Definition of Terms

These terms were last updated in May 2019.  For the most complete definitions, we encourage you to compare what you find here with information from other sources as language in our communities is often an evolving process, and there may be regional differences.  Please be aware that these terms may be defined with outdated language or concepts.  For suggestions, please email geneq@berkeley.edu

AFAB

"Assigned female at birth." A term to describe individuals who were assigned female at birth.

AMAB

"Assigned male at birth." A term to describe individuals who were assigned male at birth.

Agender

A person who is internally ungendered or does not have a felt sense of gender identity

Androgynous

A person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.

Ally

Someone who advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own. Reaching across differences to achieve mutual goals.

Asexual

A person who is not sexually attracted to any gender.

Bias

Prejudice; an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment.

Bigender

A person whose gender identity is a combination of man and woman

Biphobia

The irrational fear and intolerance of people who are bisexual.

Bisexuality

Also bi. A person who is attracted to two sexes or two genders, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. This used to be defined as a person who is attracted to both genders or both sexes, but since there are not only two sexes (see intersex and transsexual) and there are not only two genders (see transgender), this definition is inaccurate.

Butch

A lesbian-specific gender identity, originating in women's working class communities. Associated with the rejection of femininity, in presentation as well as in being unavailable to men. Not necessarily equated with masculinity.

Cisgender (adj.)

A term used to describe people who, for the most part, identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. (Cis is Latin for "on the near side of", "on the same side of")

Cisgenderism

A prejudice that denies, ignores, denigrates, or stigmatizes non-cisgender forms of expression, sexual activity, behavior, relationship, or community. Cisgenderism exists in everyone regardless of gender identity because most have been raised in a predominantly cisgender society.

Cissexism

The appeal to norms that enforce the gender binary and gender essentialism, resulting in the oppression of gender variant, non-binary, and trans identities.

Coming out

To recognize one's sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex identity, and to be open about it with oneself and with others.

Domestic Partner

One who lives with their beloved and/or is at least emotionally and financially connected in a supportive manner with another. Another word for spouse, lover, significant other, etc.

Dominant Culture

The cultural values, beliefs, and practices that are assumed to be the most common and influential within a given society.

Drag

The act of dressing in gendered clothing and adopting gendered behviors as part of a performance, most often clothing and behaviors typically not associated with your gender identity. Drag Queens perform femininity theatrically. Drag Kings perform masculinity theatrically. Drag may be performed as a political comment on gender, as parody, or simply as entertainment. Drag performance does not indicate sexuality, gender identity, or sex identity.

Family

Colloquial term used to identify other LGBTQ+ community members. For example, an LGBTQ+ person saying, “that person is family” often means that the person they are referring to is LGBTQ+ as well.

Family of Choice

Persons or group of people an individual sees as significant in their life. It may include none, all, or some members of their family of origin. In addition, it may include individuals such as significant others, domestic partners, friends, and coworkers.

Femme

A lesbian-specific gender identity, originating in women's working class communities. Associated with the subversion of femininity, taking what may traditionally be read as feminine, yet unavailable to men. Not necessarily equated with femininity. 

FTM

A person who transitions from "female-to-male," meaning a person who was assigned female at birth but identifies as a man. Also known as as "transgender man." FTM is a term that is falling out of usedue to it's centering of biological sex categories in the identifier itself.

Gay

Men attracted to men. Colloquially used as an umbrella term to include all LGBTQ+ people.

Gender

A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. See "Gender Identity" and "Gender Expression" for more on gender.

Gender Affirmation Surgery (formerly Sex Reassignment Surgery)

Surgical procedures that change one’s body to better reflect a person’s gender identity. This may include different procedures, including those sometimes also referred to as "top surgery" (breast augmentation or removal) or "bottom surgery" (altering genitals). Contrary to popular belief, there is not one surgery; in fact there are many different surgeries. These surgeries are medically necessary for some people, however not all people want, need, or can have surgery as part of their transition. "Sex change surgery" is considered a derogatory term by many.

Gender Conformity

When your gender identity, gender expression and sex “match” according to social norms.  See "Gender Identity," "Sex" and "Gender Expression" for more on gender.

Gender Diverse

A person who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society (e.g. transgender, transsexual, intersex, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc) preferable to “gender variant” because it does not imply a standard normativity.

Gender Expression

Refers to all of the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions, often along lines of race and class. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another.

Gender-Expansive

An umbrella term used for individuals that broaden commonly held definitions, including its expression, associated identities, and/or other perceived gender norms, in one or more aspects of their life.

Gender Fluid

A person whose gender identification and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations.

Gender Identity

An individual’s internal sense of their own gender, whether they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, another gender or no gender

Gender-Neutral/Gender-Inclusive

Inclusive language to describe relationships (“spouse” and “partner” instead of “husband/boyfriend” and “wife/girlfriend”), spaces (gender-neutral/inclusive restrooms are for use by all genders), pronouns ("they" and "ze" are gender neutral/inclusive pronouns) among other things.

Gender Non-Conforming

A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Genderqueer

A term for gender identities that do not exclusively align with a gender category—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity

Gender Role

How “masculine” or “feminine” an individual acts. Societies commonly have norms regarding how males and females should behave, expecting people to have personality characteristics and/or act a certain way based on their biological sex.

Gender Variant

A synonym for "gender diverse" and "gender non-conforming"; “gender diverse” and “gender non-conforming” are preferred to “gender variant” because variance implies a standard normativity of gender

Hate Crime

Hate crime legislation often defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.

Heterosexuality

Sexual, emotional, and/or romantic attraction to a gender other than your own. Commonly thought of as “attraction to the opposite gender” but since there are not only two genders, this definition is inaccurate.

Heterosexism

Part of a greater institutional structure of social organization which results in the assumption that every person is heteroseuxal, further marginalizing persons who identify as LGBTQ+ by exlusion from spaces, legislature, etc.

Heterosexual Privilege

Benefits derived automatically by being (or being perceived as) heterosexual that are denied to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers and all other non-heterosexual sexual orientations.

Homophobia

Discrimination against people who are either lesbian or gay. Bisexual and pansexual people may also face homophobia in particular contexts.

Institutional Oppression

Arrangement of a society used to benefit one group at the expense of another through the use of language, media education, religion, economic structures, etc.

Intersex 

Intersex is a term to describe an individual whose primary and secondary sex characteristics do not align with what is typically read as "male" or "female." Intersex people still have gender identities and sexual orientations, which may or may not be LGBTQ+. Being intersex does not render someone LGBTQ+ identifying, and many intersex activists have advocated against the use of intersex conditions as "proof" that gender identity is socially constructed. 

In the Closet

Keeping one's sexual orientation and/or gender or sex identity a secret.

Lambda

The Gay Activist Alliance originally chose the lambda, the Greek letter "L", as a symbol in 1970. Organizers chose the letter "L" to signify liberation. The word has become a way of expressing the concept "lesbian and gay male" in a minimum of syllables and has been adopted by such organizations as Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Lesbian

A woman who is attracted to women.

LGBTQ+

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer. The '+' signifies that one may identify with a sexual orientation or gender identity that is not represented within this acronym, but would still be considered apart of the LGBTQ+ community (e.g. pansexual).

Lived Name

An alternative to "preferred name." Lived name is used in place of "preferred name" because the modifier "preferred" which signifies that a trans person would simply prefer to be called by their name, rather than it being necessary. 

MSM

Men who engage in same-sex behavior, but who may not necessarily self-identify as gay or bisexual.

MTF

A person who transitions from "male-to-female," meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies as a woman. Also known as a “transgender woman.” A term that is falling out of use due to it’s centering of biological sex categories.

Non-binary

A term for gender identities that fall outside the gender binary

Out (of the Closet)

Refers to varying degrees of being open about one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Pangender

A person whose gender identity is comprised of all or many gender expressions

Pansexual

A person who is fluid in sexual orientation and/or gender or sex identity.

Pink Triangle

A symbol of remembrance. Gay men in the Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear the pink triangle as a designation of being homosexual. The triangles are worn today as symbols of freedom, reminding us to never forget.

Polyamory

Polyamory is the practice of having multiple open, honest love relationships.

Queer

Originally harmful in its intent, the term is now used by some LGBTQ+ individuals to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people. However, many LGBTQ+ people still live in contexts in which this term is violently weaponized against them. Some use queer as an alternative to "gay" in an effort to be more inclusive. The term has either a derogatory, when used by someone not part of the LGBTQ+ community, or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used against them in a negative way.

Rainbow Flag

The Rainbow Freedom Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker to designate the great diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. It has been recognized by the International Flag Makers Association as the official flag of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement.

Sex

A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. Common terms are “male, “female” and "intersex." Informs the gender one gets assigned, therefore framing their later social interactions.

Sexual Minority

Refers to members of sexual orientations that are marginalized, such as LGBQ+ identities. 

Sexual Orientation

The direction of one’s sexual (erotic) and/or romantic attraction towards the same gender, opposite gender, or multiple genders. (Some sexual Orientation terms are gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, etc.). It is separate from gender identity and thus transgender persons also have a sexual orientation. Like gender, sexuality is on a spectrum, meaning some people may experience fluidity in their sexuality.

Stereotype

An exaggerated oversimplified belief about an entire group of people that reinforces white supremacist power structures by normalizing discrimination against marginalized people. 

Straight

Person who is attracted to a gender other than their own. Commonly thought of as “attraction to the opposite gender,” but since there are not only two genders (see transgender), this definition is inaccurate.  

Transgender (adj.)

An adjective for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth. Transgender can be used as a broad term to encompass various transgender and non-binary gender identities.  “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.” 

Trans man

A term for an individual assigned female at birth who identifies as a man; men who are transgender. 

Trans woman

A term for an individual assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman; women who are transgender. 

Transphobia

Discrimination against a person due to their being trans or being perceived to be trans. This includes acts such as being barred from housing  and job opportunities, microaggressions such as being misgendered, and other varying degrees of violence.

Transsexual

An older term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth who seeks to transition from male to female or female to male. Many do not prefer this term because it is thought to sound overly clinical.

Two-Spirit

A contemporary term that refers to the historical and current First Nations people whose gender identities fall outside of colonial notions of gender and the gender binary. This term has been reclaimed by some in Native American LGBTQ+ communities in order to honor their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Subject Object Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun Reflexive
Feminine She Her Her Hers Herself
Masculine He Him His His Himself
Gender Neutral They Them Their Theirs Themselves
Gender Neutral Ze Hir Hir Hirs Hirself
(Gender Neutral Pronunciation) /zee/ /here/ /here/ /heres/ /hereself/

(Some definitions adapted from National Center For Transgender Equality)

 If you have other definitions that you would like to see on this page, changes to our definitions, or questions about these terms, please email us at LGBT@berkeley.edu.