LGBTQIA Terminology

For the most complete definitions, we encourage you to compare what you find here with information from other sources as language in our communities is often an evolving process, and there may be regional differences.  Please be aware that these terms may be defined with outdated language or concepts. Courtesy of WTAMU’s Buff Allies.


A person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender is either mixed or neutral.


A person who does not experience sexual attraction. They may or may not experience emotional, physical, or romantic attraction. Asexuality differs from celibacy in that it is a sexual orientation not a choice. People who are asexual may call themselves “ace.”

Biological Sex

A classification based on the body which encompasses chromosomes, sex chromosomes, and reproductive organs. Traditionally understood as a means of categorizing individuals as either male or female, scholars and scientists have worked to expand this concept as referring to a continuum rather than dichotomous categories. 


An individual who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to some men and women. This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders and there may be a preference for one gender over others.


A person who feels comfortable with the gender identity and gender expression expectations based on their biological sex assigned at birth.

Cisgender Privilege

The set of privileges conferred to people who are believed to be Cisgender. (Examples: having one’s preferred pronouns used, no harassment in public restrooms, no denial of expected access to health care, etc.).


Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature.

Down Low

Typically used by men of color to describe men who identify as heterosexual, but who have sex with men. Many avoid sharing this information even if they have female sexual partners. [Related terms: Men who sleep with men (MSM)]


Describes men whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to some other men. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals” as this is an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people. Historically, this has been used as umbrella term for LGBTQ communities.


1. A socially constructed system of classifications that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristic can change over time and vary between cultures.

2. Someone’s innate sense of being man or woman.

Gender Confirming Surgery

Medical surgeries used to modify one’s body to be more congruent with one’s gender identity. Also known as ‘Sex Reassignment Surgery,’ ‘Gender Reassignment Surgery.’

Gender Expression

The multiple ways (e.g. behaviors, dress) in which a person may choose to communicate gender to oneself and/or to others.

Gender Identity

One’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman or somewhere else along the spectrum.


Refers to a person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. This identity is usually related to or in reaction to the social construction of gender, gender stereotypes, and the gender binary system. Some genderqueer people identify under the transgender umbrella while others do not.

Gray-asexual (gray-a) or gray-ace

Someone who identifies with the area between asexuality and sexuality, for example because they experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or of an intensity so low that it’s ignorable.


Someone who is emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually attracted to some members of the opposite sex. Also known as ‘straight.’

Heterosexual Privilege

Those benefits derived automatically by being heterosexual or being perceived as heterosexual that are denied to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and orientations other than straight.

Homosexual (Offensive)

Because of the clinical history of the word “homosexual,” it has been used to suggest that gay and lesbian people are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered – notions discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Please use “gay” or “lesbian” to describe people attracted to members of the same gender.


Is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations that make a person’s gender ambiguous. That is, intersex people are born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or internal reproductive systems that are not directly aligned with our created categories of “male” and “female.” This illustrates that the exclusively dichotomous categories of male and female have a socially constructed component that is inadequate in describing all individuals. Intersex is not interchangeable with or a synonym for transgender.


Describes women whose enduring emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction is to some other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay (adj.) or as gay women. Avoid identifying lesbians as “homosexuals,” as this is an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people.


A person who has the potential to be attracted to all or many gender identities and expressions.


1. An umbrella term which includes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans* people, intersex persons, and others that do not conform to traditional descriptions of orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

2. This term is sometimes used as a sexual orientation label or gender identity label used to denote a non-heterosexual or cisgender identity without have to define specifics.

3. A reclaimed word that was formerly used solely as a slur but has been reclaimed by some folks in the LGBTQ community. Nevertheless, a sizable percentage of people to whom this term might apply still hold ‘queer’ to be a hateful insult and offensive.


Refers to a person who is in the process of understanding and exploring their sexual orien­tation and/or gender identity and gender expression.

Same Gender Loving (SGL)

A term used by members of the African-American / Black community to express same sex/ gender attraction. Note that it is often used as an alternative to words that do not culturally affirm the history of people of African descent.

Sexual Orientation

Refers to the enduring desire for intimate emotional, romantic, and/or sexual relationships with some people of the same gender, another gender, or multiple genders. It is inappropriate to use the phrase “sexual preference” as the word preference suggests a degree of voluntary choice not reported by individuals and has not been demonstrated in psychological research (APA Guidelines). It is also inappropriate to use the term “lifestyle” as that implies a choice and suggests that gay and lesbian people can be “cured.”


Often used as an umbrella term encompassing people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from their gender assigned at birth. The term includes a large number of identities related to gender nonconformity encompassing but not limited to: transgender individuals, cross-dressers, and other gender-variant people. Use the descriptive term preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically. Avoid transgendered. The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous “-ed” tacked onto the end. An “-ed” suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors.  


Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans) people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were assigned at birth. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, ect.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity.


An older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. While some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe themselves, many transgender people prefer the term transgender to transsexual. Transsexual is NOT an umbrella term. Avoid use of this term unless an individual uses this to identify themselves.


An inclusive term created specifically by and for Native American communities. It refers to American Indian/Alaskan Native American people who (a) express their gender, sexual orientation, and/or sex/gender roles in indigenous, non-Western ways using tribal terms and concepts, and/or (b) define themselves as LGBTQI in a native context. Often peoples’ spiritual experiences or cultural beliefs are core to the formation of their two-spirit identity.