Terms and Definitions

There are many terms and definitions that we might use during our programs, events, workshops, and trainings. Below are some of our frequently used terminology and how we use these terms. For more terms related to LGBTQ2+ identities, see the Human Rights Campaign glossary or PFLAG's national glossary of terms

Feminism

The general ideology and belief in the social, political, and economic equality and equity amongst sex and gender identities. In the most simplistic way of describing this ideal, feminism is the work toward equal rights and opportunities for all people. 

Femininity

The traits, characteristics, and behaviors that are associated with women, womanhood, and feminine-aligned people. These experiences often differ by culture and society; in our society, any and all genders could identify with some aspect(s) of femininity. 

Masculinity

The traits, characteristics, and behaviors that are associated with men, manhood, and masculine-aligned people. These experiences often differ by culture and society; in our society, any and all genders could identify with some aspect(s) of masculinity. 

LGBTQ2+

An initialism of the words Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and TwoSpirit used to refer to the larger community of minoritized gender and sexual identities. Another form of the initialism that folx may typically come across is LGBTQ2IAP+. Some of these letters have multiple meanings -- please see below for order and understanding of what identities these letters reference within the broader community. 

Lesbian

A woman who is attracted to women.

Gay

A person who is attracted to people of the same/similar gender as their own -- this term is most often used in reference to a man who is attracted to men. Historically, gay has been used as an umbrella term to include all LGBTQ2+ people, though it is now more appropriate to use the initialism LGBTQ2+. 

Bisexual

A person who experiences sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to two or more genders. As there are more than only two sexes and two genders, some individuals explain bisexuality as being an attraction to people of similar and different genders from their own. 

Transgender

The experience of a person whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth and that sex's assigned gender. Applied in a broad sense, this experience can also encompass nonbinary identities. 

Queer

A term for people of marginalized gender identities and sexual orientations who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. This term is somewhat purposefully ambiguous, as folx may use it to describe either their gender and/or their attractions toward others. Since queer is also a reclaimed slur that many people may still be uncomfortable with using, the best way to use this term is to be person-specific and use the term in reference to people who describe their identity this way. 

Questioning

A term often used to describe the process of exploring and figuring out one's sexual, romantic, and/or gender identity. This process varies from person to person, so someone could be questioning and exploring their identity for a short time, a long time, or experience various points of figuring out their identity. Someone may choose to use questioning as an identity label and/or way to recognize that they are continuously questioning and moving through aspects of learning more about their identity/identities. 

TwoSpirit

An identity within some First Nations’ and Native American communities that describes an Indigenous person who has two spiritual energies – that of male and female. This identity can be based in gender identity, sexual orientation, or role(s) held within that person’s community. Regarding use of the term TwoSpirit, it is important for individuals to use this term only for folx who use it for themselves, to not assign this identity to others, and especially for non-Native individuals to not use this term in reference to their own personal identity. 

Intersex

A term used to describe an individual whose primary and secondary sex characteristics do not align with what is typically read as "female" or "male." Intersex people still have gender identities and sexual orientations, which may or may not be LGBTQ2+. It is also important to know that being intersex does not render someone LGBTQ2+ identifying, and many intersex activists have advocated against the use of intersex conditions as "proof" that gender identity is socially constructed.  

Asexual

A sexual orientation used to describe a person who experiences a lack of sexual attraction. This identity is on a spectrum, and can be described as having little, low, or no desire for sexual activity with others. 

Aromantic

A romantic orientation used to describe a person who experiences a lack of romantic attraction. This identity is on a spectrum, and can be described as having little, low, or no desire for romantic connection with others. 

Pansexual

A person who experiences sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction towards other people regardless of their assigned sex or gender identity. 

Plus (+)

The symbol included at the end of the LGBTQ2+ community initialism to hold space for other identities and experiences not specifically named. There are numerous minoritized sexual and gender identities, as well as third-gender/multiple gender identities within other cultures, who may find themselves to be a part of the LGBTQ2+ community. 

 

Other terms to be aware of

Folx 

A different way of spelling folk and folks that is meant to be more gender-inclusive of all people. Use of this spelling is also usually in recognition of marginalized identities and their intersecting experiences.    

Ally 

Someone who advocates for and supports a community other than their own. Allies are not a part of the communities they help, and a person should not self-identify as an ally but show that they are one through action. 

Cisgender 

The experience of a person whose gender identity aligns with their assigned sex at birth and that sex's assigned gender. 

Gender Identity 

A person's innermost concept of self as being a woman, man, a blend of both, or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth and that sex's assigned gender. 

Gender Expression 

The manner in which a person outwardly communicates their gender to others through external means such as clothing, appearance, or mannerisms. An individual’s gender expression does not automatically imply one’s gender identity, and individual gender expression can vary from person to person.

Sex 

The assignment and classification of people as female, male, intersex, or another sex, often determined based on physical anatomy at or before birth. 

Nonbinary  

A term describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a woman or a man. Nonbinary people may identify as being both a woman and a man, somewhere in between, or as having a gender identity completely outside of these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all nonbinary people do.  

Chosen Name

A chosen name – sometimes also referred to as a lived name – is the name an individual chooses to use for themself and the name by which others should use for them. Someone's chosen/lived name might be different from their legal name, and should be respected and used appropriately when speaking to or about them. The terminology of chosen/lived name is often used only to differentiate between the name a person uses and their legal name; in daily interactions, simply just ask a person what their name is. 

Pronouns 

A pronoun, also referred to as a personal gender pronoun or proper gender pronoun, is the way that an individual personally refers to themself and how others should refer to them when talking to or about that individual. Some examples of pronouns are she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, and ze/zir/zirs. People may use one set of pronouns or multiple sets of pronouns in reference to themselves.