Many Americans refrain from talking about sexual orientation and gender identity or expression because it feels taboo, or because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. This glossary was written to help give people the words and meanings to help make conversations easier and more comfortable.
- Human Rights Campaign
Ally | A person who is not LGBTQ but shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.
Asexual | The lack of a sexual attraction or desire for other people.
Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.
Cisgender | A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gender dysphoria | Clinically 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 identity | One’s innermost concept of self 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.
Intersex | An umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, these traits are visible at birth, and in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal variations of this type may not be physically apparent at all.
LGBTQ | An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.”
Non-binary | An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do.
Pansexual | Describes someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.
Queer | A term people often use to express fluid identities and orientations. Often used interchangeably with "LGBTQ."
Questioning | A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sexual orientation | An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.
Stealth | A person who lives their life in their affirmed gender and chooses not to disclose or reference their birth assigned gender.
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. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.