At Wonther we strongly believe that education, language, and the complete understanding of it are a few of the most powerful weapons. Language can bring us closer together and foster deeper empathy.
We’ve put together a list of inclusive terms to help build that bridge. In order to help end homophobia and transphobia, learning to be an ally without saying something offensive is key.
Here are the LGBTQIA+ terms we think you should know to describe different types of sexual and romantic feelings and orientations. These will help you understand the many ways people identify their sexuality.
The term is used when a person experiences no attachment to any gender.
A term describing someone who experiences sexual attraction. This term is used to normalize the term asexual and provide a more specific label to those of aren’t asexual.
Being an ally to LGBTQIA+ individuals is the process of working to develop individual attitudes, institutions, and cultures in which LGBTQIA+ people feel they are valued. An ally wants to end homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexism, and cisgenderism.
Asexual identity or orientation includes individuals who don’t experience sexual attraction to others of any gender. Some people may only experience sexual attraction after many months or years of knowing someone, and some may never experience it.
The term is used to describe people who are exploring bisexuality. It’s usually about being curious about one’s romantic/sexual attraction towards people of the same gender (or different genders).
This term refers to a person attracted to two or more genders. As the community’s understanding of gender has grown, the term has expanded in its usage beyond the gender binary. It could be a person attracted to men and women, attracted to men and nonbinary genders, or attracted to their own gender and a few others.
A person whose gender identity is consistent with their sex assigned at birth. This term comes from the Latin “cis”, which means “on the same side of.”
According to an article in Transgender Studies Quarterly, “cisgender” was coined by transgender activists in the 90s.
The theatrical performance of a gender (or more than one gender) that’s not your own. Most drag performers are cisgender and they are called Drag Kings and Drag Queens.
It refers to a man sexually and/or romantically attracted to other men. The fields of medicine and psychology previously referred to this sexual orientation as homosexual, but that term is now viewed by many as outdated (and even offensive).
10. Gender affirmation
The process of making a social, legal, and/or medical change to recognize one’s gender identity. These changes include changing one’s pronouns, clothing, sex designation, legal documents, hormones, and/or surgery.
11. Gender dysphoria
Distress that’s experienced by some people whose gender identity doesn’t correspond with their sex assigned at birth. It’s the feeling of your appearance not matching your gender identity. It happens among transgender and gender-diverse people.
12. Gender expression
It has to do with how you present/communicate yourself or your gender to the world through mannerisms, clothing, behavior, speech…
13. Gender nonconforming
When a person’s gender expression doesn’t correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth. You may still identify as a woman, but you may dress only in men’s clothes, for example.
This term describes a person whose gender identity falls outside the traditional gender binary of male and female. People who are genderqueer often experience their gender as fluid, meaning it can shift and change at any given time.
Younger generations are increasingly identifying as genderqueer. It is one of the most common identities under the transgender umbrella.
Also known as straight, this term describes people who experience sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction to individuals of the “opposite” gender. A man attracted to women, or a woman attracted to men. Cis and trans people can be heterosexual.
This LGBTQIA+ term refers to the idea that comprehensive identities are influenced and shaped by the interconnection of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality/sexual orientation, gender/gender identity, religion, etc. It happens when forms of discrimination combine and intersect.
It describes people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that can't be classified as typically male or female. Those variations are also sometimes referred to as Differences of Sex Development (DSD). Learn more about it from the Intersex Society of North America.
This term refers to a woman who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to other women. Some women who are lesbians may also refer to themselves as gay or queer.
Acronym for lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally.
This acronym is constantly being updated and it refers to all of the identities commonly associated with gender and sexual identities that are outside of the heterosexual norm.
The term "gay community" should be replaced by this acronym, as it does not accurately reflect the diversity of the community.
The + symbol in LGBTQIA+ refers to the fact that there are many sexual orientations and gender identities that are part of the broader LGBTQIA+ community but aren’t (until the moment) included as part of the acronym.
The act of either deliberately or accidentally referring to someone by the wrong gender assignation, the wrong pronoun, or other gendered terms, such as Ms. or Mr.
Pronouns are words that we use to identify ourselves instead of our names. According to an article in The New York Times, a neopronoun can be a word created to serve as pronouns without expressing one's gender, such as “ze” or “zir.”
These are not very frequent yet. According to a study among 40,000 LGBTQIA+ young people conducted by The Trevor Project, most said they used common pronouns (she, he, or they). Only 4% said they used neopronouns.
A term used when someone who doesn't identify exclusively as female or male. The terms genderqueer and agender can have similar but more nuanced associations. If someone tells you they are nonbinary, it’s important to ask what does it mean to them. Some people experience their gender as both male and female; others experience their gender as neither male nor female. Some nonbinary people identify as transgender, while others do not.
It describes individuals who can experience sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction to any person, regardless of their gender, sex, or sexuality.
A term referring to society’s perceptions of someone’s sexuality or gender, more commonly used to discuss the frequency an LGBTQIA+ person is assumed to be straight or cisgender. Stonewall defines it simply by “If someone is regarded, at a glance, to be a cisgender man or cisgender woman.”
Some LGBTQIA+ people have the desire to pass and others don’t. Many people experience discomfort and discrimination for being perceived as straight or cisgender.
Gender-neutral pronouns are used by some nonbinary or genderqueer people to identify themselves in the third person. When seeking that information ask them what their pronouns are. The singular “they” can be used to describe someone who identifies as neither male nor female - it is usually used by people who have a non-binary gender identity.
The term queer - the Q in LBGTQIA+ - describes individuals who aren’t exclusively heterosexual. It acknowledges that sexuality is a spectrum as opposed to a collection of independent and mutually exclusive categories.
Once considered a pejorative term, queer has resurfaced as a common and socially acceptable way for LGBTQIA+ individuals to refer to themselves and their community.
It’s used to refer to someone who is not sure (or is exploring) what their gender identity or sexual orientation is.
28. Romantic Orientation
Romantic orientation is the way one experiences emotional attraction. It may or not line up with one’s sexual orientation. Panromantic and aromantic are examples of these LGBTQIA+ terms.
While panromantic embrace individuals who can experience romantic, or emotional (but not sexual) attraction to any person, regardless of that person’s gender, sex, or sexuality, aromantic embrace people who experience little or no romantic attraction, regardless of sex or gender.
A term used when one’s gender is different from the one you were assigned at birth. Some transgender people take prescribed hormones, others also undergo surgery, but many can’t or won’t do any of that. A transgender identity is not related to physical appearance, it has much more to it.
The term describes a person who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit. It is a term used among Native Americans, American Indians, and First Nations people.
No glossary could ever encompass all the LGBTQIA+ terms you should know. These terms - 30 terms - may seem like a lot but are really just a drop in the ocean. If you hear a term you don’t recognize, ask the person what the term means to him or her. Always listen for and respect a person’s self-identified terminology. Don’t forget to let your rainbow energy flow and listen to our LGBTQIA+ playlist while celebrating love.