“Each one, teach one”
In 2018, social media has become a space for many members of the marginalized queer community to seek safety and support. It is also here where many nuanced terms have been brought to the surface and allowed for “unseen” identities to be recognized and supported. However, as the ongoing socio- political struggle for visibility and rights within the queer community comes into the spotlight, it is evident that there is still a long way to go until all people are free to express their identity.
The path towards an inclusive society comes with learning and often times unlearning, which is why we need to constantly educate ourselves. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Resource Center has listed a glossary of important terms to know when identifying and adressing members of the LGBTQI+ community.
Below are some of the terms that are often confused. Bear in mind these definitions are always evolving.
Gender: A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth.
Gender Expression: How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress and/or behaviours. Society, and people that make up society characterize these expressions as “masculine,” “feminine,” or “androgynous.” Individuals may embody their gender in a multitude of ways and have terms beyond these to name their gender expression(s).
Sex: a medically constructed categorization. Sex is often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth.
Sexuality: The components of a person that includes their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, etc.
Sexual Orientation: Sexual Orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people. Sexual orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation. See also Orientation.
Transgender: Adjective used most often as an umbrella term, and frequently abbreviated to “trans.” This adjective describes a wide range of identities and experiences of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. Not all trans people undergo a medical transition (surgery or hormones). Some commonly held definitions:
1. Someone whose determination of their sex and/or gender is not universally considered valid; someone whose behaviour or expression does not “match” their assigned sex according to society.
2. A gender outside of the man/woman binary.
3. Having no gender or multiple genders.
More terms under the umbrellas of sex, gender identity and sexuality
Asexual: A sexual orientation generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexual people do have sex. There are many diverse ways of being asexual.
Bigender: Having two genders, exhibiting cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine roles
Bisexual: A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender.
Butch: A gender expression that fits societal definitions of masculinity. Usually used by queer women and trans people, particularly by lesbians. Some consider “butch” to be its own gender identity.
Cisgender: a gender identity, or performance in a gender role, that society deems to match the person’s assigned sex at birth. The prefix cis- means “on this side of” or “not across.” A term used to call attention to the privilege of people who are not transgender.
Coming Out: “Coming out” describes voluntarily making public one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It has also been broadened to include other pieces of potentially stigmatized personal information. Terms also used that correlate with this action are: “Being out” which means not concealing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and “Outing, ” a term used for making public the sexual orientation or gender identity of another who would prefer to keep this information secret.
Cross Dresser (CD): A word to describe a person who dresses, at least partially, as a member of a gender other than their assigned sex; carries no implications of sexual orientation. Has replaced “Transvestite”
Demisexual: Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond. Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity. Demisexuals are considered to be on the asexual spectrum, meaning they are closely aligned with asexuality.
Drag King: A person (often a woman) who appears as a man. Generally in reference to an act or performance. This has no implications regarding gender identity.
Drag Queen: A person (often a man) who appears as a woman. Generally in reference to an act or performance. This has no implications regarding gender identity.
Femme: Historically used in the lesbian community, it is being increasingly used by other LGBTQIA people to describe gender expressions that reclaim/claim and/or disrupt traditional constructs of femininity.
Gay: A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender.
Gender Fluid: A person whose gender identification and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations. Being fluid in motion between two or more genders.
Gender Identity: A sense of one’s self as trans*, genderqueer, woman, man, or some other identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex and gender one is assigned at birth.
Gender Binary: The view that there are only two totally distinct, opposite and static genders (masculine and feminine) to identify with and express. While many societies view gender through this lens and consider this binary system to be universal, a number of societies recognise more than two genders. Across all societies there are also many folk who experience gender fluidly, identifying with different genders at different times.
Gender Non conforming (GNC): people who do not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society.
Gender Queer: A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them.
Gender Roles: The socially constructed and culturally specific behaviours 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. Genderqueer: A term under the trans* umbrella which refers to people who identify outside of the male-female binary. Genderqueer people may experience erasure if they are perceived as cisgender. Genderqueer people who are perceived as genderqueer are often subjected to gender policing. Related but not interchangeable terms include ‘gender outlaw’, ‘gender variant’, ‘gender non-conformist’, ‘third gender’, ‘bigender’, and ‘pangender’.
Homosexual/Homosexuality: An outdated term to describe a sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender. Historically, it was a term used to pathologize gay and lesbian people.
Internalized Homophobia: The experience of shame, guilt, or self-hatred in reaction to one’s own feelings of sexual attraction for a person of the same gender.
Intersex: Adjective used describe the experience of naturally (that is, without any medical intervention) developing primary or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society’s definitions of male or female. Intersex is an umbrella term and there are around 20 variations of intersex that are included in this umbrella term. Many visibly Intersex people are mutilated in infancy and early childhood by doctors to make the individual’s sex characteristics conform to society’s idea of what normal bodies should look like. Intersex people are relatively common, although society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Hermaphrodite is an outdated and inaccurate term that has been used to describe intersex people in the past.
Lesbian: A woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender.
LGBT: Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. An umbrella term that is often used to refer to the community as a whole. Our center uses LGBTQIA+ to intentionally include and raise awareness of Queer, Intersex and Asexual as well as myriad other communities under our umbrella.
Misgendering: Attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect/does not align with their gender identity. Can occur when using pronouns, gendered language (i.e. “Hello ladies!”Hey guys”), or assigning genders to people without knowing how they identify (i.e. “Well, since we’re all women in this room, we understand…”).
Monosexual: People who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for one gender only. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are the most well-known forms of monosexuality.
Non-binary: A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world. For some people who identify as non-binary there may be overlap with other concepts and identities like gender expansive and gender non-conforming.
Pansexual, Omnisexual: Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes.
Queer: One definition of queer is abnormal or strange. Historically, queer has been used as an epithet/slur against people whose gender, gender expression and/or sexuality do not conform to dominant expectations. Some people have reclaimed the word queer and self identify as such. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into norms/being “abnormal.” Manifestations of oppression within gay and lesbian movements such as racism, sizeism, ableism, cissexism, transmisogyny as well as assimilation politics, resulted in many people being marginalized, thus, for some, queer is a radical and anti-assimilationist stance that captures multiple aspects of identities.
Questioning: The process of exploring one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some people may also use this term to name their identity within the LGBTQIA community.
Trans*: The asterisk placed after Trans has been used in many different ways. Some folks think of it as being more inclusive towards gender non-conforming and non-binary folks. But others have offered critique that it feels exclusionary towards GNC and non-binary folks for enforcing a binary expectation to “fill in the blank” for trans man or trans woman. There have also been discussions/critique regarding the origin of the asterisk.
Trans man: A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person. Some trans men may also use the term FTM or F2M to describe their identity.
Transphobia: See Cissexsim above. Note: As a staff, we’ve been intentionally moving away from using words like “transphobic,” “homophobic,” and “biphobic” because (1) they inaccurately describe systems of oppression as irrational fears, and (2) for some people, phobias are a very distressing part of their lived experience and co-opting this language is disrespectful to their experiences and perpetuates ableism.
Womyn/Womxn: some womyn spell the word with a “y” or an “x” as a form of empowerment to move away from the “men” in the “traditional” spelling of women.
Transgender Pride flag
The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes, two light blue, two pink, with a white stripe in the center. Monica describes the meaning of the flag as follows:
“The light blue is the traditional colour for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersexed. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives”. Source: Wikipedia
The Transgender Pride flag was designed by Monica Helms, and was first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in 2000.
Bisexual Pride Flag
The Bisexual Pride flag was created by Michael Page and debuted on December 8, 1998 on BiCafe . com (now defunct.) Page wanted to create a prominent symbol for the bisexual community just as the gay pride (rainbow) flag was prominent to the gay community after its creation by Gilbert Baker in 1978. He chose the colors for the flag for the popular “Bi-Angles” symbol of triangles and combined them into a flag that used 40% pink (to represent homosexuality), 20% purple (to represent a combination of homosexuality and heterosexuality), and 40% blue (to represent heterosexuality). Source: Queer Art History