24/7: See “cross-living”
Ally: Any non-GLBT person who supports and stands up for the rights of GLBT people. GLBT people can also be allies, such as a lesbian who is an ally to a transgender person.
Androgynous: See “androgyny”
Androgyny: A person [a] who identifies as both or neither of the two culturally defined genders; and/or [b] who expresses and/or presents merged culturally/stereotypically feminine and masculine characteristics, or mainly neutral characteristics. May or may not express dual gender identity (or “androgynous”).
Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction, does not find sexual behavior appealing, and is not compelled to form sexual relationships.
Assigned Gender: The announcement by doctors (“It's a boy/girl”) based on what your physical anatomy looks like. Assigned gender often determines how you are supposed to grow up, be, and exist within a certain set of gender roles.
Bi: The shortened term for a person who is bisexual (see “bisexual”).
Binary Gender System: A culturally defined code of acceptable behaviors which teach that there are men and women, who are masculine and feminine respectively, and that there is nothing outside this system. This system has been challenged throughout time, but is particularly challenged by transgender individuals, who cannot easily be “fit” into the binary system.
Binding: The practice of taping or compressing the chest or "breast tissue" so that one can pass as a man. This is done with extremely tight bras, elastic bandages, and other methods.
Biological Sex: Determined by our chromosomes (XX for females; XY for males), our hormones (estrogen/progesterone for females; testosterone for males), and our internal and external genitalia (vulva, clitoris, vagina for females; penis and testicles for males). About 1.7% of the population can be defined as intersexed—born with biological aspects of both sexes to varying degrees.
Bisexual: A person who is attracted to both men and women. Or, a person who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted to those of either gender (see also “bi”).
Bottom Surgery: A term to describe surgery "below the waist," usually to either create a vagina (for male-to-female transgender individuals) or a penis and testicles (for female-to-male transgender individuals). A decision to have or not have bottom surgery may depend on such factors as desire, expense, concern about complications, whether the individual is out, physical health, age, and access to medical care and information.
Butch: Used to identify a person who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically masculine characteristics. Can be used either as a positive or negative term.
Clocked: See “getting read”
Closeted: Description of a person who keeps his/her sexual orientation or gender identity a secret from some or all people. The term can also apply to situations in which individuals do not reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity (see also "in the closet").
Coming Out: The process of acknowledging one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity to other people. Many GLBT people are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others. It is to publicly declare one’s identity, sometimes to one person in conversation, sometimes to a group or in a public setting. Coming out can be a life-long process; in each new situation, a person must decide whether or not to come out. It can be difficult for some because reactions vary from complete acceptance and support to disapproval, rejection and even violence.
Cross-Dressing: A person who wears the clothing considered typical for another gender on occasion, but does not desire to change his/her gender. Reasons for cross-dressing can range from a need to express a feminine or masculine side to the attainment of emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or sexual gratification. Cross-dressers can be of any sexual orientation, but there is a large percentage of heterosexually/straight-identified individuals who fit the definition of cross-dressing.
Cross-Living: Cross-living is cross-dressing full-time (which is also referred to as “24/7”), and living as the gender which you perceive yourself to be.
Disorder of Sex Development (“DSD”): A medical diagnosis involving the following: congenital development of ambiguous genitalia; congenital disjunction of internal and external sex anatomy, incomplete development of sex anatomy; sex chromosome anomalies; disorders of gonadal development. Each of these categories has several diagnoses. It is possible to hear terms such as “chromosomal DSD” or “congenital DSD” to indicate a broad type of disorder. The term “intersexed” is sometimes used (see “intersexed”), though it is considered imprecise from a medical perspective. The condition was formerly termed hermaphroditism or pseudohermaphroditism, a term that is rarely used today, as it is considered offensive by many people with DSD. Medical professionals commonly assign a male or female gender to the individual and proceed to perform sex assignment surgeries beginning in infancy and often continuing into adolescence; however, this practice is being challenged by parents and adults with DSD, as well as new medical research.
Down Low (“DL”): To “keep something private,” particularly information or activity. The term is often used to describe the behavior of men who have sex with other men as well as women and who do not identify as gay or bisexual. These men may refer to themselves as being “on the down low,” “on the DL,” or “on the low low.” The term has most often been associated with African American men. Although the term originated in the African American community, the behaviors associated with the term are not new and not specific to Black men who have sex with men.
Drag: Wearing the clothing of another gender, often with exaggerated cultural/stereotypical gender characteristics. Individuals may identify as Drag Kings (female in drag), Drag Queens (male in drag), or as a female or male impersonator. Drag often refers to dressing for functional purposes such as entertainment/performance or social gatherings, and has held a significant place in GLBT history and community for its ability to express and explore gender identity and expression.
Dyke: A "female-bodied" person or a woman who identifies with other women, and is attracted to women; this is a term that is used by many different types of people often taken back in a positive way for self-identification; can be political; and a term historically used only in a negative context to ridicule and label lesbians who were perceived to express and/or present culturally/stereotypically masculine characteristics.
F2M/FTM: The shortened term for a person who is female-to-male transgender (see “female to male”).
Faggot/Fag: A pejorative term and common homophobic slur against gay men.
Female-to-Male: Used to identify a person who was female bodied at birth and who identifies as male, lives as a man, or identifies as masculine (see also “F2M/FTM”).
Femme: Used to identify a person who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics. Can be used either as a positive or negative term.
GLBTQA: Acronym for "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and ally" or also known as LGBTQA. The acronym may also have variations to include queer, intersex and asexual (GLBTQQIAA or LGBTQQIAA).
Openly Gay/Lesbian: A person who publicly acknowledges his/her sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Openly Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender
Gay: A person who is attracted only to members of the same sex. This attraction can be emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or sexual. Although the term can be used for all people (e.g. gay man, gay woman, gay person), the term usually refers to men.
Gender: Often conflated with “sex,” gender is socially constructed. Determined by rules, mores, and expectations that are taught to individuals in a society about acceptable behavior, attitudes, expressions, and attire—among many other areas—for men and women. For more info, see “binary gender system” and “gender role.”
Gender-Bender: A person who merges characteristics of all genders in subtle ways or intentionally flaunts merged/blurred cultural/stereotypical gender norms for the purpose of shocking or educating others, without concern for passing (see also “Gender-Blender”).
Gender-Blender: See “gender-bender”
Gender Dysphoria: An intense continuous discomfort resulting from an individual's belief in the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and resulting gender role expectations. Also, a clinical psychological diagnosis that can offend some in transgender communities, but is often required to receive hormones and/or surgery.
Gender Expression: The manner in which a person outwardly expresses their gender. This may be through attire, behavior, speech, or activity, among many other means.
Gender Identity: A person's inner sense of self as male, female, somewhere in between, or nowhere. Most people develop a gender identity that corresponds to their biological sex but many do not.
The set of roles and behaviors assigned to females and males by society. Most societies and cultures recognize two basic gender roles: masculine (having the qualities attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities attributed to females). Gender roles are learned (e.g., individuals are taught how to behave from a young age), expected (as in, individuals’ behavior is either rewarded or punished according to how closely it follows gender roles), and performed (as in, individuals do or do not fulfill the roles and requirements laid out by the gendered teachings).
Gender Queer: A term used by people who identify their gender to be somewhere on the continuum in-between male or female, or outside the binary gender system altogether. Gender queer people may prefer a gender-neutral pronoun.
Getting Read: Being detected as a person who is cross-dressed (see also “clocked”).
Heterosexual: A person who is only attracted to members of the opposite sex. This attraction can be emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or sexual (see also “straight”).
Heterosexism: The attitude that heterosexuality is the only valid or acceptable sexual orientation. Additionally, it can be bias against non-heterosexuals based on a belief in the superiority of heterosexuality. Heterosexism can be expressed by individuals, groups, policies, laws, or social norms, among others. From comments (e.g., asking a woman if she has a boyfriend) to policies (e.g., a school form that asks for “mother’s information” and “father’s information”), heterosexism assumes that heterosexuality is the norm and that it is universal.
Hir: Used in place of him/her, a new pronoun that is useful to describe an individual whose gender does not neatly fit into a particular box. May be preferred by some transgender individuals.
Homosexual: A clinical term for people who are attracted to members of the same sex. This attraction can be emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or sexual. Some gay men and lesbians find this term offensive, as homosexuality has, at some points in history, been described as a disease or illness.
Homophobia: An irrational fear of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals. It could refer to a fear or hatred of homosexuality in others or in oneself (see “internalized homophobia”).
Hormone Therapy (“HRT”): The administration of hormones to affect the development of secondary sex characteristics of the opposite assigned sex. This is a process—possibly lifelong—of using hormones to change the internal body chemistry. Androgens (testosterone) are used for female-to-males, and estrogens are used for male-to-females (sometimes called “Hormone Replacement Therapy”).
In the Closet: See "closeted”
Internalized Homophobia: Negative beliefs GLBT individuals have about being GLBT. The internalization of negative messages about one's group, negative feelings about one's self for belonging to the group, and beliefs that members of one's group should be treated badly. This often leads to self-hatred and difficulty with self-acceptance. Also, an irrational fear of breaking cultural or stereotypical gender roles.
Intersex(ed): A term used to describe individuals with disorders of sexual development (DSDs), of which there are four main types (see “disorder of sex development”). Intersexed was formerly termed hermaphroditism or pseudohermaphroditism, a term that is rarely used today, as it is considered offensive by many people with DSD.
Lesbian: A woman who is only attracted to other women. This attraction can be emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or sexual.
M2F/MTF: The shortened term for a person who is male-to-female transgender (see “male to female”).
Male-to-Female: Used to identify a person who was male bodied at birth and who identifies as female, lives as a woman, or identifies as feminine (see also “M2F/MTF”).
Men who Have Sex with Men (“MSM”): Sometimes used in research, particularly to describe men of color who may not self-identify as gay or bisexual.
Omnisexual: An individual who is attracted to those of any sex, gender, or physical makeup. This attraction can be emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or sexual (see also “pansexual”).
On the Down Low: See “down low”
Out: Description of a person who publicly acknowledges his/her sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The term can also apply to situations in which individuals reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Outing: The act of revealing a GLBT person's sexual orientation and/or gender identity without that person's consent. This act might be done intentionally or unintentionally.
Pansexual: See “omnisexual”
Passing: The ability for a person to present themselves as another gender than that which they live full-time or which they were assigned at birth.
Person of Color: An individual from Nonwhite racial groups, traditionally considered minority groups in the United States.
Post-Op: The shortened term for a person who is post-operative (see “post-operative”).
Post-Operative: Transsexuals who have had top and/or bottom surgeries and now have the physical anatomy they desire (see also “post-op”).
Presentation: The totality of one's appearance when dressing, including voice, behavior, appropriateness of clothing for the situation, etc.
Pre-Op: The shortened term for a person who is pre-operative (see “pre-operative”).
Pre-Operative: Transsexual individuals who have not undergone top and/or bottom surgeries, but are seeking the option. They may or may not cross-live full time and may or may not take hormone therapy (see also “pre-op”).
Queer: Historically, a negative term used against people perceived to be GLBT; however, it has more recently been reclaimed by some people as a positive term describing all those who do not conform to rigid notions of gender and sexuality. It is often used in a political context and in academic settings to challenge traditional ideas about identity (“queer theory”). It is also an umbrella term used by some GLBT people to refer to themselves, though some GLBT people still consider the term offensive.
Questioning: Refers to people who are uncertain as to their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are often seeking information and support during this stage of their identity development.
SRS: See “sex reassignment surgery”
Sex: See “biological sex”
Sex Reassignment Surgery: Permanent surgical refashioning of genitalia to resemble the genitalia of the desired sex. It is sought to attain congruence between one's body and one's gender identity (see also “SRS”).
Sexual Orientation: A person's attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex. This attraction can be emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or sexual. Sexual orientation includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual, among others.
Sexual Identity: This is how we perceive and what we call ourselves. Such labels include “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “bi,” “queer,” “questioning,” “heterosexual,” “straight,” and others. It evolves through a developmental process that varies depending on the individual.
Straight: See “heterosexual”
Top Surgery: A term to describe surgery "above the waist," usually either breast augmentation (for male-to-female transgender individuals) or breast reduction (for female-to-male transgender individuals). A decision to have or not have bottom surgery may depend on such factors as desire, expense, concern about complications, whether the individual is out, physical health, age, and access to medical care and information.
Transgender: Transgender is a broad term that includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens/kings, as well as people who do not identify as either of the dominant genders. Though transgender has increasingly become an umbrella term referring to people who cross gender/sex barriers, many people find any umbrella term problematic because it reduces different identities into one oversimplified category.
Transgender Community: A loose association of individuals and organizations who transgress gender norms. The central ethic of this community is unconditional acceptance of individual exercise of self-expression, particularly in the areas of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
Transgenderist: People who choose to cross-live full time, but who choose not to have Sex Reassignment Surgery. They may or may not have some surgeries, and they may or may not use hormones.
Transition: The period during which a transgender individual (usually transsexual) begins to live a new life as his/her innate (rather than assigned) gender. Also, includes the period of full-time living (also known as the “Real Life Test”) as the innate gender required before sex reassignment surgery.
Transsexuals: Individuals who do not identify with their birth-assigned genders and sometimes alter their bodies surgically and/or hormonally. The Transition (formerly called “sex change”) is a complicated, multi-step process that may take years and may include, but is not limited to, Sex Reassignment Surgery.
Transphobia: An irrational fear or hatred of transgender people. Transphobia manifests in a number of ways, ranging from avoidance of transgender individuals to violence, harassment, and discrimination, among many other forms.
Tucking: To tape one's penis and testicles back to remove the suggestion of the presence of a penis.
Two-spirited: Two-Spirit: "'Two-spirit' signifies the presence of both masculine and feminine in one person . . . . American Indian traditionalists, even in the 21st century, tend to see a person's basic character as a reflection of their spirit. Since everything that exists is thought to come from the spirit world, androgynous or transgender persons are seen as doubly blessed, having both the spirit of a man and spirit of a woman. Thus, they are honored for having two spirits and are seen as more spiritually gifted than the typical masculine male or feminine female." from the Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America (Thomson/Gale 2004)
Ze: Used in place of she/he, a new pronoun that is useful to describe an individual whose gender does not neatly fit into a particular box. May be preferred by some transgender individuals.
Definitions compiled from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC); Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Intersex Society of North America; Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG); Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League; Webster’s Medical Dictionary; and World Book Advanced.