LBGTQA+ Terminology

LGBTQ words


Within the LGBTQ community, there are many terminologies that are used to explain a person’s gender identity, sexual orientation gender expression and much more. Below are a few terms often used in the LGBTQ Community. Those in BOLD and with an asterisk are deemed offensive to the LGBTQA+ community. List is adapted from Montclair State University: 



A/Ace: Abbreviation of “asexual”. Often used to refer to asexual people in a similar manner as “gay” or “straight” are used to refer to homorsexual or heterosexual people.

Ace Spectrum: The grouping of asexual, demi-sexual, and gray-asexual under a single umbrella of related sexual orientation.

AFAB: Abbreviation for “assigned female at birth”.

Agender: A person without gender. An a-gender individual's body does not necessarily correspond with their lack of gender identify. Often, a-gender individuals are not concerned with their physical sex, but some may seek to look androgynous.

Ally: A person who supports and respects sexual diversity, acts accordingly to challenge homophobic and heterosexist remarks and behaviors and is willing to explore and understand these forms of biases within themselves.

AMAB: Abbreviation for “assigned male at birth”

Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction towards other people, and who identifies as asexual. May or may not experience romantic, emotional or physical attractions to other people.



Bear: A gay or bisexual man who has facial/ body hair and a cuddly body.

Bicurious: An individual who identifies as gay or straight while showing curiosity for a relationship or sexual activity with a  person of the sex they do not favor. Related terms are heteroflexible, homoflexible.

Bisexual:  A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to both men and women, or someone who identifies as a member of the bisexual community.

Butch* : Sometimes used as a derogatory term for lesbians. A person who identifies as masculine, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally.



Cisgender: A person whose biological sex matches with their gender identity. Example: A biologically born woman who identifies as a woman

Cissexism:  Norms and behaviors that stem from the belief that all people are or should be cisgender. This system of oppression creates the assumption that being cisgender is normal and negates transgender individuals’ lives.

Coming Out: The process  of recognizing, accepting, and sharing with themselves or other’s one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Cross-dresser* : Individual who dresses the “opposite” gender clothing for a variety of reasons. Sometimes used as a derogatory term and is similar to the word transvestite.

Cub: a young or younger looking version of a bear with a smaller frame.



Demi-sexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction unless that have a strong emotional connection (such as  romantic relationship or deep friendship). Demisexuality is a innate orientation.

Dolphin: A slender, athletic, hairless bear.

Down-low: Men who identify as straight but have sex with men on the side without disclosing this to their female partner(s) (if any). Sometimes referred to as “on the DL”.

Drag King: A female bodied individual who dresses in masculine/ male- designated clothing.

Drag Queen: A male bodied individual who dresses in feminine/ female- designated clothing.

Dyke* : Derogatory term used to refer to masculine lesbian. Sometimes adopted affirmatively by lesbians (not necessarily masculine ones)



Faggot/ Fag*: Derogatory term referring to someone perceived as non-heteronormative. Sometimes adopted affirmatively by gay men to refer to themselves.

Fluid: A sexual/ gender identity that exists beyond a binary of either straight or gay, man or woman. People with fluid identity may resist using labels or choosing boxes to define themselves used to define themselves.

FTM: An abbreviation for a female-to-male transgender individual.



Gay: At times, “gay” is used to refer to all people, regardless of sex, who have their primary sexual and romantic attractions to people of the same sex. The term can also exclusively refer to men who are emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to other men or who identify as a member of the gay community. Lesbians, isexuals and transgender individuals may feel excluded by the term “gay”.

Gender Binary: The division of gender separated into two distinct and opposite categories (man and woman). It is recognized as a construct, as there are many identities in-between and outside of these categories.

Gender Expression:  An individual’s physical characteristics, behaviors and presentation that are linked traditionally, to either masculinity or femininity, such as: appearance, dress, mannerisms, social interactions, etc.

Gender Identity: How one perceives oneself- as a man, woman or otherwise.

Gender Role:  Norms of expected behavior for men and women assigned primarily on the basis of the biological sex; a sociological construct which varies from culture to culture.


Hermaphrodite* : An outdated and derogatory term for an intersex person.

Heteronormativity: The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality and bisexuality

Heterosexism: Norms and  behaviors that result from the assumption that all people are or should be htereosexual. The system of  oppression assumes that heterosexuality is inherently normal and superior and negates LGBTQ peoples’ lives and relationship.

Heterosexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to members of the opposite sex. Often called a straight person.

Heterosexual Privilege:  The benefits and advantages that heterosexuals receive in a heterosexist culture. Also, the benefits that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming their sexual orientation as heterosexual and denying a lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity.

Homophobia: Fear of, hatred, or discomfort with those that love and are sexually attracted to the same as.Homophobic reactions often lead to intolerance, bigotry, and violence against anyone not acting  within socio-cultural norms of heterosexuality Most LGBTQ people raised in the same society as heterosexuals, therefore feel shame, guilt, or hatred towards the part of themselves identified as LGBTQ which is called internalized homophobia.

Homosexual*: The clinical term, coined in the field of psychology, for people with a same-sex sexual attraction. The word is often associated with the idea that same-sex attractions are a mental disorder, and is therefore potentially offensive to some people.


Intersex: Term used for a variety of medical conditions in which a person is born with chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sexual characteristics that are inconsistent with the typical definition of a male or female body. Intersex individuals are not always aware that they have this condition. Replaces the inaccurate term “hermaphrodite.”


Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to other women, or someone who identifies as a member of the lesbian community. Bisexual women may or may not feel included by this term.

LGBTQ: 1. A common abbreviation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community. The acronym is used as an umbrella term when talking about non-heterosexual and noncisgender identities, and does not always reflect members of the community. The acronym may be expanded to LGBTQIA to include intersex individuals, and allies/asexual, or shortened to LGBQ when only discussing sexual orientation. 2. A descriptive adjective (ex. “I am an LGBTQ individual”).

Lifestyle: A word often used outside the LGBTQ community to describe life as an LGBTQ person, e.g. “the homosexual lifestyle.” Many people find this word inappropriate because it trivializes identity, implies that sexual orientation is a choice, and ignores the variety of lifestyles that LGBTQ people live.

Lipstick Lesbian*: Usually refers to a lesbian with a feminine gender expression. Can be used in a positive or a derogatory way, depending on who is using it. Is sometimes also used to refer to a lesbian who is seen as automatically passing for heterosexual.


MSM: An abbreviation for men who have sex with men. This term emphasizes the behavior, rather than the identities of the individuals involved.

MTF: An abbreviation for a male-to-female transgender individual. This person most likely uses feminine pronouns.


Neutrois: A person who is not normally internally gendered.


Outing: When someone discloses information about another’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their knowledge and/or consent.


Pansexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to people regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. Use of the term usually signals a repudiation of the concept of binary (two) sexes (a concept sometimes implied by “bisexual”).

Polyamorous: A person who finds themselves romantically, physically, and/or sexually attracted to multiple individuals, and finds that pursuing multiple relationships is the most satisfying course of action in their lives.


Queer*: Term describing people who have a non-normative gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual anatomy—includes lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people and allies. Since the term is sometimes used as a slur, it has a negative connotation for some LGBTQ people; however, others have reclaimed it and are comfortable using it to describe themselves.

Questioning: The process of examining one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Can be used as an adjective.


Same-Gender Loving (SGL): A term used by some African-American individuals to describe their sexual orientation, as a result of the perception that “gay” and “lesbian” are primarily white terms. “Same-sex loving” is also in use.

Sex: 1. A biological term dividing a species into male or female, usually on the basis of sex chromosomes (XX = female, XY = male); hormone levels, secondary sex characteristics, and internal and external genitalia may also be considered criteria. 2. Another term for sexual behavior or gratification. Sex is a biological fact or a physical act.

Sexual Orientation: A person’s emotional, physical, and sexual attraction to other people and the expression of that attraction.

Sexuality: The complex range of components which make us sexual beings; includes emotional, physical, and sexual aspects, as well as self-identification (including sexual orientation and gender), behavioral preferences and practices, fantasies, and feelings of affection and emotional affinity.

Shemale*: A derogatory term used to describe transgender/ transsexual, intersex, or gender nonconforming people that refuses to acknowledge the person’s gender.

Stereotype: An oversimplified generalization about a group of people without regard for their individual differences. Some stereotypes can be positive, however, they can have a negative impact, simply because they involve broad generalizations that ignore individual realities.

Stud: An African-American and/or Latina masculine lesbian. Also known as ‘butch,’ ‘aggressive,’ or ‘ag.’


Transgender: An umbrella term for those individuals whose gender identity does not match with that assigned for their physical sex. Includes, among others, transmen, transwomen, genderqueer people, crossdressers, and drag queens/kings. In its general sense, it refers to anyone whose behavior or identity falls outside of stereotypical expectations for their gender. Transgender people may identify as straight, gay, bisexual, or some other sexual orientation. Sometimes shortened as trans.

Transphobia: Fear of, hatred of, or discomfort with people who are transgender or otherwise gender non-normative.

Transsexual*: A term sometimes perceived to be outdated or offensive referring to a person whose gender identity consistently differs from what is culturally associated with his/her biological sex at birth. The terms “transman” and “transwoman” are more commonly used.

Transvestite*: A dated term referring to someone who dresses in clothing generally identified with the opposite gender/sex. (For a preferred term see: Cross-dressing)

Two-Spirit: A Native American term for people who blend the masculine and the feminine. It is commonly used to describe individuals who historically crossed gender. It is also often used by contemporary LGBTQ Native American people to describe themselves.


WSW: An abbreviation for women who have sex with women. This term emphasizes the behavior, rather than the identities of the individuals involved.


Ze/Hir: A gender-neutral pronoun used by some transgender individuals (Pronounced Zee) in lieu of he or she. The possessive adjective “hir” (pronounced here) usually follows in place of his or her. Some individuals may use other gender-neutral pronouns.

* Words indicated with an asterisk in bold are considered derogatory

-Adapted from Montclair State University Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender , Queen Center