Terms used by and for the LGBTQIA+ community
LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA+:
Abbreviations meant to encompass the entire community, often including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, questioning, intersex, and asexual identities.
A complex part of a person’s identity; an interplay of self-perception, personality, and embodiment. More than just male or female, there are many possible genders.
Societal expectations attached to a person’s sex/gender. Gender roles are not in-born; they have changed over time and are different across different cultures.
A gendered sense of self as a man or woman, another gender entirely, or no gender at all. A person’s gender identity is formed around age 3.
Gendered signifiers or personal traits (such as clothes, hair, and mannerisms) that are read by others as conveying masculinity, femininity, or androgyny.
Sexuality or Sexual Orientation:
Identity terms – such as lesbian, gay, straight, bi, and asexual – broadly describing who a person is attracted to or desires a relationship with; can be divided into sexual and romantic orientations, which might be the same or different.
The process of investigating one’s own gender identity or orientation.
Choosing to tell others about one’s LGBTQ gender identity or orientation.
A bisexual person experiences attraction to people of genders both similar to and different from their own.
A pansexual person is one who may be attracted to others without regard to gender or has the potential to be attracted to people of any gender.
An asexual person experiences little or no sexual attraction. Aromantic (or “aro”) may be used to refer to a lack of romantic attraction. Gray asexual describes a spectrum between the total absence of attraction and some level of sexual attraction, and a demisexual person experiences little or no attraction without first establishing an emotional bond with that person.
Assigned Sex, Gender Assignment:
The sex/gender a baby is designated at birth.
Someone who is comfortable with their gender assignment at birth, and feels it describes them. This does not mean they must perfectly conform to gender roles.
A transgender person’s gender identity is something other than the sex assigned to them when they were born. Someone coming out as trans may be motivated by wanting to live authentically, to feel comfortable in their own skin, and to be seen and understood by defining their identity to others. Transsexual is an older, medicalized term referring to a person who intends to transition or has transitioned.
Steps a transgender or non-binary person may take to feel more comfortable in their body or gender, such as changing their name, requesting different pronouns, dressing differently, (as a youth) hormone inhibitors, or (as an adult) accessing hormone replacement therapy or surgery. Use the word transition instead of sex change.
Types of gender identities that cannot be adequately described by male or female, and which exist between or outside of those options.
An agender person is someone who does not identify with any gender or does not feel that gender is relevant to them personally.
A person whose gender identity changes over time or with circumstances.
Identities are unique to indigenous Native American and First Nations people whose gender and/or orientation is outside of cis, binary or hetero gender norms.
is a general term for additional genders or gender roles that exist in indigenous or non-Western cultures.
Intersex describes people born with an anatomy that does not seem to be typically male or female. Chromosomes, hormones, and bodily development all play a part in intersex conditions. Use intersex instead of hermaphrodite, which is an offensive term.
A controversial measure of whether a trans or gender-nonconforming person is perceived by others as their desired gender. A person should not be expected to “pass” or conform to gender norms in order to have their identity respected.
Sometimes called personal pronouns or preferred pronouns, this refers to gendered or gender-neutral third-person pronouns such as she/her, they/them, he/him, ze/zir, etc., that a person may wish to be called as a part of their gender expression. Whatever pronouns a person requests should be used to the best of your ability.
Using the right name and pronoun is the most immediate way to support a transgender individual. Use the name they ask you to use for them, even if it is not their legal name. Have a conversation with the person about what they wish to be called in various settings, to avoid outing them.
If their gender expression changes, continue to use the pronouns they ask for. It is generally appropriate to ask how a person would like to be addressed, but not to call out only “trans-looking” people and ask for their pronouns in a public space.
Misgendering someone – calling them by the wrong pronouns for their identity – in public tends to cause others to misgender them too. The repercussions for a trans person who is misgendered could be painful (misgendering can cause gender dysphoria) or even life-threatening if a hostile person overhears.
To recover from misgendering someone, apologize briefly and correct yourself by repeating what you said using the person’s preferred pronouns.
If you find you are having trouble using a trans individual’s preferred pronouns or hesitating in the moment, practice in other contexts. Suggestion: make flashcards!
The Importance of Inclusion
Assume there are gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and non-binary people in your life. Your words and opinions expressed may impact whether they feel safe to come out.
Think of and treat trans individuals as the gender they identify with; prioritize identity over outside assumptions about a person’s body or their assigned sex.
Be conscious of where a person is out, and do not out them to others.
Advocate for or provide unisex bathrooms and ungendered, private changing areas. Do not attempt to micromanage who uses which bathroom.
It’s time to accept Singular They as grammatically correct. Oxford English Dictionary, for one, supports the use of they and them as singular
Avoid conflating body parts with gender. For example, not everyone who experiences periods and pregnancy is a girl or woman.
Shut down transphobic and homophobic jokes or language used around you, and avoid teasing others for gender nonconformity. Openly demonstrating LGBTQ acceptance gives others a model to work from and better ways to react than existing violent cultural scripts
Know the overt ways our culture rejects LGBTQ people: street violence, bullying, suicide, exclusion from religious communities and families, discrimination in housing and jobs, and invisibility within cultural narratives.
Know the subtle ways our culture punishes nonconformity: transmisogynist portrayal of gender nonconforming people as inherently funny or repulsive, misgendering trans people in the news, and policing the gender appropriateness of clothes or activities for other people all create a hostile environment.
Know the challenges facing people in other parts of the LGBTQ community, and look for ways to include and support others who have identities and experiences very different from your own. Strive for awareness of ways that spaces may be inaccessible to people with disabilities, or made unsafe and uncomfortable for some community members due to racism. How we think about gender and the words we use to describe ourselves are continually changing. Do your best to keep an open mind for whatever comes next.
*Page information created by Leslie Boker & the Grand Rapids Pride Center