Since terminology is so fluid and identity labels mean different things to different people, this list simply aims to serve as a resource and guide. By no means can every definition perfectly describe every individual’s experience with an identity.
Biological sex/assigned sex
A medical label used to categorize people according to their chromosomes, hormones, genitalia and secondary sex characteristics (breasts, body hair, etc.). Usually assigned at birth as “male” or “female” by a doctor, though there are many variations outside of that socially-constructed binary (i.e. intersex).
Term used to describe an individual whose assigned biological sex aligns with their expected binary gender identity. Considered to be opposite of “transgender.” Example: A person whose sex assigned at birth is “female” and identifies their gender as girl or woman.
A person who enjoys dressing in clothing typically associated with the other of the 2 socially-sanctioned genders, but who generally have no intent to live full-time as the other gender. The older term “transvestite” is considered derogatory by many in the United States.
The theatrical act of dressing in gendered clothing and/or adopting gendered behaviors as part of a performance (usually clothing and behaviors not typically associated with your own gender identity. Can be done for entertainment, as parody or to make a political statement. Does not indicate performer’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
A socially constructed identity centering around notions of “masculinity,” “femininity” and “androgyny,” which includes aspects of identity and expression.
The way an individual conveys (or is perceived as conveying) their gender, including their choices in clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms, communication patterns, social roles, etc.
A person’s own understanding of themselves in gendered categories such as woman, man, boy, girl, transgender, genderqueer, etc. How an individual feels inside and believes themself to be.
Gender dysphoria (formerly referred to as gender identity disorder)
A diagnostic label included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to describe when a person identifies as a different gender than the one they were assigned based on their birth sex. This diagnosis is usually required so a trans person can receive hormone replacement therapy, sex affirmation surgery and/or revised gender and sex markers on their identification.
An identity label sometimes claimed by people whose gender identity does not fit into the culturally accepted man/woman binary. May be characterized by the desire to challenge norms of gender roles and expression, to “play” with gender and/or to express a fluid gender identity.
Term to describe a person whose sex assigned at birth does not neatly fit into the socially accepted binary of “male” or “female,” because they have genitalia, hormone production levels and/or chromosomal makeups that are ambiguous or non-binary.
MTF/M2F/MtF and FTM/F2M/FtM
Terms used to indicate the direction of a trans person’s transition and/or identification change. Usually means male-to-female, male-toward-female, female-to-male or female-toward-male.
Being perceived by others as the gender you are aiming to present as. Usually used to describe if a trans person is able to live convincingly and publicly as the gender they identify as.
Pre-, post and non-operative (or –op)
Terms used to describe a transgender or transsexual person’s intentions or status regarding sex affirmation surgeries.
An umbrella identity term used by people who do not conform to norms of heterosexuality and/or the gender binary. A reclaimed slur, often used with a political connotation.
Aspect of an individual’s identity that determines who they focus their sexual/erotic drives, desires and fantasies toward.
Sex affirmation surgery (commonly referred to as sex reassignment surgery or gender confirmation surgery)
Surgeries to change the sex characteristics of one’s body, including genitals and/or secondary sex characteristics. Often misunderstood as being a single surgery that makes all body modifications, but the reality is that there is no “one” surgery or procedure.
Transgender or trans
An identity label used to describe a person whose gender identity does not align with the socially expected one according to their sex assigned at birth. Often used as an umbrella term to include people who transgress gender norms, including cross dressers, genderqueer people, trans women, trans men, bigender or polygender people, etc.
Trans man (or transgender man or transexual man)
A person who has transitioned their identity from woman to man, and sometimes their body from female to male.
Trans woman (or transgender woman or transexual woman)
A person who has transitioned their identity from man to woman, and sometimes their body from male to female.
The process of changing one’s sex or gender, socially (e.g. changing one’s name, clothing, makeup, hair, pronouns) and/or medically (e.g. hormones and/or surgery).
A person who usually experiences a strong and persistent feeling that their body and assigned sex are at odds with their gender identity. These individuals often (but not always) desire to change their bodies to reduce this dysphoria. Since this term comes from the medical establishment, many people choose not to identify with it.
Identity label used within many American Indian and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups to describe an individual that possesses both “masculine” and “feminine” spirits. Coined by contemporary LGBT Native Americans to describe themselves and the traditional roles they are reclaiming.
Gender-neutral pronouns. Can be used similarly to she/her, he/him or they/them.
The systematic subjugation of a group of people by another group with access to social power, the result of which benefits one group over the other and is maintained by social beliefs and practices.
A “system of advantage” that gives people from more powerful social groups access to resources and opportunities that are denied to others (and usually gained at their expense) simply because of the groups they belong to (Goodman, 2001; Johnson, 2001; Wildman & Davis, 1996, 2000).
To hold an adverse opinion or belief without just ground before acquiring specific knowledge; often against people or groups of people who are perceived as being “different” or having “different values.”
When prejudiced feelings or beliefs move into the realm of behavior, and people are denied equality of treatment. Can be conscious and deliberate or it can be unconscious and unintentional.
The cultural, institutional and individual beliefs and practices that privilege men and/or masculinity, subordinate women and/or femininity, and denigrate values and practices associated with women.
The cultural, institutional and individual beliefs and practices that assume heterosexuality is the only natural, normal and acceptable sexual orientation. Belief that LGBQ identities are inferior to, or less authentic than, heterosexual identities.
An identity label sometimes claimed by people who do not experience sexual attraction. This differs from celibacy or abstinence, which are behaviors. Often used as an umbrella term to encompass identities such as aromantic, demisexual, grey-A, heteroromantic, homoromantic, etc.
An identity label sometimes claimed by people who experience sexual attraction across the spectrums of gender identity, biological sex and sexual orientation.
Negative attitudes and feelings, ranging from aversion to hatred, toward people who identify as or are perceived to be LGBQ. Can be present in institutions such as religion, the education system and the law, and also internally in individuals that may or may not identify within the LGBTQQIAP community.
Negative attitudes and feelings, ranging from aversion to hatred, toward people who identify as or are perceived to be trans. Can be present in institutions such as religion, the education system and the law, and also internally in individuals that may or may not identify within the trans community.
The cultural, institutional and individual beliefs and practices that assume being cisgender is the only natural, normal and acceptable gender identity. Belief that transgender identities are inferior to, or less authentic than, cisgender identities.
Originally a medical term to describe a person who experiences sexual attraction to people on the “opposite” side of the sex and/or gender binaries. Term came into existence in the 1890s solely to be used in opposition to the term “homosexual.”
Originally a medical term to describe a person who experiences sexual attraction to people on the same side of the sex and/or gender binaries. Because of its pathological connotation, many LGBQ people today do not identify with it.
An identity label sometimes claimed by woman-identified people who form their primary romantic and sexual relationships with other woman-identified people.
An identity label sometimes claimed by people who are sexually attracted to two (or more) sexes or genders, not necessarily equally or simultaneously.
An identity label sometimes claimed by man-identified people who form their primary romantic and sexual relationships with other man-identified people.
FAAB or AFAB
Abbreviation for “female assigned at birth” or “assigned female at birth.”
MAAB or AMAB
Abbreviation for “male assigned at birth” or “assigned male at birth.”
An identity label sometimes claimed by individuals that recognize their ability to be in multiple loving and honest sexual and/or romantic relationships at the same time.
The outright or underlying assumption that all people are heterosexual.
The outright or underlying assumption that all people are cisgender.
Aspect of an individual’s identity that determines who they focus their romantic feelings and desires toward.
A person that actively combats homophobia, queerphobia, transphobia, heterosexism and cissexism in their day-to-day life.
To be openly identified as LGBTQ to certain people and in certain spaces. Outing someone without their consent is not only invasive, but also can put that individual in danger.
Term to describe an assumed duality. Usually in reference to the socially constructed gender binary of man/woman and sex binary of male/female.
An identity label claimed by some African-American and Latin@ masculine of center lesbians. Some use “stud” as a synonym.
Same gender loving (SGL)
A term sometimes used by Black women who love women and Black men who love men. Emerged in the 1990s to provide people in the African-American and Black communities an alternative way to discuss their identity, outside of white-centric terminology.
Abbreviation for “queer people of color” or “queer and trans people of color.”
Masculine of center
Term coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project to describe a queer or lesbian female assigned at birth person with a more masculine gender expression. Can be used as an umbrella term of sorts to include identities such as butch, stud, aggressive (ag), dom, mach@, boi, tomboi, transmasculine, etc.
Identity label claimed by some individuals in the United States who are both queer and undocumented to show that those two aspects of their identity are not only intersectional, but also inseparable.
Down low (DL)
A term originating from the African-American community to describe a man who usually identifies as heterosexual but also has sex with men, often secretly.
A person, often—but not always—a lesbian or queer-identified woman, that identifies strongly with “masculinity.” Has been used historically in a derogatory manner.
A person, often—but not always—a lesbian or queer-identified woman, that identifies strongly with “femininity.”
A trans person whose gender expression is primarily “masculine.” Often includes trans, transgender and/or transexual men.
A trans person whose gender expression is primarily “feminine.” Often includes trans, transgender and/or transexual women.
Some of these definitions draw upon those created by other LGBT Centers (Syracuse University, UC Berkeley, UCLA and Ohio University), The Brown Boi Project and trans-academics.org.