Sexual Orientation and Gender Glossary

This glossary offers a look at sexual orientation and gender terminology, offering distinct explanations for each. As language evolves to reflect the society we live in and the people who create it, this is by no means a complete dictionary of sexuality and gender! But it serves as a valuable starting point to explore and appreciate the remarkable diversity within human sexuality and gender.

What is Sexual Orientation?

Sexual orientation refers to an individual’s pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to people of the same or different genders. This can remain steadfast throughout a lifetime or some experience sexual fluidity where they discover a shift in their orientation.

Types of Sexual Orientation

Our list of sexual orientation definition terms below provides a glimpse into the vast and diverse spectrum of sexual orientations. Explore the various orientations and their meanings to gain a better understanding of the wide range of human sexual orientation.


Heterosexuality refers to a sexual orientation in which individuals are primarily or exclusively attracted to people of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, heterosexuality remains the most acknowledged and socially accepted sexual orientation in many cultures and societies to this day.


An umbrella term for people who experience sexual and/or emotional attraction to more than one gender. Bisexuality does not imply an equal or fixed attraction to all genders, but rather encompasses a wide spectrum of attractions and preferences.


Capable of being attracted to many/any gender(s). Sometimes the term omnisexual is used in the same manner. “Pansexual” is used more frequently as more people acknowledge that gender is not binary.


Men who are attracted to other men, both on a physical and emotional level, may identify as gay. Additionally, many women who are attracted to other women may also use the term “gay” to describe themselves, as the term “lesbian” can sometimes be overly sexualized, particularly in the context of pornography.


Women who are exclusively emotionally and physically attracted to other women. Increasingly, people use the term “wlw” (which stands for “women loving women”) to include women who are attracted to women, but are also attracted to other genders, such as bisexual and pansexual women.


A term for people of marginalized gender identities and sexual orientations who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. This term has a complicated history as a reclaimed slur.


The lack of romantic attraction, and one identifying with this orientation. This may be used as an umbrella term for other emotional attractions such as demiromantic.


The lack of sexual attraction, and one identifying with this orientation. This may be used as an umbrella term for other emotional attractions such as demisexual.

Monosexual / Multisexual / Non-Monosexual

Umbrella terms for orientations directed towards one gender (monosexual) or multiple genders (multisexual/non-monosexual).

What is Gender?

Gender refers to the social and cultural roles, behaviors, expectations, and identities that societies assign to individuals based on their perceived sex. Traditionally, gender has been understood as a binary concept, dividing people into male and female categories. However, this understanding has evolved to recognize that gender exists on a spectrum and is not solely determined by biological sex.

Gender terms

There is rapid proliferation of queer and trans language. Terms are always changing in the LGBTQ+ community. The list provided serves as a current snapshot of inclusive language definitions.


Term for someone who exclusively identifies as their sex assigned at birth. The term cisgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.


Encompassing term of many gender identities of those who do not identify or exclusively identify with their sex assigned at birth.


An umbrella term encompassing many different genders of people who commonly do not have a gender and/or have a gender that they describe as neutral. Many agender people are trans. As a new and quickly-evolving term, it is best you ask how someone defines agender for themselves.

Gender Fluid

Individuals who identify as gender fluid may experience fluidity in their gender expression, feeling a combination of masculine and feminine traits at different times or expressing themselves outside of the traditional gender binary. They may also experience shifts in their gender identity, feeling more aligned with one gender on some occasions and another gender on different occasions.

Nonbinary (Also Non-Binary)

Preferred umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man, used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a nonbinary person). Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary. Sometimes (and increasingly), nonbinary can be used to describe the aesthetic/presentation/expression of a cisgender or transgender person.

Two Spirit

An umbrella term referring to various indigenous gender identities in North America. Two-Spirit people are believed to possess both masculine and feminine spirits within them and often hold important roles within their communities. The term “two-spirit” varies among different Indigenous cultures, and it is important to approach it with cultural sensitivity and respect for the specific traditions and meanings associated with it.

At the end of the day, it is essential to understand that sexual orientation and gender are separate dimensions of identity.Respecting and affirming the self-identified sexual orientation and gender identity of each person is key to promoting inclusivity, equality, and human rights for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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