THE DISCOURSE AROUND LGBTIQ ISSUES AND THE DEFINITIONS IN THIS GLOSSARY WILL CHANGE OVER TIME.
Changes in thinking and attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity are continually taking place in society as a whole and within the LGBTIQ communities. Sometimes our diverse community is known by different acronyms including GLBT, LGBT, and LGBTTIQQ2SAA. As you see can our community is very diverse. Each letter stands for a term found in the glossary below. The longest and most inclusive term in use in Canada is LGBTTIQQ2SAA which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirited, Asexual and Ally. These terms and definitions are not standardized and may be used differently by different people and in different regions.
Ally: a word describing a straight identified person who listens, celebrates and advocates on behalf of our diverse community to individuals, organizations and institutions in the larger community. They include teachers, doctors, politicians, friends, co-workers, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. They are people who encourage and support us to be ourselves.
ASEXUAL: a word describing a person who is not sexually and/or romantically active, or not sexually and/or romantically attracted to other persons.
AUTOSEXUAL: a word describing a person whose significant sexual involvement is with oneself or a person who prefers masturbation to sex with a partner.
BIPHOBIA: irrational fear or dislike of bisexuals. Bisexuals may be stigmatized by heterosexuals, lesbians and gay men.
BI-POSITIVE: the opposite of biphobia. A bi-positive attitude is one that validates, affirms, accepts, appreciates, celebrates and integrates bisexual people as unique and special in their own right.
BISEXUAL: a word describing a person whose sexual orientation is directed toward men and women, though not necessarily at the same time.
CISGENDER: is an adjective used in the context of gender issues and counseling to refer to a class of gender identities formed by a match between an individual's gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one's sex. Cisgender is used to contrast transgender on the gender spectrum.
COMING OUT: the process by which LGBTIQ people acknowledge and disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity, or in which transsexual or transgender people acknowledge and disclose their gender identity, to themselves and others (See also Transition). Coming out is thought to be an ongoing process. People who are closeted or in the closet hide the fact that they are LGBTIQ. Some people come out of the closet in some situations (e.g., with other gay friends) and not in others (e.g., at work).
CROSSDRESSER: A person who dresses in the clothing of the other sex for recreation, expression or art, or for erotic gratification. Formerly known as transvestites. Crossdressers may be male or female, and can be straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual. Gay/bisexual male crossdressers may be drag queens or female impersonators; lesbian/bisexual female crossdressers may be drag kings or male impersonators.
DYKE: a word traditionally used as a derogatory term for lesbians. Other terms include lezzie, lesbo, butch, bull dyke and diesel dyke. Many women have reclaimed these words and use them proudly to describe their identity.
FAG: a word traditionally used as a derogatory term for gay men. Other terms include fruit, faggot, queen, fairy, pansy, sissy and homo. Many men have reclaimed these words and use them proudly to describe their identity.
FAMILY OF CHOICE: the circle of friends, partners, companions and perhaps ex-partners with which many LGBTIQ people surround themselves. This group gives the support, validation and sense of belonging that is often unavailable from the person's family of origin.
FAMILY OF ORIGIN: the biological family or the family that was significant in a person's early development.
GAY: a word to describe a person whose primary sexual orientation is to members of the same gender or who identifies as a member of the gay community. This word can refer to men and women, although many women prefer the term lesbian.
GAY-POSITIVE: the opposite of homophobia. A gay-positive attitude is one that affirms, accepts, appreciates, celebrates and integrates gay and lesbian people as unique and special in their own right.
GENDER CONFORMING: abiding by society's gender rules, e.g., a woman dressing, acting, relating to others and thinking of herself as feminine or as a woman.
GENDER IDENTITY: a person's own identification of being male, female or intersex; masculine, feminine, transgender or transsexual. Gender identity most often corresponds with one's anatomical gender, but sometimes people's gender identity doesn't directly correspond to their anatomy. transgender people use many terms to describe their gender identities, including: pre-op transsexual, post-op transsexual, non-op transsexual, transgenderist, crossdresser, transvestite, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, hermaphrodite, fem male, gender blender, butch, manly woman, diesel dyke, sex radical, androgynist, female impersonator, male impersonator, drag king, drag queen, etc.
GENDERQUEER: is a catch-all term for gender identities other than man and woman, thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity. People who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as both man and woman, neither man nor woman, moving between genders, third gender or other-gendered, or having an overlap of, or blurred lines between, gender identity and sexual and romantic orientation.
GENDER ROLE: the public expression of gender identity. Gender role includes everything people do to show the world they are male, female, androgynous or ambivalent. It includes sexual signals, dress, hairstyle and manner of walking. In society, gender roles are usually considered to be masculine for men and feminine for woman.
GENDER TRANSITION: the period during which transsexual persons begin changing their appearance and bodies to match their internal identity.
GENDERISM: the belief that the binary construct of gender, in which there are only two genders (male and female), is the most normal, natural and preferred gender identity. This binary construct does not include or allow for people to be intersex, transgender, transsexual or genderqueer.
HATE CRIMES: offences that are motivated by hatred against victims based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation.
HETEROSEXISM: the assumption, expressed overtly and/or covertly, that all people are or should be heterosexual. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, while it gives advantages to heterosexual people. It is often a subtle form of oppression that reinforces silence and invisibility for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
HETEROSEXUAL: term used to describe a person who primary sexual orientation is to members of another gender. Heterosexual people are often referred to as straight.
HETEROSEXUAL PRIVILEGE: the unrecognized and assumed privileges that people have if they are heterosexual. Examples of heterosexual privilege include: holding hands or kissing in public without fearing threat, not questioning the normalcy of your sexual orientation, raising children without fears of state intervention or worries that your children will experience discrimination because of your heterosexuality.
HOMOPHOBIA: irrational fear, hatred, prejudice or negative attitudes toward homosexuality and people who are gay or lesbian. Homophobia can take overt and covert, as well as subtle and extreme, forms. Homophobia includes behaviours such as jokes, name-calling, exclusion, gay bashing, etc.
HOMOSEXUAL: a term to describe a person whose primary sexual orientation is to members of the same gender. Most people prefer to not use this label, preferring to use other terms, such as gay or lesbian.
IDENTITY: how one thinks of oneself, as opposed to what others observe or think about one.
INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA: fear and self-hatred of one's own sexual orientation that occurs for many lesbians and gay men as a result of heterosexism and homophobia. Once lesbians and gay men realize that they belong to a group of people that is often despised and rejected in our society, many internalize and incorporate this stigmatization, and fear or hate themselves.
INTERSEX: a person who has some mixture of male and female genetic and/or physical sex characteristics. Formerly called hermaphrodites. Many intersex people consider themselves to be part of the trans community.
LESBIAN: a female whose primary sexual orientation is to other women or who identifies as a member of the lesbian community.
LGBTIQ: a common acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex and queer individuals/communities. This acronym may or may not be used in a particular community. For example, in some places, the acronym LGBT (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual) may be more common.
MSM: refers to any man who has sex with a man, whether he identifies as gay, bisexual or heterosexual. This term highlights the distinction between sexual behaviour and sexual identity (i.e., sexual orientation). A person's sexual behaviour may manifest itself into a sexual identity, but the reverse is not always true; sexual orientation is not always reflective of sexual behaviour. For example, a man may call himself heterosexual, but may engage in sex with men in certain situations (e.g., prison, sex work).
OUT OR OUT OF THE CLOSET: varying degrees of being open about one's sexual orientation or gender identity.
PASSING: describes transgender or transsexual people's ability to be accepted as their preferred gender. The term refers primarily to acceptance by people the individual does not know, or who do not know that the individual is transgender or transsexual. Typically, passing involves a mix of physical gender cues (e.g., clothing, hairstyle, voice), behaviour, manner and conduct when interacting with others. Passing can also refer to hiding one's sexual orientation, as in passing for straight.
POLYSEXUAL: an orientation that does not limit affection, romance or sexual attraction to any one gender or sex, and that further recognizes there are more than just two sexes.
QUEER: traditionally, a derogatory and offensive term for LGBTIQ people. Many LGBTIQ people have reclaimed this word and use it proudly to describe their identity. Some transsexual and transgender people identify as queers; others do not.
QUESTIONING: people who are questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation and who often choose to explore options.
SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR: what people do sexually. Not necessarily congruent with sexual orientation and/or sexual identity.
SEXUAL IDENTITY: one's identification to self (and others) of one's sexual orientation. Not necessarily congruent with sexual orientation and/or sexual behaviour.
SEXUAL MINORITIES: include people who identify as LGBTIQ.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION: a term for the emotional, physical, romantic, sexual and spiritual attraction, desire or affection for another person. Examples include heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality
SIGNIFICANT OTHER: a life partner, domestic partner, lover, boyfriend or girlfriend. It is often equivalent to the term spouse for LGBTIQ people.
STRAIGHT: a term often used to describe people who are heterosexual.
TRANS and TRANSPEOPLE are non-clincial terms that usually include transsexual, transgender and other gender-variant people.
TRANSGENDER: a person whose gender identity is different from his or her biological sex, regardless of the status of surgical and hormonal gender reassignment processes. Often used as an umbrella term to include transsexuals, transgenderists, transvestites (crossdressers), and two-spirit, intersex and transgender people.
TRANSGENDERIST: someone who is in-between being a transsexual and a transgender person on the gender continuum, and who often takes sex hormones, but does not want genital surgery. Transgenderists can be born male (formerly known as she-males) or born females (one called he/shes'). The former sometimes obtain breast implants and/or electrolysis.
TRANSITION: the process (which for some people may also be referred to as the gender reassignment process) whereby transsexual people change their appearance and bodies to match their internal (gender) identity, while living their lives full-time in their preferred gender role.
TRANSPHOBIA: irrational fear or dislike of transsexual and transgender people.
TRANSPOSITIVE: the opposite of transphobia. A transpositive attitude is one that validates, affirms, accepts, appreciates, celebrates and integrates transsexual and transgender people as unique and special in their own right.
TRANSSENSUAL: a term for a person who is primarily attracted to transgender or transsexual people.
TRANSSEXUAL: a term for a person who has an intense long-term experience of being the sex opposite to his or her birth-assigned sex and who typically pursues a medical and legal transformation to become the other sex. There are transmen (female-to-male transsexuals) and transwomen (male-to-female transsexuals). Transsexual people may undergo a number of procedures to bring their body and public identity in line with their self-image, including sex hormone therapy, electrolysis treatments, sex reassignment surgeries and legal changes of name and sex status.
TWO SPIRITED: a native tradition that anthropologists have been able to date to some of the earliest discoveries of Native artifacts. Much evidence indicates that Native people, prior to colonization and contacts with European cultures, believed in the existence of three genders: the male, the female and the male-female gender, or what we now call the Two-spirited person. The term Two-spirited, though relatively new was derived from interpretations of Native languages used to describe people who displayed both characteristics of male and female.
Traditionally the Two-spirited person was one who had received a gift from the Creator, that gift being the privilege to house both male and female spirits in their bodies. Being given the gift of two-spirits meant that this individual had the ability to see the world from two perspectives at the same time. This greater vision was a gift to be shared with all, and as such, Two-spirited beings were revered as leaders, mediators, teachers, artists, seers and spiritual guides. They were treated with the greatest respect and held important spiritual and ceremonial responsibilities.
This glossary comes from Asking the Right Questions 2 (2007). Scott Mattson and Neil Mens have lightly edited the glossary to reflect the ideas that while men and women are similar in some ways and different in others, they are not opposites nor are they the only two gender categories that people experience or identify themselves as being. Changes are indicated in italics. Additionally, LGBTIQ is used by locally agreed upon convention (within Windsor Pride Community) to denote lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, transsexual, intersexual, queer, and questioning. Otherwise it appears as verbatim.
Barbara, A. M., Doctor, F., & Chaim, G. (2007). Asking the Right Questions 2: Talking with clients about sexual orientation and gender in mental health, counseling and addiction settings. Toronto: Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, pp 55-60.