LGBTQ Related Terms and Definitions

Sexual Orientation: a person’s emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction and often the expression of that attraction. Sexual orientation is not necessarily the same as sexual behavior.

Sexual identity: The way a person views and identifies their sexual orientation.

Gender identity: A person’s sense of being masculine, feminine, in-between or androgynous. It is important to recognize that this is independent from a person’s biological sex.

Gender identity vs. sexual orientation: Gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation. Gender identity, the sense that one is a boy or a girl, is usually manifested by the age of 3 or 4 years. Sexual orientation, the sense of which gender one is emotionally, physically and/or sexually attracted to, does not manifest itself until much later in life, usually after puberty and often not until full adulthood.

Gender expression: The way in which an individual externally represents their gender identity and presents it to the world.

Heterosexual:a person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted or committed to members of the other sex.

Homosexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted or committed to members of the same sex. This term is less frequently used today by the lesbian and gay community due to the clinical origin of the term.

LGBT (QQIAA): An abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, (queer, questioning, intersexed, asexual, ally). This abbreviation is often used to represent the community as a whole. The Q can also refer those who are questioning their sexual or gender orientation.)

Lesbian: A common term and acceptable term for those identifying as women who are emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to or committed to other women. Not to be confused with women who have sex with women*

Gay: Common and acceptable term for a man who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to or committed to other men. Not to be confused with men who have sex with men* “Gay” is often used to refer to both men and women who are attracted to people of the same gender in much the same way that “man” can be used generically. Many object to the universal use of “gay” because of the sexist implications.

*The terms gay and lesbian refer to socially constructed identities which may or may not be applicable in a new cultural context. There are many cultures in the world that

do not equate a social identity to same-sex sexual behavior. Some women, for example, who have sex with other women, do not consider or call themselves lesbian. Likewise, some men who have sex with men, may not consider themselves gay. In the African American community, you may hear the term “on the down low” for men who have sex with men.

Bisexual: A person whose need for warmth, affection, and love can be satisfied by persons of either sex. Can include emotional, physical, and sexual connection.

Transgender: An umbrella term for persons who have a self image or gender identity not traditionally associated with their biological sex There is no correlation between gender identity and sexual orientation. A transgender person may identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual.

Transgender: A person whose gender identity is other than their biological sex. Transsexuals may wish to modify their bodies to be more congruent with their gender.

Transvestite: A clinical term, often viewed as pejorative (negative). The preferred term is cross dresser.

Crossdresser: A person who dresses on occasion in the clothing of the opposite gender. Cross dressers may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Drag: Dressing in the clothing of the opposite gender, or in a manner different form how one will usually dress (i.e., corporate drag or military drag). Drag is often theatrical and often presents a stereotyped image. Individuals who dress in “drag” may or may not consider themselves to be transgender. They may also identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Queer: Different. Historically a negative term for a homosexual, queer is being reclaimed by many LGBT people as a source of pride and political identity. Many who choose to use the term feel that it is more inclusive, allowing for diversity of race, class, and gender that are represented in the LGBT community. Some older LGBT people find this term degrading.

Questioning: Someone who does not identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual—either because they haven’t determined how best to identify themselves or simply because they do not wish to associate themselves with any one category.

The closet: LGBT persons who conceal their sexual and/or gender identity from others are said to be “in the closet.” For many gay men and lesbians, the closet becomes a place in which you live, unable to tell your secret.

Coming out: The act of telling another person that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. For many this is a continuing process, which occurs every time they meet someone new. Some choose never to come out to others. The choice of when and how to tell another person about your sexual orientation.

Out: To disclose a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity to another person; to be open regarding one’s sexual orientation or different gender identity in a given situation.

Ally: A member of the dominant majority, in this case heterosexual, who works to end oppression. LGBTQ allies confront heterosexism, homophobia, and heterosexual privilege in themselves and others out of self-interest, a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and a belief that heterosexism is a societal justice issue.

Intersexed: A term used to describe a person whose sex chromosomes, genitalia and/or secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female.

Asexual: A person who has no evident sex or sex organs. In usage it may refer to a person who is not sexually active, or not sexually attracted to other persons.

Bias: An inclination or preference, such that it interferes with impartial judgment.

Discrimination: The act of showing partiality or prejudice; a prejudicial act.

Heterosexism: Belief that heterosexuality is the only “natural” sexuality and that it is inherently healthier or superior to other types of sexuality; the assumption that all people are and should be heterosexual; an ideological system that denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes any nonheterosexual form of behavior; condones discriminatory practices and sometimes violence. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people while it gives advantages to heterosexual people. It is often a subtle form of oppression which reinforces realities of silence and invisibility for gays and lesbians.

Homophobia: Irrational fear or hatred of lesbian, gay, or bisexual people; the responses of fear, disgust, anger, discomfort, and aversion that individuals experience in dealing with gay people; often it is manifest in the form of discrimination and prejudice. Homophobia is also the fear of behaviors, beliefs, or attitudes of self or others which do not conform to rigid sex-role stereotypes. It is a fear that enforces and is enforced by sexism. The extreme forms of homophobia are emotional, spiritual, and physical violence against LGBT individuals. Homophobia creates unique developmental challenges for LGBTQ individuals otherwise not present, such as overcoming internalized homophobia and coming out.

Homophobia can occur anywhere- on personal, social, institutional, and societal levels. 1.Personal homophobia is prejudice based on a personal belief that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are sinful, immoral, sick, or inferior to heterosexuals. 2. Interpersonal homophobia is individual behavior based on personal homophobia. This hatred or dislike may be expressed by name-calling, telling jokes, verbal and physical harassment. 3. Institutional homophobia refers to the many ways in which

government, businesses and churches discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation. 4. Cultural/societal homophobia refers to social standards which dictate that being heterosexual is better or more moral than being lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Internalized homophobia: Internalized self-hatred or discomfort that gays and lesbians struggle with as a result of heterosexual prejudice. Persons who experience internalized homophobia accept and believe the negative messages of the dominant group as they relate to gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people; the acceptance and internalization by members of oppressed groups of negative stereotypes and images of their group, beliefs of their own inferiority, and concomitant beliefs in the superiority of the dominant group.

Transphobia: Irrational fear or hatred of transgender people; the responses of fear, disgust, anger, discomfort, and aversion that individuals experience in dealing with transgender people; often it is manifest in the form of discrimination and prejudice.

Heterosexual privilege: The basic civil rights and social privileges that heterosexual people automatically receives that are systematically denied to LGBT people simply because of their sexual orientation; the assumption that all people are heterosexual.