Terms & Definitions
A person who experiences a human need for warmth, affection and love from persons of either gender. Sometimes this includes sexual contact. A person can identify as bisexual without having had a sexual experience with a man or a woman; a person can identify as bisexual without having had any sexual contact at all.
A term that is used for an individual who is not open about his or her sexual orientation. Also sometimes referred to as, “in the closet”.
A lifelong process of self-acceptance. People forge a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity first to themselves, and then may reveal to other people. Publicly identifying oneself as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may or may not be part of “coming out”.
A person who dresses in the clothing of the opposite biological gender. Crossdressers generally want to relate as, and be accepted as a person of the gender they are presenting. Crossdressing may be partial or total in amount of time and amount of clothing worn. Crossdressers may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Adults who are not legally married, who share resources and responsibility for decisions, share values and goals, and have commitments to one another over a period of time. Legal definitions may vary among city ordinances, corporate policies and by individuals and families.
A civil or legal contract recognizing a partnership or a relationship between two people which sometimes confers limited benefits to them. Such a partnership can be formed by lesbians or gay men, by unmarried heterosexual life partners or by others making a home together.
Down Low (or DL)
A term coined by some men of color that describes a cultural phenomenon of men who have sex with other men without informing their female partners.
Dressing in the clothing of the opposite biological sex or in a manner different than how one will usually dress. ‘Drag’ is often theatrical and often presents a stereotyped image. Individuals who dress in ‘drag’ may or may not consider themselves part of the transgender community. They may also identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.
A term often said to apply to both men and women who are attracted to the same gender much in the same way that ‘man’, used generically, has been used in the past to encompass both men and women. Many object to the use of ‘gay’ applied to gay men and lesbians, and it is often used only to identify homosexual males.
Dressing in such a way as to question the traditional feminine or masculine qualities assigned to articles of clothing or adornment. Gender bending may be part of a “fashion trend”, or possibly a “political” statement. Gender bending often has no correlation to issues of gender identity or sexual orientation.
External representation of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through “masculine” or “feminine” behavior, clothing, hair cut, voice or body characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex.
An individual’s basic self-conviction of being male or female. This conviction is not contingent upon the individual’s biological gender. The exact process by which boys and girls come to see themselves as males or females is not known. However, research indicates that gender identify develops some time between birth and 3 years of age.
Gender Identity Disorder (GID)
A controversial DSM-IV diagnosis that is given to transgender and other gender variant people. It is controversial because it labels people as “disordered” and it is often considered offensive. The diagnosis is frequently given to children who don’t obey expected norms in terms of dress, play or behavior. Such children are often subjected to intense psychotherapy, behavior modification and/or hospitalization. Replaces the outdated term, “gender dysphoria”.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexed.
A criminal offense committed against a person, property or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity/national origin.
The basic civil rights and social privileges that a heterosexual person automatically receives that are systematically denied to gay, lesbian and bisexual persons simply because of their sexual orientation. The assumption that all people are heterosexual.
Systems and ways of thinking that reinforce a belief in the inherent superiority of heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships, thereby negating the lives and relationships of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
Negative feeling, attitudes, actions or behavior against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people, or people perceived to be any of the above. It may also manifest as a person’s fear of being perceived as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
A term coined in 1869 by an early psychiatrist who used it to describe a person who has “an other than normal sexual urge that renders them physically and psychologically incapable”. Since the word was originally used to describe a pathology, most gays and lesbians do not like this term used to define them. Homosexuality per se is no longer considered an illness by the American Psychiatric Association, nor by the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association or most other reputable professional organizations.
Generally applied to individuals born with ambiguous genitalia (an outdated term would be Hermaphrodite). In the past, most intersexed individuals have had surgery shortly after birth in an attempt to give them an “identifiable” gender. There is now much discussion about this practice, but little has changed. Parents often feel forced to make a quick decision with little information. Most intersexed persons are raised as females.
A woman who experiences the human need for warmth, affection and love from other women. Sometimes this includes sexual contact.
Term often used to denigrate the lives of lesbians and gay men. Avoid using this term as there is no one heterosexual lifestyle, there is no one lesbian or gay lifestyle.
A common abbreviation for men who secretly have sex with men while maintaining relationships with women. MSM is not synonymous with bisexual and usually refers to members of communities of color. For many MSM’s, fear of isolation or rejection by family members or the church can lead to lower self-respect, shame and silence about their sexual identity.
“Out of the Closet”/ “Being Out”
This means that one states openly that one is lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender. This is in contrast to “staying in the closet” by hiding or denying one’s gender identity or sexual orientation either from oneself or from others.
The act of publicly revealing another person’s sexual orientation. Considered inappropriate in the current political and social climate by a large majority of the gay community.
Any formal attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation-typically from homosexual to heterosexual. It often includes attempts by conservative Christian transformational ministries to use prayer, religious conversion, individual or group counseling to change a person’s sexual orientation.
The orientation within human beings, which leads them to be emotionally and physically attracted to persons of one gender or both. One’s sexual orientation may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual.
Used by some to refer to themselves, the GLBTI community, a person who is GLBTI, or even someone who is supportive of the GLBTI communities. Often viewed as a political statement as well as an identity or label. Some of those who use the term feel it is more inclusive, allowing for the diversity of race, class, ability and gender that is represented by the GLBTI communities. Caution: Many GLBTI individuals dislike this word and view it as pejorative.
A broad umbrella term for persons who have a self-image or gender identity not traditionally associated with their biological gender. Some transgender persons wish to change their anatomy to be more congruent with their self-perception, while others do not have such a desire. There is no absolute correlation between sexual orientation and transgender issues. A transgender person may identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.
In the parlance of transgender issues, the “transition” is the time period when an individual changes from expressing one gender to another in their personal life and/or workplace. For most individuals the workplace transition is very carefully planned, often including appropriate levels of management in early discussions, and the transition process may be weeks to months in length. The personal life transition, also eagerly anticipated, may be more sudden.
A person whose gender identity is other than their biological gender. This person may wish to change their anatomy to be more congruent with their self-perception. Most transsexuals would like to alter their bodies through hormonal therapy, gender reassignment surgeries/confirmation surgeries.
Often a person who may achieve sexual pleasure through the use of clothing or personal adornments of the other gender. Often incorrectly used interchangeably with “crossdresser”. There is no correlation between sexual orientation and transvestite behavior.
Symbols of Pride for the GLBT Communities
The symbolism of the pink triangle dates back to World War II. The Nazi death camps were constructed to eliminate Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, mentally and physically handicapped, and others. Each of these groups were identified with a symbol on their camp uniforms: just as Jews were forced to wear a yellow Star of David, homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles. The pink triangle is worn as a reminder of what can happen when fanatical and social elements launch “hate wars” against minorities.
The first eight-striped Rainbow Flags made their debut at the 1978 Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day March in San Francisco. The original eight colors were pink for sexuality, red for light, oranges for healing, yellow for the sun, green for natural serenity, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.
Adapted from Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)