Though members of the LGBTQ+ community have been an essential part of society since the beginning of time, it is becoming increasingly common in the modern day to see specific titles in online biographies and introductions that you may not have heard of before. As an LGBTQ+ ally, parent, friend, or all of the above, it can be confusing to know what each title means. Informing yourself about the different titles and terms used in the community is great, and shows respect to those who have preferred titles.
Apart from the general orientations represented by the LGBTQ acronym, there are plenty of terms that can be used to title oneself. Familiarizing yourself with the terms below will help in everyday conversations, and increase the number of opportunities to educate others about being supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
Androgynous: someone who identifies neither male or female, in presentation and title.
Agender: a person with very little to no connection to the traditional system of gender.
Asexual: someone who experiences no sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction towards others.
Bisexual: someone who experiences sexual, romantic, and emotional attraction towards more than one gender to the same degree.
Cisgender: someone who identifies as the sex assigned to them at birth.
Demisexual: someone who experiences the inability, or very little ability, to be sexually attracted to another person until a romantic or emotional connection is formed between them.
Drag King/Drag Queen: someone who presents themselves as a different gender from that which they associate with normally, usually for entertainment purposes.
Gay: someone who is sexually, romantically, and emotionally attracted to members of their own sex.
Gender-expansive: someone who conveys a wider range of both gender expression (how they present themselves) and/or gender identity (how they perceive themselves).
Gender-fluid: someone who does not identify with a particular gender, moving between genders.
Gender non-conforming: someone who does not follow the traditional ideas associated with their gender, or someone who does not have a particular title regarding their sexual orientation.
Genderqueer: someone who portrays fluidity in gender identity, but not necessarily sexual orientation.
Synonyms: bigender, genderfluid, pangender, genderless, agenders
Intersex: taking the place of the hermaphrodite term (which is outdated and usually offensive when used today), is someone who develops physical characteristics different from their assigned sex without medical intervention. Typically, doctors will take action to remove the unnecessary organs at birth.
Intersectionality: term used to describe the combination of a person’s identities, including but not limited to race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.
Lesbian: a female who only experiences sexual, romantic, and emotional attraction to other females.
- Butch: identifies as masculine (physically, mentally or emotionally). ***can be used derogatively***
- dyke: a masculine-presenting lesbian. ***can be used derogatively***
- femme: identifies as feminine (physically, mentally, or emotionally)
- lipstick lesbian: refers to a lesbian with a strong female expression. ***can be used derogatively***
- stud: used to describe a masculine African American or Latina lesbian woman.
***terms that can be used derogatively are included because it isn’t uncommon for them to be embraced by members of that particular community. However, they shouldn’t be used to describe someone who hasn’t approved or identified with the term.***
Metrosexual: a male who cares massively about aesthetics gender presentation, often spending more time on their appearance than the traditional expectation of men.
Pansexual: someone who experiences sexual, romantic, and emotional attraction for members of all gender identities and expressions.
Polyamorous: someone who practices having non-monogamous relationships ethically and consensually.
Synonyms: (in an) open relationship,
Queer: someone who portrays fluidity in gender identity and sexual orientation.
Questioning: someone who is exploring their own gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
Straight: someone who is attracted to the opposite sex.
Skoliosexual: someone who is primarily attracted sexually, romantically, and emotionally to transgender, transsexual, gender queer, and/or non-binary persons.
Transgender: someone who portrays their gender identity and/or gender expression as different from that which they were assigned at birth. However, this does not limit their sexual orientation; a transgender individual can identify as straight or any of the above terms. Transgender people are NOT synonymous with drag kings/queens, and it is highly offensive to call transgenders “drag queens/kings” if they do not partake in drag.
Terms to Avoid
Too often, members of the LGBTQ+ community are referred to by names and terms that are outdated and offensive. Just as you wouldn’t refer to an African American with the “N-word,” these terms are off-limits to your vocabulary. In some cases, they’re used in misunderstanding (we all have the one grandma who doesn’t understand political correctness), so if you hear these terms being used, offer another word to be used instead. Building awareness and acceptance one person at a time is an excellent way to be an Ally.
Homosexual– just say “gay,” or “lesbian.” Whichever term describes the person, it’s better than saying homosexual. Though coming from Latin, this term is used a lot by anti-LGBTQ extremists to dehumanize the community, trying to continue the mindset that being gay is a disorder or disease.
Sexual Preference- use “sexual orientation” instead. Sexual preference makes it sound like there is a choice or treatment to being gay.
Maybe, you’ve encountered a situation at a meeting, orientation, or conference where you were asked to state whether you went by “he”, “she”, or another term. These words are referred to as your preferred pronoun. It’s becoming increasingly important to ask pronouns, even when you are sure that you know how a person would like to be called. It’s not impolite to ask which pronouns a person prefers, as long as you do it correctly. For example, it’s great to ask someone, “which pronoun would you like to be referred to as?” but it’s not so great to ask “so, are you a girl or a boy?”, or openly question their request to go by a pronoun that you weren’t anticipating.
Also, if you are a teacher, professor, manager, or anyone with authority over others on a daily basis, I’d recommend asking your employees/students to fill out an introduction sheet. This will help you learn names and preferred pronouns in a less-invasive setting, so no one is put on the spot. Showing that you care about respecting LGBTQ individuals and spreading awareness to those who may not know about gender neutral pronouns is an added bonus.