Terms and definitions



Acronyms meaning “assigned female at birth” and “assigned male at birth.” No one, whether cis or trans, gets to choose what sex they’re assigned at birth. We use this term instead of saying “biological sex” or “born as a boy/girl.”


Someone who identifies as not having a gender or as gender-neutral. Some agender people are trans and some are not.


Someone who is not a member of a group that suffers from discrimination (such as LGBTQ people), but who works to support members of that group.


Neither specifically feminine nor specifically masculine; or, a combination of the two. 


A type of romantic orientation. An umbrella term for people who don’t feel romantic attraction.


A sexual orientation. An umbrella term for people who don’t feel sexual attraction. Asexual people can have intimate emotional and intellectual relationships. The asexual community uses the slang “ace” to describe itself.



A variety of erotic practices that can involve bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism.


A person who is exploring which gender(s) they may be attracted to.


Refers to those who identify as two genders. Some people identify as multigender (identifying as two or more genders). This gender identity is different from Two Spirit, which is specifically associated with First Nations cultures.


Discomfort, dislike or prejudice towards people who are, or who are perceived to be, bisexual.


A person who is romantically attracted to at least one other gender. This is different from being bisexual because it’s a romantic orientation, not a sexual orientation. 


Or bi (for short). A person who is attracted to people of more than one gender.


An LGBTQ gender expression that leans towards masculinity. Although commonly associated with masculine queer or lesbian women, it’s used by many to describe a distinct gender identity or expression, and does not necessarily imply that one also identifies as a woman.


Cis privilege

The unearned advantages that cis people experience in the day-to-day by virtue of their gender identity.

Cis, cisgender

Adjective that describes a person whose gender identity matches their assigned biological sex. Not transgender.


A term that refers to a person who does not tell others their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sometimes referred to as being “in the closet.” “Going back into the closet” is when someone stops telling people their sexual and gender minority identities, and so they are assumed to be straight or cisgender. Many LGBTQ people are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others.


The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Coming out

To declare and affirm to oneself and possibly to others your identity as LGBTQ+. Coming out is often an ongoing process. Not everyone comes out or thinks it’s necessary to do so.


A person who sometimes wears clothes that represent a gender other than the one they identify as. “Transvestite” is a pejorative and outdated term for cross-dresser. Cross-dressing may not be tied to an erotic activity and may not be related to a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.



Unjust treatment based on prejudiced ideas.


Exaggerated, theatrical performance of gender. There are drag kings and drag queens. Most often a type of cross-dressing on stage, although anyone of any gender can do any form of drag.



A gender expression used by many feminine-identified LGBTQ people.


Acronym for female to male. A trans person who is transitioning from female to male. They are male identified.



Being sexually and romantically attracted to people of the same gender as you. Gay is a type of sexual orientation. Gay can refer to men or women, although many gay women will use the term “lesbian."

Gender affirming surgeries

Surgeries related to transition. Remember that surgery is only one part of transitioning, and they aren’t for everyone. Genital surgeries are expensive and are inaccessible to most trans people.

Gender binary

The idea that the only legitimate genders are woman and man, and that these identities are opposite and distinct from each other. No other types of gender can exist in this system, and these genders correspond to birth sex: male or female. There is no room for those living between genders or for transcending the gender binary. This oppressive system is rigid and limiting, especially for those who don’t fit neatly into “woman” or “man.” 

Gender expression

How someone chooses to outwardly express their gender identity through clothing, dress, haircut, voice, name/pronouns and other characteristics. Typically referred to as masculine or feminine. Everyone has a gender expression. Many trans people match their gender expression (how they look) with their gender identity (who they are), rather than with their sex assigned at birth.

Gender identity

A person’s inner feelings and understanding of themselves as a man, a woman, agender, or any identity outside of or between the two ends of the spectrum. Everyone has a gender identity. Sometimes a person’s gender identity will align with their assigned sex, such as identifying as a woman after being told they’re a girl when born. This is called cisgender. Sometimes a person may be transgender, meaning their gender does not align with their sex assigned at birth.

Gender non-conforming

A person who don't conform to society's expectations of gender expression based on expectations of masculinity and femininity.


People who have shifting gender identities. Their genders can change over time along the gender spectrum.


A way of describing one’s gender that does not include the current definitions of “man” or “woman.” They may identify and express themselves as “feminine men” or “masculine women” or as androgynous, or outside of the categories “boy/man” and “girl/woman.” Not all genderqueer people are trans.


An acronym for Gay-Straight Alliance. A student-run club, typically in a high school or middle school, which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia.



An expression of sexual identity, though not usually used to identify sexual orientation. For most people this term means they are typically in a heterosexual romantic relationship but also are open to having sexual experiences or romantic relationships with people of different genders.


Being sexually and romantically attracted to someone of a different sex.


Discomfort, dislike, or prejudice towards people who are, or who are perceived to be, gay, lesbian or queer.


A person who is romantically attracted to a member of the same gender. This is different from being gay or lesbian because it’s a romantic orientation, not a sexual orientation.


Also known as gay, lesbian, or queer. A historically derogatory term that refers to being sexually and romantically attracted to a person of the same sex or gender. It’s best not to use this term and instead use LGBTQ.


Internalized oppression

When a member of an oppressed group believes the stereotypes created about their group.


Intersectionality is a sociological theory about how an individual can face multiple threats of discrimination when their identities overlap a number of minority groups. The barriers the individual experiences are interconnected, creating compounded and complex forms of discrimination. 


A person who does not fit medical definitions of male or female. This could be because of chromosomes, hormones or genitalia. Intersex people may have XO, XXY, XYY or any other combination of chromosomes and anatomy. The outdated word for intersex people is “hermaphrodite;” today that term is considered offensive and should never be used.


Because straight and cis cultures are assumed to be what’s normal, and LGBTQ identities and experiences are “other,” LGBTQ people are not always seen or represented. This is why LGBTQ people have to continue to come out. If they didn’t, they would be assumed to be straight or cis.



A woman who is sexually and romantically attracted to other women. A type of sexual orientation.


Umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities. LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, queer and questioning.



A verbal or non-verbal communication that is subtly and unintentionally discriminatory against an oppressed group.


When you refer to someone using a pronoun or another form of address that doesn’t correctly reflect their gender.


A trans person who considers themselves to be transitioning from male to female.



A gender identity. An umbrella term that covers most identities outside of the gender binary of man/woman.


A type of relationship style where partners are free to be involved with more than one person at once.



The act of degrading someone to the status of a mere object that doesn’t have thoughts or feelings.


A person who is attracted to people from across the gender spectrum. Similar to pansexual. Omnisexual people recognize potential partner’s genders, are attracted to all genders, and make decisions about partners based on their gender.


A term used to describe systems, relations and behaviours which disadvantage some groups. Some examples of oppressive systems include transphobia, homophobia, racism, ableism and sexism. 



A person who is attracted to people from across the gender spectrum. Similar to omnisexual. Pansexual people recognize all genders but do not consider gender when choosing a partner.


Being perceived as cisgender or straight. LGBQ people may pass as straight, and trans people may pass as cis. This can be a controversial term because it can imply that you aren’t genuinely what you’re passing as. For example, a trans man “passes” for a man, but in truth he simply is a man.


A relationship style; ongoing relationships with more than one person at once.


A negative prejudgment or preconceived ideas about another person or group of people based on perceived characteristics rather than reason or evidence.


Unearned advantages granted to a particular group of people who (often unintentionally) gain from the oppression of another group. Some examples of privilege include cis privilege, straight privilege, white privilege and class privilege.


Words that replace nouns to create more ease in a sentence. Some examples of pronouns are he/him and she/her. Many trans and non-binary people use gender-neutral pronouns, such as a singular they/them.



A name some people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) use as an affirmation of their sexual orientation or gender identity as different and wonderful, as in “I’m queer and proud.” It’s often used as an umbrella term for all minority sexual orientations and sometimes minority gender identities as well. Associated with historical negativity, and so not all LGBTQ people will use the term.


Someone who is not sure what their sexual orientation or gender identity is and is going through the process of figuring it out. People who are questioning are still valid in their identity.


Sex assigned at birth

The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex assigned at birth, often based on physical anatomy at birth.

Sex negativity

Dislike or hostility towards open expressions of sexuality.

Sex positivity

An attitude that says that consensual and pleasurable sexual activities are healthy, including the decision not to have sex at all.

Sexual and gender minorities

An umbrella term for people who are not straight or cisgender.

Sexual behaviour

A person’s sexual practices. Can include who they have sex with and what types of sexual acts they engage in. 

Sexual orientation

A person’s sexual identity. It defines or communicates the gender of the people that you are romantically or sexually attracted to in relation to your own gender. Typical words people use to describe sexual orientation are bisexual, gay, lesbian, heterosexual or queer.


Simplistic assumptions or judgments about a group of people that disregard individual differences among group members and emphasize negative preconceptions that characterize all members of a group as being the same.


Slang for being sexually and romantically attracted to members of a different gender, also known as heterosexual.

Straight privilege

The unearned advantages that straight people experience in the day-to-day by virtue of their sexual orientation.



When one or two people from an oppressed group are included without having the same authority or power as the other group members, under the guise of equality or inclusivity. The individuals are then given the unfair burden of representing other people who share the same identity. Being a token gay or trans friend is challenging because it’s unclear if you’re liked because of your personality or because of the identities you hold. 


An umbrella term for people who feel that they don’t fit into the gender they were assigned at birth.

Trans man

A man who was assigned female at birth and identifies as male.

Trans woman

A woman who was assigned male at birth and identifies as female.


A term that describes a person whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex. For example, someone who was assigned female at birth who identifies as male. Transgender people may alter their bodies using hormones, surgery, both or neither.


A person’s process of taking on a gender expression to match their gender identity. Transition can include coming out to your family, friends, or co-workers; changing your name or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgery. The transition process is different for everyone, can be social and/or medical. There is no checklist or average time for a transition process, and no universal goal.


Coined by the author Julia Serano;  refers to the oppression of transphobia and misogyny combined.


 Discomfort, dislike or prejudice towards people who are, or who are perceived to be, trans.


A person who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. A transsexual person may have changed how they look to fit how they feel, may be in the process of doing so, or may want to.

Two Spirit

A sexual and gender minority identity specific to Indigenous cultures. Two Spirit people hold masculine and feminine spirits. Before colonization, Two Spirit people were respected in many Indigenous communities and played valuable roles as educators, healers and leaders. After colonial contact, Two Spirit people were abused and assaulted.


Victim blaming

Occurs when those who are oppressed are held individually responsible for the outcomes of their own oppression. Rather than blaming victims, it’s important that we examine the systems of privilege and oppression that create predictable outcomes.


Zie, Hir

Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some gender non-conforming people. Pronounced zee and here, they replace "he"/"she" and "his"/"hers" respectively.