This page is an overview of terminology that is in use on the LGBTQIA+ Wiki and in the LGBTQIA+ community.

See also: Affix, for prefixes and suffixes that modify identity terms, and Emerging terminology, for terms that have emerged in the 21st century and may not have widespread recognition or stabilized names or definitions.

Overview of sex and gender


Sex is a medical term used for the classification of people as "male" and "female", usually as a birth assignment based on the appearance of an infant's external genitalia. However, sex is more complicated than that. A person's sex is a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics that develop during puberty.[1] The common division of sex into strictly "male" and "female" ignores natural sexual variations that do not easily fit into one of the two categories, such as various intersex traits.[2] Problematic and medically inaccurate language for sex includes phrases like "biologically [fe]male", "genetically [fe]male", or "born a [wo]man]". Such phrases over-simplify the complexities of people's biology and regard birth assignments as more important than gender identity.[1]

Like gender, sex is not a binary term, and more like a spectrum.[3] For instance, the term "Chimera" in genetics means that an organism or tissue has at least two different sets of DNA. The term is derived from the creature in Greek mythology that was part lion, part goat, and part dragon.[4] People who are chimeras may not know they have two different sets of DNA until they are genetically tested for a different reason. An example is a pregnant 46-year old woman who wanted to get her fetus screened for genetic abnormalities. The fetus was fine, but the follow-up testing revealed that she had sets of DNA from two separate individuals. It was then, partway through her fifth decade and pregnant with her third child, that the woman learned that part of her body was chromosomally male.[3]

Birth assignment

Birth assignment, also called gender assignment or assigned gender at birth (abbreviated AGAB), refers to assigning a gender to an infant based on their designated sex at birth, which is usually based only on the appearance of their external genitalia.[5] Birth assignments are recorded as "sex" on birth certificates[1] with the assumption that an individual's eventual gender identity will match their birth assignment—assigned male at birth (AMAB) or assigned female at birth (AFAB).[5] People whose gender identity aligns with their birth assignment are cisgender;[6] transgender people have a gender identity that differs from their assigned gender at birth.[5] This practice also ignores natural sexual variations, such as various intersex traits, or treats those variations as problems to be "fixed".[7]


Gender is generally defined by behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits. Although gender and sex have historically been equated, they are increasingly understood as being separate.[8] Gender is a complex combination of elements that are assigned certain meanings by society, such as an individual's identity, expression, and presentation, as well as the roles and norms associated with those genders. Definitions of gender vary among different cultures and among individuals. It has often been reduced to a binary of "male" and "female".[9]

Gender identity

Gender identity is a person's internal, deeply held sense of their own gender (or lack thereof). Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others. An individual's gender identity may or may not align with their birth assignment.[1][10] Most people have a binary gender identity—male/man/boy or female/woman/girl—whether they are cisgender or transgender. For other people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two options, such as people who are non-binary or genderqueer.[1]

A person's gender identity usually develops when they are very young. Gender variance in exploring gender expressions and gender roles is an expected part of human development for children and teenagers. Most children and adolescents with variance in these behaviors have a gender identity that corresponds to their birth assignment, and this exploration does not necessarily indicate a gender-variant identity. A small percentage of children wish they were another gender instead of the gender assigned at birth.[11] An individual's realization that their gender identity differs from their birth assignment can occur as early as three years old, in childhood prior to the onset of puberty, or later in life.[12] This progression is similar to the awareness of same-sex attraction in childhood developing into using a specific sexual orientation term as a teenager.[11]

Gender expression

Gender expression is how someone chooses to outwardly express their gender in public.[6] Gender expression is external manifestations of gender,[1][13] while gender identity is internal. Expression includes a person's name, pronouns, body characteristics, voice, behavior, and aesthetic choices such as hair, clothing, and cosmetics. Various forms of expression are regarded as "masculine" or "feminine" within different cultures. Some transgender people seek to align their gender expression with their gender identity, rather than the cues associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.[1]

Gender presentation

Gender presentation refers to how other people see and understand someone else's gender.[6] Gender expression is part of it, but presentation also includes how those forms of expression are perceived by another person. When one person perceives a second, the first person interprets how the second person's gender is presented. The first person may incorrectly guess the second person's gender because people are taught that certain types of hairstyles, clothing, body language, voice, and other cues are "masculine" or "feminine".[14]

Gender role

Gender roles, or gender norms, are the cultural expectations for how people of different genders—presumed to be only cisgender men or women—should or should not think and behave, and how other people should treat them. These roles are part of the gender binary and reflect gender essentialist beliefs. What people consider to be a "man's role" and a "woman's role" varies by culture.[15]


A cisgender person is someone who is not transgender and can thus also be referred to as a non-transgender person.[1] It is often shortened to cis, which comes from the Latin prefix "cis-" meaning "on the same side of", making it an antonym of "trans-". Cisgender people have a gender identity that matches the gender or sex they were assigned at birth. Their gender expression or gender presentation may be gender non-conforming,[6][16] such as a femme man who was assigned male at birth.[16] The term "cisgender" should be used when referring to people's genders instead of inaccurate terms like "bio(logical)", "born", "genetic", "natal", or "real".[17] Not all cisgender people are cisgender heterosexual.


Transgender Flag

The transgender pride flag

Transgender, often shortened to trans, is an umbrella term that describes an individual whose gender identity differs from their assigned gender at birth (AGAB).[1] Infants are assigned a sex based on the appearance of their external genitalia,[1][5] usually only on that basis,[5] and that assignment is recorded on their birth certificate.[1] The birth assignment—generally defaulting to assigned male at birth (AMAB) or assigned female at birth (AFAB)—assumes that the individual's gender identity will correspond to their assigned sex.[5] A person's gender identity—their sense of gender—usually develops when they are very young. The realization that their gender is different from what they were assigned can occur as early as three years old or in childhood prior to the onset of puberty. It may also happen later in life.[12]

Transgender people can be binary[note 1] or non-binary[note 2]. Some transgender individuals may experience at least one form of gender dysphoria during their life, usually manifesting as an intense distress with their assigned gender. However, not all transgender people experience gender dysphoria. Conversely, some transgender individuals may experience what is known as gender euphoria, a term used to describe a "positive and exciting feeling of one's gendered self".[18] Transgender people might transition socially and/or physically from their assigned gender to their actual gender identity.[12]


Intersex Flag

The intersex pride flag

Intersex is an umbrella term for people who are born with or develop sex characteristics that differ from the binary notions of a "male" or "female" body. The dissimilarities between individuals in terms of their hormones, chromosomes, external and internal reproductive organs, or secondary sex characteristics are commonly referred to as variations. An individual's intersex traits may include variations in one or multiple of the aforementioned types. These variations can be noticed at birth or later in life.[7][19]

Other terms related to gender

Gender binary

The gender binary is a concept or social system that claims there are only two genders—female and male—that form a binary or pair.[20][21][22] It generally assumes that it is "normal" for people to be cisgender,[21][22]since gender identity is expected to always align with the sex that was assigned at birth. Men and women are also expected to conform with their culture's expectations regarding gender expression and gender roles.[20] Variations in identity or expression are not understood, recognized, or supported.[22] The gender binary thus reinforces strict gender roles by treating gender essentialist beliefs as factual. It does not reflect the reality of people's experiences and has been disproven.[21][22]

Gender neutral

Gender Neutral Flag

The gender neutral pride flag

Gender neutral is a term used when referring to a person of neutral gender, someone who is neither male nor female, but genderless.[23] It is also another term for agender, with the words often being used in conjunction with one another as both an identity and a describing characteristic.[24][25] It is also a term used to signal a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQIA+ individual, and a term used to describe pronouns or language that defies the binary.[26]



Examples of pronouns

Pronouns are words that can substitute for a noun. Personal pronouns are used to refer to a person when not using their name,[27] and they are the type of pronouns meant when discussing a person's pronouns. Although the topic of personal pronouns has been associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly with people who are transgender or non-binary,[28][29][30] everyone has pronouns. They are not something only certain types of people have.[31]

Which pronouns a person uses should not be assumed or guessed.[30][31][32] In English, some pronouns have strong social associations with a specific gender identity, typically she/her with women and he/him with men.[32] Although certain pronouns are used more often by certain genders, pronouns do not necessarily indicate an individual's gender identity.[28][31][33] For instance, someone who uses the pronouns she/her may be a genderfluid[32] or agender person instead of a binary female person.[28] When someone's pronouns are not known, using the gender neutral singular they/them is recommended.[29][32][34] The singular they/them is grammatically correct;[35] more importantly, it is respectful.[29][32][34]

Sexuality and romanticism-related terms

Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation, also known as sexuality,[36] refers to a person's sexual attractions (or lack thereof) toward other people.[36][21] It is not defined by sexual activity, which can be independent of a person's orientation.[21] It also is not equivalent to a person's gender, but the most common terms use the language of the gender binary (male or female).[36]

Romantic orientation

Romantic orientation is a term that originates with asexual communities. It is related to a person's romantic attractions or desires, whereas sexual orientation is associated with sexual attractions. Romantic orientation is generally expressed in terms of which gender or genders a person is attracted to in relation to the person's own. These terms usually end in the suffix "-romantic".[37]

Romantic orientations are most often referred to in asexual communities, but they are not exclusive to asexual people. Although a person's sexual and romantic attractions are usually implied by the same word used for their sexual orientation, a person's romantic and sexual orientation may differ. The Split Attraction Model is sometimes used to convey these differences.[37]

Split Attraction Model

The Split Attraction Model (SAM) separates romantic attraction or desire for romantic relationships from sexual attraction or desire, thus dividing romantic orientation and sexual orientation into different identities. Terms for sexual orientation have commonly been understood as implying a corresponding romantic orientation;[37] however, a person's romantic and sexual attractions may not exactly align with each other, and people can be attracted to different people in different ways. To convey these differences, split attraction language uses prefixes for the gender or genders a person is oriented toward in relation to themself (such as bi-, queer-, homo-, hetero-), then combines it with a suffix for the attraction type (such as -romantic, -sexual, -sensual).[38]

The asexual community has used such language to communicate differences in romantic and sexual interests, and the types of relationships that may interest them. For instance, asexual people do not feel sexual attraction, but some asexual people have romantic attractions and may use a term for their romantic orientation to express that it differs from their sexual orientation.[37] Someone who experiences differing romantic and sexual orientations are sometimes referred to as varioriented,[39][40] and this experience is known as cross-orientation.[41] Meanwhile, someone whose romantic and sexual orientations are aligned with one another (i.e. they use the same prefix, such as bi or pan) is known as perioriented.[39][42]

Umbrella terms and spectrums

Umbrella term

An umbrella term is a word or a phrase that covers a broad range of related things instead of just one.[43] The terms covered by the umbrella are distinct but related. For instance, multisexual is an umbrella term for many identities that share the common trait of having attractions that are not limited to a single sex or gender, opposite to sexual orientations that are monosexual.[44][45] The "multisexual umbrella," "multi-attraction spectrum," "multisexual spectrum," or "m-spec" thus includes people who identify as multisexual, as well as those who instead or additionally identify as pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, bisexual, or another identity involving attraction to more than one gender.[44] Other umbrella terms include non-binary[46] and transgender.[47]

Specific identities under an umbrella term, especially hyper-specific labels, may sometimes be referred to as microlabels.[48]

Aromantic spectrum

Aromantic Spectrum Flag

An aromantic spectrum pride flag

The aromantic spectrum, abbreviated as arospec[49] or aro-spec[39], refers to romantic orientations that are aromantic or are closely related to aromanticism when placed on a spectrum ranging from aromantic to alloromantic.[49][39][50]

It is also used by people whose aromantic identities are conditional, unreliable, or atypical to societal expectations, and by people who simply do not wish to label it further.[49] Identities under the aromantic umbrella are closely connected as part of a broad community.

Asexual spectrum

Asexual Spectrum Flag

An asexual spectrum pride flag

The asexual spectrum (abbreviated as acespec, ace spec, or ace-spec)[39] refers to sexual orientations that are asexual or are closely related to asexuality. Identities under the asexual umbrella are closely connected as part of a broad community.[39][51][50]

Gender spectrum

The gender spectrum is a concept of gender that does not use the man/woman gender binary. Instead, it views gender as a continuum of masculinity and femininity, with some people falling at different points, moving along the spectrum, or existing outside of the spectrum.[21] However, it is also an extension of the gender binary; it is a linear model based on a range of 100% man to 100% woman, not specifically including all genders.[52]


Monosexuality is an umbrella term for anyone whose sexual orientation involves attraction to one gender only. It can include individuals who are gay, lesbian, straight, etc. It is the opposite of multisexual[45] or bisexual. The bisexual community was using the term monosexual by 1991 to mean non-bisexual people. According to the anthology Bi Any Other Name, the term was created by the bisexual movement.[53]

Previously, the term "monosexual" was in use among psychoanalysts with a different meaning. In 1922, Wilhelm Stekel—a contemporary follower of Sigmund Freud—elaborated upon it. Stekel believed that everyone was born "bisexual," which Freud and Stekel used to mean possessing male and female psychological traits. To Stekel, people only behaved as if they were monosexual—purely homosexual or purely heterosexual—but no one was monosexual in actuality. They believed everyone repressed either their heterosexual or homosexual tendencies during puberty, and anyone who seemed monosexual had repressed their bisexual nature to an extreme. Stekel framed a "normal person" as a heterosexual who became a healthy adult by suppressing their homosexual tendencies without becoming neurotic, while all homosexual people were neurotic and needed to stop repressing their heterosexual tendencies.[54]

Multisexual spectrum

Multisexual Flag

A multisexual pride flag for any identities described as multisexual or the standalone identity

The multisexual spectrum (abbreviated m-spec)[55] is also known as multiple-attraction spectrum,[44] or multi-attraction spectrum.[55] It is an umbrella term for sexual orientations in which a person is sexually and/or romantically attracted to more than one gender and/or sex. Multisexuality collectively includes labels such as bisexual, omnisexual, pansexual, and queer,[45][32] along with the standalone multisexual label.[32] Since the word multisexual can be used as an individual label and as a descriptor of different labels, this article addresses its use as the latter.

The use of the label bisexual for anyone who is attracted to multiple genders[55][43][56] (also rendered as bisexual+ or bi+)[55][56] instead of multisexual is a matter of personal preference, not a hard distinction.[55]

Acronyms and community-related terms


LGBTQIA+ is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic[32]/Agender,[57] plus additional subsects.[32] It is an inclusive term used to unite a population of people who have a wide array of gender identities and sexual orientations that differ from heterosexual and cisgender.[32][58] LGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBT, and GLBT are also used for similar meanings.[59] QUILTBAG is an alternative with additional meanings for each letter.[60] Acronyms such as 2SLGBTQ+ or LGBT2SQQIA* additionally highlight indigenous Two-Spirit people.[61]


GSD/GSM/GSRM stand for Gender and Sexual Diversities, Gender and Sexual Minorities, and Gender, Sexual, and Romantic Minorities respectively.[62][63][64]


QPOC/QTPOC/QTBIPOC stand for Queer People Of Color, Queer and Trans People Of Color, and Queer and Trans Black and Indigenous People Of Color, respectively.[65][66]


Straight Ally flag

Straight ally flag

When used in relation to the LGBTQIA+ community, an ally or an accomplice is someone who supports LGBTQIA+ people in partnership with them and advocates for them, even without having a direct stake in the cause, such as a cisgender person who actively supports transgender rights. Being an ally is not considered an identity; it is an ongoing process that requires action and continuous learning.[21][67]

The "A" in acronyms like LGBTQIA+ does not mean Ally. Some allies consider themselves to be a part of the community despite this fact. The validity of this claim is currently a topic of debate within the community itself. Generally, though, allies are not considered to be a valid part of the community[68] due to the fact that allies support LGBTQIA+ people without actually being them. However, allyship can provide plausible deniability for someone who is not ready to come out or who cannot safely come out, but still wants to be close to queer culture and politics.[28]

There is a flag design associated with LGBTQIA+ allies. This flag is said to represent "all straight and cisgender people who are proud allies of the LGBT+ community", and is thought to have been created sometime in the 2000s. The color meanings for this flag are as follows: the black and white stripes are meant to represent "heterosexual genders", while the A-shaped rainbow in the flag represents someone acting as both an ally and an activist, in this case with support to the LGBTQIA+ community.[69]


Questioning Flag

A questioning pride flag

Questioning is a term used to describe individuals who are exploring, learning, or experimenting with their sexual or romantic orientation, or gender identity. The letter "Q" in the LGBTQIA+ acronym can sometimes stand for both "Queer" and "Questioning".[70]

Miscellaneous common terms and abbreviations

Cishet (cisgender heterosexual)

Cisgender heterosexual, commonly abbreviated as cishet, is a label that refers to someone who fully, and at all times, identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth. In addition, such a person is exclusively attracted, sexually and romantically, to people of the opposite gender.[71] Not all cisgender heterosexual people are allosexual and/or alloromantic, and it is possible to identify on the aromantic or asexual spectrums while still considering oneself cisgender and heterosexual/heteroromantic.

Although it is not always necessarily true, the term cishet is often used in media to refer to someone who is not at all part of the LGBTQIA+ community.[72]

Comphet (compulsory heterosexuality)

Compulsory heterosexuality, commonly abbreviated to comphet, is a social construct common to Western culture that perpetuates the idea that heterosexuality is the expected norm, along with the forced expectations and assumptions that everyone should be straight. It is harmful to queer individuals, as it promotes the idea that anyone who is not heterosexual is abnormal.[73] The term "compulsory heterosexuality" was popularized by Adrienne Rich's essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.”[74]

Gender essentialist

Gender essentialism, also called biological essentialism or bioessentialism, is a belief that treats gender and sex as interchangeable terms, claiming that all people are essentially male or female. It weaponizes biology to invalidate transgender people's genders. Gender essentialists regard gender as a binary pair that are complete opposites with separate traits that can all be attributed to biology. Essentialists may claim to support transgender people, often using the argument of having "a brain of the opposite gender" relative to their body;[75] however, this is a form of biological weaponizing, and reduces people to chromosomes and genitalia under the assumption that there are no variations in sex traits.[21] This concept completely erases the existence of intersex and non-binary people.[75][21]

Non-binary erasure

Erasure in the context of gender refers to the practice of erasing, ignoring, or antagonizing of people whose genders are outside of the gender binary.[76] For non-binary people, this often refers to them being overlooked in legal matters, such as having to indicate a binary gender on passports and driver's licenses, and the use of gendered language. The extent of this differs from language to language, as some are better suited for gender-neutrality. Where identifying as non-binary is an internal process of acceptance, people are constantly forced to reaffirm their identity by that erasure in a binary society. This can make folks very uncomfortable.[77] While this constant challenging of their identity may not seem that noticeable by those who are not non-binary, being on the receiving end of continuous erasure and perception of not being accepted may lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental issues. In a binary society, the extents of this are noticeable in every aspect of life, from linguistics to even buying clothes, using the bathroom, going to school, meeting new people, or receiving medical care.[76]


A norm is an expected standard for proper, acceptable behavior as defined by a social group.[78] Norms include things like greetings, vocabulary, and how people are represented. The concept of a norm is not inherently negative or positive, but individuals' norms can be.[79] Something that is normative conforms to the norms[80] of a dominant social group that regards it as "normal" since it reproduces that group's expectations. However, what a culture defines a normative is not necessarily what is the most common, just what is privileged as the default and supposedly "natural" state; norms are still socially constructed. The concept of what is and is not normative is used to shame and punish what is deemed "abnormal" and "non-conforming".[28] Normalization is the social process of an idea or action becoming a norm.[79]


Queerbaiting is a term used to describe a manipulative marketing practice of using perceived or potential queerness for publicity.[81][82] It has allegedly been used since the 1950s[83] and has been used online,[81] such as by users on the blogging platform Tumblr expressing anger over the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in media,[84][85] and has since been expanded to include businesses and celebrities using queer imagery to appeal to the LGBTQ+ community for the sake of publicity, promotion, or capitalistic gain.[81] Deliberate queerbaiting has a malicious element, often most-clearly seen through television media as writers and creators hint at queerness before "emphatically denying and laughing off the possibility".[86]

Queerbaiting is not the same as queercoding, as queercoding occurs when there is "enough subtext available for an audience to read [characters] as queer",[87] but is not necessarily manipulative, unlike queerbaiting. Joseph Brennan noted in his book that there is a distinction between "unintentional, or genuine, homoeroticism and queerbaiting" (emphasis original).[88]



  1. "Binary gender" refers to "man" or "woman".
  2. Non-binary is an umbrella term for genders that are not exclusively man or woman.


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  65. "QTPOC / QPOC" by Robyn on <>. Published 2020-02-29 by HER. (Archived on 2021-06-14)
  66. "QTBIPOC" on <>. Published by Salisbury PFLAG. (Archived on 2021-10-15)
  67. "Ally" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-11-07)
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  72. "Cishet Definition and Meaning" by Caraballo Piñeiro, Sophia Melissa on <>. Published 2021-09-24 by Cosmopolitan. (no backup information provided)
  73. "Compulsory Heterosexuality: What to Know About the Term "Comphet"" by Wynne, Griffin on <>. Published 2021-07-04 by Cosmopolitan. (no backup information provided)
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  76. 76.0 76.1 "Non-Binary Erasure" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-11-02)
  77. "Nonbinary Gender: On Being Beyond, Both, and In-Between" by Hildreth, Cade on Cade Hildreth. Published 2021-06-16. (no backup information provided)
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  83. "What Is Queerbaiting? - Meaning & Explanation" on <>. Published 2022 by (no backup information provided)
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  86. Moritary's Ghost: Or the Queer Disruption of BBC's Sherlock by Fathallah, Judith. Published 2015 by Television News & Media.
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  88. Queerbaiting and fandom : teasing fans through homoerotic possibilities (in English), with Brennan, Joseph. Published 2019 by University of Iowa Press.