The LGBTQ+ glossary: 53 terms you should know when you’re talking about gender and sexuality
- Words to describe the spectrums of gender and sexuality and the experiences of being LGBTQ are ever evolving.
- Insider has compiled a comprehensive list of terms regarding sexuality, gender, and gender expression.
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The list of LGBTQ-related terms is always evolving to encapsulate every queer identity.
Insider has put together a list of terms on gender and sexuality to best describe everything under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.
This is an ever-expanding list, as language is always evolving and growing to best suit our changing perceptions of gender, sexuality, and queerness.
Agender (adj.): someone who is genderless and does not identify as a man, a woman, or any gender along the nonbinary spectrum
Source: Teen Vogue
Androgenous (adj.): a person who presents their gender in a fluid way that incorporates both typically feminine and masculine traits
Source: Teen Vogue
Androsexual (adj.): a person who is attracted to people on the masculine side of the gender spectrum
Aromantic (adj.): a person who has little to no romantic attraction to people
Asexual (adj.): a person who has little to no sexual attraction to people
Ballroom culture (noun): a subculture created by Black and Latinx queer communities in the 1920s where people dress up and are scored based on their presentation
Ballroom has recently gotten mainstream recognition because of FX’s hit series “Pose,” which follows the lives of trans women and femmes of color in New York City in the 1980s.
It’s an integral community-building space for many queer people of color, as many often face racism and rejection from predominantly white LGBTQ+ spaces.
Bicurious (adj.): a person who is questioning whether they're attracted to people of multiple genders
Bigender (adj.): a person who fluctuates across two or more genders on the spectrum or identifies as two or more genders
The term bigender initially referred to someone who identifies as both a man and woman. Now, it has evolved to mean someone who identifies as two or more genders.
Binder (noun): a vest used to compress someone's chest to give it a flatter appearance, often used by trans men and nonbinary people
Biphobia (noun): the specific discrimination that bisexual people face for being bi
Bisexual (adj.): a person attracted to more than one gender
BTLM (noun): an abbreviation for Black Trans Lives Matter; used as a chant to protest the epidemic of violence against trans Black women and femmes
Trans people are killed at alarming rates, particularly trans women and femmes of color. The American Medical Association has said violence against trans people — and specifically trans women of color — is an epidemic.
2020 was the deadliest year for trans people on record, with at least 43 trans or gender-nonconforming people killed. Most were trans women of color.
“Black Trans Lives Matter” became a rallying cry in June after the deaths of two Black trans women, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton, within 24 hours sparked large protests against the epidemic of violence.
Butch (noun and adj.): a queer person who identifies as masculine
The term was originally used to refer to masculine lesbians but has evolved to include nonbinary people.
Cisgender (adj.): someone whose gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth
Cis-het (adj.): short for "cisgender and heterosexual"
Cissexism (noun): giving cisgender people better treatment than transgender people, whether intentional or not
Closeted (adj.): a person who is not openly out about their gender or sexuality
Coming out (verb): when a person tells people about their gender or sexuality
Not all LGBTQ people feel the need to or have the ability to “come out.”
Crossdressing (verb): dressing in clothes associated with a gender that is not your own
Someone who crossdresses isn’t necessarily queer in their sexuality.
Demiromantic (adj.): a person who has little to no romantic connection to someone until they have established a strong sexual dynamic
Demisexual (adj.): someone who cannot feel sexual attraction until they have established an emotional connection with someone
Down Low (noun): a term that originated in Black and brown communities used to refer to men who outwardly identify as straight but have sex with other men behind closed doors
“Down Low,” or “DL,” became popularized in the 1990s. While being closeted is not unique to Black and brown communities, the term refers to how the specific intersection of racism and homophobia affects queer men of color in the closet.
Source: New York Times
Drag (noun): typically associated with gay men dressing up as women, drag refers to the art of a person of any gender identity dressing up extravagantly and performing in a drag show
The practice originated in the 1890s in Black queer communities and served as the basis for Ballroom and modern drag.
Dyke (noun): originally used as a slur against masculine lesbians, the term has been reclaimed by some queer people to self-identify
Cis-het people should still refrain from using the term.
Femme-of-center (adj.): a queer person who is feminine. Masc-of-center (adj.): a queer person who is masculine.
Femme-of-center people are not exclusively women. Masc-of-center people are not exclusively men.
These categories can include nonbinary people and cisgender men and women.
Femme (noun and adj.): a queer person who is feminine in ways that break fromtraditional femininity and is not necessarily a woman
Femme is a shortened, more colloquial version of femme-of-center.
FtM (adj.): a female-to-male transgender person, or a trans man.
Not all trans people who fit this description like to be referred to as FtM.
Gay (adj.): a man who is attracted to other men
Gender expression (noun): how someone dresses, cuts their hair, or outwardly expresses their gender
Gender expression has nothing to do with gender identity or sexuality.
Gender identity (noun): what someone's gender is, regardless of what they were assigned at birth, how they look, or who they are attracted to
Gender-nonconforming (adj.): a person who does not fit into traditional gender norms, whether because of their gender expression or gender identity
Genderfluid (adj.): someone who fluctuates along the gender spectrum, sometimes identifying as more masculine and other times as more feminine
Genderqueer (adj.): a person who does not identify as a man or a woman
Heterosexual (adj.): a person who is attracted to people of the opposite sex
Homophobia (noun): discrimination against queer people
Intersex (adj.): someone born with sexual characteristics, such as genitalia and hormone levels, that are considered both male and female
Some intersex athletes like the South African Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya have been barred from competing in events by people citing “unfair advantages” like testosterone levels higher than is considered within the bounds of being “female.”
The discrimination faced by intersex people has spurred protests in recent years, particularly against intersex “correction” procedures that often force painful surgeries and hormone therapies on young children.
Lesbian (noun and adj.): a woman who is attracted to other women
LGBTIQA+ (noun): an abbreviation for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual, and more"
The “plus” represents the expanding nature of the abbreviation.
Masc (adj.): a queer person who is masculine in ways that break from traditional masculinity and is not necessarily a man
Masc is a shortened, more colloquial version of masc-of-center.
MtF (adj.): a male-to-female transgender person, or a transwoman.
Not all trans people who fit this description like to be called MtF.
Mx. (noun): a prefix used to refer to people who are nonbinary
Nonbinary (adj.): an umbrella term for a person who does not identify as a man or a woman
Outing (verb): the act of exposing someone's gender identity or sexuality without their consent
Pansexual (adj.): someone who is attracted to people of all genders
Polyamory (noun): the concept of ethical nonmonogamous dating and love
Polyamorous people often date and love multiple partners, sometimes in trios and sometimes independently of their partners.
Unlike cheating, polyamory strives to be ethical and involves informing all parties that the relationship is open.
Queer (adj.): an umbrella term used to describe LGBTQ+ people
Many people have reclaimed “queer” — originally a slur for LGBTQ+ people in the 1800s and 1900s — to refer to themselves.
QTPOC (noun and adj.): an abbreviation for "queer transgender people of color"
The term was created in part to make space for people of color who are often subjected to racism in predominantly white LGBTQ spaces.
Sex assigned at birth (noun): the sex that doctors assign an infant based on their genitalia
Sexual orientation (noun): a category that refers to who a person is attracted to
Sexual orientations include gay, bisexual, lesbian, and pansexual.
Straight (adj.): someone who is heterosexual
Stud (adj.): a term used to refer to masculine Black lesbians
“Stud” was popularized in the 1990s because of segregation between white LGBTQ+ spaces and Black LGBTQ+ spaces.
It is problematic for non-Black masc-of-center people to call themselves studs.
Transgender (adj.): a person whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth
Two-Spirit (adj.): an umbrella term for Native American nonbinary communities
Like “nonbinary,” “Two-Spirit” encompasses genders beyond male and female, but it explicitly applies to Native American conceptions of gender before colonization and existing today.
Gender variance was used as a tool of European colonization to demonize Native people and justify genocide and forced religious conversion.
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