With that in mind, we wanted to bring you a helpful glossary of terms you might hear more often this month. You can use this glossary all year round to ensure that your words help people who are LGBTQIA+ feel seen, heard, validated, and respected.
- ALLY An Ally is an individual that uses their privilege to advocate on the behalf of others in both public and private settings. A true ally uses their words and actions to help instigate social and political change.
- SEX At birth, infants are assigned a sex, based on the appearance of their external anatomy, hormones, and chromosomes. This process can be problematic for people born with sex characteristics that do not seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male and is only based on a medical professional’s determination (read more about people who are Intersex below).
- GENDER IDENTITY Gender identity refers to how an individual perceives themselves. Gender identity does not necessarily have anything to do with a person’s genitals or the sex they were assigned at birth. While a medical professional attending a birth assigns sex by looking at an infant’s genitals, gender identity is something each person comes to understand about themselves. It’s important to remember that gender identity is about identity, and sexual orientation is about attraction.
- GENDER EXPRESSION Gender expression refers to how an individual expresses identity, typically through their appearance, dress, and behavior. Clothing and behavior can be ways that individuals choose to express their gender but should not be relied on as indicators of how a person identifies.
- GENDER and SEX as a SPECTRUM Seeing gender as a spectrum, and not just binary male/female, recognizes a wide range of gender expression and human potential. Think about it – it is rare to find an individual who exhibits ONLY masculine or feminine characteristics and behaviors. As our culture changes so do gender roles, norms, and the expectation that people should look or behave a certain way. As we make room for gender as a spectrum of self-realization, we can free ourselves and each other from roles that restrict and cause harm; and as we recognize sex as a spectrum, we are better able to celebrate the fullness of variation that naturally exists among human beings.
- SEXUAL ORIENTATION describes a person's physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person or group of people. Sexual orientation does not tell us anything about the types of sex someone prefers or what body parts someone has. It simply gives us an idea of the range of people someone is attracted to. Sexual Orientation does not necessarily follow from gender identity. Knowing a person’s gender identity does not tell us their sexual orientation.
- PRONOUNS Pronouns are linguistic tools that we use to refer to people. We believe that it is important to give people the opportunity to state the pronoun that is correct to use when referring to them. A gender neutral or gender inclusive pronoun is a pronoun which does not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed. People of all gender presentations may use they/them/theirs. A feminine presenting person can use he/him/his. A masculine presenting person can use she/her/hers. If you are unsure of how to refer to someone, it is always better to ask than to assume.
- NEO-PRONOUNS People may also choose to be referred to by neo-pronouns, a word created to serve as a pronoun without expressing gender. These can include "noun-self" pronouns, in which a pre-existing word is drafted into use as a pronoun. Noun-self pronouns are lesser known but operate in the same way as other pronouns. If you are unsure of how to refer to someone, it is always better to ask than to assume.
SEXUAL ANATOMY When we talk about sexual anatomy, we are talking about the physical structure of an individual's sex organs.
- AFAB/AMAB/SAAB This stands for “assigned female/male at birth”, to describe how a person was categorized by medical professionals, as a baby. Phrases like “born a boy/girl” are inaccurate and transphobic; AFAB/AMAB is more accurate and should be used instead. SAAB stands for sex assigned at birth and is a non-gendered term.
- GENDER AFFIRMATION Some people who are transgender or gender nonbinary may seek gender affirming interventions, including hormone therapy, surgery, facial hair removal, interventions for the modification of speech, and physical adaptations such as genital tucking or packing, or chest binding. Not every Transgender or gender nonbinary person chooses medical intervention as part of their gender affirmation. This is a very personal decision that is different for everyone.
- GENDER BINARY Binary refers is the idea that there are only two genders - male and female. This is basically the opposite of the concept of a gender spectrum and isn’t a supportive concept for inclusivity. It also discounts hundreds of non-western cultures who have non-binary identities that have been recognized for thousands of years. This includes the Native American Two Spirit identities, South Asian Hijra identities, and Hawaiian Mahu, to name just a small few.
- INTERSEX These individuals were born with biological characteristics or with genitals that don’t fit the typical definitions of female or male. Do not use the term "Hermaphrodite," an outdated, inaccurate, and offensive term that has been used in the past for people who are Intersex. Remember that there are more intersex people than you would otherwise be aware of. You may not feel like you have met an individual with intersex biological characteristics, but that is because we do not, as a rule, know the genital and genetic structure of the people we casually meet.
- CISGENDER A person who is cisgender has a gender identity, expression, and assigned sex that all align. (Ex. A person who was assigned male at birth, has male genitals and identifies as male.)
- TRANSGENDER / TRANS A person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. Not all people identify with their Transgender history. Some people who were assigned a sex at birth different than their current gender don’t identify as Trans. Not all people are open about their Transgender history. Sharing personal information about a Trans person’s history without their permission is a major violation of trust and safety. A very important statement to remember: Trans Women are Women and Trans Men are Men unless they self-identify otherwise.
- TRANSITIONING A term used to describe the process of aligning characteristics of one’s gender identity, sometimes this involves hormone therapy or surgery. Not all transgender people wish to transition with hormone therapy or surgery. Transgender identity is not defined by physical appearance or medical procedures.
- TRANSGENDER MAN A man who was assigned female at birth. Not all men who transitioned at one point will continue to identify as transgender, but some will.
- TRANSGENDER WOMAN A woman who was assigned male at birth. Not all women who transitioned at one point will continue to identify as transgender, but some will.
- GENDER QUEER / GENDER NON-CONFORMING/ These are terms that individuals might use when they do not identify or express their gender identity as male/female/transgender, but rather somewhere along the gender spectrum. Not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender; nor are all transgender people gender non-conforming. Many people have gender expressions that are not entirely conventional – that fact alone does not make them transgender.
- NON-BINARY Used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms. The term is not a synonym for transgender, but does fall under the transgender umbrella, and should only be used if someone self-identifies as non-binary. There are many identities under the non-binary umbrella, including Cultural Identities unique to different worldwide People.
AGENDER A person who does not identify with any gender, or intentionally does not follow expectations of gender.
- PANGENDER A person who identifies as both Male and Female, and every other gender on the spectrum simultaneously.
- BIGENDER – TRIGENDER A person who identifies as two or three genders, either simultaneously, or switching between genders and presentations.
- CROSS DRESSING Wearing clothing that conflicts with the traditional gender expression of an individual's sex and gender identity (e.g., a man wearing a dress.) People cross dress for many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification. A person who is a cross dresser may not wish to permanently change their sex or live full-time lives as another gender.
- DRAG QUEEN/KING A person who presents an exaggerated form of feminine/masculine expression, usually in a show or theatrical setting and for entertainment purposes, but also can be a form of self-expression or celebration of LGBTQIA+ pride.
- LGBTQIA+ Acronym of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and the Plus to acknowledge that there are many more identities that are in the Community without adding extra letters. This acronym is currently the most commonly used and accepted in the community.
- GAY / LESBIAN These individuals are attracted to people who identify as their same gender.
- BISEXUAL These individuals are attracted to people who identify as a gender different than their own gender identity AND their same gender. (Not to be confused with pansexual.)
- PANSEXUAL These individuals are attracted to members of all gender identities/expressions.
ASEXUAL These individuals experience little to no sexual attraction to any group of people.
- STRAIGHT These individuals are attracted to people of a gender different than their own.
- QUEER Queer can be a label claimed by a person who is attracted to men, women, genderqueer people, and/or other gender nonconforming people.