The ABCs of LGBTQ+: A Glossary of Terms
Language is constantly shifting to help people better understand the world around them. This includes providing new words and definitions to help people better describe themselves and their experiences.
Below please find a list of simple definitions for terms related to the LGBTQ+ community. This list is by no means comprehensive and is intended as a simple reference tool, especially for people new to these terms.
It is very important to note that this list centers mostly on identities. We have done our best to use broad meanings for each term, but as we’re dealing with how someone describes themselves and their own experiences, not every definition will work perfectly for everyone who uses it.
We will revise, expand, and augment this list as time goes on, and, as always, welcome your feedback.
Agender: A person whose internal sense does not identify with having a specific gender. People who identify as ‘agender’ may also call themselves ‘genderfree’, ‘genderless’, or ‘gender neutral’, among other terms. Gender identity can be independent of physical appearance or outward presentation.
Ally: A person who supports and respects all of the identities within the LGBTQ+ community. While generally used to describe someone who is straight and cisgender, an ‘ally’ can also include an individual whose personal identity falls under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. For example: a cis-gendered person who identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual supporting the rights of the transgender community.
Asexual: A person who experiences little to no sexual attraction for other people independent of gender.
Bigender: A person whose identity is represented by two genders, such as male and female. Gender identity can be independent of physical appearance or outward presentation.
BIPOC: Acronym for ‘Black, Indigenous, and People of Color’. Has widely replaced the umbrella term ‘People of Color’.
Biphobia: The fear, hatred, or erasure of bisexual people.
Bisexual: A person who is sexually attracted to multiple genders, including both men and women.
Cisgender: A person whose personal gender identity corresponds to the physical gender attributes they were identified or “assigned” as having at birth. Sometimes shortened to ‘cis’. Gender identity can be independent of physical appearance or outward presentation.
Coming Out: A metaphor within the LGBTQ+ community used to describe the self-disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity. Also known as ‘coming out of the closet’.
Demisexual: A person who experiences sexual attraction only after developing an emotional connection or bond. Demisexuality is independent of sexual orientation e.g. gay, straight, bisexual, etc.
Drag King: A person—often either a self-identified cis-woman or transgender man—who personifies male gender stereotypes through performance art (e.g. singing, dancing, lip-syncing, acting, etc).
Drag Queen: A person—often either a self-identified cis-man or transgender woman—who personifies female gender stereotypes through performance art (e.g. singing, dancing, lip-syncing, acting, etc).
FtM/F2M: Shorthand for “female to male”, usually related to the transition process of a
Gay: A person attracted more or less exclusively to people of the same gender.
Gender Dysphoria: A condition wherein someone feels a disconnect between their personal gender identity and the gender they were assigned at birth.
Gender Identity: A person’s personal sense and definition of their own gender. Can include ‘cisgender’, ‘transgender’, ‘non-binary’, or any related identities.
Gender Non-Conforming: A person whose personality attributes, behavior, physical appearance, or outward presentation doesn’t conform to traditional cultural or social gender expectations.
Genderfluid: A person without a fixed gender who experiences changes or shifts in personal gender identity on a fairly consistent basis. Gender identity can be independent of physical appearance or outward presentation.
Genderqueer: A person who identifies outside the binary spectrum of man or woman. Gender identity can be independent of physical appearance or outward presentation.
GSM: Shorthand for “gender and sexual minority”. This is an umbrella term used to replace LGBTQ+ in some circles.
Heterosexual: A person whose sexual orientation is defined by being more or less exclusively attracted to the opposite gender.
Homophobia: Hatred or fear of people who identify as gay or lesbian.
Homosexual: A person whose sexual orientation is defined by being attracted more or less exclusively to people of the same gender.
Intersex: A person born with a combination of male and female sex traits and physical characteristics.
Lesbian: A cis- or transgender woman who is more or less exclusively sexually attracted to other women.
LGBTQ+: Shorthand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning. The “+” sign denotes all of the other identities related to sexual orientation or gender identity included under the umbrella.
MtF/M2F: Shorthand for “male to female”; usually related to the transition process of a transgender woman.
Pansexual: A person who experiences sexual attraction independent of gender.
Polyamorous: A person who engages in romantic and/or sexual relationships with more than one person with the full informed consent of all partners involved.
Queer: An adjective used in modern times by some to describe sexual or gender identities that are not exclusively straight or cisgender. Also: an offensive term used against those who engage in same-sex relationships. Generally, use as a personal identifier, but refrain from use in describing someone else’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Questioning: A person who is engaging in the process of exploring their own sexual orientation or gender identity.
QPOC: Acronym for ‘Queer Person of Color’.
Sexual orientation: A person’s pattern of sexual attraction, whether to the same or opposite gender and/or independent of gender.
Sexual preference: An outdated and offensive term. Do not use. Instead: ‘sexual orientation’.
Straight: A slang term for a heterosexual person; that is someone who is more or less exclusively sexually attracted to the opposite gender.
They/Them/Their: The preferred pronouns of some agender, genderfluid, or transgender individuals. The English language already allows for the use of ‘they’ or ‘them’ whenever gender is unknown or identified as other than ‘he’ or ‘she’. For example, “The winner of the contest will be by today to collect their prize. Hopefully, they are very happy with it.”
Transgender: A person whose gender identity is something other than the one they were assigned at birth. Identifying as ‘transgender’ can be independent of engaging in the process of changing one’s social identity (e.g. pronouns, name, etc.), physical attributes (such as through hormone treatment or other medical intervention) or outward appearance to better represent their personal gender identity.
Transitioning: The process of a transgender person changing or publicly defining aspects of themselves to better represent their gender identity. This can include stating preferred pronouns, changing their name, or making changes to their outward presentation or physical body.
Transphobia: Hatred or fear of people who identify as transgender or have a gender identity other than cisgender.
Looking for more? Check out these glossaries and usage guides by trusted sources:
Human Rights Campaign Glossary of Terms
PFLAG National Glossary of Terms