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Terminology

Bisexual

A bisexual person has significant feelings of attraction for both men and women. These feelings may be stronger for one sex or the other.

Cisgender

The opposite of Transgender; a person who has a gender identity that agrees with their societally recognized sex.

Domestic Partnership

Two individuals of the same gender who are in a committed relationship of indefinite duration with an exclusive mutual commitment similar to that of marriage.

DL

“Down Low” a slang term that refers to being in the closet or not out; sometimes refers to people of color (African American and Latino/a), typically men,  that have sex with someone of the same sex, but do not define themselves as gay or bisexual.

Gay

A synonym for homosexual. Usually refers to a homosexual male, but can also refer to a homosexual female, as well as the general community of homosexual, i.e., the gay community. Can be used as a noun or adjective, but the more accepted use is as an adjective. “He is a gay man,” not “He is a gay.”

Gender

The social aspects of sex.  The classification and grouping of individuals as “female” or “male”, based on their perceived sex.

Gender Binary

A contemporary term for the distinction between male and female expectations as defined by preexisting roles in their society or culture.

Gender Expression

All external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine and feminine, such as dress, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions.

Gender Identity

A person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being either male or female, or something in between. Because gender identity is internal and personally defined, it is not visible to others.

Gender Role

A set of perceived behavioral norms and expectations associated particularly with females or males, in a given social group or system.

Heterosexual

A man or woman whose feelings of attraction are for someone of the opposite sex.

Homophobia

Negative feelings, attitudes, actions, or behaviors against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. It is likewise a fear of one’s own same-sex sexual or affectional feelings as well as a fear of being perceived as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Homosexual

A homosexual person is a man or woman whose feelings of attraction — mental, physical, emotional, spiritual — are for someone of the same sex. The word homosexual was first used by Karl Maria Kertbeny in an 1869 pamphlet calling for the repeal of Prussia’s antihomosexual laws. Homosexual combines the Greek word for “same” — homo — with the Latin word for “sex.”

Intersex

People born with both male and female genitals or with ambiguous genitalia.  Some people have surgeries, early in life, to definitively assign them one anatomical sex.  This surgery does not always result in a physical sex assignment that matches the person’s internal gender.  Gender identity issues can result, similar to those experienced by Transgender people.

Lesbian

A homosexual woman. The word derives from the Greek island of Lesbos, where Sappho, a teacher known for her poetry celebrating love between women, established a school for young women in the sixth century B.C. Over time, the word lesbian, which once simply meant someone who lived on Lesbos, came to mean a woman who loved other women.

Queer

Reclaimed by GLBTQ people as an expression of pride.  Some identify this way because they feel it encompasses more of who they are, and gives a greater sense of unity with the entire community.

Questioning

Uncertain of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Metro Sexual

Loosely defined as a trendy, straight man who lives in a metropolitan area and enjoys pampering himself with things such as manicures, facials and massages. A man with a keen sense of grooming and fashion.

Outing

Divulging the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of an individual without her/his permission.

Pan Sexual

One who exhibits many forms of sexual expression.  This includes not only loving both men and women but also transgendered people and gender fluid people who do not feel they fit into categories of male or female.

Same Gender Loving

A term sometimes used by members of the African-American / Black community to express an alternative sexual orientation without relying on terms and symbols of European descent. The term emerged in the early 1990′s with the intention of offering Black women who love women and Black men who love men a voice, a way of identifying and being that resonated with the uniqueness of Black culture in life. (Sometimes abbreviated as ‘SGL’.)

Sex

Refers to the biological, chromosomal designation of the differences between women and men. This is the scientific term for what makes males and females different; remember that not everyone fits into the gender binary (male, female). There are a number of different factors that impact sex, not just chromosomes.

Straight

A synonym for heterosexual. Non-gay has gained more acceptance in recent years as a synonym for heterosexual, since straight implies that anyone who is not heterosexual is “bent.”

Transsexual

- A person who strongly identifies with the opposite sex. Usually includes a desire actually to be the other sex. Most often refers to a person who has had a sex change operation.

Transvestite

Someone who derives sexual pleasure from dressing in clothing generally identified with the opposite sex. The majority of transvestites are heterosexual. Cross-dressing that does not include any sexual charge is usually referred to as drag.

Transgender

Relating to transsexuals, transvestites, crossdressers, or anyone who tends to blur traditional gender boundaries.

Two Spirited

Certain Native American cultures describe Transgendered people as having “two spirits”.  Generally two spirited people were born into one sex, but took on gender roles of both sexes.  This definition somewhat varies across cultures.  Native persons who have attributes of both genders, have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with mystical rituals (shamans). Their dress is usually mixture of male and female articles and they are seen as a separate or third gender. The term ‘two-spirit’ is usually considered to specific to the Zuni tribe. Similar identity labels vary by tribe and include ‘one-spirit’ and ‘wintke’.

 

A note about these definitions. Each of these definitions has been researched and analyzed from theoretical and practical perspectives for cultural sensitivity, common usage, and general appropriateness. We have done our best to represent the most popular uses of the terms listed; however there may be some variation in definitions depending on location. Please note that each person who uses any or all of these terms does so in a unique way (especially terms that are used in the context of an identity label). If you do not understand the context in which a person is using one of these terms, it is always appropriate to ask. This is especially recommended when using terms that we have noted that can have a derogatory connotation.

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