This page includes terminology that is in use on the LGBTQIA+ Wiki and in the LGBTQIA+ community. Some of these terms are common and have a long history, while others are newly emerging words that have not yet been widely adopted.
Gender is generally defined by behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits. Although gender and sex have historically been equated, they are increasingly understood as separate. 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".
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. Most people, whether cisgender or transgender, have a gender identity of male/man/boy or female/woman/girl. 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.
Gender expression is how someone chooses to outwardly express their gender in public. Gender expression is external manifestations of gender, 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.
Gender modality is the modifier of one's experience for when a person's assigned gender at birth matches what gender that person feels they are. It encompasses both cisgender and transgender as primary modalities.
Gender presentation refers to how other people see and understand someone else's gender. 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".
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.
Birth assignment, also called gender assignment or assigned gender at birth (abbreviated AGAB), refers to the gender or sex that was assigned to an infant upon their birth, usually based only on the appearance of their external genitalia. This is done 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). This is not the case for transgender people. Birth assignments are recorded as "sex" on birth certificates.
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. 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. 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.
A cisgender person is someone who is not transgender and can thus also be referred to as a non-transgender person. 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, such as a femme man who was assigned male at birth. The term "cisgender" should be used when referring to people's genders instead of inaccurate terms like "bio(logical)", "born", "genetic", "natal", or "real". Not all cisgender people are cisgender heterosexual.
Transgender, often shortened to trans, is an umbrella term that describes an individual whose gender identity differs from their assigned gender at birth (AGAB). Infants are assigned a sex that is recorded on their birth certificate, which is usually based only on the appearance of external genitalia. 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. 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.
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". Transgender people might transition socially and/or physically from their assigned gender to their actual gender identity.
Gender alignment refers to the connection someone has with some gender, considering this gender an important part of their personhood, while not necessarily experiencing that gender identity. It's mainly used for non-binary experiences.
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. It generally assumes that it is "normal" for people to be cisgender; gender identity is expected to always align with the sex that was assigned at birth. The binary genders are also expected to conform with their culture's expectations regarding gender expressions and gender roles. Variations in identity or expression are not understood, recognized, or supported. 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.
Gender neutral is a term used when referring to a person of neutral gender, someone who is neither male nor female, but genderless. 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. 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.
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. 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.
Intersex is an umbrella term for various people who are born with or develop sex characteristics that differ from the binary notions of a "male" or "female" body. These differences are called variations, and may involve one's hormones, chromosomes, external and internal reproductive organs, or secondary sex characteristics. An individual's intersex traits may include variations in one or multiple of the aforementioned types. These differences can be noticed at birth or later in life.
Pronouns are words that can substitute for a noun. Personal pronouns are used to refer to a person when not using their name, 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, everyone has pronouns. They are not something only certain types of people have.
Which pronouns a person uses should not be assumed or guessed. In English, some pronouns have strong social associations with a specific gender identity, typically she/her with women and he/him with men. Although certain pronouns are used more often by certain genders, pronouns do not necessarily indicate an individual's gender identity. For instance, someone who uses the pronouns she/her may be a genderfluid or agender person instead of a binary female person. When someone's pronouns are not known, using the gender neutral singular they/them is recommended. The singular they/them is grammatically correct; more importantly, it is respectful.
Sexual orientation, also known as sexuality, refers to a person's sexual attractions (or lack thereof) toward other people. It is not defined by sexual activity, which can be independent of a person's orientation. 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).
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".
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.
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; 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). 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.
The aromantic spectrum, abbreviated as arospec, refers to romantic orientations that are aromantic or are closely related to aromanticism when placed on a spectrum ranging from aromantic to alloromantic.
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. Identities under the aromantic umbrella are closely connected as part of a broad community.
The asexual spectrum, abbreviated as acespec, 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.
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 or bisexual.
Multisexual is an umbrella term that refers to anyone whose sexual orientation involves attraction to more than one gender. It can include individuals who are bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual, and more. It may also be used as a standalone identity term by some people who do not use labels. Multisexual is the opposite of monosexual. When referred to as a spectrum, it may be called the multiple-attraction spectrum or multisexual spectrum (abbreviated as m-spec).
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.
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 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.
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.
GSD/GSM/GSRM awaits a definition.
LGBTQIA+ is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, plus additional subsects. 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. LGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBTQ2S+, LGBT, and GLBT are also used for similar meanings. Although the "Q" usually means queer, it is sometimes used to mean "questioning". QUILTBAG is an alternative with additional meanings for each letter.
Queer is an identifier for individuals and/or the community of people who are not cisgender heterosexual It can be used instead of, or in addition to, other identifiers of sexual orientation, such as lesbian, bisexual, or gay. Queer can also refer to gender identity or gender expression, whether as a standalone term or part of another like genderqueer. The "Q" in LGBTQIA+ and similar acronyms commonly means Queer. As a reclaimed word, it has been used in fights for LGBTQIA+ rights and liberation as an inclusive and sometimes defiant term. PFLAG and GLAAD are two of the organizations that recommend only using it for people who self-identify as queer because it has varying meanings and is not universally accepted. In addition, the term may be used in preference to other identifiers by members, for a variety of reasons.
An umbrella term is a word or a phrase that covers a broad range of related things instead of just one. 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. 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. Other umbrella terms include non-binary and transgender.
Emerging identity terms
Alloromantic is an umbrella term for people who experience romantic attraction or are not on the aromantic spectrum. Alloromantic people regularly experience romantic attraction to other people. The term is not gender-specific. It is possible to be alloromantic but not allosexual, and vice versa.
Allosexual, sometimes called zedsexual, is an umbrella term for people who are not asexual. Allosexual people regularly experience sexual attraction to others, whether or not they engage in sexual activity. It is possible to be allosexual but not alloromantic and vice versa. This term is not gender-specific and is typically used as a descriptor rather than a label that people identify as.
The term "allosexual" is used in LGBTQIA+ discourse to make clear that not being asexual does not make someone "normal" or the default state; sexuality is not a matter of being either asexual or "normal". However, the specific word has been criticized on semantic grounds and for possibly being rooted in clinical sexology, which has a history of erasing and oppressing asexual and aromantic people. "Zedsexual" has been used to emphasize sexuality as a spectrum from A to Z(ed).
Diamoric—also known as adonian, adonic, cypric, or dionysian — is generally considered an umbrella term referring to the attractions experienced by non-binary individuals that cannot be described as "same gender" or "other gender", "straight" or "gay". As an identity word for non-binary people, it can be used to describe their sexual or romantic orientations, rather than being a specific orientation term of its own, or used to describe their relationships. Some non-binary people use it to emphasize their own gender identity and their attractions or relationships with other non-binary people. For instance, someone who is genderfluid and bisexual might describe themselves as a diamoric bisexual. Diamoric can also describe relationships in which one or more of the partners is non-binary, including relationships where one of the members is binary.
A microlabel is a label for some form of gender identity or sexual orientation that falls under, or otherwise overlaps with, a broader term. Microlabels tend to be described as "hyperspecific", meaning that they describe a very specific experience of a gender/sexuality/etc.
A term being a microlabel does not mean that the term is not widely used, nor is the term invalid as an identity. Whether or not a person finds a microlabel personally useful for themselves does not determine whether or not said microlabel is valid as an identity.
Neptunic is defined as "an individual who is attracted to both the non-binary and female genders". The phrase can be used in isolation or in combination with other orientations. It seemingly came into popularity around 2017 on Tumblr, and is a shortened term for the microlabel nomascsexual (i.e. no masc sexual).
Neurogender identity was originally proposed as "a gender feeling that is strongly linked to one's status as neurodivergent". It was further elaborated upon as the following: "Neurogender is a gender feeling that is linked to someone's neurodivergence. It can be both an identity and an umbrella term for genders that are limited to neurodivergent people. Obviously, you have to be neurodivergent to identify as this gender. And no, it is not 'turning neurological disorders into a gender'. Neurogender just means that a person's perception of their gender is influenced by them being neurodivergent." As the meaning of the term "neurodivergent" has been debated, it is unclear which definition was intended.[note 3]
By 2016, "neurogender" had been redefined by others as "an umbrella term to describe when someone's gender is somehow linked to their neurotype, mental illness, or neurological conditions. There are many different neurogenders related to most, if not all, neurodivergencies." This specific redefinition has been cited in at least one print source. In another redefinition from 2018, neurogenders were described as "genders specific to neurodivergent people whose experience of gender relates to their neurotype or who feel they can't fully understand gender due to their neurotype."
Xenogender is defined as "a gender that cannot be contained by human understandings of gender; more concerned with crafting other methods of gender categorization and hierarchy such as those relating to animals, plants, or other creatures/things". Xenogender individuals may use ideas and identities outside of the gender binary to describe themselves and avoid binary gendered identifiers, such as using only their first name or the name of an animal. They may feel they cannot place a label on themselves, or feel as though they lack the terms to fully express their gender or identity, something that derives from a lexical gap.[note 4] The term "xenogender" itself was designed to help fill the lexical gap by using terms not typically associated with gender or describing gender with metaphors. Since it is a gender identity that is outside the binary concepts of masculinity and femininity, xenogender is a non-binary identity.
Miscellaneous common terms and acronyms
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. 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.
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.
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. Gender essentialists regard gender as a binary pair that are complete opposites with separate traits that can all be attributed to their biology. Essentialists sometimes (misleadingly) claims to support transgender people by saying trans men and trans women have a body of one sex with "a brain of the opposite gender"; however, they usually deny trans people's genders by weaponizing biology: reducing people to chromosomes and genitalia under the assumption that there are no variations in sex traits. This concept completely erases the existence of intersex people and various non-binary genders.
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. 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. 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.
A norm is an expected standard for proper, acceptable behavior as defined by a social group. 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. Something that is normative conforms to the norms 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". Normalization is the social process of an idea or action becoming a norm.
Queerbaiting is a term used to describe a manipulative marketing practice of using perceived or potential queerness for publicity. It has allegedly been used since the 1950s and has been used online, such as by users on the blogging platform Tumblr expressing anger over the treatment of LGBT+ individuals in media, and has since been expanded to include businesses and celebrities using queer imagery to appeal to the LGBT+ community for the sake of publicity, promotion, or capitalistic gain. 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".
Queerbaiting is not the same as queercoding, as queercoding occurs when there is "enough subtext available for an audience to read [characters] as queer", 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).
- GLAAD Media Reference Guide - 10th Edition
- Human Rights Campaign's Glossary of Terms
- PFLAG's National Glossary of Terms
- The Trans Language Primer
- "Binary gender" refers to "man" or "woman".
- Non-binary is an umbrella term for genders that are not exclusively man or woman.
- Neurodivergent is a term associated with the neurodiversity movement. Neurodiverse, coined by Judy Singer, is not equivalent to "neurological disorder" or "autistic"; an individual person is not neurodiverse. Neurodiversity is comparable to biodiversity and refers to the neuro-cognitive variability found in all humans, such as mood, learning, attention, social behavior, and other mental traits. The neurodiversity movement is primarily associated with people who are on the autism spectrum, as well as "cousin" conditions such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disabilities, learning disorders such as dyslexia, and motor disorders such as dyspraxia and Tourette's Syndrome. The term neurodivergent, coined by Kassiane Asasumasu, refers to neurologically divergent from typical or a brain that diverges. Asasumasu has said it is not limited to neurodevelopmental disorders and includes people with mental illnesses or no specific diagnosis. Others have redefined neurodivergent as specific to neurodevelopmental or neurological conditions, and not mood, dissociative, or personality disorders. Further explanations of neurodiversity versus neurodivergence are available on the Neuroqueer blog.
- A lexical gap is a word that does not exist in a particular language, although it could exist according to that language's rules.