A short glossary of some gender and sexuality terms
By this point, the acronym LGBT is well-known — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. But many people may not be familiar with some other terms around gender and sexuality. Here are some definitions, put together using glossaries from Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, The Trevor Project, Lambda Legal, Asexual Visibility and Education Network, Johns Hopkins Medicine, World Health Organization and NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. Different terms mean different things to different people, so some people may self-identify with a few terms interchangeably while others view them as distinct, and some people may self-identify as a term others may find offensive.
Asexual (adj.) — This term refers to people who don't experience sexual attraction, which is intrinsic as opposed to the choice of celibacy.
Cisgender (adj.) — A person whose gender identity (see below) matches his or her sex assigned or presumed at birth.
Deadnaming (verb) — Using the name a transgender person used before changing their name, such as the birth name, an action that is widely viewed among transgender people as harmful and disrespectful.
Gender affirming (adj.) — This term describes social, behavioral and medical actions designed to support a transgender person's gender identity. It typically refers to medical care — such as hormone treatments, surgeries and therapy — and the actions of physicians and practices.
Gender identity (noun) — A person's concept as male, female, both or neither, which can either match the person's sex assigned at birth, which is the case for cisgender people, or be different.
Intersex (adj.) — An umbrella term to describe people born with one or more variations in sex characteristics — such as genitalia, reproductive organs or chromosomes — that are different from what is typically considered male or female. This is distinct from being transgender.
LGBTQIA+ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual
Nonbinary (adj.) — This term describes people whose gender identity falls outside of exclusively male or female, whether it's somewhere in between, both or neither. Such people may also or instead identify as genderqueer or agender.
Queer (adj.) — An umbrella term for people who aren't heterosexual, or an identity for people who find terms like lesbian, gay or bisexual too restrictive. This has historically been a pejorative term that many people have reclaimed in recent years for self-identification, but there are also many non-heterosexual people who don't want to be called queer.
Pansexual (adj.) — A person who is capable of feeling attraction to people of any gender identity.
Passing — In the context of gender, this refers to when people perceive a transgender person by the person's gender identity rather than sex assigned at birth. For example, a transgender man passes/is passing if strangers he meets assume he is male by his appearance. However, this term is controversial among transgender people in part because not all transgender people can "pass," resulting in different levels of privilege, and not all transition with the goal of "passing." The term can also imply that there's something deceptive about perceived in line with one's gender identity.
They/them — Singular pronouns used by nonbinary and genderqueer people, to indicate they don't want to be referred to as she or he.
Transgender (adj.) — Generally used to describe a person whose gender identity doesn't match their assigned or presumed sex at birth. Referring to someone as "a transgender" (noun) or "transgendered" is often considered offensive.