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Glossary of Terms

Thank you to the efforts of PFLAG National, here are a list of common terminology to help you navigate and achieve a better understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • AFAB
    (pronounced ā-fab) Acronym meaning Assigned Female at Birth. AFAB people may or may not identify as female some or all of the time. AFAB is a useful term for educating about issues that may happen to these bodies without connecting to womanhood or femaleness. Generally not considered an identity, as calling a transgender man “AFAB,” for example, erases his identity as a man. Instead, use a person’s pronouns and self-description.
  • Affirmed Gender
    An individual’s true gender, as opposed to their gender assigned at birth. This term should replace terms like new gender or chosen gender, which imply that an individual chooses their gender.
  • Agender
    (pronounced ā-ˈjen-dər) Refers to a person who does not identify with or experience any gender. Agender is different from nonbinary because many nonbinary people do experience gender.
  • Alloromantic
    Refers to an individual who experiences romantic attraction. It is possible to be alloromantic but not allosexual.
  • Allosexual
    Refers to an individual who experiences sexual attraction of any kind. Allosexual people are not limited by their sexual orientation, the term simply defines the ability to experience sexual attraction. See also Alloromantic
  • Ally
    A term generally relating to individuals who support marginalized groups. In the LGBTQ+ community, this term is used to describe an individual who is supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals and the community, either personally or as an advocate. Allies include both heterosexual and cisgender people who advocate for equality in partnership with LGBTQ+ people, as well as people within the LGBTQ+ community who advocate for others in the community. “Ally” is not an identity, and allyship is an ongoing process of learning that includes action.
  • AMAB
    (pronounced ā-mab) Acronym meaning Assigned Male at Birth. AMAB people may or may not identify as male some or all of the time . AMAB is a useful term for educating about issues that may happen to these bodies without connecting to manhood or maleness. Generally not considered an identity, as calling a transgender woman “AMAB,” for example, erases her identity as a woman. Instead, use a person’s pronouns and self-description.
  • Androgynous
    Having physical elements of both femininity and masculinity, whether expressed through sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Androgyne (pronounced an-druh-jain ) is another term for an androgynous individual.
  • Aroflux
    Refers to a romantic orientation on the aromantic spectrum. It can be defined as 1) a romantic orientation that fluctuates, but always stays on the aromantic spectrum. Or 2) a romantic orientation that fluctuates between being alloromantic (see: Alloromantic), completely aromantic, and/or somewhere in between. Aroflux people can be romance repulsed, indifferent/neutral/apathetic towards romance, or romance positive. They can have any sexual orientation.
  • Aromantic
    Sometimes abbreviated as aro (pronounced ā-row), the term refers to an individual who does not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people exist on a spectrum of romantic attraction and can use terms such as gray aromantic or grayromantic to describe their place within that spectrum. Aromantic people can experience sexual attraction, although not all do.
  • Asexual
    Sometimes abbreviated as ace, the term refers to an individual who does not experience sexual attraction. Each asexual person experiences relationships, attraction, and arousal differently. Asexuality is distinct from chosen behavior such as celibacy or sexual abstinence; asexuality is a sexual orientation that does not necessarily define sexual behaviors. Asexual people exist on a spectrum of sexual attraction and can use terms such as gray asexual or gray ace to describe themselves.
  • Assigned Sex
    The sex assigned to an infant at birth based on the child’s visible sex organs, including genitalia and other physical characteristics.
  • Assumed Gender
    The gender assumed about an individual, based on their assigned sex as well as apparent societal gender markers and expectations, such as physical attributes and expressed characteristics. Examples of assuming a person’s gender include using pronouns for a person before learning what pronouns they use, or calling a person a man or a woman without knowing their gender.
  • Bi-curious
    Often described as offensive, a term used to identify a person who is interested in exploring their attraction to people of a variety of genders. The term is considered offensive as it implies that sexual orientation is something that must be explored sexually and romantically before it can be determined (see Heteroflexible). Additionally, many feel that this term invalidates bisexuality by implying that it is a questioning or exploratory phase, instead of a valid sexual orientation. Use this term only when self-identifying or when quoting an individual who self-identifies as bi-curious.
  • Bigender
    A term used to identify a person whose gender identity encompasses two genders, (often man and woman, but not exclusively) or is moving between being two genders.
  • Binary
    Refers to an individual who fits into the gender binary.
  • Binding
    The process of tightly wrapping one’s chest in order to minimize the appearance of having breasts, often by using a binder. Note: One must bind themselves carefully, with appropriate materials, and for reasonable periods of time in order to avoid discomfort and potential negative health impacts. Unsafe binding can lead to negative health outcomes, such as broken ribs and trouble breathing.
  • Bioessentialism
    Short for biological essentialism. Reliance or weaponization of biology in an attempt to disprove trans people’s genders. Common bioessentialist arguments reduce people to their chromosomes (though there are more than 30 chromosome combinations that people have); their genitalia (though there are many natural variations; or their binary gender (though gender and sex are not binary).
  • Biological Sex
    Refers to anatomical, physiological, genetic, or physical attributes that determine if a person is male, female, or intersex. These include both primary and secondary sex characteristics, including genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, and genes. Often also referred to as “sex,” “physical sex,” “anatomical sex,” or specifically as “sex assigned at birth.” Biological sex is often conflated or interchanged with gender, which is more societal than biological, and involves personal identity factors.
  • Biphobia
    Animosity, hatred, or dislike of bisexual people which may manifest in the form of prejudice or bias. Biphobia often stems from lack of knowledge about bisexual people and the issues they face, and can sometimes be alleviated with education and support. PFLAG does not use this term as it frequently prevents such educational dialogue. Related to homophobia and transphobia.
    Acronym for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. It acknowledges the specific histories of Black and African American, Latino/a/x, Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islanders (API), and Native and Indigenous people within the United States without collapsing them into a homogenous category of people of color.
  • Biromantic
    Refers to an individual who acknowledges in themselves the potential to be romantically attracted to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree. Individuals who identify as biromantic aren't necessarily sexually attracted to the same people to whom they're romantically attracted.
  • Bisexual
    Commonly referred to as bi or bi+. According to bi+ educator and advocate ​Robyn Ochs, the term refers to a person who acknowledges in themselves the potential to be attracted--romantically, emotionally and/or sexually--to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree. ​The "bi" in bisexual can refer to attraction to genders similar to and different from one's own. People who identify as bisexual need not have had equal sexual or romantic experience--or equal levels of attraction--with people across genders, nor any experience at all; attraction and self-identification determines orientation.
  • Bottom Surgery
    Surgery performed on an individual’s reproductive system as a part of gender-affirming surgery. Not all trans people undergo medical interventions as part of their transition. As with any other aspect of transition, trans people retain the right not to discuss their surgical history, and surgery does not define gender.
  • Butch
    A person who is masculine of center in dress, attitude, and/or presentation. It is often, but not exclusively, used in a lesbian context. Often on a spectrum from butch to femme or stud to femme.
  • Chosen Family
    Also known as found family, people who support an LGBTQ+ person, who are not biologically related, and who often fill the role of the biological family if an LGBTQ+ person’s family is not supportive of them. PFLAG supports LGBTQ+ people in the pursuit of their found families through local chapter meetings and online communities.
  • Cisgender
    (pronounced sis-gender): A term used to refer to an individual whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth. The prefix cis- comes from the Latin word for “on the same side as.” People who are both cisgender and heterosexual are sometimes referred to as cishet (pronounced “sis-het”) individuals. The term cisgender is not a slur. People who are not trans should avoid calling themselves “normal” and instead refer to themselves as cisgender or cis.
  • Cisnormativity
    The assumption that everyone is cisgender and that being cisgender is superior to all other genders. This includes the often implicitly held idea that being cisgender is the norm and that other genders are “different” or “abnormal.”
  • Cissexism
    Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of sex, specifically towards transgender and gender-expansive people.
  • Closeted
    Describes a person who is not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. A closeted person may be referred to as being “in the closet.” There are many degrees to being out/closeted; closeted individuals may be out to just themselves, close friends, or to their larger network, or not publicly open about their status as LGBTQ+ people.
  • Coming Out
    For LGBTQ+ people, coming out is the process of self-identifying and self-acceptance that entails the sharing of their identity with others. Sometimes referred to as disclosing. Individuals often recognize a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/gender-expansive, or queer identity within themselves first, and then might choose to reveal it to others. There are many different degrees of being out, and coming out is a lifelong process. Coming out can be an incredibly personal and transformative experience. It is critical to respect where each person is within their process of self-identification, and up to each person, individually, to decide if and when and to whom to come out or disclose.
  • Culturally Queer
    From the Queerspawn Resource Project: Living Language Guide, “Speaks to the feeling shared by many people with LGBTQ+ parents that they grew up immersed in queer culture, including traditions, celebrations, media, and language. Queerspawn are often raised in the queer community and learn about society primarily through a queer lens, and experience heterosexual culture and its norms as a secondary cultural influence.” Some LGBTQ+ individuals use the term to describe allies who go over and above expectations in demonstrations of both their allyship and understanding of queer culture.
  • Deadnaming
    Occurs when an individual, intentionally or not, refers to the name that a transgender or gender-expansive individual used at a different time in their life. Avoid this practice, as it can cause trauma, stress, embarrassment, and even danger. Some may prefer the terms birth name, given name, or old name.
  • Demiboy
    A person whose gender identity is only partly male, regardless of their assigned sex at birth.
  • Demigirl
    A person whose gender identity is only partly female, regardless of their assigned sex at birth.
  • Demiromantic
    Used to describe an individual who experiences romantic attraction only after forming an emotional connection.
  • Demisexual
    Used to describe an individual who experiences sexual attraction only after forming an emotional connection.
  • Disclosure
    A word that some people use to describe the act or process of revealing one’s transgender or gender-expansive identity to another person in a specific instance. Some find the term offensive, implying the need to disclose something shameful, and prefer to use the term coming out, whereas others find coming out offensive, and prefer to use disclosure.
  • Drag
    The theatrical performance of one or multiple genders (often including makeup, costume, dance, lip-syncing, and temporary body modifications). Performers who present in a feminine manner are called Drag Queens, while performers who present in a masculine manner are called Drag Kings. These performances often push traditional boundaries of gender presentation, calling into question societally defined gender roles. Drag performance refers to expression and performance, which is different from transgender, which refers to gender identity.
  • Dyke
    A queer woman or AFAB person. While some believe it to only describe masculine lesbians, many bisexual and gender-expansive people also connect to this term. Traditionally a slur, the term has been reclaimed and should only be used to self identify or to refer to the way an individual has identified themselves, i.e., “She identifies as a dyke.”
  • Feminine
    Having qualities or an appearance stereotypically associated with women or conventionally regarded as female.
  • Femme
    A person who is feminine of center in dress, attitude, and/or presentation. It is often, but not exclusively, used in a lesbian context. Often on a spectrum from butch (see Butch) to femme or stud (see Stud) to femme.
  • Folx
    An alternative spelling to folks, pronounced the same way. While folx is viewed by some as a more inclusive version of the word folks, both are gender-neutral ways of addressing a group of people. PFLAG National does not use folx because it is difficult for screen readers (for people with visual disabilities) to read.
  • FTM/F2M
    An abbreviation of Female to Male; a transgender man.
  • FTX/F2X
    A genderqueer or gender-expansive person assigned female at birth.
  • Gatekeeping
    A broad term, not only used within the LGBTQ+ community, which describes the process by which an individual decides who does or does not belong to a certain community, group, or identity. For example, a gay man telling a questioning man that he has to have sex with another man before he can call himself gay is an example of gatekeeping. Gatekeeping, which can come from inside or outside the LGBTQ+ community should be avoided, as it is painful and invalidating to the recipient in either instance.
  • Gay
    A term used to describe people who are emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to people of the same gender (e.g., gay man, gay people). In contemporary contexts, lesbian is often a preferred term for women, though many women use the term gay to describe themselves. People who are gay need not have had any sexual experience. Attraction and self-identification determines sexual orientation, not the gender or sexual orientation of one’s partner. The term should not be used as an umbrella term for LGBTQ+ people, e.g. “the gay community,” because it excludes other sexual orientations and genders. Avoid using gay in a disparaging manner, e.g. “that’s so gay,” as a synonym for stupid or bad.
  • Gayby
    A person with one or more LGBTQ+ parent or caregiver. Typically, a term used for self identification only.
  • Gender
    Broadly, gender is a set of socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate.
  • Gender Binary
    Thre disproven concept that there are only two genders, male and female, and that everyone must be one or the other. Also often misused to assert that gender is biologically determined. This concept also reinforces the idea that men and women are opposites and have different roles in society.
  • Gender Dysphoria
    The distress caused when a person's assigned sex at birth and assumed gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term " intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults."
  • Gender Envy
    A casual term primarily used by transgender people to describe an individual they aspire to be like. It often refers to having envy for an individual’s expression of gender (for example, wanting the physical features, voice, mannerisms, style, etc., of a specific gender). Gender Envy is sometimes experienced by people expressing themselves outside society’s gender stereotypes.
  • Gender Euphoria
    A euphoric feeling often experienced when one’s gender is recognized and respected by others, when one’s body aligns with one’s gender, or when one expresses themselves in accordance with their gender. Focusing on gender euphoria instead of gender dysphoria shifts focus towards the positive aspects of being transgender or gender expansive.
  • Gender Expansive
    An umbrella term for those who do not follow gender stereotypes, or who expand ideas of gender expression or gender identity. Gender expansive does NOT mean non-binary and cisgender people can be gender expansive as well. It is important to respect and use the terms people use for themselves, regardless of any prior associations or ideas about those terms. While some parents and allies use the term, gender non-conforming is the preferred term by the LGBTQ+ community. It is important to use the term preferred by an individual with whom you are interacting.
  • Gender Expression
    The manner in which a person communicates about gender to others through external means such as clothing, appearance, or mannerisms. This communication may be conscious or subconscious and may or may not reflect their gender identity or sexual orientation. While most people’s understandings of gender expressions relate to masculinity and femininity, there are countless combinations that may incorporate both masculine and feminine expressions, or neither, through androgynous expressions. All people have gender expressions, and an individual’s gender expression does not automatically imply one’s gender identity.
  • Gender Identity
    A person’s deeply held core sense of self in relation to gender (see Gender). Gender identity does not always correspond to biological sex. People become aware of their gender identity at many different stages of life, from as early as 18 months and into adulthood. According to Gender Spectrum, one study showed that “...the average age of self-realization for the child that they were transgender or non-binary was 7.9 years old, but the average age when they disclosed their understanding of their gender was 15.5 years old.” Gender identity is a separate concept from sexuality and gender expression.
  • Gender Neutral
    Not gendered. Can refer to language (including pronouns and salutations/titles--see Gender-neutral salutations or titles), spaces (like bathrooms), or other aspects of society (like colors or occupations). Gender neutral is not a term to describe people. A person who experiences no gender may be agender or neutrois.
  • Gender Nonconforming (GNC)
    An umbrella term for those who do not follow gender stereotypes, or who expand ideas of gender express or gender identity. GNC does NOT mean non-binary and cisgender people can be GNC as well. It is important to respect and use the terms people use for themselves, regardless of any prior associations or ideas about those terms. While some parents and allies use the term “gender expansive," gender non-conforming is the preferred term by the LGBTQ+ community; always use the term preferred by an individual with whom you are interacting.
  • Gender Performance Theory
    Coined by Judith Butler, gender performance theory is the concept that people do not have inherent genders based on their biological sex. According to this theory, people continually perform their genders, instead of relying on their assigned sexes to determine their genders for them.
  • Gender Roles
    The strict set of societal beliefs that dictate the so-called acceptable behaviors for people of different genders, usually binary in nature. Many people find these to be restrictive and harmful, as they reinforce the gender binary.
  • Gender Socialization
    A process that influences and teaches an individual how to behave as a man or a woman, based on culturally defined gender roles. Parents, teachers, peers, media, and faith traditions are some of the many agents of gender socialization. Gender socialization looks very different across cultures, both inside and outside of the U.S. It is heavily impacted by other intersecting identities.
  • Gender Spectrum
    The concept that gender exists beyond a simple man/woman binary model, but instead exists on a continuum. Some people fall towards more masculine or feminine aspects, some people move fluidly along the spectrum, and some exist off the spectrum entirely.
  • Gender Variant
    A term often used by the medical community to describe individuals who dress, behave, or express themselves in a way that does not conform to dominant gender norms. People outside the medical community tend to avoid this term because it suggests that these identities are abnormal, preferring terms such as gender expansive.
  • Gender-Affirming Surgery (GAS)
    Surgical procedures that can help people adjust their bodies to match their innate gender identity more closely. Used interchangeably with gender affirmation, gender confirmation, and gender-confirming surgery. Not every transgender person will desire or have resources for gender-affirming surgery. Use this term in place of the older term sex change. Also sometimes referred to as gender reassignment surgery, genital reconstruction surgery, or medical transition.
  • Gender-Critical Feminism
    A branch of radical feminism which is critical of gender. This belief maintains that a person's sex is distinct from their gender identity, and that sex is immutable. People with this belief often see transgender people as the sex they were assigned--and gender they were assumed--at birth. They believe that trans women are not women and/or should not be included in female spaces.
  • Gender-Critical Feminists
    Also known as TERFs, they are radical feminists who do not view transgender women as “real women,” and want them excluded from female spaces.
  • Gender-Neutral Salutations or Titles
    A salutation or title that does not specify the gender of the addressee in a formal communication or introduction. Also used for persons who do not identify as a binary gender, addressing an individual where the gender is unknown, or if the correspondence-sender is unsure of the gender of the person to whom the correspondence is being sent. Mx. (pronounced mix) and M. are the most commonly used gender-neutral salutations (e.g. “Dear Mx. Smith…” or “Hello M. Moore…:). Generally, M. is used when the gender is unknown, and Mx. is used when the person uses that prefix.
  • Gendered Language
    ​​Commonly understood as language that has a bias towards a particular sex or social gender. This can lead to women being excluded or rendered invisible. For example, the way titles are used. “Mr.” can refer to any man, regardless of marriage status, whereas “Miss” and “Mrs.” define women by whether they are married, which until quite recently meant defining them by their relationships with men. Some languages, like Spanish, French, and others, will change the endings of words to associate them with a particular gender and person. English is NOT a gendered language in this particular way.
  • Genderfluid
    Describes a person who does not consistently adhere to one fixed gender and who may move among genders.
  • Genderqueer
    Refers to individuals who blur preconceived boundaries of gender in relation to the gender binary; they can also reject commonly held ideas of static gender identities. Sometimes used as an umbrella term in much the same way that the term queer is used, but only refers to gender, and thus should only be used when self-identifying or quoting an individual who uses the term genderqueer for themselves.
  • Gray Asexual
    Also referred to as Gray Ace. Refers to an individual whose sexual orientation is somewhere between asexual and sexual. A gray-asexual person may experience sexual attraction but not very often. Or they may experience sexual attraction, but not desire sexual relationships.
  • Grayromantic
    Refers to an individual whose romantic orientation is somewhere between aromantic and romantic. A gray-romantic person may experience romantic attraction but not very often. Or they may experience romantic attraction, but not desire romantic relationships.
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