Recommended_practices Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ)


Definitions and Limitations of language

The language around gender and sexuality continues to evolve rapidly. Words and their definitions change or become refined as our understanding of complex constructs related to sexuality and gender evolves. We recognize the importance of learning which words or phrases are most accurate, respectful and useful.

Given how rapidly terminology changes, this list of terms and definitions might undergo significant change in the future. Therefore, it is important to explicitly and consciously articulate our current understanding of the following terms:

Asexual refers to a person who does not experience sexual attraction or has little interest in sexual activity.

Bullying is unwanted, repetitive, and aggressive behavior marked by an imbalance of power. It can take on multiple forms, including physical (e.g., hitting), verbal (e.g., name calling or making threats), relational (e.g., spreading rumors), and electronic (e.g., texting, social networking).

Cisgender replaces the terms “nontransgender” or “bio man/bio woman” to refer to individuals who have a match between the sex they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their gender identity.

DSD refers to “disorders of sex development”, a term that is used to discuss intersex and variations in sex development by some medical professionals and community members. See entry for Intersex.

Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.

Gender Expression An individual’s presentation, including physical appearance, clothing choice and accessories, and behavior that communicates aspects of gender or gender role. Gender expression may or may not conform to a person’s gender identity.

Gender Identity A person’s deeply-felt, inherent sense of being a boy, a man, or male; a girl, a woman, or female; or an alternative gender (e.g., genderqueer, gender non-conforming, boygirl, ladyboi) which may or may not correspond to a person’s sex assigned at birth or to a person’s primary or secondary sex characteristics. Since gender identity is internal, a person’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others. ‘Affirmed gender identity’ refers to a person’s gender identify after coming out as transgender or gender non-conforming or undergoing a social and/or medical transition process.

Gender Diversity refers to the extent to which a person’s gender identity, role, or expression differs from the cultural norms prescribed for people of a particular sex. This term is becoming more popular as a way to describe people without reference to a particular cultural norm, in a manner that is more affirming and potentially less stigmatizing than gender nonconformity.

Gender Dysphoria refers to discomfort or distress that is associated with a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and that person’s sex assigned at birth (and the associated gender role and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics). Only some gender-nonconforming people experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives.

Gender Identity refers to one’s sense of oneself as male, female, or something else. When one’s gender identity and biological sex are not congruent, the individual may identify along the transgender spectrum.

Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are Different Constructs Transgender people, like cisgender people, may be sexually oriented toward men, women, both sexes, or neither sex, and like most people, usually experience their gender identity (who they feel themselves to be) and their sexual orientation (whom they are attracted to) as separate phenomena. Many transgender people experience a shift in their sexual attractions at some point, indicating that sexual orientation may be more dynamic than previously thought.

Gender Non-Conforming is an adjective and umbrella term to describe individuals whose gender expression, gender identity, or gender role differs from gender norms associated with their assigned birth sex. Subpopulations of the TGNC community can develop specialized language to represent their experience and culture, such as the term “masculine of center” that is used in communities of color to describe a GNC identity.

Gender Role refers to a pattern of appearance, personality, and behavior that, in a given culture, is associated with being a boy/man/male or being a girl/woman/female. A person’s gender role may or may not conform to what is expected based on a person’s sex assigned at birth. Gender role may also refer to the social role one is living in (e.g., as a woman, a man, or another gender), with some role characteristics conforming and others not conforming to what is associated with girls/women or boys/men in a given culture and time.

Genderqueer refers to a person whose gender identity falls outside of the gender binary (i.e. identifies with neither or both genders). Genderqueers may also use the term “gender fluid” as an identifier but typically reject the term “transgender” because it implies a change from one gender category to another.

Intersex refers to a range of conditions associated with atypical development of physical sex characteristics. Intersex individuals may be born with chromosomes, genitals, and/or gonads that do not fit typical female or male presentations. Some examples of these conditions include ambiguous external genitals, inability of the body to respond typically to sex-related hormones, and inconsistency between external genitals and internal reproductive organs. Since 2006, the medical and research community has used the term Disorders of Sex Development. This term refers to congenital conditions characterized by atypical development of chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex. An alternate term – Differences of Sex Development – has been recommended to prevent a view of these conditions as diseased or pathological. In order to be inclusive of various terminology preferences, this document will use intersex/DSD when referring to individuals who are part of this community.

Pansexual “is most commonly used in the world outside academia as a sexual identity [and sexual orientation] term similar to ‘bisexuality,’ but more inclusive of trans people. It also shows an awareness of the implied gender binary in the term ‘bisexual.’”

Pushout: a student who leaves school before graduation due to the encouragement of school personnel, often to enable the school to achieve a performance goal or to lower disruption within the school or because the school views the student as too much trouble. This term is in contrast to “drop out” to highlight the institutional influence on individual behavior.

Queer is an umbrella term that individuals may use to describe a sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression that does not conform to dominant societal norms. Historically, it has been considered a derogatory or pejorative term and the term may continue to be used by some individuals with negative intentions. Still, many LGBT individuals today embrace the label in a neutral or positive manner. Some youth may adopt ‘queer’ as an identity term to avoid limiting themselves to the gender binaries of male and female or to the perceived restrictions imposed by lesbian, gay, and bisexual sexual orientations.

Questioning is an identity label for a person who is exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity, and is in a state of moratorium in terms of identity formation.

Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex (i.e., atypical combinations of features that usually distinguish male from female). There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia.

Sex assignment is the initial categorization of an infant as male or female.

Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation typically have included attraction to members of one’s own sex (gay men or lesbians), attraction to members of the other sex (heterosexuals), and attraction to members of both sexes (bisexuals). Some people identify as pansexual or queer in terms of their sexual orientation, which means they define their sexual orientation outside of the gender binary of “male” and “female” only. While these categories continue to be widely used, research has suggested that sexual orientation does not always appear in such definable categories and instead occurs on a continuum. In addition, some research indicates that sexual orientation is fluid for some people; this may be especially true for women.

Sexual Orientation A component of identity that includes a person’s sexual and emotional attraction to another person and the behavior that may result from this attraction. An individual’s sexual orientation may be lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, queer, pansexual, or asexual. A person may be attracted to men, women, both, neither, genderqueer, androgynous or have other gender identities. Sexual orientation is distinct from sex, gender identity, gender role and gender expression.

Transgender is an umbrella term that incorporates differences in gender identity wherein one’s assigned biological sex doesn’t match their felt identity. This umbrella term includes persons who do not feel they fit into a dichotomous sex structure through which they are identified as male or female. Individuals in this category may feel as if they are in the wrong gender, but this perception may not correlate with a desire for surgical or hormonal reassignment.