Below is 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. For more information, check out UC Davis’ website on LGBT issues HERE.
Ability: The quality of being able to do something
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).
Allosexism: The system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses asexual people.
Allosexual: A sexual orientation generally characterized by feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality.
Allyship: The action of working to end oppression through support of, and as an advocate with and for, a group other than one’s own.
Androgyne: A person with masculine and feminine physical traits.
Asexual: 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
Bigender: Having two genders, exhibiting cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine roles
Biphobia: 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.
BlaQ/BlaQueer: Folks of Black/African descent and/or from the African diaspora who recognize their
queerness/LGBTQIA+ identity as a salient identity attached to their Blackness and vice versa. (T. Porter)
Body Image: refers to how a person feels, acts, and thinks about their body. Attitudes about our own body and bodies in general are shaped by our communities, families, cultures, media, and our own perceptions.
Body Policing: any behavior which (indirectly or directly, intentionally or unintentionally) attempts to correct or control a person’s actions regarding their own physical body, frequently with regards to gender expression or size. (ASC Queer Theory)
Butch: A gender expression that fits societal definitions of masculinity. Usually used by queer women and trans people, particularly by lesbians. Some consider “butch” to be its own gender identity.
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.
Cissexism/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/cissexist construct, cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans*/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group.
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.
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”
Culture: A learned set of values, beliefs, customs, norms, and perceptions shared by a group of people that provide a general design for living and a pattern for interpreting life. “Culture is those deep, common, unstated, learned experiences which members of a given culture share, which they communicate without knowing, and which form the backdrop against which all other events are judged.” (E. Hall.)
Cultural Humility: An approach to engagement across differences that acknowledges systems of oppression and embodies the following key practices: (1) a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique, (2) a desire to fix power imbalances where none ought to exist, and (3) aspiring to develop partnerships with people and groups who advocate for others on a systemic level. (Melanie Tervalon & Jann Murray-García, 1998)
Demisexual: Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond. Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity. Demisexuals are considered to be on the asexual spectrum, meaning they are closely aligned with asexuality
Disability/(Dis)ability/Dis/ability: A social construct that identifies any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered “typical” for a human being given environments that are constructed for and by the dominant or “typical” person.
Discrimination: Inequitable actions carried out by members of a dominant group or its representatives against members of a marginalized or minoritized group.
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 label has no implications regarding gender identity.
Drag King: A person (often a woman) who appears as a man. Generally in reference to an act or performance. This label has no implications regarding gender identity.
Ethnicity: A social construct which divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interest, history and ancestral geographical base.
Femme: Historically used in the lesbian community, it is being increasingly used by other LGBTQIA people to describe gender expressions that reclaim/claim and/or disrupt traditional constructs of femininity.
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 Expansive: An umbrella term used for individuals who broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms. Gender expansive individuals include those who identify and transgender, as well as anyone else whose gender in some way is seen to be stretching the surrounding society’s notion of gender.
Gender Expression: How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress and/or behaviors. Society, and people that make up society characterize these expressions as “masculine,” “feminine,” or “androgynous.” Individuals may embody their gender in a multitude of ways and have terms beyond these to name their gender expression(s).
Gender Fluid: A person whose gender identification and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations. Being fluid in motion between two or more genders.
Gender Identity: A sense of one’s self as trans*, genderqueer, woman, man, or some other identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex and gender one is assigned at birth.
Genderism/Cissexism: 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/cissexist construct, cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans*/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group.
Gender Outlaw: A person who refuses to be defined by conventional definitions of male and female.
Gender Non conforming (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.
Heteronormativity: A set of lifestyle norms, practices, and institutions that promote binary alignment of biological sex, gender identity, and gender roles; assume heterosexuality as a fundamental and natural norm; and privilege monogamous, committed relationships and reproductive sex above all other sexual practices.
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 lesbian, gay, and queer people. It can also impact the lives of bisexual, pansexual, transgender, intersex and asexual 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.
Internalized oppression: The fear and self-hate of one’s own target/subordinate identity/ies, that occurs for many individuals who have learned negative ideas about their target/subordinate identity/ies throughout childhood. One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.
Intersectionality: A term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to describe the way that multiple systems of oppression interact in the lives of those with multiple marginalized identities. Intersectionality looks at the relationships between multiple marginalized identities and allows us to analyze social problems more fully, shape more effective interventions, and promote more inclusive advocacy amongst communities.
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.
Latinx: [pronounced “La-TEEN-ex”] a non-gender specific way of referring to people of Latin American descent. Other commonly known ways of referring to people of Latin American descent are Latinos, Latina, Latin@, Latino. The “x” at the end replaces “o” and “a” which have been gendered suffixes, it moves beyond terms like Latino/a & Latin@, which still reinforce a gender binary.
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.
LGBTQIA Allyship: The practice of confronting heterosexism, sexism, genderism, allosexism, and monosexism in oneself and others out of self-interest and a concern for the well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual people. Is founded on the belief and believes that dismantling heterosexism, biphobia, transphobia and genderism/cis-sexism is a social justice issue.
Microaggressions: Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults about one’s marginalized identity/identities. (D.W. Sue)
Misgendering: Attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect/does not align with their gender identity. Can occur when using pronouns, gendered language (i.e. “Hello ladies!”Hey guys”), or assigning genders to people without knowing how they identify (i.e. “Well, since we’re all women in this room, we understand…”).
MOGAI: An acronym that stands for “marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex.” Is used by some in a similar way to the umbrella acronym: LGBTQIA.
Monogamy: Having only one intimate partner at any one time.
Monosexism: The belief in and systematic privileging of monosexuality as superior, and the systematic oppression of non-monosexuality.
Monosexual: People who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for one gender only. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are the most well-known forms of monosexuality.
MSM: an abbreviation for men who have sex with men; they may or may not identify as gay.
Neutrois: A non-binary gender identity that falls under the genderqueer or transgender umbrellas. There is no one definition of Neutrois, since each person that self-identifies as such experiences their gender differently. The most common ones are: Neutral-gender, Null-gender, Neither male nor female, Genderless and/or Agender.
Non-binary: A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world. For some people who identify as non-binary there may be overlap with other concepts and identities like gender expansive and gender non-conforming.
Nonmonosexual: people who are attracted to more than one gender.
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.
Institutional Level: institutions such as family, government, industry, education, and religion are shapers of, as well as shaped by, the other two levels. The application of institutional policies and procedures in an oppressive society run by individuals or groups who advocate or collude with social oppression produces oppressive consequences.
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.
Pansexual, Omnisexual: Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes.
Polyamory: Denotes consensually being in/open to multiple loving relationships at the same time. Some polyamorists (polyamorous people) consider “poly” to be a relationship orientation. Sometimes used as an umbrella term for all forms of ethical, consensual, and loving non-monogamy.
Polygender, Pangender: Exhibiting characteristics of multiple genders, deliberately refuting the concept of only two genders.
Privilege: a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group. The concept has roots in WEB DuBois’ work on “psychological wage” and white people’s feelings of superiority over Black people. Peggy McIntosh wrote about privilege as a white woman and developed an inventory of unearned privileges that she experienced in daily life because of her whiteness.
Pronouns: Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person. Examples are they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his. In English and some other languages, pronouns have been tied to gender and are a common site of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect.)
Queer: One definition of queer is abnormal or strange. Historically, queer has been used as an epithet/slur against people whose gender, gender expression and/or sexuality do not conform to dominant expectations. Some people have reclaimed the word queer and self identity as such. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into norms/being “abnormal.” Manifestations of oppression within gay and lesbian movements such as racism, sizeism, ableism, cissexism/transphobia as well as assimilation politics, resulted in many folks being marginalized, thus, for some, queer is a radical and anti-assimilationist stance that captures multiple aspects of identities.
Questioning: The process of exploring one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some folks may also use this term to name their identity within the LGBTQIA community.
Race: A social construct that divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, based on the social, economic, and political context of a society at a given period of time.
Racism: The systematic subordination of marginalized racial groups (Indigenous/Native American, Black, Chicanx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and non-white Latinx folks, non-white Middle Eastern folks, etc.) who have relatively little social power in the United States, by members of the agent/dominant/privileged racial group who have relatively more social power (white).
Religion: A personal or institutionalized system of beliefs and practices concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, often grounded in belief in and reverence for some supernatural power or powers; often involves devotional and ritual observances and contains a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
Same Gender Loving: a term used by some African American folks who love, date, have attraction to people of the same gender.
Sex: a medically constructed categorization. Sex is often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth.
Sexism: The cultural, institutional, and individual set of beliefs and practices that privilege men, subordinate women, and devalue ways of being that are 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 Identities: Social identity groups are based on the physical, social, and mental characteristics of individuals. They are sometimes obvious and clear, sometimes not obvious and unclear, often self-claimed and frequently ascribed by others.
Social Justice: A goal and a process in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Begins with an acknowledgement that oppression and inequity exist and must be actively dismantled on all levels. (Adams, Bell, & Griffin.)
Socio-Economic Class: Social group membership based on a combination of factors including income, education level, occupation, and social status in the community, such as contacts within the community, group associations, and the community’s perception of the family or individual.
Spirituality: Having to do with deep feelings and convictions, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and understanding of the meaning and value of life; may or may not be associated with a particular set of beliefs or practices.
Stereotype: A generalization applied to every person in a cultural group; a fixed conception of a group without allowing for individuality. When we believe our stereotypes, we tend to ignore characteristics that don’t conform to our stereotype, rationalize what we see to fit our stereotype, see those who do not conform as “exceptions,” and find ways to create the expected characteristics.
Trans man: A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person. Some trans men may also use the term FTM or F2M to describe their identity.
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: A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person. Some transwomen may also use MTF or M2F to describe their identity.
Transgender: Adjective used most often as an umbrella term, and frequently abbreviated to “trans” or “trans*” (the asterisk indicates the option to fill in the appropriate label, ie. Trans man). It describes a wide range of identities and experiences of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. Not all trans people undergo medical transition (surgery or hormones). Some commonly held definitions:
1. Someone whose determination of their sex and/or gender is not universally considered valid; someone whose behavior or expression does not “match” their assigned sex according to society.
2. A gender outside of the man/woman binary.
3. Having no gender or multiple genders.
Transition: An individualized process by which transsexual and transgender people “switch” from one gender presentation to another. There are three general aspects to transitioning: social (i.e. name, pronouns, interactions, etc.), medical (i.e. hormones, surgery, etc.), and legal (i.e. gender marker and name change, etc.). A trans* individual may transition in any combination, or none, of these aspects.
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.
Two Spirit: “[This] term stems from the Ojibwe phrase niizh manidoowag and replaces the outdated, oversimplified term berdache, which appeared frequently in research and anthropological studies that aimed to describe the place of gay men in Native society in the 18th and early 19th centuries […] The phrase “two spirit” began to gain traction across Native America after 1990, when 13 men, women and transgender people from various tribes met in Winnipeg, Canada, with the task of finding a term that could unite the LGBTQ Native community. […]For me, the term ‘two spirit’ resists a Western definition of who we are and what we should be. Two spirit [people] are integral to the struggle of undoing the impacts of historical trauma, because our roles in tribes historically were part of the traditions taken away from us with Westernization.” – Zachary Pullin (Chippewa Cree), May/June 2014 Issues of Native Peoples. There are a variety of definitions and feelings about the term “two spirit” – and this term does not resonate for everyone.
Undocumented Immigrants: People are who are born outside of the country to which they immigrated, who do not have documentation that grants legal rights related to residency and /or citizenship.
Ursula: Some lesbians, particularly butch dykes, also participate in Bear culture referring to themselves with the distinct label Ursula.
Womyn/Womxn: some womyn spell the word with a “y” or an “x” as a form of empowerment to move away from the “men” in the “traditional” spelling of women