This pamphlet is intended for people who want to learn more about sexual identity (e.g. lesbian, bisexual, gay, straight, asexual) and gender identity (e.g. transvestite, transgender, transsexual) vocabulary and issues. It attempts to provide basic information and vocabulary to enable you to interact with members of these communities as a respectful and informed individual, rather than one who knows nothing (and by inference probably does not care) about their community, the oppression they deal with, and their personal experience.
The definitions in this pamphlet were put together by a bisexual-identified mixed-class white male from the Midwest and Northeast of the US. The definitions of these words are not standardized and are used differently by different individuals and in different regions. The meanings of words also change over time. Concepts and attitudes toward gender identity and sexual identity are changing in society as a whole, as well as within the LesBiGay and Transgender communities (including reclaiming derogatory slang.) Therefore, the meanings of these words will continue to change as well.
These definitions mostly assume the existence of two and only two each of sexes, genders, and sex/gender roles, which are separate and distinct from one another. Many people see gender role, gender, and sex as overlapping, closely related, or as a limited view or model of a much richer reality. For instance, some hermaphrodite and neuter people regard themselves as male or female, while others regard themselves as neither. Not everyone uses these terms to distinguish between physical sex and social role, and some people may not even know what is meant by them. Some people may use different terms (e.g. some transsexuals regard themselves as a third sex.) But these terms are used in this pamphlet because they are in wide use.
Sexual Identity and Gender Identity are similar in some ways and very different in others. Both refer to how one thinks of oneself, but gender identity is based on which gender role one identifies with, and sexual identity is based on whether one's romantic or sexual attractions are to members of the same or another gender/sex. The existence and perpetuation of gender identities and sexual identities is based at least in part in the historic and continuing oppression of people who do not conform to certain aspects of society's gender roles. Sex, gender identity, and sexual identity refer to different aspects of oneself. Therefore, one may be any combination or blend of sex (e.g. male, female, intersex, neuter), gender (e.g. masculine, feminine, androgynous), and sexual identity (e.g. straight, bisexual, lesbian/gay, asexual.)
In recent history bisexuals, lesbians, gay men and transgendered people have formed communities which are mostly separate but partly overlap with one another and with other communities. Because of this historic separation, someone who is a member of one of these communities does not necessarily understand and prioritize the vocabulary and issues of the other communities. One who belongs to more than one of these communities may feel welcome in each, but usually none addresses all one's needs or the way that one's needs from different communities overlap or interact. All these communities are affected by the way that other oppressions (including those based on race, class, and physical or mental ability) divide people from one another, and many are working to be welcoming to people of other colors, class backgrounds, abilities, and cultural backgrounds.
One may identify with a sexual identity without necessarily identifying with the corresponding community (e.g.. one may think of oneself as a lesbian without thinking of oneself as a member of the lesbian community.) Also, sexual identity terms used as nouns (instead of as adjectives) have sometimes been used to suggest that LesBiGay people are entirely defined by their sexual identity, and this usage is therefore distasteful to some people. Corrections and additions to this glossary are welcome. Please send them to the address at the end of this pamphlet.
Androgynous/androgyny adj., n. [Gr. andros(man) + gyne(woman)] 1. Exhibiting approximately equal proportions of masculine and feminine characteristics simultaneously. 2. Independence from the gender roles specified by society.
(An)other sex/gender n., adj. Another gender or sex than
the reference person's own. [Are you currently in a relationship
with a member of another gender (than your own)?] [She has an
other sex partner.]
Asexual n. adj. 1. One who has no significant (to oneself)
interest in sexual activity, or who identifies as asexual. 2.
Sometimes used to mean autosexual.
Autosexual n., adj. One whose significant (to oneself)
sexual activity is masturbation.
Berdache n. See Two Spirit.
Biphobia n. The oppression or mistreatment of bisexuals,
either by heterosexuals (often called homophobia if it does not
target bisexuals separately from lesbians and gay men), or by
lesbians or gay men. (See monosexual.)
Bi(sexual) adj., n. One who has significant (to oneself)
sexual or romantic attractions to members of both the same gender
and/or sex and another gender and/or sex, or who identifies as
a member of the bisexual community. Contrary to popular myths,
people who are attracted to members of both genders or sexes (just
like people who are attracted only to members of the same or other
gender or sex) may be monogamous, polyfidelitous or nonmonogamous.
Derogatory terms from homophobes are the same as those for lesbians
and gay men, plus AC/DC, double-ga[i]ted, confused. Derogatory
terms used by lesbians, gay men, and some heterosexuals include:
traitor, fraternizing with the enemy, confused.
Bi(sexual) community n. The group of people who identify
as members of the bisexual community. One may identify as bisexual
without identifying with the bisexual community or vice versa.
Born (wo)man n. See genetic (wo)man. May be derogatory.
Boy n. 1. A young human male. 2. Colloquial term for masculine.
Often used to specify the gender of clothes. [I changed into
my boy clothes.] Boy has often been used as a condescending term
for a man (especially a man of color), and is therefore distasteful
to many people. (See girl.)
Butch adj., n. 1. Masculine or macho dress and behavior,
regardless of sex or gender identity. 2. A sub-identity of lesbian,
gay male, or bisexual, based on masculine or macho dress and behavior.
(See femme.) 3. (butch it up) To exaggerate masculine behaviors,
usually for others' entertainment. (See camp it up.)
Camp n., adj., vi. A form of humor, in which one makes
fun of one's oppression by taking on and exaggerating stereotypes
which the oppressor projects onto the oppressed. Camp makes fun
of the stereotype and laughs at the sting of the oppression. Also,
to camp it up. (See butch it up.)
Celibate n., adj. One who is not sexually active with anyone
else. May abstain from all sexual activity, or may be autosexual.
Come/be out (of the closet) vi. 1. To disclose one's own
sexual identity to another person. [I came out to my mother over
Thanksgiving vacation.] 2. (come out to oneself) To discover that
one's own sexual identity is different than one previously assumed.
[I came out to myself three months ago.] 3. To be open about
and deal with one's own and others' reactions to the discovery
or disclosure of one's sexual identity. [I am out to my mother.]
[I am out at work.] 4. (come out for) To disclose another person's
sexual identity to a third person with the second person's permission
or at their request. [I asked my mother to come out to my grandparents
for me.] (See out.) 5. May be generalized to disclosure of any
information about oneself, not just one's sexuaI identity.
Cross Dress(er) (CD) vi., n. To wear clothes makeup, etc.,
regardless of the motivation, which are appropriate for another
gender role than the gender assigned one at birth.
Drag adj., n. 1. Clothes, often unusual or dramatic, especially
those considered appropriate to another gender. 2. (In drag)
Wearing clothes considered appropriate to another gender. [I
went to the Halloween party in drag.] [She was wearing butch
drag.] 4. May be generalized to refer to any recognizable clothes
"look" (e.g. corporate drag, military drag.)
Drag Queen(M2F) / Drag King(F2M) n. A transvestite who
employs dramatic clothes, makeup, and mannerisms, often for other
people's appreciation or for its shock value.
Dyke n. Reclaimed derogatory slang. Refers to lesbians,
or to lesbians and bisexual women.
Electrolysis n. Process of killing hair follicles, especially
facial and neck hair, usually with an electric needle. (See secondary
F2M/F'M/FTM adj. Female to male. Used to specify the direction
of a change in gender or sex.
Female n., adj. One who has (only) female primary sex characteristics.
Female Impersonator (FI) n. A male who on specific occasions,
cross dresses and employs stereotypical feminine dialog, voice,
and mannerisms for the entertainment of other people. (See camp,
Feminine adj. The gender role assigned to females. Generally
includes: nurturing, emotional, timid/quiet, wears dresses and
makeup. Femme adj., n. 1. Feminine or effeminate dress and behavior,
regardless of sex or gender identity. 2. A sub-identity of lesbian,
gay, or bisexual, based on feminine or effeminate dress and behavior.
Fetishistic Transvestite n. A transvestite who consistently
eroticizes cross dressing. May also eroticize fantasies of changing
gender or sex.
Gay n., adj. 1. One who has significant (to oneself) sexual
or romantic attractions primarily to members of the same gender
or sex, or who identifies as a member of the gay community. May
be of any gender identity. 2. Sometimes used as a synonym for
gay male, lesgay, or LesBiGay. Lesbians and Bisexuals often do
not feel included by this term.
Gay community n. 1. The group of people who identify as
members of the gay community. One may identify as gay without
identifying as a member of the gay community and vice versa.
2. Sometimes used as a synonym for gay male, lesgay, or LesBiGay
community. Lesbians and bisexuals often do not feel included
by this term.
Gay man/male n. A boy or man who has significant (to oneself)
sexual or romantic attractions primarily to members of the same
gender or sex. One may identify as a gay man without identifying
with the gay community. Derogatory slang includes: queer, faggot,
swish. (Note: In personal ads, GM often means gay man. Not to
be confused with genetic male.)
Gay male/men's community n. The group of people who identify
as members of the gay male community. One may identify as a gay
male without identifying as a member of the gay male community
and vice versa.
Gender (identity) n. How one thinks of oneself in terms
of one's gender role. Masculine feminine, androgynous. (See
Gender (identity) community n. See transgender community.
Gender dysphoria (GD) n. Medical term for the unhappiness
or discomfort which may be experienced by one whose primary sex
characteristics do not match one's gender identity.
Gender fuck n., vi. To mix stereotypical aspects of gender
roles (e.g. wearing a beard and a dress together.)
Gender neutral language n. Language which does not use
one gender to represent all people (e.g.. does not use "he"
and "his" to represent people in general.) (See unisex.)
Gender role n. Rules assigned by society that define what
clothing, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, relationships, etc. are
considered appropriate and inappropriate for members of a given
gender. Which things are considered masculine, feminine, or unisex
varies according to location, class, occasion, and numerous other
Genetic adj. Having to do with the genes in DNA, which
determine heredity. With respect to sex, the genes on the X and
Y chromosomes, which most heavily influence primary and secondary
sex characteristics. However, terms like genetic male/female
actually refer to the gender role assigned at birth, as much as
Genetic male/man/boy (GM/GB) n. One classed as male from
birth, regardless of one's present sex or gender identity. (See
born (wo)man, boy.) (Note: In personal ads, GM usually means gay
man, not genetic male.)
Genetic female/woman/girl (GF/GW/GG) n. One classed as
female from birth, regardless of one's present sex or gender identity.
Girl n. 1. A young human female. 2. Colloquial term for
feminine. Often used for gender of people or clothes. [I changed
into my girl clothes.] Girl has often been used as a condescending
term for a woman, and is therefore distasteful to many people.
Hermaphrodite n. 1. Medically, one who has partially expressed
primary or secondary sex characteristics. Pseudo-male hermaphrodites
are born with a penis, but do not develop most other male secondary
sex characteristics such as facial hair, greater muscle density,
or sperm with the potential to procreate. Pseudo-female hermaphrodites
are born with a vagina, but are often infertile, have more facial
hair than most women, and have much lower breast development.
2. Mythically (almost never happens in reality), one who has
both female and male primary and secondary sex characteristics.
Heterosexism/ist n. The oppression of LesBiGay people.
The assumptions that identifying as heterosexual and having sexual
and romantic attractions only to members of another gender or
sex is good and desirable, that other sexual identities and attractions
are bad and unacceptable, and that anyone whose sexual identity
is not known is heterosexual. Usually coupled with both unconscious
and willful "blindness" to the existence and concerns
of LesBiGay people. (See homophobia, biphobia.) A heterosexist
is one who practices heterosexism.
Heterosexual (het) n., adj. 1. Sexual or romantic
behavior between a member of one sex and a member of another gender
or sex. 2. One whose significant (to oneself) sexual or romantic
attractions are primarily to members of another gender or sex.
Derogatory terms used by homophobes toward heterosexuals who
(are perceived to) associate with lesbigays: queer lover, queer
bait, and (woman who associates with gay men) fag hag. Derogatory
terms used by LesBiGays toward heterosexuals: breeder. (See straight.)
Homophile (community) n., adj. Obsolete term for gay male
Homophobia n. [Gr. homo(man) + phobia(fear).] 1. An irrational
fear of sexual attraction to the same gender or sex. 2. A term
for all aspects of the oppression of LesBiGays. (See heterosexism,
Homophobe/homophobic n., adj. One who fears, hates, and
oppresses people because one perceives them to have sexual or
romantic attractions to members of the same gender or sex.
Homosexual(ity) n., adj. 1. Sexual or romantic behavior
between members of the same gender or sex. 2. Formal or clinical
term for gay. Homosexual and homosexuality are often associated
with the proposition that same gender attractions are a mental
disorder (medical term: homophilia), and are therefore distasteful
to some people.
Hormone therapy n. Used, especially by transsexuals, to
change secondary sex characteristics, including breast size, weight
distribution, and hair growth. (See electrolysis.)
Identify/ied (as) vi. To hold a particular identity, whether
it is a sexual identity, gender identity, national heritage identity
(e.g.. Italian), class heritage (e.g.. working class), etc. [I identify
as a transvestite.] [I am bi identified.]
Identity n. How one thinks of oneself, as opposed to what
others observe or think about one. (See self-identify, label.)
In the Life adj. In the African American community, someone
who does not fit the traditional gender role assigned to people
of their physical sex, either in appearance, behavior, or gender
of sexual partner. [He is In the Life.]
Internalized homophobia/biphobia n. The internalized oppression
of LesBiGays people. This includes the often-conflicting feelings
that we are bad at the core; that the entire world is unsafe,
that we can only trust other members of our own group; that members
of our group are untrustworthy; that for safety we must stay in
hiding; that for safety we must come out everywhere, all the time,
that our love is bad, or is not the same as other people's love.
Internalized oppression n. The turning inward and acceptance
as true of negative messages and feelings about oneself and one's
group, and misinformation about how members of the group (including
oneself) deserve to be treated. Internalized oppression often
includes messages which contradict one another, as well as messages
which reinforce one another.
Intersex adj. One whose external genitalia at birth do
not match the standards for male or female (e.g. large clitoris,
tiny penis), or one whose sex glands do not totally match the
sex assigned at birth (e.g. male with ovarian tissue or female
with testicular tissue), or one whose sexual development does
not match the sex assigned at birth (e.g. development of penis
or extensive facial hair in one assigned as female or the development
of breasts in one assigned as male). See also hermaphrodite.
Label 1. n. Term for oneself or one's own community. 2.
n., vt. How someone else thinks of one, as opposed to how one
thinks of oneself. (See identity.)
Lesbian n., adj. A girl or woman who has significant (to
oneself) sexual or romantic attractions primarily to members of
the same gender or sex, or who identifies as a member of the lesbian
community. Bisexual women often do not feel included by this
term. Derogatory slang: dyke, lezzy.
LesBiGay n., adj. Contraction of "lesbian, bisexual,
and gay." Colloquial term for members of sexual identity
minorities. One may identify as LesBiGay without identifying
as a member of the LesBiGay community. Usually spelled with capital
L, B, G and pronounced with a long "i" to prevent misinterpretation
as "only lesbian and gay." Does not include the gender
LesGay n., adj. Contraction of "lesbian and gay."
Sometimes used to mean LesBiGay, but bisexuals often do not feel
included by this term.
M2F/M'F/MTF adj. Male to female. Used to specify the direction
of a change in sex or gender.
Male n., adj. One who has (only) male primary sex characteristics.
Male Impersonator n. A female who, on specific occasions, cross
dresses and employs stereotypical masculine dialog, voice, and
mannerisms for the entertainment of other people. (See drag king.)
Man n. 1. A male, usually an adult. 2. One who identifies
with the masculine gender role regardless of present sex or sexual
identity. Plural: men.
Masculine adj. The gender role assigned to males. Generally
includes: strong, stoic, good at sports, wears pants, does not
Monosexual n., adj. One who has significant sexual or romantic
attractions only to members of one gender or sex. Straight, gay,
lesbian. Not bisexual or asexual. Regarded as derogatory and
offensive by some, especially gay men and lesbians.
Monosexism/ist n. A particular subset of the oppression
of bisexuals. The assumption that one can (or should) be attracted
to members of only one gender or sex, and that having sexual or
romantic attractions to members of both genders/sexes is bad and
unacceptable. A monosexist is one who believes that everyone
should be attracted to members of only one gender or sex. (See
Neuter adj. 1. One who has neither female nor male primary
sex characteristics. 2. Occasionally used to mean androgynous.
Non-op/non-surgical transsexual n. One who thinks of oneself as
transsexual and lives as a member of their gender identity but
does not (for whatever reasons) plan to undergo SRS. Usually
cross dresses and undergoes hormone therapy and (if M2F) electrolysis
to modify secondary sex characteristics. Some people already in
a relationship choose to remain in the relationship and retain
the sex organs from their birth. Also, many F2M people would
not be satisfied with the results that phalloplasty surgery (construction
of a penis) would produce, and choose not to exchange the genitals
they were born with for an unsatisfactory version of the others.
Opposite sex/gender n. Another gender. The word "opposite"
suggests that women and men are diametrically opposed to one another,
and could never understand or support one another well. The word
"sex" actually refers mostly to gender (how one lives
in the world) rather than to primary sex characteristics. For
these reasons, many people find this term offensive.
Oppress vt. To participate in or collude with the oppression
of a group.
Oppression n. Systematic, supported by society, mistreatment
of and misinformation about people who are (perceived to be) members
of a particular group. Mistreatment includes economic and social
marginalization, which ranges from not including members of the
group in one's circle of friends and media reports on and representations
of society; the cold shoulder; not consulting with or accepting
input from them on decisions which concern them; snide comments,
verbal harassment, assault, rape, and murder, all based on the
perception that the target person is a member of that group.
Oppressive adj. (See oppression.)
Out adv. (See come out.)
Out vt. 1. To disclose a second person's sexual identity
to a third person, especially without the second person's permission.
2. To disclose one's own sexual identity, often without intending
or choosing to do so. [I outed myself by leaving a political
letter on my desk, which my boss saw when he was looking for me.]
(See come out.)
Pass vi. To be perceived by others as a member of the group
one chooses, instead of as a member of another group, especially
of the gender one was assigned at birth. (See read.)
Pre-operative transsexual (Pre-op TS) n. One who is actively
planning to relieve gender dysphoria by aligning one's sex with
one's gender identity through Sexual Reassignment Surgery. Usually
cross dresses and uses hormone therapy and (if M2F) electrolysis
to modify secondary sex characteristics.
Primary sex characteristics n. Inclusive term for the male
penis, prostate and testicles; and for the female clitoris, vagina,
uterus and ovaries. (See female, male, hermaphrodite, neuter.)
Queer n., adj. 1. Reclaimed derogatory slang for the sexual
minority community (e.g.. Queer Nation.) Not accepted by all the
sexual minority community, especially older members. 2. Sometimes
used for an even wider spectrum of marginalized or radicalized
groups and individuals. 3. Weird, different, not normal, apart
from the mainstream.
Read 1. vt. To perceive that someone else is attempting
to pass as a member of a particular group, especially as a member
of a different gender than that which was assigned to them at
birth. 2. (to be read) vi. To have someone else read one as trying
Same gender/sex n., adj. 1. The same gender or sex as the
reference person's own. [Are you currently in a relationship
with a member of the same gender (as yourself)?] [I have a same
sex partner (as my own sex).] 2. Two or more people of the same
gender. [I met another same gender couple at church today.
Secondary sex characteristics n. General term including
facial and body hair, vocal timbre and range, breast size, weight
distribution. (Self-)identify/identity (as) vi. Emphasizes one's
internal reality (identity), as opposed to external factors and
others' interpretations of them (labels.)
Sex 1. n., adj. Male, female, hermaphrodite, or neuter,
depending on one's primary sex characteristics. 2. vi., n. Having
to do with sexual behavior and behavior or feelings associated
with sexual behavior.
Sex role n. Gender role.
Sexism/sexist n., adj. 1. Oppression of women as women.
2. Sometimes used for oppression based on (perceived) gender
role, whether female or male. Sexual identity n. How one thinks
of oneself, in terms of having significant sexual and romantic
attractions to members of the same gender or sex or to another
gender or sex. Based on one's internal experience, as opposed
to the gender of one's actual sexual partners. (See sexual
Sexual identity/orientation/preference community n. LesBiGay
Sexual minority n. adj. Used variously to refer to LesBiGay
and Transgender people or LesBiGay people or LesGay people or
LesBiGay, Transgender and other groups associated with sex and
sexuality (such as S/M people, polyamorists). The term is currently
in flux and may vary considerably by region and specific community.
Sexual minority community n. People who identify as members
of the sexual minority community. One may identify as a member
of a sexual minority without identifying as a member of the sexual
minority community. Sexual orientation/preference n. 1. A constellation
of personal factors, including sexual identity. (See the pamphlet
"Using the Klein Scale to Teach about Sexual Orientation,"
available from BRC.) 2. Sexual identity. Sexual orientation emphasizes
that some people feel that one has no control or influence over
the development of one's sexual identity. Sexual preference emphasizes
that some people feel that one does or should have some control
or influence over the development of one's sexual identity.
Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) n. A surgical procedure
which changes one's primary sexual characteristics from those
of one sex to those of another sex, to align them with one's gender
She-Male n. Used by the pornography industry to refer to
women with penises, who are generally non-op or pre-op transexuals,
emphasizing the fact that while appearing to be women in other
regards, they most definitely do have a penis. Derogatory term,
reclaimed by some people.
Straight n., adj. Colloquial for heterosexual. Straight
has connotations of "unadulterated," "pure,"
and "honest," and some members of the sexual identity
community find distasteful the implication that one who is not
straight is "bent," "adulterated," "impure,"
or "dishonest." Straight also has connotations of "narrow,"
"straight-laced" or "conservative," and some
heterosexual people find that distasteful. Alternate spellings:
(Trans)gender community n. Inclusive term for the community
of transsexuals and transvestites. One who identifies as transsexual
or transvestite may not identify with the Transgender community.
Members of the Transgender community may be of any sexual identity,
and often do not identify as members of the LesBiGay community.
Transgendered/Transgenderist (TG) adj. 1. One who changes
gender roles, whether just once or many times at will. Inclusive
term for transsexuals and transvestites. 2. Non-op transexual.
May be of any gender identity.
Transsexual (TS) n., adj. One who changes one's sex to
align with one's gender identity. Change of primary sex characteristics
is accomplished by Sexual Reassignment Surgery. Hormone therapy,
electrolysis, additional surgery, and other treatments can change
secondary sex characteristics. People who live as a member of
a different gender than they were assigned at birth prefer to
be called man or woman, as appropriate for their chosen gender.
May be of any gender identity. Sometimes spelled transexual.
(See pre-op TS, non-op TS, she-male.)
Transvestite (TV) n. One who mainly cross dresses for pleasure
in the appearance and sensation. The pleasure may be erotic (see
fetishistic transvestite), empowering, rebellious or something
else. May feel comfortable in the corresponding gender role while
cross dressed. May occasionally experience gender dysphoria.
May be of any gender identity.
Two Spirit adj. In some Native American/American Indian
tribes, people who did not fit the traditional gender role (activities
or gender of sexual partner) usually assigned to their physical
sex. Depending on the tribe, they might fit a different gender
role, sometimes as religious leaders, or they might simply choose
to live in the gender role usually assigned to another physical
sex. The French term berdache, meaning mattress, has widely used
by anthropologists, but is now considered a derogatory cultural
Unisex adj. Clothing, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, relationships,
etc. which are considered appropriate for members of both genders/sexes.
(See gender neutral language.)
Woman/womyn/womin n. 1. A female, usually an adult. 2.
One who identifies with the feminine gender role, regardless of
present sex or sexual identity. Plural: women, wymyn, wimmin.
Bisexual Resource Center
P.O. Box 1026
Boston, MA 02117-1026, USA.