Many people refrain from talking about sexual orientation and gender expression identity because they’re afraid of “saying the wrong thing”. The purpose of this glossary is to provide a guide to the evolving terminology used by the LGBTQ+ community. If you have any additions, questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch.
Please refer to this guide while remaining mindful that every experience is unique to the individual and it is important to respect each person’s experience and preferred terminology. It's always better to make an effort than to hold back out of uncertainty!
Ally | A person who is not LGBTQ but shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.
Agender | A person who identifies as no gender or genderless.
Androgyne | Identifying and/or presenting as having both masculine and feminine qualities.
Androgynous | Identifying and/or presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine.
Asexual | A person who does not experience sexual attraction or desire for other people.
Biphobia | Prejudice, fear or hatred directed toward bisexual people.
Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to men and women.
Cisgender | A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with that typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Closeted | Describes an LGBTQ person who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Coming out | The process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates his or her sexual orientation or gender identity and begins to share that with others.
Crossdresser | A person who wears clothing, accessories, jewellery or make-up not traditionally or stereotypically associated with their assigned sex. People who cross-dress do not necessarily identify as transgender. An individual may prefer the term transvestite.
Drag Queen / King | A person who performs, dresses or presents in a stereotypically feminine or masculine role – sometimes for entertainment purposes.
Gay | A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.
Gender dysphoria | (Clinical term) Significant distress caused when a person’s assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term – which replaces Gender Identity Disorder – “is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults.”
Gender-expansive | Conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system.
Gender expression | External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.
Gender-fluid | According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a person who does not identify with a single fixed gender; of or relating to a person having or expressing a fluid or unfixed gender identity.
Gender identity | One’s innermost identification as male, female, 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.
Gender non-conforming | A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category.
Genderqueer | Genderqueer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as “genderqueer” may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categories.
Gender transition | The process by which some people strive to more closely align their internal knowledge of gender with its outward appearance. Some people socially transition, whereby they might begin dressing, using names and pronouns and/or be socially recognized as another gender. Others undergo physical transitions in which they modify their bodies through medical interventions.
Heterosexual | Emotional, romantic or sexual attraction exclusively to the opposite sex.
Heteronormativity / Heterosexism | A viewpoint that expresses heterosexuality as the default state of human being instead of being one of many possibilities.
Homophobia | The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are attracted to members of the same sex.
Intersex | An umbrella term used to describe people whose sex characteristics are not either all typically male or all typically female at birth.
Lesbian | A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women.
LGBTQ | An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning.”
Non-binary | An umbrella term to describe gender identities that are outside of the gender binary of “man” or “woman”. An individual whose identity is neither female nor male, may be both, neither or a different gender identity altogether. Non-binary people may describe themselves as: gender fluid, gender queer, gender variant, agender, genderless or something else.
Outing | Exposing someone’s lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety or religious or family situations.
Pansexual | A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to all sexes and gender identities.
Queer | An inclusive term people often use to express fluid identities and orientations.
Questioning | A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sex | The designation of a person at birth as male or female usually based on their anatomy or biology.
Sexual orientation | An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.
Trans man | A person who was assigned female at birth but who identifies as a man/male.
Trans woman | A person who was assigned male at birth but identifies as a woman/female.
Transgender | An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation.
Transitioning | The process through which some trans people begin to outwardly live as the gender with which they identify, rather than the one assigned at birth.
Transsexual | A term historically assigned to people whose gender identity is “opposite” to the sex assigned to them at birth. Now largely rejected by the trans community as a misnomer as the individual’s experience is related to gender identity and not sexuality. Further, the term suggests a binary view of gender.
Transphobia | The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with those who transgress societal gender expectations and norms. Includes institutionalized forms of discrimination such as criminalization, pathologization, or stigmatization of non-conforming gender identities and gender expressions.
Transvestite | See Crossdresser.