LGBT Dictionary


Ally – Someone who advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own, reaching across differences to achieve mutual goals.

Asexual – Having no evident sex or sex organs. In usage, may refer to a person who is not sexually active, or not sexually attracted to other people.

Anarquist – A queer anarchist. Also another name for the annual Queeruption festival. See Queeruption.


Beardache – Also called “Two-Spirit”, or even one of the “third gender.” In many Native American cultures some individuals are respected and looked upon as people who are both male and female, making them more complete, more balanced than those who identify as men or women. Before those from Europe came from across the waters and took over native land, these people were part of the “norm”, connected with the very heartbeat of the life force we are all part of. Even today, beardaches are accepted in many American Indian societies and in other settings. See Intersex, Transgender.

Biological Sex – This can be considered our “packaging” and is 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, etc for females; penis, testicles, etc for males). About 1.7% of the population can be defined as intersexual—born with biological aspects of both sexes to varying degrees. So, in actuality, there are more than two sexes.

Bi – Bisexual.

Biphobia – The irrational fear and intolerance of people who are bisexual.

Birth Sex – The sex an individual is assigned at birth, determined by normalized categorize of genetic and physical characteristics.

Bisexual – Also bi. A person who is attracted to two sexes or two genders, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. This used to be defined as a person who is attracted to both genders or both sexes, but since there are not only two sexes (see intersex and transsexual) and there are not only two genders (see transgender), this definition is inaccurate.


Coming Out (of the Closet) – To be “in the closet” means to hide one’s identity. Many LGBT people are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others. To “come out” is to publicly declare one’s identity, sometimes to one person in conversation, sometimes to a group or in a public setting. Coming Out is a life-long process—in each new situation a person must decide whether or not to come out. Coming out can be difficult for some because reactions vary from complete acceptance and support to disapproval, rejection and violence.

Cross-Dress – To wear the

Cross-Dresser – A person who cross dresses.


Drag – The act of dressing in gendered clothing as part of a performance. Drag Queens perform in highly feminine attire. Drag Kings perform in highly masculine attire. Drag may be performed as a political comment on gender, as parody or simply as entertainment. Drag performance does not indicate sexuality, gender identity, or sex identity.

Drag Queen or Drag King – See Drag.


En Travesti – (literally “cross-dressed”) was the conventional theatrical portrayal of women by male actors in drag. Up to the late 17th Century this was necessary because the law considered performance on stage by actual women to engender immorality.


Family – Colloquial term used to identify other LGBTIQ community members. For example, an LGBTIQ person saying, “that person is family” often means that the person they are referring to is LGBTIQ as well.

Family of Choice (Chosen Family) – Persons or group of people can individual sees as significant in his or her life. It may include none, all, or some members of his or her family of origin. In addition, it may include individuals such as significant others, domestic partners, friends, and coworkers.

FTM – Female to Male Transsexual. See Transsexual, MTF.


Gay – A term given to males who are attracted sexually and emotionally to some other males. Colloquially used as an umbrella term to include all LGBTQQI persons.


1) A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and feminity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. Words that refer to gender include: man, woman, transgender, masculine, feminine, and gender queer.

2) One’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia. Gender is often conflated with sex. This is inaccurate because sex refers to bodies and gender refers to personality characteristics.

Gender Binary – The notion that everyone in our world is exclusively either male or female. Today we recognize that people exist outside of this binary, with the transgendered and intersexual included. This is commonly the basis for which transgendered and intersexual persons become the victim of Genderism (see below).

Genderism – Holding people to traditional expectations based on gender, or punishing or excluding those who don’t conform to traditional gender expectations.

Gender Conformity – When your gender identity and sex “match” (i.e. fit social norms). For example, a male who is masculine and identifies as a man.

Gender Identity:

1) The gender that a person sees oneself as. This can include refusing to label oneself with a gender. Gender identity is also often conflated with sexual orientation, but this is inaccurate. Gender identity does not cause sexual orientation. For example, a masculine woman is not necessarily a lesbian.

2) Our innermost concept of self as “male” or “female”—what we perceive and call ourselves. Individuals are conscious of this between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Most people develop a gender identity that matches their biological sex. For some, however, their gender identity is different from their biological sex. We sometimes call these people transsexuals, some of whom hormonally and/or surgically change their sex to more fully match their gender identity.

Gender Expression – Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, and emphasizing, de-emphasizing, or changing their bodies’ characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex. Gender expression is not necessarily an indication of sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Disorder – The term used for a condition defined in the DSM4 by the American Psychiatric Association.

Gender Queer (or Genderqueer) – A person who redefines or plays with their gender, or who refuses gender altogether. A label for people who bend/break the rules of gender and blur the boundaries.

Gender Role:

1) Socially defines expectations regarding behavior, mannerisms, dress, etc. as related to socially assigned gender.

2) How “masculine” or “feminine” an individual acts. Societies commonly have norms regarding how males and females should behave, expecting people to have personality characteristics and/or act a certain way based on their biological sex.

3) This is the set of roles and behaviors assigned to females and males by society. Our culture recognizes two basic gender roles: masculine (having the qualities attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities attributed to females). People who step out of their socially assigned gender roles are sometimes referred to as transgender. 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.

Gender-variant / Gender Non-conforming – Displaying gender traits that are not normally associated with their biological sex. “Feminine” behavior or appearance in a male is gender-variant as is “masculine” behavior or appearance in a female. Gender variant behavior is culturally specific, in that it

GLBT – Standing for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered, this is a variant of LGBT. See LGBT.

GLBTQQI – Standing for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex, this is a variant of LGBT. See LGBT.

GLBTA – Standing for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Allied, this is a variant of LGBT. See LGBT.


Hermaphrodite – A colloquial term used to refer to a person who is intersexed. It is generally no longer considered an acceptable term and is considered offensive by many. See Intersex

Hate Crime – Hate crime legislation often defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.

Heterosexuality – Sexual, emotional and/or romantic attraction to a sex other than your own. Commonly though of as “attraction to the opposite sex” but since there are not only two sexes (see intersex and transsexual), this definition is inaccurate.


1) Assuming every person to be heterosexual therefore marginalizing persons who do not identify as heterosexual.

2) Bias against non-heterosexuals based on a belief in the superiority of heterosexuality. Heterosexism does not imply the same fear and hatred as homophobia. It can describe seemingly innocent statements, such as “She’d drive any man wild” based on the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm.

Heterosexual Privilege – Benefits derived automatically by being (or being perceived as) heterosexual that are denied to homosexuals, bisexuals or queers.

Homophobia – Refers to a fear or hatred of homosexuality, especially in others, but also in oneself (internalized homophobia).

Homosexuality – Sexual, emotional, and/or romantic attraction to the same sex.


Institutional Oppression – Arrangement of a society used to benefit one group at the expense of another through the use of language, media education, religion, economics, etc.

Internalized Oppression – The process by which an oppressed person comes to believe, accept, or live out the inaccurate stereotypes and misinformation about their group.

Intersex/Intersexed/Intersexual/Intersexuality – Intersexuality is a set of medical conditions that feature congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. That is, intersexual people are born with “sex chromosomes,” external genitalia, or internal reproductive systems that are not considered “standard” for either male or female. The existence of intersexuals shows that there are not just two sexes and that our ways of thinking about sex (trying to force everyone to fit into either the male box or the female box) is socially constructed.

An intersexual or intersexed person (or animal of any unisexual species) is one who is born with genitalia and/or secondary sexual characteristics determined as neither exclusively male nor female, or which combine features of the male and female sexes. (The terms hermaphrodite and pseudohermaphrodite, which have been used in the past, are now considered pejorative and inaccurate and are no longer used to refer to an intersexual person.) Sometimes the phrase “ambiguous genitalia” is used. See Beardache

“In The Closet”– Keeping one’s sexual orientation and/or gender or sex identity a secret. See Coming Out.

Invisible Minority – A group whose minority status is not always immediately visible, such as some disabled people and LGBTQQI people. This lack of visibility may make organizing for rights difficult.


La Di Dah – Another name for the annual Queeruption festival. See Queeruption.

Lambda – The Gay Activist Alliance originally chose the lambda, the Greek Letter “L”, as a symbol in 1970. Organizer chose the letter “L” to signify liberation. The word has become a way of expressing the concept “lesbian and gay male” in a minimum of syllables and has been adopted by such organizations as Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Legal Sex – The sex assigned on an individual’s legal documentation.

Lesbian – A term given to females who are attracted sexually and emotionally to some other females.

LGBT – Standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, this term typically tries to encompass all the members of queer society. There are many variations of this term including GLBT, LGBTA, LGBTQ, LGBTQA, LGBTQI, LGBTQQIA, and perhaps more.

LGBTA – Standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and straight Allies, this is a variant of LGBT. See LGBT.

LGBTQ – Standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning, this is a variant of LGBT. See LGBT.

LGBTQI – Standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning and Intersex, this is a variant of LGBT. See LGBT.

LGBTQQIA – Standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and straight Allies, this variant of LGBT is probably the most inclusive term for a member of queer society, but is often shortened. Shorter variants such as LGBT also imply inclusion of all these queer types. See LGBT.


Marginalized – Excluded, ignored, or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community.

Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) – Men who engage in same-sex behavior, but who may not necessarily self-identify as gay.

MTF – Male to Female Transsexual.


On “E” – When a MTF takes the hormone estrogen.

On “T” – When a FTM takes the hormone testosterone.

“Out” or “Out of the Closet” – Refers to varying degrees of being open about one’s sexual orientation and /or sex identity or gender identity.


Pansexual – 1) A person who is fluid in sexual orientation and/or gender or sex identity. 2) A person who is attracted to all of the sexes and/or genders, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. This is different from bisexual since bi- implies our world consists of a gender binary (that everyone is exclusively male and female), which is not really true since some people are transgendered or intersexual.

PFLAG – PFLAG stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It is a national organization which has become widespread and today has several thousand chapters in every locale imaginable. See their website located in Resources & Links for more information.

Polyamory – Polyamory is the practice of having multiple open, honest committed/love relations.

Pseudohermaphrodite – A colloquial term used to refer to a person who is intersexual. It is generally no longer considered an acceptable term and is considered offensive by many. See Intersex


Queer – Historically a negative term used against people perceived to be LGBT, “queer” 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. Queer is often used in a political context and in academic settings to challenge traditional ideas about identity (“queer theory”).

Queercore – a cultural and social movement which arose in the mid 1980s. It is distinguished by discontent with society in general and a disavowal of the mainstream gay and lesbian community in particular, expressing itself through zines, music, art and film.

Queeruption – an annual international Queercore festival and gathering where alternative/radical/disenfranchised queers can exchange information, network, organize, inspire and get inspired, self represent, and challenge mainstream society with DIY ideas and ethics. Shows featuring queer punk bands, performance artists, and others are put on at night, while workshops and demonstrations take place during Queeruption days. Queeruption generally takes place in a different city in a different country every year. Click here for the Official Queeruption Website. Queeruption has also been called Anarquist, La Di Dah, and Queer Mutiny.

Queer Mutiny – Another name for the annual Queeruption festival. See Querruption.

Queer Society – Historically a negative term used against people perceived to be LGBT, “queer” has more

Queer Studies – Queer studies is the study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. In some universities, the field is called sexual diversity studies.

Queer Theory – Queer Theory is an anti-essentialist theory about sex and gender within the larger field of Queer studies. It proposes that one’s sexual identity and one’s gender identity are partly or wholly socially constructed, and therefore individuals cannot really be described using broad terms like “homosexual,” “heterosexual,” “man,” or “woman.” It challenges the common practice of compartmentalizing the description of a person to fit into one particular category.

In particular, it questions the use of socially assigned categories based on the division between those who share some habit or lifestyle and those who do not. Instead, queer theorists suggest complicating all identity categories and groups.

Additionally, queer theory also analyzes the “queer” aspects of a humanist work (such as in literature, music, art, etc.) that are not necessarily sexual. In this regard, “queer” is used to mean “strange” or “different” in the sense that a particular work does not fit within the general rules of a particular genre or category, yet is still classified as being a part of that genre or category.

Influences on queer theory include (among others) Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde, Monique Wittig, Jonathan D. Katz, Ester Newton, Andy Warhol, Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, and Jacques Derrida, but the primary voices in the development of Queer theory are Gayle Rubin, Kaja Silverman, D.A. Miller, Sue-Ellen Case, Douglas Crimp, Lauren Berlant, John D’Emilio, Lee Edelman, Michel Foucault, Joan Scott, Simon Watney, Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Jonathan Dollimore, Leo Bersani, David Halperin, Michael Moon, Michael Warner, Shari Thurer and several others.

Check Wikipedia’s page on Queer Theory for more information.

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.


Sex Reassignment Surgery – This is the medical procedure

Sexual Diversity Studies – Queer studies is the study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. In some universities, the field is called sexual diversity studies.

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. Sexual Identity evolves through a developmental process that varies depending on the individual. Our sexual behavior and how we define ourselves (identity) can be chosen. Though some people claim their sexual orientation is also a choice, for others this does not seem to be the case.

Sexual Orientation – This is determined by our sexual and emotional attractions. Categories of sexual orientation include homosexuals—gay, lesbian—attracted to some members of the same sex; bisexuals, attracted to some members of more than one sex; and heterosexuals, attracted to some members of another sex. Orientation is influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics and hormones, as well as unknown environmental factors. Though the origins of sexuality are not completely understood, it is generally believed to be established before the age of five.

Straight Ally – A person who does not self-identify as LGBT, but who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people.


Transgender(ed) – Refers to those whose gender expression at least sometimes runs contrary to what others in the same culture would normally expect. Transgender is a broad term that includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens/kings, and people who do not identify as either of the two sexes as currently defined. When referring to transgender people, use the pronoun they have designated as appropriate, or the one that is consistent with their presentation of themselves. See Transphobia, cross dress, drag queen, drag king, transsexual.

Transman/Transguy – A transgendered man, meaning a person of the male gender who was not always male gendered.

Transwoman/Transgirl – A transgendered woman, meaning a person of the female gender who was not always female gendered.

Transphobia – Fear or hatred of transgender people; transphobia is manifested in a number of ways, including violence, harassment, and discrimination.

Transsexual – 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.


Ze – a genderless pronoun. Typically used to refer to an intersexual or transgender person, but can be used to refer to absolutely anyone.

Some definitions adapted from Warren J. Blumenfeld, co-author of “Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life” and “Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price”; and “Translating Identities” by Chicora Martin, University of Oregon 2005.