LGBTQ Identities Definitions

We want to work off the same common language and understand that identities, especially in our trans, gender expansive and queer communities, can evolve quickly and be unique per person. This is only a suggested guide and each person’s identity can be complex and vary in definition and experience.

LESBIAN
A term given to a female-identified person whose primary emotional, physical, romantic and sexual attractions and connections are with other female-identified people.
GAY
A term given to a male-identified person whose primary emotional, physical, romantic and sexual attraction and connections are with some male-identified people. This term is sometimes used more generally, to refer to anyone who is attracted to people with the same gender identity.
BISEXUAL
A term given to a person whose primary emotional, physical, romantic and sexual attractions and connections can be with both men and women to varying degrees.
TRANSGENDER
An umbrella term that can be used to describe people whose gender expression is nonconforming and/or whose gender identity is different from their gender assigned at birth (usually based on their biological sex).
QUESTIONING
A term that refers to people who are uncertain as to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
QUEER
Originally a derogatory label used to refer to, intimidate and offend LGBTQ people. More recently, this umbrella term has been reclaimed by some people as an inclusive and positive way to recognize anyone whose sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is on a spectrum of attraction, expression and fluidity and not considered “standard” or “mainstream”.
ALLY
A person who non-violently advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own. An ally is someone who embraces the differences in others and treats everyone with respect and dignity. An ally can willingly do the following:
  • Educate oneself about oppression
  • Learn from and listen to people who are targets of oppression
  • Examine and challenge one’s own prejudices, stereotypes and assumptions
  • Work through feelings of guilt, shame and defensiveness to understand what is beneath them and what needs to be healed
  • Learn and practice the skills of challenging oppressive remarks, behaviors, policies and institutional structures
  • Act collaboratively with members of the target group to dismantle oppression.
LGBTQ
People who self identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (Q can also sometimes refer to “Questioning”). A term of inclusion that seeks to capture all sexual and gender minorities.
TRANSSEXUAL
A person whose biological sex does not match their gender identity and who, through gender reassignment surgery or hormone treatments, seeks to change their physical body to match their gender identity.
GENDERQUEER
A genderqueer person is part of a group of people who do not feel that they fit into the traditional two-gender or gender-binary system. As with any other groups that may be aligned with transgender identities, the reasons for identifying as genderqueer may vary.
HIR/ZE
Gender neutral pronouns used instead of him/he or her/she.
TRANSITIONING
The process that a transgender person may go through after deciding they want to live as a gender other than their sex determined at birth. This may include change in dress, pronoun preference and/or name.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION
An identity based on who we primarily develop emotional, romantic, physical, and sexual attraction, desires and fantasies for and connections with. It is who we fall in love with.
GENDER
Society’s set of roles, values and expectations for what it means to be a girl/woman or a boy/man in a particular culture. This can include the way we dress, act, talk and generally move through the world, usually dividing our society into the categories of “masculine” or “feminine”.
GENDER NON-CONFORMING
(Sometimes also written as Gender Nonconforming.) This can be denoting or relating to a person who is perceived or identifies with behavior or appearance that does not conform to prevailing cultural and social expectations about what is appropriate to their gender. This can vary between cultures, races, nationalities and regions.
SEX
The “biological’ Or “chromosomal” sex of a person. This can be considered our “equipment or plumbing” of a person. (XX for females, XY for males). Sex can also be defined by a person’s hormones (estrogen and progesterone for females, testosterone for males); and our internal and external genitalia (vulva, clitoris, vagina for females, penis and testicles for males).
INTERSEX
About 4% of the population can be defined as “Intersexual,” or born with biological aspects of both sexes to varying degrees.
PANSEXUAL
A person whose emotional attraction, sexual desire, sexual attraction or romantic love is inclusive to people of all gender identities and biological sexes.
ASEXUAL
A person who does form meaningful, emotional or spiritual connections with other people but who does not experience these feelings in a sexual or romantic way.

© 1997 Just Communities, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center and Pacific Pride Foundation
© 2010 The Williams Institute
© 2011 GLSEN Safe at Schools toolkit

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