Glossary of Terms
Ally: A friend, supporter, assistant, partner, collaborator. Being an ally to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community means supporting equality in its many forms.
Bisexual: An individual who is physically, romantically, emotionally and/or spiritually attracted to men and women. Bisexual individuals do not need to have equal sexual experience with both men and women; in fact, they need not have any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.
Closeted: Describes a person who is not open about his or her sexual orientation, gender identity or an ally who is not open about his/her support for equality.
Coming Out: A process of self-acceptance that continues throughout one’s life. People establish a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity first to themselves and then may reveal it to others. There are many different degrees of being out; some are out to friends only, some are out publicly, and some are out only to themselves. A person can fit anywhere on this spectrum, and it’s important to acknowledge and respect that not everyone is in the same place when it comes to being out.
Cross Dresser: A person who occasionally wears clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. “Cross-dresser” should NOT be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex or who intends to do so in the future. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not necessarily tied to erotic activity. Cross-dressing is not indicative of sexual orientation.
Gay: The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attractions are to people of the same sex (e.g., gayman, gay people). In contemporary contexts, lesbian (n.) is often a preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals” – see homosexual below.
Gender Affirmation Surgery: This refers to any surgery that someone has in the course of their transition from male to female or female to male. It may also be performed on people with intersex condition (or Disorders of Sex Development), often in infancy. There are many different gender affirmation surgeries. The term does not always refer to “bottom surgery”. So if a patient says that they have had gender affirmation surgery, don’t make assumptions about the procedure(s) they’ve undergone. If it’s medically necessary to know what surgeries the patient has had, ask them the specific name(s) of the surgical procedure(s). Avoid using outdated terms such as SRS or sex reassignment surgery – see SRS below.
Gender expression: A person’s way of showing their gender identity to others through means such as dress and/or manner.
Gender identity: One’s internal, personal sense of being male, female (boy or girl) or gender non-conforming. For transgender and gender non-conforming people, their birth-assigned sex and their own internal sense of gender identity do not match.
Gender non-conforming: A person who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society.
GLBT: An acronym for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender which refers to these individuals collectively. It is sometimes stated as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, transgender). Occasionally, the acronym is stated as GLBTA to include allies – straight and supportive individuals. The acronym sometimes includes Q for queer or questioning.
Homosexual: An outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay people. Major media outlets restrict the use of the term and replace it with “gay” or “lesbian” to refer to people who are attracted to individuals of the same sex.
HRT: Abbreviation for Hormone Replacement Therapy. Many transgender people take hormones as part of their transition either from male to female, or female to male. However, some transgender people do not take hormones.
Intersex: A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with non standard internal and/or external genital anatomy that can cause confusion in assigning gender at birth or found later due to infertility or other bodily change. Also known as Disorders of Sex Development.
Lesbian: A woman whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction is to other women. Avoid identifying lesbians as “homosexuals,” a derogatory term.
Lifestyle: A negative term often incorrectly used to describe the lives of gay people. The term is disliked by the gay community because it implies that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is a choice.
Out: Describes people who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or allied in their public and/or professional lives.
Partner/Spouse: A way to talk about someone’s boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife without mentioning gender. Using these words instead of “gendered” words allows you to be more inclusive, putting GLBT patients at ease.
Queer: Traditionally a negative term, queer currently is used by some people in the gay community to describe themselves and/or their community. Some value the term for its defiance, and some like it because it can be inclusive of the entire community. Nevertheless, some within the gay community dislike the term. This word should be avoided unless quoting someone who self-identifies that way.
Sexual Orientation: Permanent emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings toward other people. Straight individuals experience these feelings primarily for people of the opposite sex. Gay or lesbian individuals experience these feelings primarily for people of the same sex. Bisexual individuals experience these feelings for people of both sexes.
SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery): A clinical term considered outdated by many transgender people. See gender affirmation surgery above.
Transgender: A term describing the state of a person’s gender identity which does not necessarily match his/her assigned gender at birth. Other words commonly used are female to male (FTM), male to female (MTF), cross-dresser, and gender queer. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.
Trans man: This usually means that the person was assigned female at birth but identifies as a man (sometimes referred to as female-to-male or FTM).
Transsexual: An older term that originated in medical and psychological communities. Many transgender people prefer the term "transgender" to "transsexual." Some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe themselves; however, unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term, and many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.
Trans woman: This usually means that the person was assigned male at birth but identifies as a woman (sometimes referred to as male-to-female or MTF).