Practice more-inclusive language by learning the terms used by and for the 2-SLGBTQ+ community. The terms and definitions below are always evolving, changing, and can often mean different things to different people. We provide them as a starting point for discussion and understanding.
We recommend that if you are wondering what it means to a specific person to have a dialogue with them if they consent to do so.
Ultimately it is important that each individual be able to define themselves for themselves and therefore also define a term for themselves.
An agender person is someone who does not identify with any gender or does not feel that gender is relevant to them personally. Some agender people feel that they have no gender identity, while others feel that agender is itself a gender identity. This can be similar to or overlap with the experience of being gender neutral, or having a neutral gender identity.
A broad range of orientation generally characterized by feeling varying degrees of sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity, despite sexual desire. Some asexual people do have sex and do experience varying levels of sexual attraction. There are many diverse ways of being asexual. A person who does not experience sexual attraction can experience other forms of attraction such as romantic attraction, physical attraction and emotional attraction, as these are separate aspects of a person’s identity. These may or may not correlate with each other – for instance, some people are physically and romantically attracted to women. However, others might be physically attracted to all genders and only emotionally attracted to men.
Assigned Sex at Birth means that a doctor assigned the person female or male based on their external anatomy when they were born. People can also be assigned intersex at birth.
The terms Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB) and Assigned Male at Birth (AMAB) are used by a wide range of individuals, including those who are transgender, non-binary, or intersex. While AFAB or AMAB may be useful for describing different trans or non-binary experiences, they are generally not considered identities in and of themselves. Calling a transman “AFAB,” for example, erases his identity as a man. Instead, use a person’s requested pronouns and self-description.
The process of reducing the appearance of breasts by wrapping or compressing the chest using various methods. Binding can be very gender-affirming for many people, however it must be done safely.
Fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people even perceived to be bisexual or pansexual.
Disdain for or invalidation of identities and relationships of bisexual or pansexual people.
A bisexual person is attracted to people of the same gender and other genders.
“Bi” means two, so there is some controversy about what counts as bisexual, but many people use the term bisexual to describe attraction to more than one gender.
Cisgender means that your gender identity matches your sex assigned at birth. For example, someone who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman, or someone assigned male at birth who identifies as a man. This does not mean they must perfectly conform to gender roles.
Coming out is the process of voluntarily sharing one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity with others. This process is unique for each individual and there is no right or wrong way to come out.
A deadname is a name that a trans+/nonbinary person no longer uses. Usually it is the name assigned at birth. When someone uses this name, whether intentionally or not, it is referred to as deadnaming. Deadnaming is considered offensive and hurtful.
- 2-S: Two-Spirit
- L: Lesbian
- G: Gay
- B: Bisexual
- T: Transgender
- Q: Questioning/Queer
- I: Intersex
- A: Asexual
- +: all of the other identities not encompassed in the short acronym
The term “gay” was historically used for men who are attracted to other men, but it can also describe anyone whose sexuality falls outside heterosexual. This can include anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community.
A social construct used to classify a complex part of a person’s identity; an interplay of self-perception, personality, and embodiment. More than just masculine or feminine, there are infinite amount of possible genders.
Used to describe when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.
This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Not every trans person experiences gender dysphoria. Some people don’t feel dysphoric but identify as trans because they feel “right” or euphoric when they align with a certain identity.
A euphoric feeling often experienced when one’s gender is recognized and respected by others, when one’s body aligns with one’s gender, or when one expresses themselves in accordance with their gender. Focusing on gender euphoria instead of gender dysphoria shifts focus towards the positive aspects of being transgender or 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 as transgender, as well as anyone else whose gender in some way is seen to be broadening the surrounding society’s notion of gender.
How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress, presentation of secondary sex characteristics (i.e., chest, body hair, voice), 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).
The societal expectations attached to a person’s sex assigned at birth. Gender roles are not in-born; they have changed over time and are different across different cultures.
A person’s gender identity is their personal experience of their gender.
It may be different from their gender expression. Also, a person’s gender identity is separate from their sexuality.
A person’s gender identity is formed around age 3.
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.
Intersex means that a person was born with reproductive anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical female or male definitions. This includes natural variations in their genitals, hormones, or chromosomes.
Many visibly intersex people are mutilated in infancy and early childhood by doctors to make their sex characteristics conform to society’s idea of what normal bodies should look like. Intersex people are relatively common, although society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Hermaphrodite is an outdated and offensive term that has been used to describe intersex people in the past.
An abbreviation for men who have sex with men
MSM comprise a diverse group in terms of behaviors, identities, and health care needs. The term “MSM” often is used clinically to refer to sexual behavior alone, regardless of sexual orientation (i.e. they may or may not identify as gay).
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…”).
A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual, moving beyond the male/female gender binary. 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.
Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual and/or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes. Has some overlap with bisexuality and polysexuality.
When a trans individual is perceived as, or “passes” as, a cisgender man or woman. Passing is often thought of as a form of privilege, and the concept can also put unrealistic or unwanted expectations on trans/nonbinary folks to confirm to cisnormativity. Passing can also refer to gay/lesbian/queer people being regarded as straight. Historically, passing was often necessary as a form of safety for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Queer People of Color; Queer Trans People of Color; Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color. Often used to discuss the ways in which intersectional identities can result in multifaceted systems and experiences of oppression.
An umbrella term used to describe gender/sexual/romantic orientations or identities that fall outside of societal norms. Historically, queer has been used as an epithet/slur against the 2-SLGBTQ+ community. Some people have reclaimed the word queer and self identify in opposition to assimilation [adapted from “Queering the Field”]. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into social norms. Not all people who identify as 2-SLGBTQ+ use “queer” to describe themselves. For example, those of earlier generations are typically averse to self-identifying as queer. The term is often considered hateful when used by those who do not identify as 2-SLGBTQ+.
The process of exploring one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some people may also use this term to name their identity within the community.
Orientation is one’s attraction or non-attraction to other people. An individual’s orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their orientation. Some, but not all, types of attraction or orientation include: romantic, sexual, sensual, aesthetic, intellectual and platonic.
Identity terms – such as lesbian, gay, straight, bi, asexual, etc
An adjective used most often as an umbrella term and frequently abbreviated to “trans.” Identifying as transgender, or trans, means that one’s internal knowledge of gender is different from conventional or cultural expectations based on the sex that person was assigned at birth. While transgender may refer to a woman who was assigned male at birth or a man who was assigned female at birth, transgender is an umbrella term that can also describe someone who identifies as a gender other than woman or man, such as non binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, no gender or multiple genders, or some other gender identity. Transsexual is an older, medicalized term referring to a person who intends to transition or has transitioned.
Fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people even perceived to be transgender. When people have deeply rooted negative beliefs about what it means to be transgender and/or gender expansive. Their beliefs affect the way they, the government, organizations, the media, and society generally treat people whose identities don’t fit into typical gender roles.
Transphobia results in policies that take away the rights and safety of trans and nonbinary children, teens, and adults. This results in discrimination, harassment, and sometimes violence against people who are not cisgender.
Transitioning is the process of taking steps to live as one’s true gender identity. Transitioning is different for each individual and may or may not involve medical interventions like taking hormones or having surgery. Some people may not choose to transition in certain ways for a variety of reasons. The extent of someone’s transition does not make that person’s gender identity any less or more valid.
Transitioning may include socially transitioning, such as going by certain pronouns or going by the chosen name that affirms one’s gender identity. Transitioning may involve making changes to one’s physical appearance, such as wearing certain clothing, wearing one’s hair in a different style or length, or more complex changes such as medically transitioning through hormones or surgery. Transitioning can also involve changing legal documents to match one’s authentic sense of self. Additionally, socially transitioning is when an individual begins to present themselves to the world in a way that most affirms their gender identity. This could look like sharing their lived name and gender identity in social settings.
An umbrella term encompassing sexuality and gender in Indigenous Native American communities. Two Spirit people often serve integral and important roles in their communities, such as leaders and healers. It may refer to an embodiment of masculinity and femininity but this is not the only significance of the term. There are a variety of definitions and feelings about the term two spirit – and this term does not resonate for everyone. Two Spirit is a cultural term reserved for those who identify as Indigenous Native American. Although the term itself became more commonly used around 1990, two spirit people have existed for centuries.
The importance of inclusion
Look for ways to express acceptance and actively include 2-SLGBTQ+ people in your school or workplace, social circles, and family…
More about pronouns
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