The terms and definitions below are always evolving, changing and often mean different things to different people. They are provided below as a starting point for discussion and understanding. This Glossary has been collectively built and created by the staff members of the LGBTQIA Resource Center since the early 2000s.
These are not universal definitions. This glossary is provided to help give others a more thorough but not entirely comprehensive understanding of the significance of these terms. You may even consider asking someone what they mean when they use a term, especially when they use it to describe their identity. Ultimately it is most important that each individual define themselves for themselves and therefore also define a term for themselves.
“If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” -Audre Lorde
This glossary contains terms, such as ableism and disability, that may not be considered directly related to identities of sexuality or gender. These terms are important to acknowledge as part of our mission to challenge all forms of oppression that affect the multiple, intersectional identities held by members of our community.
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Ability: The quality of having the means or skill to do something. Ability is not permanent, can fluctuate throughout one’s life, and is another aspect of diversity in our communities. Disabilities do not necessarily limit people unless society imposes assumptions that do not account for the variation in people’s abilities.
Ableism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people who are disabled, including differences in mental, cognitive, emotional, and/or physical abilities, through attitudes, actions, or institutional policies.
Ace: An abbreviation of the word Asexual. See Asexual/Asexuality.
AFAB: Assigned Female at Birth. The terms AFAB and AMAB are used by a wide range of individuals, including those who are transgender, non-binary, or intersex. While AFAB or AMAB may be useful for describing different trans or non-binary experiences, they are generally not considered identities in and of themselves. Calling a transman “AFAB,” for example, erases his identity as a man. Instead, use a person’s requested pronouns and self-description. [Rainbow Round Table]
Ageism: The pervasive system of prejudice and discrimination that marginalizes people based on their age. This can be perpetuated through stereotypes of youthfulness versus life at an older age and through oppressive policies that subordinate and exclude older folks. Ageism can impact different age groups besides older folks, such as younger people who are stereotyped as being unable to make big decisions.
Agender: An identity under the non-binary and trans+ umbrella. Some agender people feel that they have no gender identity, while others feel that agender is itself a gender identity. This can be similar to or overlap with the experience of being gender neutral, or having a neutral gender identity. Also see Neutrois. [Albert Kennedy]
Allistic: An adjective used to describe a person who is not autistic and is often used to emphasize the privilege of people who are not on the autism spectrum.
Allosexism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses asexual people built out of the assumption that everyone does and should experience sexual attraction.
Allosexual: A sexual orientation generally characterized by feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality.
Allyship: The action of working to end oppression through support of, and as an advocate for, a group other than one’s own.
LGBTQIA Allyship is the practice of confronting heterosexism, sexism, genderism, allosexism, and monosexism in oneself and others out of self-interest and a concern for the well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual people. Is founded on the understanding that dismantling heterosexism, monosexism, trans oppression/trans misogyny/cissexism and allosexism is a social justice issue.
AMAB: Assigned Male at Birth. The terms AFAB and AMAB are used by a wide range of individuals, including those who are transgender, non-binary, or intersex. While AFAB or AMAB may be useful for describing different trans or non-binary experiences, they are generally not considered identities in and of themselves. Calling a transman “AFAB,” for example, erases his identity as a man. Instead, use a person’s requested pronouns and self-description. [Rainbow Round Table]
Androgyne: A person with a gender that is both masculine and feminine or in between masculine and feminine. An androgynous person.
Aromantic/Aro: A romantic orientation generally characterized by not feeling romantic attraction or a desire for romance. Aromantic people can be satisfied by friendship and other non-romantic relationships. Many aromantic people also identify with a sexual orientation, such as asexual, bisexual, etc.
Asexual/Asexuality/Ace: A broad spectrum of sexual orientations generally characterized by feeling varying degrees of sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity, despite sexual desire. Some asexual people do have sex and do experience varying levels of sexual attraction. There are many diverse ways of being asexual. A person who does not experience sexual attraction can experience other forms of attraction such as romantic attraction, physical attraction and emotional attraction, as these are separate aspects of a person’s identity. These may or may not correlate with each other - for instance, some people are physically and romantically attracted to women. However, others might be physically attracted to all genders and only emotionally attracted to men.
Autism: A neurological variation encompassing a wide range of presentations and experiences. Common characteristics of autism include repetitive behavior and differences in social interaction, interpersonal relationships, and communication. For some people, their gender identity is significantly tied to their identity as an autistic person.
*For this glossary, we use identity-first language instead of person-first language for describing autistic people because for some people, their disability is an important part of who they are (this practice comes from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network). However, we acknowledge that language and how people describe their identities can vary for each person and change over time.
BDSM: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism. BDSM refers to a wide spectrum of activities and forms of interpersonal relationships. While not always overtly sexual in nature, the activities and relationships within a BDSM context are almost always eroticized by the participants in some fashion. Many of these practices fall outside of commonly held social norms regarding sexuality and human relationships.
Bear Community: A part of the queer community composed of queer cisgender, transgender, or gender variant men similar in physical looks and interests, most of them large, hairy, and on the masculine side of presentation. The community aims to provide spaces where one feels wanted, desired, and liked. It nourishes and values an individual’s process of making friends and learning self-care and self-love through the unity and support of the community. Bears, Cubs, Otters, Wolves, Chasers, Admirers and other wildlife comprise what has come to be known as the Brotherhood of Bears and/or the Bear community. See also: Ursula
Bigender: Having two genders, exhibiting characteristics of masculine and feminine roles.
Binding: The process of reducing the appearance of breasts by wrapping or compressing the chest using various methods. Binding can be very gender-affirming for many people, however it must be done safely. Learn more about safe binding.
Biphobia: Oppression, discrimination and hatred toward those who identify as bisexual, pansexual, and omnisexual. Biphobia can be present in both the LGBTQ+ and broader community. See also Monosexism.
*At the UCD LGBTQIA Resource Center, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like "transphobic,” “homophobic,” and "biphobic" because they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears. Also, for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language can be disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.
Bisexual/Bi: A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender. Some people may use bisexual and pansexual interchangeably.
BlaQ/BlaQueer: Folks of Black/African descent and/or from the African diaspora who recognize their queerness/LGBTQIA identity as a salient identity attached to their Blackness and vice versa. (T. Porter)
Body Image: How a person feels, acts, and thinks about their body. Attitudes about our own body and bodies in general are shaped by our communities, families, cultures, media, and our own perceptions.
Body Policing: Any behavior which (indirectly or directly, intentionally or unintentionally) attempts to correct or control a person's actions regarding their own physical body, frequently with regards to gender expression or size. (ASC Queer Theory)
Butch: A gender expression that fits societal definitions of masculinity. Usually used by queer women and trans people, particularly by lesbians. Some consider “butch” to be its own gender identity.
Cisgender: A gender identity, or performance in a gender role, that society deems to match the person’s assigned sex at birth. The prefix cis- means "on this side of" or "not across." A term used to highlight the privilege of people who are not transgender.
Cisnormativity: Attitudes and behaviors that incorrectly assume gender is binary, ignoring genders besides women and men, and that people should and will align with conventional expectations of society for gender identity and gender expression. Heteronormativity often combines with heteronormativity to create societal expectations of behavior. For example, someone assigned female at birth is expected to 1) have a body that is considered “female” by the dominant culture, 2) identify as a girl or woman, 3) act feminine and fulfill the roles associated with girls and/or women, 4) be romantically and sexually attracted to men, and 5) being in a monogamous relationship with someone of the opposite assigned sex at birth. See also Heteronormativity.
Cissexism/Genderism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion founded on the belief that there are, and should be, only two genders and that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. This system oppresses people whose gender and/or gender expression falls outside of cis-normative constructs. Within cissexism, cisgender people are the dominant group and trans/gender non-conforming people are the oppressed group.
Coming Out: Coming out is the process of voluntarily sharing one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity with others. This process is unique for each individual and there is no right or wrong way to come out. The term “coming out” has also been broadened to include other pieces of potentially stigmatized personal information. Terms also used that correlate with this action are: "Being out" which means not concealing one's sexual orientation or gender identity, and "Outing", a term used for making public the sexual orientation or gender identity of another who would prefer to keep this information secret. Not sharing one’s LGBTQ+ identity publicly is sometimes referred to as being “in the closet” or “closeted”.
For support on coming out, please see our Coming Out Resource Guide.
Cross Dresser (CD): A word to describe a person who dresses, at least partially, as a member of a gender other than their assigned sex; carries no implications of sexual orientation or gender identity. Has replaced “Transvestite.”
Culture: A learned set of values, beliefs, customs, norms, and perceptions shared by a group of people that provide a general framework for living and patterns for interpreting life. “Culture is those deep, common, unstated, learned experiences which members of a given culture share, which they communicate without knowing, and which form the backdrop against which all other events are judged.” (E. Hall.)
Cultural Humility: An approach to engagement across differences that acknowledges systems of oppression and embodies the following key practices: (1) a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique, (2) a desire to fix power imbalances where none ought to exist, and (3) aspiring to develop partnerships with people and groups who advocate for others on a systemic level. (Melanie Tervalon & Jann Murray-García, 1998)
Deadname/Deadnaming: A deadname is a name that a trans+/nonbinary person no longer uses. Usually it is the name assigned at birth. When someone uses this name, whether intentionally or not, it is referred to as deadnaming. Deadnaming is considered offensive and hurtful. See also Lived Name.
Demisexual: Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond. Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity. Demisexuals are considered to be on the asexual spectrum.
Disability/(Dis)ability/Dis/ability: A social construct that identifies any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered “typical” for a human being, given environments that are constructed for and by the dominant or “typical” person.
Discrimination: Inequitable actions carried out by members of a dominant group or its representatives against members of a marginalized or minoritized group.
Drag/Drag King /Drag Queen: The theatrical performance of one or multiple genders via dressing in the clothing of a different gender, or in a manner different from how one would usually dress. Drag queens perform in distinctly feminine attire. Drag kings perform in distinctly masculine attire. Drag is a form of gender expression and is not an indication of gender identity. Individuals who dress in drag may or may not consider themselves to be transgender. They may identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight or some other sexual orientation. [Identiversity]
Dyke: A lesbian or queer woman. Some members of the LGBTQ+ community have reclaimed this term, but it is still considered offensive to many. Only people who self-identify as a dyke should use this term.
Dysphoria: See “Gender Dysphoria”.
Enby: A slang term used for nonbinary. Enby is the phonetic pronunciation of “NB,” an abbreviation for nonbinary.
Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base.
Euphoria: See “Gender Euphoria”.
Femme: Historically used in the lesbian community to refer to a feminine lesbian, it is being increasingly used by other LGBTQIA people to describe gender expressions that reclaim and disrupt traditional constructs of femininity.
FTM: Female to Male. Generally used to refer to anyone assigned female at birth whose affirmed gender identity or expression is masculine all or part of the time. Some people prefer the term ‘transitioning to male’ (or ‘male,’ ‘man’ or ‘trans man’), as this does not use misgendering language. This term is not used as often in the 2020s, but may be important in certain (e.g., medical) contexts. [QMUNITY]
Gay: A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender. See Homosexual/Homosexuality.
Gender: A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth.
Gender Affirming: A broad term encompassing actions, language, medical care, and more, that affirms someone’s gender identity or expression. For example, surgery that alters someone’s appearance to align with their gender identity is referred to as gender-affirming surgery.
Gender Dysphoria: Used to describe when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.
This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth. [Stonewall]
Gender Euphoria: A euphoric feeling often experienced when one’s gender is recognized and respected by others, when one’s body aligns with one’s gender, or when one expresses themselves in accordance with their gender. Focusing on gender euphoria instead of gender dysphoria shifts focus towards the positive aspects of being transgender or gender expansive. [PFLAG]
Gender Expansive: An umbrella term used for individuals who broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms. Gender expansive individuals include those who identify as transgender, as well as anyone else whose gender in some way is seen to be broadening the surrounding society’s notion of gender.
Gender Expression: How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress, presentation of secondary sex characteristics (i.e., breasts, body hair, voice), and/or behaviors. Society, and people that make up society characterize these expressions as "masculine,” “feminine,” or “androgynous.” Individuals may embody their gender in a multitude of ways and have terms beyond these to name their gender expression(s).
Gender Fluid/Genderfluid: A person whose gender identification and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations. Being fluid in motion between two or more genders.
Gender Identity: A sense of one’s self as trans, genderqueer, woman, man, or some other identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex and gender one is assigned at birth.
Genderism/Cissexism: The belief that there are, and should be, only two genders & that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. In a genderist/cissexist construct, cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group.
Gender Neutral: Refers to anything that is not gendered. For example, gender-neutral language does not use binary male or female words, and gender-neutral restrooms are available to be used by anyone of any gender identity or expression.
Gender Non Conforming (GNC): Adjective for people who do not subscribe to societal expectations of typical gender expressions or roles. The term is more commonly used to refer to gender expression (how one behaves, acts, and presents themselves to others) as opposed to gender identity (one’s internal sense of self).
Gender Outlaw: A person who refuses to be defined by conventional definitions of male and female. (“Gender Outlaw” by Kate Bornstein)
Gender Queer: A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of genders.
Gender Unicorn: A commonly used model to explain various aspects of one’s identity, including assigned sex at birth, gender identity, gender expression, physical attraction, and romantic attraction. The Gender Unicorn illustrates how, with the exception of assigned sex at birth, these different aspects of identity exist on spectrums. The Gender Unicorn is available at transstudent.org/gender
*The popular Genderbread Person was plagiarized from the Gender Unicorn. Both models are not comprehensive representations of identities since these are complex topics.
Gender Variant: A person who varies from the expected characteristics of the assigned gender.
Gray: Also known as Gray-A or Gray-Ace/Aro. This is an umbrella term which describes people who experience attraction occasionally, rarely, or only under certain conditions. Includes the identities Graysexual and Grayromantic. [Stonewall]
Heteronormativity: Attitudes and behaviors that incorrectly assume everyone is straight, or that being heterosexual is “normal”. Hetereornormativity also assumes people should and will align with conventional expectations of society for sexual and romantic attraction. Heteronormativity often combines with cisnormativity to create societal expectations of behavior. For example, someone assigned female at birth is expected to 1) have a body that is considered “female” by the dominant culture, 2) identify as a girl or woman, 3) act feminine and fulfill the roles associated with girls and/or women, 4) be romantically and sexually attracted to men, and 5) being in a monogamous relationship with someone of the opposite assigned sex at birth. See also Cisnormativity.
Heterosexism: The assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people, while it gives advantages to heterosexual people. It is often a subtle form of oppression, which reinforces realities of silence and erasure.
Heterosexuality: A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically attracted to people of a gender other than their own. See also Straight.
Homophobia: Oppression, discrimination, and hatred directed toward members of the LGBTQ+ community. See also Heterosexism.
*At the UCD LGBTQIA Resource Center, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like "transphobic,” “homophobic,” and "biphobic" because (1) they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears, and (2) for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language is disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.
Homosexual/Homosexuality: An outdated term to describe a sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender. Historically, it was a term used to pathologize gay and lesbian people.
Internalized oppression: The fear and self-hate of one or more of a person’s own identities that occurs for many individuals who have learned negative ideas about their identities throughout their life. One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.
Intersectionality: A term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to describe the way that multiple systems of oppression interact in the lives of those with multiple marginalized identities. Intersectionality looks at the relationships between multiple marginalized identities and allows us to analyze social problems more fully, shape more effective interventions, and promote more inclusive advocacy amongst communities.
Intersex: An umbrella term to describe a wide range of natural body variations that do not fit neatly into conventional definitions of male or female. Intersex variations may include, but are not limited to, variations in chromosome compositions, hormone concentrations, and external and internal characteristics. Many visibly intersex people are mutilated in infancy and early childhood by doctors to make their sex characteristics conform to society’s idea of what normal bodies should look like. Intersex people are relatively common, although society's denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Hermaphrodite is an outdated and offensive term that has been used to describe intersex people in the past.
Kink: (Kinky, Kinkiness) Most commonly referred to as unconventional sexual practices, from which people derive varying forms of pleasure and consensually play out various forms of desires, fantasies, and scenes. Kink includes BDSM, leather, wax play, etc.
Kinsey scale: The scale developed by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s, which was used for measuring sexual attraction and behavior along a continuum. Instead of assigning people to two categories—heterosexual and homosexual—Kinsey used a spectrum ranging from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). The scale is an early recognition of varying sexual attractions and behaviors and is credited with challenging the heterosexual/homosexual binary. [Identiversity]
Latine: In response to the difficulty that Spanish speaking people have with using Latinx, “Latine” was created. Latine can be conjugated and pronounced with more ease. Both Latine and Latinx are still used, though most folks lean towards using Latine. Latine is a non-gender specific way of referring to people of Latin American descent. The term Latine, unlike terms such as Latino/a, does not assume a gender binary and includes non-binary folks.
Leather Community: A community which encompasses those who enjoy leather, often as part of sexual activities, including leather uniforms or cowboy outfits. The leather community related to similar fetish-based communities such as sado-masochism, bondage and domination, and rubber. Although the leather community is often associated with the queer community, it is not a "gay-only" community.
Lesbian: Usually, someone who identifies as a woman, whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender. However, some nonbinary people also identify as lesbians, often because they have some connection to womanhood and are primarily attracted to women.
LGBTQIA+: Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. The additional “+” stands for all of the other identities not encompassed in the short acronym. An umbrella term that is often used to refer to the community as a whole. Our center uses LGBTQIA to intentionally include and raise awareness of Queer, Intersex and Asexual communities as well as myriad other communities under our umbrella.
Lived Name: A name (often a first name) that someone uses that differs from their legal name. There are many reasons someone may have a lived name that differs from their legal name. Some trans and nonbinary people may use a lived name to affirm their gender identity. “Preferred name” has also been used, however it has been largely replaced by lived name. “Preferred name” suggests that using someone’s lived name is optional, which can lead to deadnaming. See Deadname/deadnaming.
Masculine of Center (MOC): A term coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project to describe folks, including lesbian/queer womyn and trans folks, who lean towards the masculine side of the gender spectrum. These can include a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi, trans-masculine, etc.
Microaggressions: Brief and subtle behaviors, whether intentional or not, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages about commonly oppressed identities. These actions cause harm through the invalidation of the oppressed person’s identity and may reinforce stereotypes. Examples of microaggressions include a person who is not white being told they speak “good English” or someone saying something is “gay” to mean they think something is bad.
Misgendering: Attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect/does not align with their gender identity. Can occur when using pronouns, gendered language (i.e. “Hello ladies!” “Hey guys”), or assigning genders to people without knowing how they identify (i.e. “Well, since we’re all women in this room, we understand…”).
MLM: An abbreviation for men who love men, which includes gay men, as well as men who are attracted to men and people of other genders.
Monogamy: Having only one intimate partner at any one time; also known as serial monogamy.
Monosexism: The belief in and systematic privileging of monosexuality as superior, and the systematic oppression of non-monosexuality.
Monosexual: People who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for one gender only. Identifying as straight or gay are the most well-known forms of monosexuality.
MSM: An abbreviation for men who have sex with men; they may or may not identify as gay.
MTF: Male to Female. Generally used to refer to anyone assigned male at birth whose affirmed gender identity or expression is feminine all or part of the time. Some people prefer the term ‘transitioning to female’ (or ‘female,’ ‘woman,’ ‘femme,’ or ‘trans woman’), as this does not use misgendering language. This term is not used as often in the 2020s, but may be important in certain (e.g. medical) contexts. [QMUNITY]
Multisexual: An umbrella term to describe attraction to more than one gender. It can include sexual attractions like bisexual, polysexual, omnisexual, and others. The aforementioned terms are used by some interchangeably and for others the subtle differences among them are important.
Neopronouns: Gender-neutral pronouns such as ze/zir or ey/em that are used instead of more traditional ones such as they/them. Learn more about pronouns.
Neurodiversity: Neurodiversity refers to the natural and important variations in how human minds think. These differences can include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, Tourette Syndrome, and others. Like other variable human traits like race, gender, sexuality, or culture, there is no right or wrong form of diversity. The social dynamics that exert power over other forms of diversity also impact neurodivergent people. Neurodiversity is not something to be cured or corrected to fit some social norm - rather, we should celebrate different forms of communication and self-expression and promote support systems to allow neurodivergent people to thrive. (Neurocosmopolitanism, The National Symposium on Neurodiversity)
Neurodivergent: “Neurodivergent, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of ‘normal.’ A person whose neurocognitive functioning diverges from dominant societal norms in multiple ways – for instance, a person who is Autistic, has dyslexia, and has epilepsy – can be described as multiply neurodivergent. The terms neurodivergent and neurodivergence were coined by Kassiane Asasumasu, a multiply neurodivergent neurodiversity activist.” (Neurocosmopolitanism)
Neurotypical: “Neurotypical, often abbreviated as NT, means having a style of neurocognitive functioning that falls within the dominant societal standards of ‘normal.’ Neurotypical can be used as either an adjective (‘He’s neurotypical’) or a noun (‘He’s a neurotypical’).” (Neurocosmopolitanism)
Neutrois: A non-binary gender identity that falls under the genderqueer or transgender umbrellas. There is no one definition of Neutrois, since each person that self-identifies as such experiences their gender differently. The most common ones are: Neutral-gender, Null-gender, Neither male nor female, Genderless and/or Agender. (Neutrois.com)
Non binary/Nonbinary/Non-binary: A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual, moving beyond the male/female gender binary. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world. For some people who identify as non binary there may be overlap with other concepts and identities like gender expansive and gender non-conforming.
Omnigender: Possessing all genders. The term is used specifically to refute the concept of only two genders.
Oppression: Exists when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another social group for its own benefit.
Individual Level: A person’s beliefs or behaviors that consciously or subconsciously work to perpetuate actions and attitudes of oppression. See also Internalized Oppression.
Institutional Level: Institutions such as family, government, industry, education, and religion have policies and procedures that can promote systems of oppression.
Societal/Cultural Level: Community norms that perpetuate implicit and explicit values that bind institutions and individuals; social norms on what is valued, accepted, or desirable give the individual and institutional levels the justification for systemic oppression.
Orientation: Orientation is one’s attraction or non-attraction to other people. An individual’s orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their orientation. Some, but not all, types of attraction or orientation include: romantic, sexual, sensual, aesthetic, intellectual and platonic.
Pansexual (Pan), Omnisexual (Omni): Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes. Has some overlap with bisexuality and polysexuality (not to be confused with polyamory).
Passing: When a trans individual is perceived as, or “passes” as, a cisgender man or woman. Passing is often thought of as a form of privilege, and the concept can also put unrealistic or unwanted expectations on trans/nonbinary folks to confirm to cisnormativity. Passing can also refer to gay/lesbian/queer people being regarded as straight. Historically, passing was often necessary as a form of safety for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Phobia: In mental and emotional wellness, a phobia is a marked and persistent fear that is excessive in proportion to the actual threat or danger the situation presents. Historically, this term has been used inaccurately to refer to systems of oppression (i.e. homophobia has been used to refer to heterosexism.)
At the UCD LGBTQIA Resource Center, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like "transphobic,” “homophobic,” and "biphobic" because they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears, and, for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language is disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.
Polyamory/Poly: Denotes consensually being in/open to multiple loving relationships at the same time. Some polyamorists (polyamorous people) consider “polyam” to be a relationship orientation. Sometimes used as an umbrella term for all forms of ethical, consensual, and loving non-monogamy.
Polycule: Describes a connected network of people and relationships, all of whom are in some way involved emotionally, sexually, or romantically with at least one other person within the polycule. Each polycule, or part within it, can have its own structures, boundaries, and connections. [Polyamproud]
Polygender, Pangender: Exhibiting characteristics of multiple genders, deliberately refuting the concept of only two genders.
Polysexual: People who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for more than one gender. Not to be confused with polyamory (above). Has some overlap with bisexuality and pansexuality.
Positive: Shortened term for HIV positive. For example, stating “I’m positive” is a way to voluntarily disclose one’s HIV status.
Privilege: a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group. The concept has roots in WEB DuBois’ work on “psychological wage” and white people’s feelings of superiority over Black people. Peggy McIntosh wrote about privilege as a white woman and developed an inventory of unearned privileges that she experienced in daily life because of her whiteness.
Pronouns: Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person. Examples are they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his. In English and some other languages, pronouns have been tied to gender and are a common area of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect.) Learn more about pronouns.
QPOC/QTPOC/QTBIPOC: Queer People of Color; Queer Trans People of Color; Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color. Often used to discuss the ways in which intersectional identities can result in multifaceted systems and experiences of oppression.
Queer: An umbrella term used to describe gender/sexual/romantic orientations or identities that fall outside of societal norms. Historically, queer has been used as an epithet/slur against the LGBTQ+ community. Some people have reclaimed the word queer and self identify in opposition to assimilation [adapted from “Queering the Field”]. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into social norms. Not all people who identify as LGBTQIA use “queer” to describe themselves. For example, those of earlier generations are typically averse to self-identifying as queer. The term is often considered hateful when used by those who do not identify as LGBTQIA.
Queer Platonic Relationship (QPR)/Queer Platonic Partnership (QPP): Relationships that purposely defy relationship categories, and can mix elements from platonic, romantic, and sexual relationships. They are each unique depending on the people involved in them, but they often involve some level of commitment or intimacy. Because asexual and aromantic people tend to structure their relationships and interpersonal needs in unique ways, many of them choose to engage in relationships that are hard to define, and take comfort in Queer Platonic Relationships. [TAAAP]
Questioning: The process of exploring one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some people may also use this term to name their identity within the LGBTQIA community.
Race: A social construct that divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, based on the social, economic, and political context of a society at a given period of time. (Racial Equity Resource Guide)
Racism: The systematic subordination of people from marginalized racial groups based on their physical appearance, ethnic or ancestral history, or cultural affiliation. Racism is considered a deeply pervasive, systemic issue perpetuated by members of the privileged racial group holding dominant social power over others. Discrimination, prejudice, or xenophobia may be more accurate terms for describing individual acts of oppression. While these individual acts likely stem from systemic racism, at the individual level the power dynamics that enable racism are not at play in the same way.
Romantic Orientation: Romantic Orientation is attraction or non-attraction to other people characterized by the expression or non-expression of love. Romantic orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their romantic orientation. See also Orientation.
Same Gender Loving: a term used by some African American people who love, date, have attraction to people of the same gender.
Sapphic: Used to describe any female-identifying person who is attracted to other female-identifying people. This broad term includes lesbians, bisexuals, omnisexuals, pansexuals, romantic asexuals, and other orientations, as well as nonbinary folks. Often sapphic is used as a more inclusive term instead of “women who like women (WLW)” or lesbian.
Sex/Sex Assigned at Birth: A medically constructed categorization. Sex is often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth. Sex assigned at birth is different from gender identity, and sex is not always binary, such as for Intersex individuals. See also Intersex, AFAB, and AMAB.
Sexism: The cultural, institutional, and individual set of beliefs and practices that privilege men, subordinate women, and devalue ways of being that are associated with women.
Sexuality: The components of a person that include their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, etc.
Sexual Orientation: Sexual Orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people. Sexual orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation. See also Orientation.
Sizeism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people who have bodies that society has labeled as “overweight,” as well as people of short stature. Historically, fat people’s bodies have been labeled as unhealthy, undesirable, and lazy; this fails to challenge narratives around health and healthy living. This form of oppression has been referred to as fatphobia.
Social Identities: Social identity groups are based on the physical, social, and mental characteristics of individuals. They are sometimes obvious and clear, sometimes not obvious and unclear, often self-claimed and frequently ascribed by others.
Socialization: The process by which societal norms influence a number of aspects that frame how members of a community live, including how they might think, behave, and hold certain values. Socialization can reinforce assumptions or expectations that give power to systems of oppression.
Social Justice: A goal and a process in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Begins with an acknowledgement that oppression and inequity exist and must be actively dismantled on all levels. (Adams, Bell, & Griffin.)
Socioeconomic Class: Social group membership based on a combination of factors including income, education level, occupation, and social status in the community, such as contacts within the community, group associations, and the community's perception of the family or individual.
SOGIE: An acronym that stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression. Is used by some in a similar way to the umbrella acronym: LGBTQIA.
Spectrum: A range or sliding scale. Aspects of one's identity like sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression exist on a spectrum, or outside of it. For example, with sexual orientation, the attraction to men, women, or someone of another gender all exist on separate spectrums. Someone might feel a little attracted to men, very much attracted to women, and moderate attraction to people outside this binary. Please also see the Gender Unicorn to learn more about these aspects of identity.
*The phrase “on the spectrum” is more commonly used to refer to identifying on the autism spectrum rather than sexuality or gender. (AutisticAdvocacy.org)
Stereotype: A generalization applied to every person in a cultural group; a fixed conception of a group without allowing for individuality. When we believe our stereotypes, we tend to ignore characteristics that don’t conform to our stereotype, rationalize what we see to fit our stereotype, see those who do not conform as “exceptions,” and find ways to create the expected characteristics.
Straight: A romantic and/or sexual orientation in which a person feels attracted to people of a gender other than their own. Usually used to describe a man attracted to women and vice-versa. See also Heterosexual.
Stud: A culture-specific identity that is often defined as a black masculine lesbian. As such, it is meant to be an identity label that is exclusively used by black people. See also Butch. [LGBTQIA+ Wiki]
Trans: The term trans acts as a more inclusive term than transgender for gender non-conforming and non-binary folks.
Trans man: Usually, a person assigned female at birth who identifies as a man. A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person.
Transfeminine/Transfem: A term used to describe a person, usually AMAB or Intersex, who identifies with femininity in some way. Includes Transwomen, as well as other trans+ people who have a connection to femininity.
Transmasculine/Transmasc: A term used to describe a person, usually AFAB or Intersex, who identifies with masculinity in some way. Includes Transmen, as well as other trans+ people who have a connection to masculinity.
Transphobia: When people have deeply rooted negative beliefs about what it means to be transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming. Their beliefs affect the way they, the government, organizations, the media, and society generally treat people whose identities don’t fit into typical gender roles.
Transphobia results in policies that take away the rights and safety of trans and nonbinary children, teens, and adults. This results in discrimination, harassment, and sometimes violence against people who are not cisgender. See also Cissexsim. [Planned Parenthood]
*At the UCD LGBTQIA Resource Center, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like "transphobic,” “homophobic,” and "biphobic" because (1) they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears, and (2) for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language is disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.
Trans woman: Usually, a person assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman. A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person.
Transgender: An adjective used most often as an umbrella term and frequently abbreviated to “trans.” Identifying as transgender, or trans, means that one’s internal knowledge of gender is different from conventional or cultural expectations based on the sex that person was assigned at birth. While transgender may refer to a woman who was assigned male at birth or a man who was assigned female at birth, transgender is an umbrella term that can also describe someone who identifies as a gender other than woman or man, such as non binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, no gender or multiple genders, or some other gender identity.
Transition: Transitioning is the process of taking steps to live as one’s true gender identity. Transitioning is different for each individual and may or may not involve medical interventions like taking hormones or having surgery. Some people may not choose to transition in certain ways for a variety of reasons. The extent of someone’s transition does not make that person’s gender identity any less or more valid.
Transitioning may include socially transitioning, such as going by certain pronouns or going by the Lived Name that affirms one’s gender identity. Transitioning may involve making changes to one’s physical appearance, such as wearing certain clothing, wearing one’s hair in a different style or length, or more complex changes such as medically transitioning through hormones or surgery. Transitioning can also involve changing legal documents to match one’s authentic sense of self. Additionally, socially transitioning is when an individual begins to present themselves to the world in a way that most affirms their gender identity. This could look like sharing their lived name and gender identity in social settings.
Two Spirit: An umbrella term encompassing sexuality and gender in Indigenous Native American communities. Two Spirit people often serve integral and important roles in their communities, such as leaders and healers. It may refer to an embodiment of masculinity and femininity but this is not the only significance of the term. There are a variety of definitions and feelings about the term two spirit – and this term does not resonate for everyone. Two Spirit is a cultural term reserved for those who identify as Indigenous Native American. Although the term itself became more commonly used around 1990, two spirit people have existed for centuries.
Undocumented: People who are born outside of the country to which they immigrated, who do not have documentation that grants legal rights related to residency and/or citizenship.
Ursula: Some lesbians, particularly butch dykes, also participate in Bear culture referring to themselves with the distinct label Ursula.
WLW: Abbreviation for Women who like Women. This term can include lesbians, bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual women, as well as other identities. Some prefer the term “sapphic”, as it is more inclusive of non-binary folks. See also Sapphic.
Womxn: Some womxn spell the word with an “x” as a form of empowerment to move away from the “men” in the “traditional” spelling of women.
Last Updated: 7/21/23