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LGBTQ+ 101

Learn the terms + concepts associated with LGBTQ+

For a better understanding of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, we recommend the following list of terms and concepts. Note, this is not a complete list. ESU recognizes that there are many more terms and concepts beyond those shown here and the language we use is ever evolving. For recommendations on additions or definitions, please feel free to reach out to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office.

Terms + Concepts


Assigned female at birth


An individual who supports and advocates for a historically marginalized population they do not identify within.


Assigned male at birth


A person identifying and/or expressing gender outside of the gender binary. Other similar terms used include gender variant, genderqueer, and gender non-conformist.


An individual who experiences little to no romantic or emotional attraction to others, and/or a lack of interest in a romantic relationship or behaviors.


An individual who experiences little or no sexual attraction to others, and/or a lack of interest in sexual relationship or behaviors.


Fear, hatred, or prejudice against those who identify as bisexual


Bisexual is a sexual orientation that refers to having the capacity to be emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to some men and women/individuals of the same gender or another gender.

“Cis” or Cisgender

A person whose sex assigned at birth and gender identity align


A system of attitudes, bias and discrimination in favor of cisgender identities that marginalizes and renders invisible trans* people and treats their needs and identities as less important than those of cisgender people.


Cis-privilege refers to the conscious and unconscious advantages cisgender people have over transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people. (Ex. discrimination in the work place or hate motivated violence)


The belief that cisgender and cissexual people represent the ‘norm’ and so are superior to trans* folk. This results in a systemic oppression that privileges cisgender and cissexual folk over transgender and trans* folk.

Female-to-Male (FTM):

Generally used to refer to anyone assigned female at birth, but who identifies or expresses their gender as male all or part of the time. Some people prefer the term ‘transitioning to male’, as this does not imply that they were once female-identified.


A person who is mostly attracted to those of the same gender


The attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.

Gender Attribution / Gender Perception

The process of making assumptions about another person’s gender, based on factors such as choice of dress, voice modulation, body shape, etc. A related term is ‘reading,’ which refers to the process where factors such as someone’s body shape, voice, gender expression, etc. are used to make assumptions about that someone’s gender identity, sex assigned at birth, or sexual orientation. Making assumptions is a major cause of exclusion and disrespect towards others.

Gender binary

The concept that there are only two genders (men and women) and that every person is one of those two

Gender expression

The external display of one’s gender, through a combination of dress, demeanor, social behavior, and other factors, generally understood on the scales of masculinity and femininity.

Gender fluid

A gender identity best described as a dynamic mix of a man and a women

Gender identity

The internal perception of one’s gender, and how they label themselves, based on how much they align or don’t align with what they understand their options for gender to be

Gender nonconforming

A gender expression descriptor that indicates a non-traditional gender presentation or a gender identity for someone that identifies outside of the gender binary

Gender Policing

The imposition or enforcement of normative gender expressions on an individual who is perceived as not adequately performing, through appearance or behavior, the gender that was assigned to them at birth. Gender policing may occur through ridicule, trivialization, exclusion or harassment of, or violence towards, gender non- conforming folk. It may also occur through social messages that privilege cisgender expression and gender roles.


A gender identity label used by those who do not identify within the gender binary

Gender Roles

The socially constructed and culturally specific behaviors such as communication styles, careers, family roles, and more, imposed on people based on their biological sex assigned at birth. It is important to note that gender interpretations and expectations vary widely among cultures and often change over time. It is important to note that some cultures have more than two gender roles.


Gender and Sexual Minorities (another term to refer to the LGBTQ+ community)


Grey-sexuality exists within the asexual spectrum and is the fluid area between those who don’t experience sexual attraction and those who do


Individuals who experience some same gender sexual or romantic attraction


The assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities


A system of attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships. This includes the assumption that everyone is, or should be, heterosexual and that heterosexuality is inherently superior to homosexuality or bisexuality. Heterosexism also refers to organizational discrimination against non-heterosexuals or against behaviors not stereotypically heterosexual. One example of this might be a girl who is told that when she grows up she will have a husband and not presented with any other options to consider.


A person who primarily feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the ‘opposite’ gender; also sometimes referred to as ‘straight’.


An umbrella term for a range of negative attitudes (e.g. fear, anger, intolerance, etc.) that one may have towards member of the LGBTQ+ community


Intersex people may have: external genitalia which do not closely resemble typical male or female genitalia, or which have the appearance of both male and female genitalia; the genitalia of one sex and the secondary sex characteristics of another sex; or a chromosomal make-up that is neither XX or XY but may be a combination of both. ‘Intersex’ has replaced the term ‘hermaphrodite’, which is widely considered to be out- dated, inaccurate and offensive. An intersex person may or may not identify as part of the trans* community, however the terms ‘intersex’, ‘transsexual’ and ‘trans*’ are distinct and should not be used interchangeably.


Term used to describe women who are romantically, sexually, and/or emotionally attracted to other women


Umbrella term for gender, sexual, and romantic minorities


Generally used to refer to anyone assigned male at birth but who identifies or expresses their gender as a female all or part of the time. Some people prefer the term ‘transitioning to female’, as this does not imply that they were once male-identified.


Referring to someone with a term or pronoun that does not align with their gender identity


a gender neutral title option for an individual (often pronounced MIKS or em-EKS)


An individual who identifies as neither entirely male nor female


Refers to people who identify and/or express the many shades of gender. Multi-gender and omni-gender are other terms that may be used.


The fear and dislike of pansexuality. Panphobia exerts a powerful, negative force on the lives of pansexual people. Some examples of panphobia in action are disparaging jokes, verbal abuse, acts of violence targeted at pansexual people, or the dismissal of pansexuality as an inferior, invalid or irrelevant expression of sexuality. Pansexual people often face panphobia and discrimination in both queer and non-queer discourse. (This word also has a different and separate meaning: an irrational fear of everything.)


A person who experiences sexual, physical, and/or romantic attraction to members of all gender identities or expressions

Passing/To Pass

A term sometimes used to refer to the state of an LGBT person not being visibly recognizable as LGBT. This term is most commonly used in relation to trans* people. People who ‘pass’ may experience less queer-phobia and discrimination. Some LGBT people consider ‘passing’ to be very important for them, while others feel that choosing not to pass is an act of rejecting heterosexism, cissexism and ciscentricism. ‘Passing’ is a contested term since it may connote ‘a passing grade’ or ‘passing something illegitimate off’, or it may imply external pressure to strive towards being ‘read’ a certain way (See: Gender attribution).


Refers to the social, economic and political advantages or rights held by people from dominant groups on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, social class, etc. For example, men often experience privilege that people of other genders do not have.


An acronym for Queer People Of Color. Another term used is QTIPOC (Queer, Transgender, and Intersex People of Color). Queer people of color often experience intersecting oppressions on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and other factors.


An umbrella term to described individuals who don’t identify as straight, or sometimes also cisgender. Due to its historical use as a derogatory term, not all members of the LGBTQ+ community use or embrace it.


A term used to include all forms of homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia. The term ‘LGBT- phobia’ is also used and may more clearly express the idea of transphobia.


A term sometimes used by those in the process of exploring personal issues of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as choosing not to identify with any other label.

Romantic attraction

the desire to have a romantic relationship with another person

Romantic orientation

An individuals romantic attraction to an individual based on the gender of the person they're attracted to (ex. homoromantic, biromantic)


A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances, usually subdivided into "male" and "female".

Sexual attraction

The desire to have a sexual relationship with another person.

Sexual orientation

The type of sexual attraction an individual has for others, generally based on the gender of the person or people they’re attracted to

Sexual preference

Refers to whomever one prefers to have sexual and romantic relationships with (homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, pansexual, etc.). It is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘sexual orientation’, but is considered by many to be inaccurate because the word ‘preference’ implies choice.


(Also known as heterosexual) An individual primarily sexually, physically, and emotionally attracted to people of a different gender


Singular gender neutral pronouns


This term may describe people who identify as trans*, and who identify their gender expression as feminine.


(Also known as trans or trans*) An umbrella term for individuals who don’t identify with the gender identity they were assigned at birth based on anatomical sex, including both binary and nonbinary identities.


Refers to the process during which trans* people may change their gender expression and/or bodies to reflect their gender identity or sexual identity. Transition may involve a change in physical appearance (hairstyle, clothing), behavior (mannerisms, voice, gender roles), and/or identification (name, pronoun, legal details). Transitioning for trans* individuals may or may not be accompanied by changes to the body such as the use of hormones to change secondary sex characteristics (e.g. breasts, facial hair).


This term describes people who identify as trans* and who identify their gender expression as masculine.


Transphobia directed at trans* women and transfeminine folk that reinforces male power and privilege.


The fear and dislike of, and discrimination against, trans* people. Transphobia can take the form of disparaging jokes, rejection, exclusion, denial of services, employment discrimination, name-calling and violence.

Trans Woman

This term may describe someone who identifies as trans* and whose gender identity is female.

Two-Spirit (2-Spirit):

A term used by some North American Aboriginal societies to describe people with diverse gender identities, gender expressions, gender roles, and sexual orientations. Dual-gendered, or ‘two-spirited,’ people have been and are viewed differently in different First Nations communities. Sometimes they have been seen without stigma and were considered seers, child-carers, warriors, mediators, or emissaries from the creator and treated with deference and respect, or even considered sacred, but other times this has not been the case.

Xe/Xir/Xirs or Ze/Zir/Zirs

Alternate gender neutral pronouns (both pronounced ZEE, ZER, ZERS)