Admittedly, many people refrain from talking about sexual orientation and gender expression identity because it feels taboo, or because they’re afraid of saying the wrong things. In addition, heteronormativity, sadly, is still very much prevalent in today’s society.
Here is a list of common terms related to the LGBTQI community. When reading this list, please keep in mind that:
- Not all members of the LGBTQI community may agree with all of these definitions;
- Many terms and definitions are ever-evolving and changing. We will try our best to update this list to keep up with changing language.
- There are many terms not included on this list (click here for a more comprehensive glossary) – we have only included terms we feel are used more frequently.
- The list provided is simply intended as a starting point for discussion and understanding.
We hope that this list will help you understand the appropriate terms and semantics to communicate more effectively and respectfully.
Common LGBTQI Terminology
Asexual — Person who is not sexually attracted to anyone or does not have a sexual orientation.
Bigendered — A person whose gender identity is a combination of male/man and female/woman.
Bisexual — A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to males/men and females/women. This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders and there may be a preference for one gender over others.
Cisgender – describes someone who feels comfortable with the gender identity and gender expression expectations assigned to them based on their physical sex.
Gay — 1. Term used in some cultural settings to represent males who are attracted to males in a romantic, erotic and/or emotional sense. Not all men who engage in “homosexual behavior” identify as gay, and as such this label should be used with caution. 2. Term used to refer to the LGBTQI community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.
Gender Expression — How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, etc.
Gender Identity — A person’s internal sense of being masculine, feminine, or other gendered, which may or may not be visible to others.
Genderqueer — A person whose gender identity is neither male nor female, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders.
Heteronormativity — The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality and bisexuality.
Heterosexual Privilege —Those benefits derived automatically by being heterosexual (straight) that are denied to homosexuals and bisexuals. Also, the benefits homosexuals and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming heterosexual identity or denying homosexual or bisexual identity.
Homophobia — The irrational fear or hatred of homosexuals, homosexuality, or any behavior or belief that does not conform to rigid sex role stereotypes. It is this fear that enforces sexism as well as heterosexism.
Homosexual — A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex
Intersex — People who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome patterns that do not seem to fit typical definitions of male or female. Also known as differences of sex development.
Lesbian — Term used to describe female-identified people attracted romantically, erotically, and/or emotionally to other female-identified people. The term lesbian is derived from the name of the Greek island of Lesbos and as such is sometimes considered a Eurocentric category that does not necessarily represent the identities of African-Americans and other non-European ethnic groups.
LGBTQI — A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community.
Pansexual — A person who is sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions.
Queer — An umbrella term that includes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transpeople, intersex persons, and radical sex communities. This term is sometimes used instead of ‘bisexual’ as a way of acknowledging that there are more than two genders to be attracted to. For decades ‘queer’ was used solely as a slur for gays and lesbians, but was reclaimed by activists as a term of self-identification. However, some still hold ‘queer’ to have a negative connotation, and its use by heterosexuals is often considered offensive.
Sex Identity – How a person identifies physically: female, male, in between, beyond, or neither.
Sexual Orientation – The desire for intimate emotional and/or sexual relationships with people of the same gender/sex, another gender/sex, or multiple genders/sexes.
Transgender – An individual whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. The term “trans” is often used as shorthand. Note: the terms “transgenders” or “transsexuals” are often viewed as disrespectful
Transphobia – The irrational fear of those who are gender variant and/or the inability to deal with gender ambiguity.
Source: Amnesty International