Glossary of Terms

The terms below come from several sources, may not be concrete, and different people may have different definitions of certain terms. This is not a complete list, but they are provided as a starting place for discussion.



Ally-A Safe Zone ally honors sexual diversity, challenges heterosexist and cissexist remarks and behaviors, and explores and understands these forms of bias within their experiences. This person also works to end oppression personally and professionally through support and advocacy of an oppressed population. In this context Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Ally and Asexual individuals.

Androgynous-This word describes both a gender identity as well as a manner of gender presentation. Those who identify as androgynous may identify as between man and woman or something else entirely. Those who present androgynous may dress in a manner that incorporates clothing that is traditionally for men and clothing that’s traditionally for women.

Androgyne-An androgyne is a person who does not fit cleanly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. Many androgynes identify as being mentally “between” male and female, or as entirely genderless. The former may also use the term bigender or ambigender, the latter non-gendered or agender. They may experience mental swings between genders, sometimes referred to as being gender fluid

Androsexual/Androphilic-Attracted to males, men, and/or masculinity

Asexual-A person who does not experience sexual attraction or has lost interest in sex but may still have romantic interests

Assigned Gender-The announcement by doctors (It’s a boy/girl) based on what your physical anatomy looks like. Based on this, you are supposed to grow up, to be and exist within a certain set of gender roles.

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Bigender- A person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (and sometimes a third gender).

Binary Gender System- A culturally defined code of acceptable behaviors which teach that there are men and women, who are masculine and feminine, and that there is nothing outside this system. The problem that occurs when we talk about gender is that everything is set in the binary system, but the gender issues that we are talking about exist in a multi-gender system and do not neatly fit into a binary system.

Binary Sex- A traditional and outdated view of sex, limiting possibilities to “female” or “male”.

Binding-The practice of taping or compressing the chest or “breast tissue” so that one can pass as a man, this is done with extremely tight bras, elastic bandages, and other methods.

Biological Sex- The classification of people as male, female, or intersex. Biological Sex is assigned at birth, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy.

Bisexual- A person emotionally, romantically, sexually and relationally attracted to both men and women, though not necessarily simultaneously. A bisexual person may not be equally attracted to both sexes, and the degree of attraction may vary as sexual identity develops over time.

Bottom Surgery- “Below the waist”, to either create a vagina (for a male-to-female, MTF) or a penis and testicles (for a female-to-male, FTM). There are many different issues that cause each person to make the decision to either have or not have the surgeries. Some factors include: desire, expense, physical health, age, and access to medical care and information. There are also many difficulties that can occur with these surgeries, which will factor into each individual’s decision-making.

BoYdyke-(SEE DYKE) A “female bodied” person who intentionally or non-intentionally expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically masculine, particularly boyish, characteristics. Also, one who enjoys being perceived as a young male (passing).

Butch- A term used by some lesbian and bisexual women to describe their masculine style of gender presentation and may describe dominant gender roles they ascribe to. This term is less commonly used in the gay and bisexual male culture.

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Cis-man- A person who identifies as a man, presents himself masculinely, and has male biological sex, often referred to as simply “man”

Cis-woman- A person who identifies as a woman, presents herself femininely, and has female biological sex, often referred to as simply “woman”

Cisgender- A term meaning “not transgender,” that is, having a gender identity or performing in a gender role that society considers appropriate for one’s sex

Cissexism- The attitude that being cisgender is the only valid gender identity. Cissexism often takes the forms of ignoring transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. For example: bathrooms are for “men” and “women”, “ladies, and gentlemen”, etc.

Closeted- A person who is keeping their sexuality or gender identity a secret from many (or any) people, and has yet to “come out of the closet”.

Cross-Dressing (Also Transvestite, Transvestitism)- A person who wears the clothing considered typical for another gender on occasion, but does not desire to change their gender. Reasons for cross-dressing can range from a need to express a feminine or masculine side to attainment of erotic/sexual/fetish gratification. Cross-dressers can be of any sexual orientation, but within this community, there is a large percentage of heterosexually/straight-identified individuals. [a person who, regardless of motivation, wears clothes, makeup, etc. that are considered by the culture to be appropriate for another gender but not one’s own.  This is the preferred term to “transvestite”, which is considered archaic and pejorative.]

Cross-Living- Cross-living is cross-dressing full-time (which is also referred to as 24/7), and living as the gender which a person perceives themselves to be.

Coming out- The process of revealing your sexuality or gender identity to individuals in your life; often incorrectly thought to be a one – time event, this is a lifelong and sometimes daily process; not to be confused with “outing”.

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D/L or Down Low- Label adopted by some African-American men (and recently, many Latino men) who seek same sex relations, but do not necessarily identify as gay or bisexual.

Demisexual- A word to describe a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone. This identity is a part of the asexual spectrum.

Drag (also Drag King, Drag Queen, Female/Male Impersonator)- Wearing the clothing of another gender, often with exaggerated cultural/stereotypical gender characteristics. Individuals may identify as Drag Kings (female in drag) or Drag Queens (male in drag). Drag often refers to dressing for functional purposes such as entertainment/performance or social gatherings. Drag has held a significant place in GLBT history and community.

Dyke- A derogatory term for lesbian. Some lesbians have reclaimed this word and use it as a positive term, but it is still considered offensive when used by the general population.

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Effeminate- Used to identify a person (usually male) who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics. This is often viewed as a culturally negative term.

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Fag/Faggot – A derogatory term for a gay man. Some gay men have reclaimed this word and use it as a positive term, but it is still considered offensive when used by the general population

FTM/FTM (Female to Male)- Used to identify a person who was female bodied at birth and who identifies as male, lives as a man, or identifies as masculine. [A female-to-male transsexual, a transsexual man, a transman, or a transguy—individuals assigned female at birth who identify as male.  Some transmen reject being seen as “FTM,” arguing that they have always been male and are only making this identity visible to other people (instead, they may call themselves “MTM”).  Other transmen feel that “FTM” and similar language reinforces an either/or gender system.]

Female-Assigned At Birth (FAAB)- A person who is FAAB was assigned the female sex at birth, most likely based on how that person’s genitalia were perceived by the attending physician. Where this assignment corresponds with someone’s gender identity they are said to be cisgender. Similar terms: Designated Female At Birth (DFAB), Coercively Assign Female At Birth (CAFAB).

Femme- A person who identifies with being a woman, who understands the power and seduction of the feminine spirit and one who is willing to be powerful as a woman. Can be used to identify a person who expresses and/or presents culturally/stereotypically feminine characteristics. Can be used either as a positive or negative term.

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Gay- A word describing a man or a woman who is emotionally, romantically, sexually and relationally attracted to members of the same sex.

Gender- A persons gender is comprised of gender expression and biological sex. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways that people act, interact, and feel about themselves. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.

Gender and/or Sexuality Minority (GSM)- This term can be used instead of LGBTQ, as many people are still not comfortable using the word queer. It describes those who are not heterosexual and/or not cisgender.

Gender-Bender (also Gender-Blender)- A person who merges characteristics of all genders in subtle ways or intentionally flaunts merged/blurred cultural/stereotypical gender nonns for the purpose of shocking others, without concern for passing.

cultural/stereotypical gender nonns for the purpose of shocking others, without concern for passing.

Gender Dysphoria- An intense continuous discomfort resulting from an individual’s belief in the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and resulting gender role expectations. Also, clinical psychological diagnosis, which offends many in transgender communities, but is often required to receive hormones and/or surgery.

Gender Expression- Refers to all of a person’s external characteristics and behaviors – such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions – socially identified with a particular gender.

Gender Fluid- This gender identity is when an individual’s gender can flow and fluctuate from month to month or even day to day. They may fluctuate between man and woman or through multiple genders.

Gender Identity- Refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological sense of gender, which may or may not correspond to the person’s assigned sex at birth.

Gender Non-Conforming or Gender Variant- A person who does not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society. Includes those who are genderqueer, gender fluid, agender (genderless), bigender, etc.

Gender Queer- A term which is used by some people who may or may not fit on the spectrum of trans, or be labeled as trans, but who identify their gender and their sexual orientation to be outside the assumed norm. [A term used by individuals, especially transgender youth, who do not identify as either male or female and who often seek to blur gender lines.  Among the dozens of more specific “genderqueer” terms are transboi, boydyke, third gendered, bi-gendered, multi-gendered, andro, androgyne, gender bender, gender f*cker, gender variant, gender non-conforming.]

Gender Reassignment Surgery–GRS (also Sex Reassignment Surgery–SRS)-Permanent surgical refashioning of genitalia to resemble the genitalia of the desired gender. Sought to attain congruence between one’s body and one’s gender identity. [Surgical procedures that change one’s body to conform to one’s gender identity.  Sometimes GRS is referred to as “gender confirming surgery,” to recognize that one’s gender does not change—it is only being made visible to others.  These procedures may include “top surgery” (breast augmentation or removal) and “bottom surgery” (altering genitals or internal organs).Gender Re-assignment Surgery List

Gender Role- Gender role is the set of roles and behaviors assigned to females and males by society. Our culture recognizes two basic gender roles: masculine (having the qualities attributed to males) and feminine (having the qualities attributed to females).


Genetic- Often used to refer to the assigned gender at birth. Also used to refer to the discussion of the chromosomal makeup of an individual.

Getting Read (Clocked)- Being detected as a person who is cross-dressed.

GLBTQ/LGBTQ- Acronym used to describe people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. Implies inclusivity to people of all gender and sexual orientations.

Gynesexual/Gynephilic- Attracted to females, women, and/or femininity.

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Hate Crime- An action that causes physical, mental or emotional harm to someone simply because they are part of, or thought to be a part of, the GBLTQ (or other diverse) community. Often the result of homophobia, this can also be seen as “gay bashing.” Many states have laws that offer stricter criminal penalties for committing hate crimes

Heteronormativity- The tendency to marginalize, persecute, or make invisible any behavior, belief, or lifestyle that deviates from the socially-accepted and enforced model of heterosexuality and the gender binary

Heterosexism- Behavior that grants preferential treatment to heterosexual people, reinforces the idea that heterosexuality is somehow better or more “right” than queerness, or ignores/doesn’t address queerness as existing

Heterosexual- The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or relational attractions are to people of the opposite sex. Also: straight.

Homophobia- Homophobia is a fear, hatred of or discomfort with people who love and are sexually attracted to members of the same sex.

Homonormativity- The tendency to project heteronormative values onto behavior, relationships, and family models within the queer community. At times, this may be a matter of assimilating heterosexual values into a queer context and/or community (i.e., the assumption that [LGBT families] all have “two moms” or “two dads” without a thought to other family structures such as those that include single or multiple parents).

Homosexual- The term is an outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay people. Gay and/or lesbian are more commonly accepted terms to describe people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

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Internalized homophobia- Self-identification of societal stereotypes by lesbian, gay and bisexual people, causing them to dislike and resent their sexual orientation or gender identity

Intersexed- An Individual born with full or partial genitalia of both genders, or with underdeveloped or ambiguous genitalia. Surgery is common in infancy, when a singular gender is assigned. Many who have surgery develop feeling a sense of loss of an essential part of themselves.  [“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.  For more information please visit the web site for the Intersex Society of North America.  Many people who are intersex do not identify as transgender, but some do.  This is the preferred term to “hermaphrodite”, which is used medically but in social circles it is considered pejorative.]

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Lesbian- Refers to a woman whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional, and/or relational attractions are to other women.

Lifestyle- The term “lifestyle” is inaccurately used to refer to the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Avoid using this term. As there is no one heterosexual or straight lifestyle, there is no one lesbian, gay, bisexual lifestyle.

Living openly- A state in which LGBT people are open with others about being LGBT how and when they choose to be.

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M2F, MTF, Male-to-Female- Used to identify a person who was male bodied at birth and who identifies as a female, lives as a woman, or identifies as feminine. [A male-to-female transsexual, a transsexual woman, a transwoman, or a transgrrl—individuals assigned male at birth who identify as female.  Some transwomen reject being seen as “MTF,” arguing that they have always been female and are only making this identity visible to other people (instead, they may call themselves “FTF”).  Other transwomen feel that “MTF” and similar language reinforces an either/or gender system.]

Male Bodied- A person who was assigned a male gender at birth, or a person who has had their genitals surgically altered to be a man.

Metrosexual- Part of gender expression for males, where one’s appearance is highly valued and well-groomed.

Misgender- To ascribe a gender to that person that does not correspond to their actual gender identity. Some actions that would be misgendering are using the wrong pronoun or using a gender specific word for said person (“miss” or “man”, for example).

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Non-Op- Individuals who have not attained and may not desire to attain gender reassignment surgery, and may or may not take hormone therapy. For many individuals, self-identification and self-expression, through cross-living or other methods of gender identity achieve harmony or congruence between one’s body and one’s gender identity and there is no need felt for surgical reconstruction.

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Outing- When someone reveals another person’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity to an individual or group without the person’s consent or approval; not to be confused with “coming out”.

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Pansexual (also Omnisexual)- An individual who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or sexually attracted to those of any gender or physical makeup. Defined as someone who is attracted to other people regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Essentially, they are “gender blind”. A person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions.

Passing- The ability for a person to present themselves in another gender than which they live full-time or in which they were assigned at birth.  [“Reading” is the term that describes what happens when someone looks at another and perceives them as a particular gender.  This can be negative if a person is “read” as trans and they are attempting to pass.  “Passing” occurs when the gender identity that the person identifies as is the one that is read by others.]

Presentation- The totality of one’s appearance when dressing, including voice, behavior, appropriateness of clothing for the situation, etc.

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Queer- Describes all people who are not heterosexual or who do not conform to rigid notions of gender and sexuality. For many LGBTQ people this word has negative connotation; however, some are comfortable using it and have reclaimed the word as a symbol of pride.

Questioning- The process of exploring one’s own sexual orientation, investigating influences that may come from their family, religious upbringing, and internal motivations.

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Real Life Test (also Life Test)- A period of time required of individuals seeking gender reassignment surgery during which they must live full-time expressing and presenting the gender in which they identify. Many doctors require a Real-Life Test of two or more years before advancing to surgery.

Romantic Attraction- A feeling that causes people to desire a romantic relationship with a specific other person(s).

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Same-gender loving (SGL)- Some prefer to use “same-gender loving” instead of “lesbian” or “gay” to express attraction to and love of people of the same gender

Second Generation (LGBT)- A term that we use to describe queer, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, gay, and questioning children who also have gay parents

Secondary Sex Characteristics- The changes that occur when a person reaches puberty. They include but are not limited to: facial and body hair growth, muscle development, voice changes, breast development, and the ability to reproduce.

Sensual Attraction- The attraction one feels to engage in sensual, usually tactile, forms of affection and/or intimacy with someone (that lacks sexual intent)

Sex Assignment- The declaration, by doctors, based on what your external genitalia looks like, which gender you are; therefore you are supposed to grow up and exist within a certain set of gender roles.

Sexual Attraction- A feeling of wanting to be sexual with another person(s). This can often occur because of emotional or physical factors, but not always.

Sexual Orientation- An enduring physical, romantic, emotional, and/or relational attraction to another person.

Sexual Preference- Sometimes used to mean the same thing as sexual orientation. Many lesbian, gay and bisexual people find this term to be offensive because it implies that their sexual orientation is a choice.

Standards of Care- A set of minimum guidelines formulated by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, Inc. (HBIGDA) for care of transsexual individuals and providing requirements for consumers and service providers.

Shape Shifter (also Metamorph)- Used by some people who choose not to identify as transsexuals, to express their belief they are not changing their gender, but changing their body to reflect their inner feelings and gender identity.

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Top Surgery- Surgery “above the waist,” usually breast augmentation for MTFs and breast reduction for FTMs. There are many different issues that cause each person to make the decision either to have or not have the surgeries, some factors include: desire, expense, physical health, age, and access to medical care and information. There are also many difficulties that can occur with these surgeries, which will factor into each individual’s decision-making process.

Trans* (also Transgender)- Those who transgress societal gender norms; often used as an umbrella term to mean those who defy rigid, bipolar gender constructions, and who express or present a breaking and/or blurring of cultural/stereotypical gender roles. This includes: androgynes, cross-dressers, gender-benders, intersexed individuals, shape-shifters, transvestites, and transsexuals. [Most commonly used as an umbrella term for someone whose self-identification or expression challenges traditional notions of male and female.  Transgender people include transsexuals, crossdressers, drag queens and kings, genderqueers, and others who cross traditional gender categories.]

Transgender Community (also Gender Community)- A loose association of individuals and organizations who transgress gender norms in a variety of ways. Celebrating a recently born self-awareness, this community is growing fast across all lines. The central ethic of this community is unconditional acceptance of individual exercise of freedoms including gender and sexual identity and orientation.

Transgenderist- People who choose to cross-live full time, but who choose not to have Sex Reassignment Surgery/Gender Reassignment Surgery. They may or may not have some surgeries, and they may or may not use hormones.

Transition- The period during which a transgender individual (usually transsexual) begins to live a new life in their gender. Also, includes the period of full-time living (Real Life Test) required before gender reassignment surgery.

Transphobia (also genderphobia)- The irrational fear of those who are perceived to break and/or blur cultural/stereotypical gender roles, often assumed to be queer. Expressed as negative feelings, attitudes, actions or behaviors against those perceived as breaking and/or blurring cultural/stereotypical gender roles. [The fear, hatred, or intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as transgender.]

Transsexual (also Female-to-Male (FTM/F2M), Male-to-Female (MTF/M2F), Pre-Operative, Post-Operative, Non-Operative)- A person who, through experiencing an intense long-term discomfort resulting from feeling the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and discomfort of their body, adapts their gender role and body in order to reflect and be congruent with their gender identity. This may include cross-living, synthesized sex hormones, surgery and other body modification which may or may not lead to the feeling of harmony between a person’s body and gender identity.

Tuck- The technique of hiding male genitals.

Two Spirit- This term for third gender people is mainly used among Native American and Canadian First Nations tribes. It usually implies a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit living in the same body. It is also used by some contemporary gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex Native Americans to describe themselves

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Works Cited

AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network)[Online]www.asexuality.org.

Safe Zone Website[Online]www.wou.edu/safezone.

American Psychological Association – Transgender. LGBT Resources.[Online]http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/.


COLAGE – Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere.[Online]colage.org.

Grand Valley State University.[Online]www.gvsu.edu/allies.

Human Rights Campain – Guide to Coming Out.[Online]www.hrc.org/resources/entry/resource-guide-to-coming-out.

It’s Pronounced Metrosexual.[Online]itspronouncedmetrosexual.com.

Lesbian Handbook.[Online]lesbianhandbook.net.

Planned Parenthood.[Online]plannedparenthood.org.

UC Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center.[Online]geneq.berkeley.edu.Wikipedia. (online)

Have any questions or suggestions on how we can improve, contact: safezone@wou.edu