Terms & Definitions

LGBTQIA Resource Center Glossary

Below we have compiled a list of terms related to both the LGBTQIA community as well as general social justice terms.  Many of the terms and definitions below are ever-evolving and changing and often mean different things to different people.  They are provided below as a starting point for discussion and understanding.

Ableism:  The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people who have mental, emotional and physical disabilities.  
Ageism:  Any attitude, action, or institutional structure which subordinates a person or group because of age or any assignment of roles in society purely on the basis of age" (Traxler, 1980, p. 4). Ageism works against the young and the old and benefits those between 30-early 50s.  
Ally:  A person who confronts heterosexism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heterosexual privilege in themselves and others out of self-interest and a concern for the well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual people and believes that dismantling heterosexism, biphobia, transphobia and genderism/cis-sexism is a social justice issue.
Androgyne: A person with physical traits of male and female
Anti-Semitism: “Semitic” originally referred to a family of languages that included Hebrew. But it came to be applied directly to hatred of the Jews. It is the systematic discrimination and oppression of Jews, Judasim, and the cultural, intellectual, and religious heritage of the Jewish People.  
Asexuality:  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.  
BDSM: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism.  BDSM refers to a wide spectrum of activities and forms of interpersonal relationships. While not always overtly sexual in nature, the activities and relationships within a BDSM context are almost always eroticized by the participants in some fashion. Many of these practices fall outside of commonly held social norms regarding sexuality and human relationships.  
Bear Community:  A part of the queer community composed of queer men similar in looks and interests, most of them big, hairy, friendly and affectionate.  The community aims to provide spaces where one feels wanted, desired, and liked.  It nourishes and values an individual’s process of making friends, of learning self-care and self-love through the unity and support of the community.  Bears, Cubs, Otters, Wolves, Chasers, Admirers and other wildlife comprise what has come to be known as the Brotherhood of Bears and/or the Bear community.  See also: Ursula  
Bigendered:  Having two genders, exhibiting cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine roles  

The fear or hatred of people who are bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, or nonmonosexual. Biphobia is closely linked with transphobia and homophobia.
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.

Classism: The institutional, cultural, and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socio-economic class; and an economic system which creates excessive inequality and causes basic human needs to go unmet.
Collusion:  Thinking and acting in ways which support the system of oppression, both privileged and oppressed groups can collude with oppression through their attitudes, beliefs and actions.  
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.  
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.  
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”  
  Dominant/Privileged/Agent group: Members are privileged by birth or acquisition, who knowingly or unknowingly exploit and reap unfair advantage over members.  
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.  
Empowerment: Gay: When target group members refuse to accept the dominant ideology and their subordinate status and take actions to redistribute power more equitable.  
FTM (F2M):  Female-to-male transsexual/transgender person.  
Gay:  A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender; can be used as an umbrella term for men and women.  
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 Expressions:  How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress and/or behaviors that society characterizes as "masculine" or "feminine."  
Genderism:  Is the belief that there are, and should be, only two genders & that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. In a genderist construct, cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans*/ gender non conforming people are the oppressed/target group.  
Gender Nonconforming (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 Variant:  A person who varies from the expected characteristics of the assigned gender.  
Heterosexism:  The assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual.  Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people while it gives advantages to heterosexual people.  It is often a subtle form of oppression, which reinforces realities of silence and invisibility.    
Heterosexuality:  A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of a gender other than their own.  
Homophobia:  The irrational hatred and fear of LGBTQIA people.  In a broader sense, any disapproval of LGBTQIA people at all, regardless of motive.  Homophobia includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence brought on by fear and hatred.  It occurs on personal, institutional, and societal levels.  Homophobia is closely linked with transphobia and biphobia.  
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.  
Horizontal Prejudice:  The result of people of targeted racial groups believing, acting on, or enforcing the dominant system of discrimination and oppression. Horizontal racism can occur between members of the same social group or between members of different targeted social groups.  
Internalized homophobia:  The fear and self-hate of one’s own lgbtqia identity, that occurs for many individuals who have learned negative ideas about LGBT people throughout childhood.  One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.  
Intersex:  People who naturally (that is, without any medical intervention) develop primary or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society's definitions of male or female. 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 the 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.  
Islamophobia: Leather community: An irrantional fear or hatred towards Islam or Muslims.  
Leather community:  A community, which encompasses those who are into leather, sado-masochism, bondage and domination, uniform, cowboys, rubber, and other fetishes. Although the leather community is often associated with the queer community, it is not a "gay-only" community.  
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 used to refer to the community as a whole.  Our center uses LGBTQIA to intentionally include and visibilize the Queer, Intersex and Asexual communities under our umbrella.  
MSM:  An abbreviate for men who have sex with men; they may or may not identify as gay.  
MTF (M2F):  Male-to-Female transsexual/transgendered person.  
Nonmonosexual:  People who are attracted to more than one gender.  
Neutrois: It refers to a gender identity which is also called null-gendered on occasion. Very little is written about this gender identity, but it is growing in recognition. Because of this, some Neutrois individuals turn to the larger androgynous or genderqueer social variations.  
Omnigender:  Possessing all genders. The term is used specifically to refute the concept of only two genders.  
Oppression:  Exists when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another social group for its own benefit.  
Individual Level:  Beliefs or behaviors of an individual person; conscious or unconscious actions or attitudes that maintain oppression.  
Societal/Cultural Level:  Society’s cultural norms perpetuate implicit and explicit values that bind institutions and individuals; cultural guidelines, such as philosophies of life, definitions of good, normal, health, deviance, and sickness, often serve the primary function of providing individuals and institutions with the justification for social oppression.  

Features of Oppression

•Pervasiveness: Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.

•Restricting: Oppression denotes structural and material constraints that significantly shape a person’s life chances and sense of possibility.

•Hierarchical: Oppression also signifies a hierarchical relationship in which dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.

•Complex, multiple, cross-cutting relationships: Power and privilege are relative, however, since individuals hold multiple and cross-cutting social group memberships.

•Internalized: Oppressive beliefs are internalized by victims as well as benefactors. The oppressor doesn't have to exert any more pressure, because we now do it to ourselves and each other. Divide and conquer works.

•“Isms”: Shared and Distinctive Characteristics: It is of value to identify both the particular characteristics of specific forms of oppression (such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, etc.), as well as the patterns that connect and mutually reinforce different oppressions in a system that is inclusive and pervasive.

Pansexual, Omnisexual: Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes.

Polygendered, Pangendered: Exhibiting characteristics of multiple genders, deliberately refuting the concept of only two genders.

Privilege: Unearned access to resources (social power) only readily available to some people as a result of their social group membership.

QPOC: Abbreviation for Queer People of color

Queer: Anyone who chooses to identify as such. This can include, but is not limited to, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and asexual people. Not all the people in the above subcategories I.D. as queer, and many people NOT in the above groups DO. This term has different meanings to different people. Some still find it offensive, while others reclaim it to encompass the broader sense of history of the gay rights movement. Can also be used as an umbrella term like LGBT, as in "the queer community." Some transgender people express concern that “queer” only applies to sexual orientation.

Racism: The systematic subordination of targeted racial groups (Blacks, Latin@s, Native Americans, Chican@s, API, etc.) who have relatively little social power in the United States, by members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites).
Religious Oppression: Systematic discrimination and oppression of individuals based on their religious beliefs and/or practices.

Same Gender Loving: a term used by some African American folks who love, date, have attraction to people of the same gender.
Sex: a categorization based on the appearance of the genitalia at birth.
Sexism: The cultural, institutional, and individual set of beliefs and practices that privilege men, subordinate women, and denigrate values and practices associated with women.
Sexuality: The components of a person that include 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 is fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation.


Social Group memberships: Identity based groups that one belongs to that may be a part of the dominant or the target group.

Social Justice: Includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.

Social Power: Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs or influencing others in order to lead a safe, productive, fulfilling life.

Subordinated/Targeted group: Members of social identity groups that are disenfranchised, exploited, and victimized in a variety of ways by the oppressor and the oppressor’s system or institutions.

Trans man: Also referred to as FTM. A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person.
Transphobia: the fear or hatred of transgender people or people who do not meet society’s gender role expectations. Transphobia is closely linked with homophobia and biphobia.
Trans woman: Also referred to as MTF. A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person.
Transgender: used most often as an umbrella term, some commonly held definitions 1. Someone whose gender identity or expression does not fit within dominant-group social constructs of assigned sex and gender. 2.  A gender outside of the man/woman binary.  3. Having no gender or multiple genders.
Transsexual (TS): A person who lives full-time in a gender different than their assigned birth sex and gender.  Many pursue hormones and/or surgery. Sometimes used to specifically refer to trans* people pursuing gender or sex confirmation.
Transvestite: This is an outdated and problematic term due to its historical use as a diagnosis for medical/mental health disorders.  Cross Dresser has replaced transvestite, see above definition.

Triggers: Words or phrases that stimulate an emotional response because they tap into anger or pain about oppression issues.

Tryke: A trans female-identified person who is attracted to/loves other women.
Two Spirit: Many Native American Tribes have three, five or even seven genders. These dual-gendered people, or “two-spirited” are viewed differently in different Native communities.  Sometimes they are seen without stigma and considered emissaries from the creator, treated with the deference and respect, or even considered sacred – but this is not always the case. “Two-Spirit” is the closest thing to an appropriate umbrella term of referring to these gender traditions among Native peoples.  However, there are a variety of definitions and feelings about the term “two spirit.”
Ursula: Some lesbians, particularly butch dykes, also participate in Bear culture referring to themselves with the distinct label Ursula.
Womyn: some womyn spell the word with a “y” as a form of empowerment to move away from the “men” in the “traditional” spelling of women.

Borrowed from Patrick Califia, Emi Koyama and countless others.