Sexual orientation and gender are immensely complex and the various terminologies related to them can be very confusing. Below is a complete list of definitions to help provide a clear understanding of the terms. It is extremely important to respect an individual’s self-identification. A person should never assume another person’s identification based on behavior and appearances. If you are ever unsure about a person’s identity, we recommend asking the individual how they self-identify (in a respectful manner) as well as by which pronouns they prefer to be called. Always make sure to respect their choices.2
Gender: A complex interrelationship between an individual’s biological gender, gender identity, and gender expression.3
Biological sex: Refers to the biological anatomy that is assigned at birth and determines whether an individual is male (has a penis), female (has a vagina), or intersex.1
Cisgender: an individual whose sexual orientation, gender orientation/expression matches their biological sex assigned at birth. 2
Gender Identity: The sense of “being” a specific gender such as man, woman, genderqueer, agender, etc.2
Gender Dysphoria: The distress a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth that does not match the person’s gender identity.
Gender Expression: The many ways in which an individual manifests femininity, masculinity, neither or both such as behavior speech, sexual preferences, clothing, etc.1
Gender Fluid: A person who is able to manifest and adapt to various genders.5
Gender Binary: The belief that there are only two genders: male and female.5
Gender Non-Conforming (GNC): A person whose presentation of their gender does not match the expectations associated with that gender.5
Gender Normative/ Gender Straight: An individual whose biological sex matches their gender identity and expression. Also known as cisgender.3
Gender Role: Expectations, rules, behaviors, and roles given to males and females by society, such as masculine traits for males and feminine traits for females. 3
Gender Queer: An individual whose identity is outside what is generally accepted as part of the gender binary. They tend to view the dominant beliefs about sex, gender, and desire determined by society as problematic.2
Gender Variant: A person who does not conform to the gender expectations of society by either choice or nature (e.g. transgender, transsexual, intersex, gender-queer, cross-dresser, etc.).5
Third Gender: An individual who identifies with any other gender that is not either man or woman.5
Transsexual: An individual who psychologically identifies with a gender or sex that does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.2
Transgender: An individual who presents themself and lives as a gender that does not corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth.2
FtM/F2M: Short for female-to-male transgender/transsexual individual.
MtF/M2F: Short for male-to-female transgender/transsexual individual.
Transitioning: The gradual process in which an individual undergoes changes in their appearance to match the sex and gender of their preferred gender expression.5
Transman: A label used by female-to-male transgender or transsexual individuals who indicate that they are male while still asserting their birth sex.5
Transwoman: A label used by male-to-female transgender or transsexual individuals who indicate that they are female while still asserting their birth sex.5
Transvestite: An individual who cross-dress, meaning they dress as the opposite gender expression, for fun, relaxation, and sexual gratification (NOT the same as transsexual).5
Transphobia: The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred towards the transgender/transsexual community and/or individuals who identify as transsexual/transgender.2
Sex Reassignment Surgery/SRS: The surgical procedure by which a transgender person changes their physical appearance and genital anatomy to align with their gender identity/expression.5
Sexual Orientation: A person’s romantic, sexual, emotional or spiritual attraction to others based on gender (This does NOT define their sexual preference). 5
Affectional Orientation: The gendered pattern to which a person has romantic attraction and with which they fall in love or partner with.1
Sexual Attraction: The affection towards someone whom provokes the want to engage in physical intimate behavior such as kissing, touching, intercourse, etc.5
Sexual Preference: The types of sexual stimulation, gratification, and intercourse an individual likes to receive and participate in.5
Same Gender Attraction: An ego-dystonic mental disorder characterized by having a sexual orientation or an attraction that is at odds with one’s idealized self-image, causing anxiety and a desire to change one’s orientation or become more comfortable with one’s sexual orientation.
Androsexual/Androphilic: The attraction to men, males, and/or masculinity.
Asexual: The low level/ lack of sexual attraction to others and/or the lack of interest/desire for sex and sexual partners.2
Bisexual: An individual who is sexually, emotionally and/or physically attracted to both men and women.2
Demisexual: An individual who does not feel sexual attraction until they have formed a strong emotional connection with a partner (usually within a romantic relationship). 5
Gay: The term used to describe the emotional, physical, and/ or sexual attraction between members of the same gender. Usually used to describe identified men who are attracted to other identified men.2
Bear: slang term to describe a very masculine, muscular gay or bisexual man.5
Faggot/Fag: A derogatory term referring to a gay person or someone perceived as queer.5
Gynesexual/Gynephilic: The attraction to women, females, and/or femininity.5
Heterosexual: An individual who is attracted emotionally, physically, and/or sexually to members of the opposite sex.2
Homosexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex or gender.2
Lesbian: A term used to describe identified women who are attracted emotionally, physically, and sexually to other identified women.2
Lipstick Lesbian: A lesbian woman with a feminine gender expression.5
Butch: A lesbian woman who identifies physically, mentally and emotionally masculine. Can be used as an affirmative identity label but can sometimes be used as a derogatory term for lesbian
Dyke: A masculine lesbian woman, which is often used in as derogatory term. And has newly been adopted a positive self identified term by lesbian woman.5
Pansexual: An individual who is attracted physically, emotionally and sexually to all gender identities and expressions.5
Skoliosexual: A term used to describe the attraction to transsexual and genderqueer people and expressions.5
Advocate: A person who actively works to educate others, support social equality, and end intolerance of marginalized groups.5
Ally: Cisgender individuals who support and respect members of the LGBTQ community.5
Androgyny/Androgynous: term to describe gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity.5
Aromantic: An individual who has little to no attraction to and/or interested in forming romantic relationship with others.5
Bigender: An individual who identifies with both genders in the binary and is able to shift between “woman” and “man” through gender based behavior. 5
Bicurious: Being curiously attracted to people of the same gender or sex.5
Biphobia: Negative attitudes such as fear, anger, intolerance, resentment, and discomfort towards individuals who identify as bisexuals.
Cisnormativity: The belief by people or institutions that everyone is cisgender and that those who identify as cisgender are superior to trans identities. 5
Closeted: A term used to describe individuals who either do not accept or choose not to share their own queer sexuality and/or gender and keep their identity a secret from others. This secrecy is usually due to fear, safety, rejection or disapproval from others (family, peers, friends, coworkers, etc.). 2
Coming Out: The process in which a person accepts their sexuality and/or gender identity and decides to share their identity with others (friends, family, etc.).5
Constellation: the structure of a polyamorous relationship.5
Cross-dresser: An individual who wears clothing of another gender.5
Drag King: The term for a person who performs masculinity for theatrical purposes.5
Drag Queen: The term for a person who performs femininity for theatrical purposes.5
Emotional/Spiritual Attraction: The desire to engage in emotional intimate behavior.5
Feminine of Center: Individuals who identify as femme, submissive, transfeminine etc.5
Masculine of Center: Individuals who identify as butch, masculine, transmasculine, etc.5
Femme: An individual who identifies physically, mentally, or emotionally as feminine.5
Fluid(ity): Term used to describe an identity that shifts or changes over time (man and woman, bi and straight, etc.).5
Heteronormativity: The belief by people and/or institutions that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities.5
Heterosexism: The behavior that gives preferential treatment to heterosexual individuals.5
Homophobia: The fear, intolerance, resentment, discomfort, or hatred towards members of the LGBTQ community.2
Intersex: An individual who is born with a combination of male and female gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, and genitals.2
LGBTQ/GSM/DSG: stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, and Queer/ Gender Sexual Minorities/ Diverse Genders and Sexualities.
Metrosexual: A heterosexual man who spends more time, energy and money on his appearance than what is considered gender normative.
MSM/WSW: Stands for men “who have sex with men” and “women who have sex with women” in a way of differentiating sexual behaviors from sexual identities.5
Mx: Alternative prefix for individuals who do not identify with either Mr. or Ms.5
Outing: Term used to describe exposing someone else’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status without their consent or approval.5
Passing: Individuals who identify as “trans” who are accepted and able to “pass” as members of the gender or sex that they identify with despite their sex at birth.5
Polyamory/Polyamorous: Individuals who want to pursue honest, open, consensually non-monogamous relationships (in which they have multiple partners at a given time). Polyamorous individuals tend to have a primary relationship and a secondary relationship in which time and priority are divided. 5
Questioning: The process in which an individual is discovering and exploring their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. 2
Romantic Attraction: When individuals want to engage in relational intimacy. Behavior is similar to sexual attraction and emotional/spiritual attraction.
Same Gender Loving: alternative term used by members of the African- American community to convey an alternative sexual orientation.5
Two-Spirit: A Native-American term that recognizes individuals who portray qualities or fulfill roles for both genders.5
Ze/Hir: Alternative pronouns to her/she and him/his/he. 5
- “Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity.” Unitarian Universalist Association, 12 Nov. 2016.
- “LGBT Terms and Definitions.” Spectrum Center University of Michigan, 12 Nov. 2016.
- ”Understanding Gender.” Gender Spectrum, 12 Nov. 2016.
- “Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality.” American Psychological Association, 12 Nov. 2016.
- “Comprehensive List of LGBTQ and Vocabulary Definitions.” It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, 12 Nov. 2016.