The little LGBTQIA+ Glossary

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Although LGBTQIA+ may be a mouthful, it’s actually the acronym for the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Agender/Asexual” community. But what exactly do the individual terms mean? Transgender or intersex, queer or gay – our little LGBTQI glossary is here to help.

What is… asexuality?

People who consider themselves to be asexual (sometimes abbreviated to “ace”) are often perfectly happy to engage in romantic and affectionate relationships, but they are not interested in sexual relations. That’s not a conscious decision. Instead, asexual men and women simply lack the desire to engage in sexual activity.

What is… aromantic?

The term “aromantic” (often abbreviated to “aro”) refers to people who experience sexual attraction but not romantic feelings. Some people are both asexual and aromantic (“aroace”) while others are either aromantic or asexual. 

What is… bigender?

People who consciously and visibly express their personalities by swapping between presenting as variously female or male (or somewhere else on the gender spectrum) are bigender. This is different from agender, where people reject attachment to any form of gender. 

What is… bisexuality?

Individuals who are attracted to both men and women are bisexual. However, the attraction to either gender doesn’t necessarily happen at the same time, and may manifest in a very different manner. For example, bisexuals could be romantically attracted to one and sexually attracted to the other gender. Bisexuality does not invalidate attraction to people who do not fall into the typical gender binary. 

What is… cisgender?

The term refers to people whose gender identity matches their gender assigned at birth. For example, an AFAB (assigned female at birth) person who identifies as a woman, or an AMAB (assigned male at birth) person who identifies as a man.

What is… drag?

Although the origin of the term “drag queen” is debated, it is widely believed to once having referred to actors who played female roles at a time when women were not allowed to participate in public theater. Some believe that the term “drag” comes from a note in scripts that stood for “DRessed As a Girl.” Nowadays, drag queens are artists who play with notions of gender, from the more traditional “female impersonaters,” to gender-bending performance artists, make-up experts and fashion icons.  Similarly, “drag kings” are women who play with stereotypical and symbolic male traits. Drag is artistry and performance and not a gender identity, therefore – though transgender people can, of course, participate in the art of drag – it is totally incorrect to assume that drag performers are transgender.

What is… gender?

In scientific language, “gender” describes the defined terms for the social gender and stands in contrast to “sex” which refers to the biological sex. The terms allow for the exploration of gender roles, identities and gender relations in our society. Gender is, ultimately, a performance and a social construct.

What is… gender non-conforming?

This simply describes anyone who feels their outward appearance and presentation doesn’t reflect the gender behavior expected of them by the society they live in. Many trans people identify as gender non-conforming, but there are also cisgender people whose gender identity doesn’t fit societal stereotypes of that gender.

What is… heteronormativity?

Heteronormativity defines the widespread assumption that the norm or the “default settings” for a person are heterosexual and cisgender; that most people are straight “manly” men and “feminine” women. This leads to problems such as the concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community being underrepresented in media, sex eduacation, social and legal spaces.

What does it mean to be gay?

Literally, homosexuality refers to same-sex desire. It’s the opposite of heterosexual. Therefore, gay people are women who desire women ( lesbian) and men who desire men (gay). 

What is… intersexuality?

Intersex individuals are born with bodies that have both male and female sex characteristics. Such traits can manifest in the genitals, the internal sexual organs, the gonads, hormones or a set of chromosomes. The term is used when a clear attribution to the binary sex system (man and woman), though many intersex people are subject to unnecessary surgical intervention at birth, as people who defy categorization often make society uncomfortable.

What is… non-binary?

Some people – including many transgender people – identify as either male or female. But some people do not feel like they fit into the categories of “man” or “woman,” or “male” or “female.” Many non-binary people feel more comfortable with they/them pronouns, while some may use he/she/they (or some combination) interchangeably. Additionally, some people don’t identify with any gender (agender), while for others, their gender identity changes or is in a state of flux (genderfluid).

What is… pansexuality?

Pansexuals are attracted to people regardless of their gender presentation. For example, lesbians have a gender preference (women) and straight women have a gender preference (men), but pansexuals do not have a gender preference.

What is… queer?

Queer is English and originally used to refer to something “strange” or “funny”. Historically, queer was a derogatory term for LGBTQIA+ people and is still used as a slur by some homophobes today. However, since the 1990s, the term has been reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community and is often used as a broader term to mean any gender or sexuality that refuses to be defined by the simple gender binary enforced by dominant cultural mores.

What is… top / bottom / switch?

These terms refer to the role taken in sex. In broad terms, a top is the one who does the penetration, the bottom is the one who receives, whether in gay sex or lesbian sex with a strap-on. A switch (or a vers) is one who enjoys both. Some people lean into these labels and enjoy them, others don’t vibe with these terms and find them restrictive. It just depends how you like to define yourself.

What is… transgender?

Individuals who don’t associate with the gender they were assigned at birth often identify as transgender. However, not all transgender people seek hormonal or surgical procedures to make adjustments to their physical form in order to become more traditionally identifiable as female or male. Instead, some simply reject the binary gender structures and present their gender through means such as clothing.

What is… transsexual?

“Transsexual” is a term that  has largely fallen out of favor within the LGBTQIA+ community. Some transgender people like or prefer the term transsexual, but “transgender” is the go-to term unless someone within that community asks you to use the term “transsexual”. Historically, “transsexual” has been used to describe people alienated with their birth-assigned gender and instead identify with a gender that feels more authentic to them.

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