LGBT Glossary

The following definitions are short working definitions to create a basic understanding of LGBT issues and concerns. You are encouraged to seek additional information for a better understanding of the many aspects of each term.

  • Homophobia

  • Biphobia

Advocate- A person who actively works to end intolerance, educates others, and supports LGBT issues, concerns, equal rights legislation, etc.

Ally- A heterosexual or LGBT person who supports LGBT people.

Asexual- A person who does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, and does not necessarily imply celibacy or abstinence. There is a great diversity in how members of the asexual community experience sexual and romantic attraction, desire, arousal, and relationships.

Bicurious – A curiosity about having sexual relations with a same gender/sex person.

Bisexual- A person who is emotionally, physically, spiritually, and sexually attracted to members of more than one gender. Also can be referred to as omnisexual and pansexual. A person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions to members of both sexes. The frequency, intensity, or quality of attraction is not necessarily directed toward both sexes equally.

Biological Sex- A binary system (male/female) set by the medical establishment, usually based on reproductive organs. See Intersexed.

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.

Cisgender- a term used to describe those who are not-transgender - having a gender identity or performing in gender roles that society considers appropriate for one's biological sex matches their identity.

Closeted- One who has not "come out of the closet" or who has come out to only a few people. One who may not be comfortable enough with their own sexuality to share it with others.

Coming Out- The life-long process of discovering, defining, and declaring ones sexuality (as gay, lesbian, or bi) or gender as transgender or non-conforming). Coming to terms with one’s sexual or gender identity.

Cross Dressing- The act of wearing the clothing of the "opposite" sex for performance, sexual encounters, or comfort.

Drag- Queen, a person who performs femininity theatrically/for a show, often in an exaggerated manner; King, a person who performs masculinity theatrically/for a show, often in an exaggerated manner.

Dyke- Derogatory slang terms used to identify lesbians. This term has been embraced and reinvented as a positive, proud, political identifier when used by lesbians among and about themselves. See: faggot, queer.

Faggot- Derogatory slang used to identify gay men, which has been embraced and reclaimed as a positive, proud, political identifier when used by gay men among and about themselves. See dyke, queer.

Femme – Feminine identified person of any gender/sex. Sometimes seen as the opposite of “butch.”

FTM- female-to-male (also F2M). Indicates a transgender individual who was originally assigned the gender of female at birth, but has claimed a male identity through clothing, surgery, or gender expression changes.

Gay- Usually, but not always, refers to homosexual men. An individual who identifies as male whose primary romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions are to other individuals who identify as male. Also used as an umbrella term for the LGBT community.

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.

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 Identity- How a person perceives their gender, what they call themselves; may or may not align with sex assigned at birth; typically masculine/feminine.

Genderqueer- A gender identity label often used by people who do not identify as binary male/female; can be an umbrella term for many gender non-conforming or non-binary identities (like agender, genderfluid, 3rd gender, pangender). 

Gender Confirmation Surgery – see SRS

Gender Role- The societal and cultural expectations of people based upon their biological sex.

Hate Motivated Offenses- Assault, rape, arson, and murder are crimes under any circumstance, but when a victim of such a crime was targeted simply because of their affiliation (or perceived affiliation) with a minority group, the FBI considers the crime a 'hate crime.' In some states, hate crimes carry an additional penalty beyond the standard penalty for assault, murder, etc.

Hermaphrodite – An out-of-date and offensive term for an intersex person. (See ‘Intersex Person’).

Heterosexual- Aperson who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. AKA “Straight.”

Heteronormativity- The societal assumption that all people are heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is preferred or superior to homosexuality or bisexuality.

Heterosexual Privilege -  Advantages that come with heterosexuality in this society and culture; i.e.: Marriage and all the benefits that go along with it, acceptance from family, safety, and acceptance in their chosen career field. The basic civil rights and social privileges that a heterosexual person automatically receives, that are systematically denied to gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons, simply because of their sexual orientation.

Hir- a non-gendered pronoun used by some transgender people. Hir (pronounced "here") corresponds to his, her, and him, and is used as a dative and possessive pronoun (see "Ze").

Homosexual- A person who has emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual attraction to persons of the "same sex". Seen as an outdated term (use gay, lesbian, or bi instead).

Homosexuality- defines attraction to the same sex, and is one orientation on the continuum from homosexual to bisexual to heterosexual. Many prefer the terms “gay”, “lesbian”, or “bisexual” to describe their identities.

Homophobia- Fear, anger, discomfort, intolerance, or lack of acceptance toward LGB people or people perceived to be LGB.  Internalized homophobia refers to an LGB persons own discomfort of self-loathing regarding being LGB or having same-sex attractions. Institutionalized homophobia refers to homophobic laws, policies, and positions taken by social and governmental institutions. (Also, transphobia).

Human Sexual Response- Behaviors, thoughts, dreams, fantasies; not just behavior.

In the Closet – Refers to a homosexual, bisexual, trans-person 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. 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 ‘Down Low’ or  “on the D/L”).  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.

Intersex- Formerly referred to hermaphrodites.  Some intersex people are born with ambiguous genitals and are not easily categorized as male or female.  Many intersex people do not visibly possess "both" sets of genitals, but have some variation in gonads (ovaries, testes), chromosomes, and or genitalia. Intersexuality is seen in approximately 1 in 2,000 people. Many intersex believe that early childhood surgical intervention is not only unnecessary but cruel, and advocate counseling and support for children and families.

Lavender- This association goes back into ancient times and has been strengthened by the fact that lavender, or purple, is the combination of red (pink) and blue, the traditional gender-identified colors.

Lesbian- A person who identifies as female who has emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual attractions to other individuals who identify as women.

LGBT (also GLBT)- the acronym for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender”. The acronym may be expanded to a variation of LGBTIQA to include intersex, questioning, queer-identified people and/or allies. Can also be used as an adjective (i.e. – “I am an LGBT person.”)

LGBTQQIAAP – A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersexed, asexual, ally, and pansexual community.

Lifestyle- How a person chooses to live and behave. Being LGBT is not a choice, and therefore is not considered a lifestyle (ie: yuppie, vegan, hobbies, rural/urban, etc.).

Lipstick Lesbian – Usually refers to a lesbian with a feminine/femme 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 (traditionally feminine).

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- male-to-female (also M2F). Indicates a transgender individual who was originally assigned the gender of male at birth, but has claimed a female identity through clothing, surgery, or attitude changes.

Outing- To declare a person's identity publicly; people can out themselves, or someone can out them either with or without their permission.

Pansexual- A person who has sexual, romantic, or emotional attractions to people regardless of sex or gender identity.

Passing – Describes a person’s ability to be accepted as how they wish to present; can be gender/sex, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, or other.

Polyamory – Refers to having (or being open to) more than one romantic relationship concurrently, with the knowledge and consent of the other parties; 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).

Pride- Not being ashamed of oneself and/or showing your pride to others by coming out, marching, etc. Being honest and comfortable.

Queer- not heterosexual. Originally used with negative connotations, but is currently being reclaimed by many within the LGBT community.

Questioning- The process of exploring one's on sexual identity, including but not limited to one's upbringing, expectations from others (family, friends, church, etc.), and inner motivation.

Rainbow Flag- In 1978, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed a flag for the city's Gay Freedom celebration and LGBT movements worldwide have since adopted it as a symbol of gay identity and pride. It has six stripes in the traditional form, but can be seen as streamers, etc, which run in the order of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. The flag also symbolizes diversity within unity.

Sexual Orientation- To whom a person is erotically attracted. Not to be confused with sexual preference: What a person likes to do sexually. how one thinks of oneself in terms of to whom one is sexually or romantically attracted. Orientation is not dependent on physical experience, but rather on a person’s feelings and attractions.

Sex Reassignment Surgery / SRS – A term used to refer to a group of surgical options that alter a person’s ‘sex’ or genitals. One or multiple surgeries are required to achieve legal recognition of gender variance.  Also known as gender confirmation surgery.     Top surgery: surgery to remove the breasts (mastectomy) to create a male-contoured chest.  Bottom surgery: surgery on the genitals and/or reproductive organs

Sexuality – A person’s exploration of sexual acts, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, and desire.

Stonewall- On June 28, 1969, NYC police attempted a routine raid on the Stonewall Inn, a working class gay and lesbian bar in Greenwich Village. Unexpectedly, the patrons resisted, and the incident escalated into a riot that continued for several days. Most people look to this event as the beginning of the American Gay Liberation movement and all subsequent LGBT movements.

Trans*- an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum. There’s a ton of diversity there, but we often group them all together (e.g., when we say “trans* issues). The asterisk makes special note in an effort to include all non-cisgender gender identities, including transgender, transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderless, agender, non-gendered, third gender, two-spirit, bigender, and trans man and trans woman.

Transgender- An umbrella term for people who transgress society's view of gender and biological sex as necessarily fixed, unmoving, and following from one's biological sex. They view gender on a spectrum, rather than a polarized, either/or construct. This can range from identification to cross dressing, to undergoing hormone therapy, to sex reassignment surgery and/or to other forms of dress/presentation. Transgender people can include transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag kings/queens, masculine women, feminine men, and all those who defy what society tells them is appropriate for their "gender". Political trans activists seek to create more space around gender, and to create a space and a society where the choice of gender expression/presentation is safe, sane, and consensual. used both as an umbrella term and as an identity. Broadly, it refers to those who do not identify or are uncomfortable with their assigned gender and gender roles. As an identity the term refers to anyone who transgresses traditional sex and gender categories.

Transition – a process of moving away from one gender expression or identity to another that is more congruent with a person’s inner experience of self.  May involve changes in clothing or hair, mannerisms and voice, hormone therapy, name and pronoun changes, and surgeries (possibly including gender confirmation surgery). 

Transsexual- A person whose core gender identity is "opposite" their assigned sex. Transsexuals may live as the opposite sex, undergo hormone therapy, and/or have sex reassignment surgery to "match" their bodies with their gender identity.

Transvestite- A person who cross-dresses for erotic pleasure or relaxation.

Triangle- Pink Triangle: This was a symbol used by the Nazi's to label gay men in the concentration camps. It has since been adopted as a symbol of identity and pride. Black Triangle: This was a symbol used by the Nazi's to label lesbians and other women deemed 'antisocial' in the concentration camps. It has since been adopted as a symbol of identity and pride.

Ze- a gender-neutral pronoun used like he and she.


Florida State University's Campus SafeZones web page:

Ohio University's Office of LGBT Programs Staff Members

Plymouth State College's Task Force Against Homophobia SafeZone handout

Virginia Association of College and University Housing Officers (VACUHO) SafeZone Project handout