As the terms and definitions of sexuality and gender identity become more openly used, I feel that it is extremely important to understand what they mean. The proper words used in the context of identity is a way to be respectful to others, and it can also help you shape and form your own identity. This is in no way telling you that you need to pick a label or check a box; as always, you should be whoever you want to be. But in learning to accept people of all identities, it can be helpful to actually understand what the proper terms are. It’s important to note that gender identity and sexual identity are often fluid, so there is a lot of crossover and relativity involved; but, hey, that’s what makes everyone unique!
Here’s a quick reference guide to some of the LGBPTTQQIIAA+ terms, and basically we’re here to show and spread love to all. (For a more comprehensive list, click here.)
• Asexual: someone who does not generally feel sexual attraction to any group of people.
• Biological Sex: a person’s biological status (male/female/intersex), indicated by sex chromosomes, reproductive organs, and external gentalia.
• Bisexual: a person attracted to both people of their own gender and of another gender.
• Cisgender: gender identity where an individual’s experience of their own gender does match their sex assigned at birth.
• Gay: a person attracted primarily to members of the same sex. (Can be used for men attracted to men, or women attracted to women.)
• Gender identity: the sense of “being” a particular gender; this doesn’t always align with biological sex. (Note: Gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate and shouldn’t be assumed based on one or the other.)
• Heterosexual/Straight: a person only attracted to members of the opposite sex.
• Lesbian: a woman who is mainly attracted to other women.
• Pansexual: a person who experiences sexual, romantic, or physical attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions.
• Queer: 1) an all-encompassing term to refer to the entire LGBPTTQQIIAA+ community; 2) an alternative some people choose to identify with to avoid specific labels or categories.
(Note: This is an in-group term, meaning it can be considered offensive to others depending on generation, location, etc.)
• Questioning: the process of discovering one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
• Sexual Fluidity: a more current term that leaves a person’s sexual orientation as open and changing — and not gender binary-based –and may lean more heavily to one gender but is open to all.
• Sexual Orientation: sexual, romantic, and/or physical attraction someone feels toward others.
• Transgender: frequently used to refer to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system.
• Transsexual: a person whose gender identity is different from their biological sex and often will undergo medical treatments to change their biological sex.
Note: It’s important to be respectful about other people’s self-identifications, and you should never assume identity based on appearance. Don’t be afraid to ask how they identify or about preferred pronouns.
The purpose of this list is not to define you. The purpose is to help you understand other people you may meet in life, or to act as a resource while you’re trying to figure out things for yourself. The problem with this list is that it’s relative. While the reference website I chose lists these definitions, there are many other variations. The point is, these terms loosely — and I mean loosely — help steer you to the realms of gender and sexual identity. There is no right or wrong, there is no “legitimate” LGBPTTQQIIAA+ experience; it’s all relative. Love is love, and everyone deserves to love who they want, and most certainly everyone deserves to be who they want.