Other LGBT Topics
• Understanding Sexual Orientation vs Gender Identity/Expression • LGBTQI Glossary •
• Issues Facing LGBTQI Youth • Rights of LGBT Students (LAD, ABR, Policies) •
•Guidance to Minimize Adverse Effects of ABR Reporting on LGBT Students •


This glossary contains only the most basic terms that are needed to describe sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression diversity. This glossary is a good place to start, but once these terms are learned, any individual who wishes to be able to discuss LGBT issues or diversity with awareness and respect should move on to the Fundamental Glossary. Note: Definitions given in this beginner's glossary do not challenge cultural dichotomies, e.g., in the construction of gender and sexual orientation, and are therefore limited in their accuracy when used within the LGBT community.

Ally: A person, presumably heterosexual-identified and non-transgender, who actively confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heterosexual privilege in themselves and in others.

Asexual:A sexual orientation referring toa person who is not sexually attracted to anyone, who does not have a desire for partnered sexuality, or who self-defines as asexual. 

Assigned Gender: The gender category assigned to a child at birth, based on the child’s assigned sex. Typically, males are assigned to the "boy" category, and females to the "girl" category. (cf. Preferred gender.  See also: Assigned sex, Birth sex, Gender)

Bisexual A sexual orientation category, or a sexual orientation identity, referring to a person who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to both women and men, to either women or men, or to people regardless of their gender (or sex; See also sexual orientation), or whose sexual history includes sexual experiences with both women and men, or who feels s/he has the potential to be attracted to or sexually active with either/both women and men. 

Coming Out: The process in which one acknowledges one’s own sexual orientation.  It includes the procesess in which one adopts a sexual orientation identity based on their self-acknowledged sexual orientation, and the process in which one discloses one’s sexual orientation to others.  

Gay: A sexual orientation category, or a sexual orientation identity, referring to a person who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of the same gender as themselves.  The term is usually used to refer specifically to gay men/boys, but is also sometimes used as an umbrella term including gay men/boys, lesbians, and bisexuals, and sometimes as a reference to the entire LGBTQI community, as in “the gay community.” (cf. Lesbian)

Gender: The set of meanings assigned by a culture or society to people based on their perceived biological sex, including expectations regarding self-identity, appearance, and behavior.  Gender is a social and psychological construct, with multiple components, including gender identity, gender markers, gender expressions, and gender roles. Gender is typically described using terms like boy, girl, man, and woman. (See also: Assigned Gender, Gender Expression, Gender Identity, Preferred Gender, Gender Variant, and Transgender)

Gender Expression:  The manner in which a person represents or expresses their gender to others, through gender markers including clothing, hairstyle, behavior, activities, interests, attitudes, voice inflection, mannerisms, etc.  (See also: Gender, Gender Identity)

Gender Identity:  A psychological characteristic, gender identity refers to how an individual identifies in terms of their gender. (See also: Gender, Gender Expression)

Gender Variant: Refers to a person whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to traditional or societal expectations. (cf. Transgender)

Heterosexism: Social favoritism for heterosexuality over other sexual orientations.  Alternatively stated, heterosexism is any attitude, action, or practice, backed by institutional power, that subordinates people because of their sexual orientation, or that is based on a belief in the superiority or omnipresence of heterosexuality. 

Heterosexual: A sexual orientation category, or sexual orientation identity, referring to a person who feels romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of the gender that is not their own, i.e., men who are attracted to women or women who are attracted to men.

Homosexual: An outdated term to describe a person who feels romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of their own gender.  The term is now considered offensive because it is associated with pre-1980s DSM classifications of homosexuality as a psychopathology, conversion therapies, and contemporary religious condemnation.  The terms “gay” and “lesbian” are preferred.

Intersex: A person who is born with (or develops naturally, not as a result of medical treatment) a combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics that include some characteristics that are typically considered “male” and some characteristics that are typically considered “female.” The term “hermaphrodite” is an outdated term for “intersex,” and is usually considered offensive. (See also: Hermaphrodite).

Lesbian: A sexual orientation category, or a sexual orientation identity, referring to a woman/girl who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to other women/girls. 

LGBTQQI: An acronym commonly used to refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, and Intersex individuals, and/or to the LGBTQQI community as a whole.

Preferred Gender: The gender category a person prefers others to recognize as their gender during social interactions. In other words, a person prefers to be treated, and referred to, as belonging to or having this gender.  (See also: Gender, Assigned Gender, Gender Identity)

Queer: A historically derogatory term for gay men, lesbians, and gender variant people; however, the term has now been widely reclaimed by younger LGBTQQI people, for whom it has a very positive meaning as a social and political identity, and as an umbrella term encompassing everyone in the LGBTQI population. 

Questioning: Refers to a person, often an adolescent, who is exploring or questioning issues of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in his or her life.

Sex: Refers to physical biological characteristics typically used to distinguish “males” from “females,” including gonads, chromosomes, internal reproductive organs, external sex organs, secondary sex characteristics, and hormonal balances. 

Sexual Orientation: Sexual orientation is composed of multiple dimensions, including sexual attractions, romantic attractions, emotional or affectional attractions, self-identity, sexual behavior, sexual fantasies, etc. Usually used to identify or categorize a person based on the sex/gender of the people to whom s/he is romantically and/or sexually attracted, defined in relation to her/his own sex/gender.  Lesbian or Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual/Straight are considered respectful, appropriate terms to refer to individuals who are attracted, respectively, to people of their own sex/gender, to people of both sexes/genders, and to people of the other sex/gender. 

Transgender: An umbrella term including all persons whose gender identities or gender expressions do not match society's expectations for the individual on the basis of their assigned sex at birth. (See also: Gender Variant)

Transition: An individualized process by which a transgender person begins to live as their preferred gender.