Glossary of Terms

A person who is not LGBTQ but shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.

Assigned Sex
The sex/gender one is considered to be at birth based on a cursory examination of external genitalia.

Birth Sex/Biological Sex
A specific set of genetic, chemical and anatomical characteristics that we are either born with or that develop as we mature. Types of birth/biological sex include female, male and intersex.

Bisexual, Bi
Describes a person who is attracted to both men and women. Because bisexual assumes a binary, male/female paradigm, many individuals now use the term pansexual.

Describes a person whose emotional, romantic and sexual attractions are primarily for individuals of the same sex, typically in reference to men and boys, sometimes used as a general term for gay men and lesbians.

Gender Expression
The external manifestation of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics.

Gender Identity
One’s internal, personal sense of his or her own gender. Many people believe in a more fluid gender identity than simply “male” and “female.”

Describes individuals who possess identities that fall outside of the widely accepted sexual binary.

Gender Role
Clothing, characteristics, traits and behaviors culturally associated with masculinity and/or femininity.

An adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite sex.

The societal assumption that heterosexuality is natural, innate, universal, and/or superior. It does not imply the same fear and hatred as homophobia.

Intersex people are born with physical sex markers (genitals, hormones, gonads or chromosomes) that are neither clearly male nor female.

An acronym, which stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning.” Other versions include “I” for Intersex and/or “A” for Allied.

A term that is being reclaimed by members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities to describe people who transgress culturally imposed norms of heterosexuality and gender traditionalism. However, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBTQ community.

A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Open and Affirming
Open and Affirming means that a church has intentionally and publicly stated that those of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions (or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people) are welcome in its full life and ministry (e.g. membership, leadership, employment, etc.). Many ONA statements also include peoples from other historically marginalized groups.

Sexual Orientation
The nature of an individual’s physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Trans and gender-variant people may identify with any sexual orientation, and their sexual orientation may or may not change before, during or after gender transition.

Sex/Gender Binary
The traditional view that in terms of sex and gender all peoples can and should be able to fall into two categories which are in opposition to each other. The sex/gender binary assumes that sex and gender are fixed, stable, and congruent in each individual. This view is increasingly being challenged by the idea that both sex and gender are social constructions that operate along continuums, are fluid, and not necessarily congruent.

An umbrella term that describes people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. This group includes, but is not limited to, transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.

An umbrella term that describes people who permanently or periodically dis-identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.

An older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. Still preferred by some people who have permanently changed – or seek to change – their bodies through medical interventions (including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries). Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers. If preferred, use as an adjective: transsexual woman or transsexual man.

Transgender man
People who were assigned female at birth but identify and live as a man may use this term to describe themselves. They may shorten it to trans man. (Note: trans man, not “transman.”) Some may also use FTM, an abbreviation for female-to-male. Some may prefer to simply be called men, without any modifier. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

Transgender woman
People who were assigned male at birth but identify and live as a woman may use this term to describe themselves. They may shorten to trans woman. (Note: trans woman, not “transwoman.”) Some may also use MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female. Some may prefer to simply be called women, without any modifier. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

Altering one’s birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. The exact steps involved in transition vary from person to person. Avoid the phrase “sex change.”

Language to avoid

Offensive: “homosexual” (n. or adj.)
Preferred: “gay” (adj.); “gay man” or “lesbian” (n.); “gay person/people”
Please use gay or lesbian to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Because of the clinical history of the word “homosexual,” it is aggressively used by anti-gay extremists to suggest that gay people are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered – notions discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s.

Offensive: “sexual preference”
Preferred: “sexual orientation” or “orientation”
The term “sexual preference” is typically used to suggest that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured.” Sexual orientation is the accurate description of an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex and is inclusive of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, as well as straight men and women

Offensive: “gay lifestyle” or “homosexual lifestyle”
Preferred: “gay lives,” “gay and lesbian lives”
There is no single lesbian, gay or bisexual lifestyle. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are diverse in the ways they lead their lives. The phrase “gay lifestyle” is used to denigrate lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals suggesting that their orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured”

Offensive: “gay agenda” or “homosexual agenda”
Preferred: Accurate descriptions of the issues (e.g., “inclusion in existing non-discrimination and hate crimes laws,” “ending the ban on transgender service members”)
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are motivated by the same hopes, concerns and desires as other everyday Americans. They seek to be able to earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love. Their commitment to equality is one they share with many allies and advocates who are not LGBTQ. Notions of a so-called “homosexual agenda” are rhetorical inventions of anti-gay extremists seeking to create a climate of fear by portraying the pursuit of equal opportunity for LGBTQ people as sinister

Offensive: “special rights”
Preferred: “equal rights” or “equal protection”
Anti-gay extremists frequently characterize equal protection of the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as “special rights” to incite opposition to such things as relationship recognition and inclusive non-discrimination laws

Offensive: “transgenders,” “a transgender”, “transgendered”
Preferred: transgender, transgender peoplea transgender person
Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. Do not say, “Tony is a transgender,” or “The parade included many transgenders.” Instead say, “Tony is a transgender man,” or “The parade included many transgender people.”

Offensive: “sex change,” “pre-operative,” “post-operative”
Preferred: transition
Referring to a “sex-change operation,” or using terms such as “pre-operative” or “post-operative,” inaccurately suggests that one must have surgery in order to transition. Avoid overemphasizing surgery when discussing transgender people or the process of transition.

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