Gender, Sex, & LGBTQ Terminology

Below is an ongoing list of terminology including definitions of general terms, sex or sexual orientation related terms, and terms about gender. This is not an exhaustive list as new terms are being added regularly. Some terms and definitions may be described differently than other sources or how people identify with the terms. If you have a term you’d liked to suggest, or to edit a pre-existing term, please contact us.

ALLY

A person that supports the LGBTQ2S community, challenges discrimination and oppression, and explores their own biases, however they are not a part of the LGBTQ2S community.

CISSEXISM & CISNORMATIVE

The belief that the binary construct of gender (in which there are only two genders: man and woman) is assumed to be the normal, natural, and preferred model of gender identity. This binary construct excludes people intersex, transgender, transsexual or genderqueer people.

COMING OUT
  • The developmental process through which LGBTQ2S people recognize their sexual orientation/gender identity and integrate this knowledge into their personal and social lives.

 

  • Disclosure of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity to others. For example, “I just came out to my parents.” “Coming out” is not a single event. In every new social situation and with every new acquaintance, a decision must be made about whether or not to disclose one’s sexual orientation/gender identity. An LGBTQ2S person may never be “out of the closet” in all parts of life.

 

  • “Outing” someone is to disclose someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity to another person without their clear and explicit consent. You should never out someone, as it is a violation of their trust.

 

  • People who have recognized their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and who have not come out, are said to be “in the closet.” This means a person is choosing to refrain from coming out to people, whether it be for comfort, economic, political, or other reasons.
HETEROSEXISM & HETERONORMATIVE
  • The pervasive assumption (expressed overtly and/or covertly) that everyone is or should be heterosexual and that heterosexuality is the only normal, natural sexual orientation.

 

  • Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, while it gives advantages to heterosexual people. It is a subtle form of oppression that reinforces silence and invisibility for LGBTQ people.
HOMOPHOBIA/BIPHOBIA/TRANSPHOBIA

Irrational fear, dislike or hatred of queer/ bisexual/ transpeople.

 

  • Often exhibited as prejudice, discrimination, jokes, name-calling, exclusion, harassment, and acts of violence (known as “bashing”). LGBTQ2S people (especially those who have experienced high impacts of homophobia/biphobia/transphobia in their lives) may internalize feelings of fear or shame, and suffer low self-worth or self-hatred. This is called “internalized homophobia/biphobia/transphobia.”
LGBTTIQQ2SA

Acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirit, asexual.

 

  • “LGBT,” “LGBTQ,” or “LGBTQ2S” are some abbreviated and more commonly used acronyms.
QUEER

An umbrella term that encompasses a broad range of sexual and gender identities, behaviours and expressions.

 

  • Previously a derogatory term, this word has been reclaimed and is used proudly by many LGBTQ2S people.

 

  • “Queer” can also express political and cultural statements and attitudes.
QUESTIONING

A person who is questioning their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

 

  • In some cases they may experience confusion and/or conflict.

 

  • Some people go through multiple questioning stages.
ASEXUAL

A person who is not sexually attracted to other persons.
• An asexual person may still engage in sex, and may even enjoy sex, but they are not sexually attracted to people.

BIOLOGICAL SEX

Our biological sex is how we are defined as female, male, or intersex. It describes our internal and external bodies — including our sexual and reproductive anatomy, our genetic makeup, and our hormones.

BISEXUAL

A person who is sexually attracted to two or more genders, such as being attracted to both men and women.
• Bisexual people are not necessarily attracted equally to two genders, and not always attracted to both genders at the same time.

DEMISEXUAL

A sexual orientation where someone feels a sexual attraction to people only after they’ve established an emotional bond with them.

GAY

A term for people who are sexually attracted to someone of the same gender. This identity can be used by both men and woman.
• Some gay men have reclaimed terms that have long been considered derogatory (such as faggot, fag, homo, pansy, and fruit) and use them proudly. It is important to remember that only gay men can reclaim these words. If you are not a part of the LGBTQ2S community, practice caution when using these words.
• Some gay woman have reclaimed terms that have long been considered derogatory (such as dyke, butch, and lezzie) and use them proudly. It is important to remember that only gay women can reclaim these words. If you are not a part of the LGBTQ2S community, practice caution when using these words.

HETEROSEXUAL

A person who is sexually attracted to people of another gender, such as a man attracted to women.
• The term “straight” is used to describe a heterosexual person. This term can be problematic for LGBTQ people.

HOMOSEXUAL

Historically, this term has been associated with a medical model of care, signifying that gay people were mentally ill. This has resulted it the term being used in a derogatory manner and increased marginalization. This term is not recommended to be used.

INTERSEX

An intersex person has either a biological, hormonal, or chromosomal makeup other than the binary male and female sex categories.
• This term has replaced the term “hermaphrodite.”
• Intersex children have often been subjected to surgery and assignment to male or female sex based on medical opinion.
• Many intersex people consider themselves members of the trans community.

LESBIAN

A woman who is sexually attracted to other women.
• Some women have reclaimed terms that have long been considered derogatory (such as dyke, butch, and lezzie) and use them proudly. It is important to remember that only lesbian women can reclaim these words. If you are not a part of the LGBTQ2S community, practice caution when using these words.

MSM/WSW

Men who have sex with men / women who have sex with women. A person who has sex with a person of the same sex or gender.
• This person may identify differently than their behaviour (for example, a man who has sex with men could identify as heterosexual).
• This terminology relates specifically to sexual behaviour (which may not always be congruent with sexual orientation).
• Some MSM or WSW but do not identify as gay/lesbian/bisexual, may be on the “down low.” Which means they may identify as straight but secretly engage in this sexual behaviour.

PANSEXUAL

The ability to be sexually interested in anyone regardless of their biological sex or gender identity.

ROMANTIC ORIENTATION

A person’s romantic attraction or affection for another person, defined by the sex or gender of that person.
• Sexual and romantic attraction are sometimes used interchangeably, but are considered different concepts of a larger dynamic.
• A person may have romantic feelings to a different sex or gender than who they’re sexually attracted to.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

A person’s sexual attraction or affection for another person, defined by the gender of that person.
• Some are very young when they become aware of their sexual orientation however awareness can arise at any time in life.
• Sexual orientation is not a choice.

SEXUAL PREFERENCE

The types of sexual intercourse, stimulation, and gratification one likes to receive and participate in.
• Generally mistakenly interchanged with “sexual orientation,” creating an illusion that one has a choice (or “preference”) in who they are attracted to.

CISGENDER

People who feel comfortable with the gender identity they were assigned at birth.
• Identifying yourself as cisgender helps to raise awareness and acknowledges the issues trans and non-cisgender people endure. To identify gender as a cis person, you can do so as either cisgender, cisman, or ciswoman.

CROSS DRESSER

A person who wears clothing associated with the another gender often for recreation or erotic enjoyment.
• This term has replaced the term “transvestite.”
• Cross dressers may be women or men, and can be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or otherwise.

DRAG QUEEN, DRAG KING

A person who dresses up in clothing of another gender for fun and entertainment. A man who cross-dresses is may be called a “Drag Queen”, and women who cross-dresses may be called a “Drag King.”
• Though drag is often associated with gay or trans communities, assumptions should not be made as to the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

GENDERQUEER/GENDERFLUID

A person who has a very fluid sense of gender identity and sexual orientation.
• A recent term for people who prefer to be open to and fluid on the gender continuum.

GENDER EXPRESSION

How someone expresses their gender identity, whether they express themselves in a masculine, feminine, or androgynous way.
• Gender Expression and Gender Identity is not always the same. For example, two people can identify as women, but one woman might express herself in more masculine undertones, and the other woman may express herself in more feminine ways.

GENDER IDENTITY

A person’s identity as being a man, woman, neither, both, or another gender.

GENDER ROLE

Characteristics attached to culturally defined notions of femininity and masculinity, and the public expression of these characteristics.
• Over time, gender roles are starting to blend and become less defined.

TRANS

An umbrella term that people whose personal gender identity is not compatible with the gender they were assigned at birth. Some identities that may fall under the trans umbrella include transgender, transsexual, drag queens, drag kings, cross-dressers, intersex, non-binary, two spirit, gender variant, genderqueer, gender diverse, and more.
• Some people with a trans experience may not identify as trans at all.
• Trans people may identify as gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual or otherwise. It is important to remember that gender identity and sexual orientation are interdependent.

TRANSGENDER

A person who identifies with another gender than what was assigned to them at birth.
• Identifying as transgender can be a social transition that does not need any form of medical or surgical intervention.
• A trans person may transition by wearing gender specific clothing, a legal name, and sex status changes.

TRANSSEXUAL

A person who is assigned one sex at birth, yet goes through steps to achieve the desired sex.
• A transsexual person may experience acute gender discomfort (“gender dysphoria”) and is typically driven to change their physical sex. This may include sex reassignment surgery (SRS), sex hormone therapy, and electrolysis.
• Some transsexual people may identify as female-to-male (FTM), male-to-female (MTF), transman, transwoman, trans, man, woman, or another gender identity.

TWO-SPIRIT

Two Spirit is an English term created and used by some Indigenous people to represent the specific experience of being both Indigenous and part of the LGBQ or transgender and gender diverse spectrum.

Two Spirit is a complex term to define. It is often used as an umbrella term. Some examples of how it fits with people’s identities include: identifying with a connection to multiple spirits, being transgender or gender variant, being a part of the LGBQ spectrum, and more.

There are hundreds of tribe specific identities that fall under the Two Spirit umbrella and predate colonialism. Due to colonialism a lot of these individuals and respected identities have been forgotten.