.
Heterosexism: Prejudice against individuals and groups who display non-heterosexual behaviors or identities, combined with the majority power to impose such prejudice. Usually used to the advantage of the group in power. Any attitude, action, or practice – backed by institutional power – that subordinates people because of their sexual orientation.
Heterosexual: These terms refer to people whose sexual and romantic feelings are mostly for the opposite gender: Men who are attracted to women, and women who are attracted to men.
Heterosexual Privilege: Those benefits derived automatically by being heterosexual that are denied to homosexuals and bisexuals. Also, the benefits homosexuals and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming heterosexual identity or denying homosexual or bisexual identity.
HIV-phobia: The irrational fear or hatred of persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Homophobia : A range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). It can be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred, may be based on irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs.
Homosexual: Romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender; Men who are attracted to men and women who are attracted to women.
Identity Sphere: The idea that gender identities and expressions do not fit on a linear scale, but rather on a sphere that allows room for all expression without weighting any one expression as better than another.
In the closet: Describes a person who keeps their sexual orientation or gender identity a secret from some or all people. In other words, Refers to a homosexual, bisexual, transperson or intersex person who will not or cannot disclose their sex, sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, co-workers, or society. An intersex person may be closeted due to ignorance about their status since standard medical practice is to “correct,” whenever possible, intersex conditions early in childhood and to hide the medical history from the patient. There are varying degrees of being “in the closet”; for example, a person can be out in their social life, but in the closet at work, or with their family. Also known as ‘Downlow” or ‘D/L.
Intergender: A person whose gender identity is between genders or a combination of genders.
Institutional Oppression: Arrangements of a society used to benefit one group at the expense of another through the use of language, media, education, religion, economics, etc.
Internalized Oppression: The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.
Intersexed Person: Someone whose sex a doctor has a difficult time categorizing as either male or female. A person whose combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, gonads, and/or genitals differs from one of the two expected patterns.
Leather: See ‘BDSM’
Lesbian Baiting: The heterosexist notion that any woman who prefers the company of woman, or who does not have a male partner, is a lesbian.
LGBTQI: A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersexed community.
Lipstick Lesbian: Usually refers to a lesbian with a feminine gender expression. Can be used in a positive or a derogatory way, depending on who is using it. Is sometimes also used to refer to a lesbian who is seen as automatically passing for heterosexual.
Male Lesbian: A male-bodied person who identifies as a lesbian. This differs from a heterosexual male in that a male lesbian is primarily attracted to other lesbian, bisexual or queer identified people. May sometimes identify as gender variant, or as a female/woman. (See ‘Lesbian.’).
Marriage: Many states now recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. Because a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by the federal government in 1996, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June 2013, legally married couples are now recognized by the federal government. However, the status of couples who marry in a state where it is legal, and then move to a state where it is not legal remains unclear. Furthermore, the majority of states still do not allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
Metrosexual: First used in 1994 by British journalist Mark Simpson, who coined the term to refer to an urban, heterosexual male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. This term can be perceived as derogatory because it reinforces stereotypes that all gay men are fashion-conscious and materialistic.
MTF / M2F: Abbreviation for male-to-female transgender or transsexual person.
Openly Gay: Describes people who self-identify as gay in their personal, public, and/or professional lives. Also openly lesbian, openly bisexual, openly transgender . While accurate and commonly used, the phrase still implies a confessional aspect to publicly acknowledging one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. See out above.
Oppression: The systematic subjugation of a group of people by another group with access to social power, the result of which benefits one group over the other and is maintained by social beliefs and practices.
Out: A person who self-identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender in their personal, public, and/or professional lives. For example: Ricky Martin is an out pop star from Puerto Rico. Preferred to openly gay.
Outing: Involuntary disclosure of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status.
Packing: Wearing a phallic device on the groin and under clothing for any purposes including: (for someone without a biological penis) the validation or confirmation of one’s masculine gender identity; seduction; and/or sexual readiness (for one who likes to penetrate another during sexual intercourse).
Pangendered: A person whose gender identity is comprised of all or many gender expressions.
Pansexual: A person who is sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions (a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions, not just people who fit into the standard gender binary (i.e. men and women).).
Passing: Describes a person’s ability to be accepted as their preferred gender/sex or race/ethnic identity or to be seen as heterosexual.
Pitcher: See ‘Top.’ This term may be offensive to some people.
Polyamory: Refers to having honest, usually non-possessive, relationships with multiple partners and can include: open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to those), and sub-relationships (which denote distinguishing between a ‘primary” relationship or relationships and various “secondary” relationships).
Prejudice: A conscious or unconscious negative belief about a whole group of people and its individual members.
Queer: 1. An umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively- heterosexual-and-monogamous majority. Queer includes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transpeople, intersex persons, the radical sex communities, and many other sexually transgressive (underworld) explorers. 2. This term is sometimes used as a sexual orientation label instead of ‘bisexual’ as a way of acknowledging that there are more than two genders to be attracted to, or as a way of stating a non-heterosexual orientation without having to state who they are attracted to. 3. A reclaimed word that was formerly used solely as a slur but that has been semantically overturned by members of the maligned group, who use it as a term of defiant pride. ‘Queer’ is an example of a word undergoing this process. For decades ‘queer’ was used solely as a derogatory adjective for gays and lesbians, but in the 1980s the term began to be used by gay and lesbian activists as a term of self-identification. Eventually, it came to be used as an umbrella term that included gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. Nevertheless, a sizable percentage of people to whom this term might apply still hold ‘queer’ to be a hateful insult, and its use by heterosexuals is often considered offensive. Similarly, other reclaimed words are usually offensive to the in-group when used by outsiders, so extreme caution must be taken concerning their use when one is not a member of the group.
Questioning: For some, the process of exploring and discovering one’s own sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Same Gender Loving: A term sometimes used by members of the African-American / Black community to express an alternative sexual orientation without relying on terms and symbols of European descent. The term emerged in the early 1990’s with the intention of offering Black women who love women and Black men who love men a voice, a way of identifying and being that resonated with the uniqueness of Black culture in life (Sometimes abbreviated as ‘SGL’.).
Sex: A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. Because usually subdivided into ‘male’ and ‘female’, this category does not recognize the existence of intersexed bodies.
Sex Identity: How a person identifies physically: female, male, in between, beyond, or neither.
Sexual orientation: The type of sexual, romantic, and/or physical attraction someone feels toward others. Often labeled based on the gender identity/expression of the person and who they are attracted to. Common labels: lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc.
Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS): A term used by some medical professionals to refer to a group of surgical options that alter a person’s “sex”. In most states, one or multiple surgeries are required to achieve legal recognition of gender variance. Also known as “Gender Confirming Surgery.”
Sexuality: A person’s exploration of sexual acts, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, and desire.
Stealth: This term refers to when a person chooses to be secretive in the public sphere about their gender history, either after transitioning or while successful passing. (Also referred to as ‘going stealth’ or ‘living in stealth mode’.)
Stem: A person whose gender expression falls somewhere between a stud and a femme (See also ‘Femme’ and ‘Stud’.).
Stereotype: A preconceived or oversimplified generalization about an entire group of people without regard for their individual differences. Though often negative, can also be complimentary. Even positive stereotypes can have a negative impact, however, simply because they involve broad generalizations that ignore individual realities.
Stone Butch / Femme: A person who may or may not desire sexual penetration and/or contact with the genitals or breasts.(See also ‘Butch’ and ‘Femme’).
Straight: Another term for heterosexual.
Straight-Acting: A term usually applied to gay men who readily pass as heterosexual. The term implies that there is a certain way that gay men should act that is significantly different from heterosexual men. Straight-acting gay men are often looked down upon in the LGBTQ community for seemingly accessing heterosexual privilege.
Stud: An African-American and/or Latina masculine lesbian. Also known as ‘butch’ or ‘aggressive’.
Switch: A person who is both a ‘Top’ and a ‘Bottom’, there may or may not be a preference for one or the other.
Top: A person who is said to take a more dominant role during sexual interactions. May also be known as ‘Pitcher.’
Top Surgery: This term usually refers to surgery for the construction of a male-type chest, but may also refer to breast augmentation.
Trans: An abbreviation that is sometimes used to refer to a gender variant person. This use allows a person to state a gender variant identity without having to disclose hormonal or surgical status/intentions. This term is sometimes used to refer to the gender variant community as a whole.
Transactivism: The political and social movement to create equality for gender variant persons.
Transgender: This term has many definitions. It is frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system. This includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueer, drag kings, drag queens, two-spirit people, and others. Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two standard gender categories, but rather somewhere between, beyond, or outside of those two genders.
Transgendered (Trans) Community: A loose category of people who transcend gender norms in a wide variety of ways. The central ethic of this community is unconditional acceptance of individual exercise of freedoms including gender and sexual identity and orientation.
Transhate: The irrational hatred of those who are gender variant, usually expressed through violent and often deadly means.
Tranny Chaser: A term primarily used to describe people who prefer or actively seek transpeople for sexual or romantic relations. While this term is claimed in an affirmative manner by some, it is largely regarded as derogatory.
Transition: This term is primarily used to refer to the process a gender variant person undergoes when changing their bodily appearance either to be more congruent with the gender/sex they feel themselves to be and/or to be in harmony with their preferred gender expression.
Transman: An identity label sometimes adopted by female-to-male transsexuals to signify that they are men while still affirming their history as females. Also referred to as ‘transguy(s).’
Transphobia : The fear or hatred of transgender people or gender non-conforming behavior. Like biphobia, transphobia can also exist among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as well as among heterosexual people.
Transsexual: A person whose gender identity is different from their biological sex, who may undergo medical treatments to change their biological sex, often times to align it with their gender identity, or they may live their lives as another sex.
Transvestite: A person who on occasion wears clothes traditionally worn by and associated with the opposite sex; typically a male who cross-dresses occasionally by habit or compulsion.
Transgenderist: Describes someone who is gender variant or transgresses gender norms as part of their lifestyle or identity.
Transwoman: An identity label sometimes adopted by male-to-female transsexuals to signify that they are women while still affirming their history as males.
Two-Spirited: Native persons who have attributes of both genders, have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with mystical rituals (shamans). Their dress is usually mixture of male and female articles and they are seen as a separate or third gender. The term ‘two-spirit’ is usually considered to specific to the Zuni tribe. Similar identity labels vary by tribe and include ‘one-spirit’ and ‘wintke’.
Ze / Hir: Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some gender variant persons. Pronounced /zee/ and /here,/ they replace “he”/”she” and “his”/”hers” respectively.
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