UCF journalism students compile a list of common — and some not so well-known — sexual orientation and gender identity terms

By : Colton Adkins, Jeremy Brener, Layla Ferris and Kathy Ruiz
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The cultivation of proper terminology helps educate both the LGBTQ community and the cishet (an abbreviation of the term cisgender heterosexual) community about the identities that not everyone may have heard or may not understand. In the past, coming out as gay took so much courage and demanded even more understanding. Now that same-sex couples can get married and transgender individuals feel more comfortable being themselves, the newer gender and sexual identities fall into even more categories—everything from the ace spectrum to being a completely sexual person have so many nuances.

The terms in this glossary are important because education is essential for progress. Members of these smaller groups still feel marginalized from within the LGBTQ community. As murders and other crimes increase in the United States against the transgender community, it is important that more people seek understanding in their identities. Have you ever heard a term and been confused by it? This glossary will hopefully help you define and understand the term.

This glossary was assembled with the help of organizations such as St. Pete Pride, the Human Rights Campaign and the Pride Student Association at the University of Central Florida. Terms were also pulled from The Trevor Project, which is the leading national organization that provides services to LGBTQ youth who may be suicidal or going through a crisis. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) was also a resource used when assembling these terms. AVEN provides an expansive archive of resources on asexuality and also hosts the world’s largest online asexual community.

In the past, the LGBTQ community asked for understanding and equality, and the community has made such large strides toward that goal. Although still faced with countless acts of homophobia, transphobia and other forms of hate crimes, coming together in unity will allow the community to move further toward a future where everyone is equal.

Ace Umbrella | [eys uhm-brel-uh]

Covers a range of identities under the asexual spectrum, including demisexuality. Also commonly known as the grayscale or gray-a.  Gray asexuality is considered the gray area between asexuality and sexuality, in which a person may only experience sexual attraction on occasion.

Agender | [ey-jen-der]

A person with no (or very little) connection to the traditional system of gender, who has no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman and/or someone who sees themselves as existing without gender. Sometimes called gender neutrois, gender neutral or genderless.

Androgynous | [an-droj-uh-nuh s]

Identifying and/or presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine.

Aromantic | [ey-roh-man-tik]

Experiencing little or no romantic attraction to others and/or with a lack of interest in romantic relationships/behaviors. Aromanticism exists on a continuum for people who experience no romantic attraction or have any desire for romantic activities, to those who experience low levels of romantic attraction only under specific conditions. Many of these different places on the continuum have their own identity labels (see demiromantic). Sometimes abbreviated to “aro” (pronounced like “arrow”).

Asexual | [ey-sek-shoo-uh l]

Experiencing little or no sexual attraction to others and/or a lack of interest in sexual relationships/behavior.  Asexuality exists on a continuum for people who experience no sexual attraction or have any desire for sex, to those who experience low levels, or sexual attraction only under specific conditions. Many of these different places on the continuum have their own identity labels (see demisexual). Sometimes abbreviated to “ace.”

Asexuality is different from celibacy in that it is a sexual orientation whereas celibacy is abstaining from a certain action. Not all asexual people are aromantic.

Bigender | [bahy-jen-der]

A person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (and sometimes a third gender).

Bisexual | [bahy-sek-shoo-uh l]

A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.

Many people who recognize the limitations of a binary understanding of gender may still use the word bisexual as their sexual orientation label, which is often because many people are familiar with the term bisexual (while less are familiar to the term pansexual).

Cisgender | [sis-jen-der]

A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.

The abbreviation “cishet” is commonly used to refer to a individual who identifies as both cisgender and heterosexual.

Demigender | [dem-ee-jen-der]

An umbrella term for nonbinary gender identities that have a partial connection to a certain gender, including the partly female identity demigirl, and the partly male identity demiboy. For some, they may identify with two or more genders while others may not.

Demisexual | [dem-ee-sek-shoo-uh l]

Little or no capacity to experience sexual attraction until a strong romantic or emotional connection is formed with another individual, often within a romantic relationship.

Enby | [en-bee]

Short form of a person who is nonbinary; that is, a person whose gender identity is neither strictly male nor female. Comes from the pronunciation of NB, the abbreviation of Non Binary.

Enbyfriend | [en-bee frend]

Equivalent to boyfriend or girlfriend relating to someone who is nonbinary.

Gay | [gey]

A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.

Homosexual | [hoh-muh-sek-shoo-uh l]

Clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people. The Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Post restrict usage of the term. Gay and/or lesbian accurately describe those who are attracted to people of the same sex.

Gender Binary | [jen-der bahy-nuh-ree]

The idea that there are only two genders and that every person is one of those two.

Gender-expansive | [jen-der ik-span-siv]

Conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system.

Gender Expression | [jen-der ik-spresh-uh n]

External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially-defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender-fluid | [jen-der floo-id]

A person who does not identify with a single fixed gender; of or relating to a person having or expressing a fluid or unfixed gender identity.

Gender Neutral | [jen-der noo-truh l]

This term is used to describe facilities that any individual can use regardless of their gender (e.g. gender neutral bathrooms). This term can also be used to describe an individual who does not subscribe to any socially-constructed gender (sometimes referred to as “Gender Queer”).

Gender Identity | [jen-der ahy-den-ti-tee]

One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender non-conforming | [jen-der non-kuh n-fawrm-ing]

A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category.

Genderqueer | [jen-der-kweer]

People who typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as “genderqueer” may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categories.

Heterosexual | [het-er-uh-sek-shoo-uh l]

Used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite sex. Also known as “straight.”

Intersex | [in-ter-seks]

People who without any medical interventions develop primary and/or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society’s definitions of male or female. Many visibly intersex babies/children are surgically altered by doctors to make their sex characteristics conform to societal binary norm expectations.

Intersex people are relatively common, although society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Has replaced “hermaphrodite,” which is inaccurate, outdated and generally offensive since it means “having both sexes” and this is not necessarily true as there are at least 16 different ways to be intersex.

 Kinsey Scale | [kin-zee skeyl]

A classification system for gauging sexual orientation, designed by Alfred Kinsey, and ranging from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual).

Latinx | [lat-n -ex]

A gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina or Latin@ that aims to be inclusive of people that do not fall within the gender binary from Latin America.

Lesbian | [lez-bee-uh n]

A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women.

LGBTQ | [el-gee-bee-tee- kyoo]

An initialism standing for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.”

Mx. | [mixter, mix]

An honorific (e.g. Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc.) that is gender neutral. It is often the option of choice for folks who do not identify within the gender binary. For example, “Mx. Smith is a great teacher.”

Nonbinary | [non-bahy-nuh-ree]

Category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities which are outside the gender binary and cisnormativity.

Novigender | [noh-vahy-jen-der]

When a person’s gender experience — or lack thereof — is so complex that it is difficult to describe under one word or term.

Pangender | [ pan-jen-der ]

A nonbinary gender that encompasses more than one gender. A pangender person may consider themselves a member of all genders. Pangender individuals may identify with gender neutral pronouns.

Pansexual | [pan- sek-shoo-uh l]

Not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity.

Polyamory / Polyamorous | [pol-ee-am-er-ee] / [pol-ee-am-er-uh s]

Refers to the practice of, desire to or orientation towards having ethically, honest and consensual non-monogamous relationships (i.e. relationships that may include multiple partners).  This may include open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves more than two people being in romantic and/or sexual relationships which is not open to additional partners), amongst many other set-ups.

Polygender | [pol-ee-jen-der]

A person who experiences multiple gender identities, which can occur at the same time or separately.

Queer | [kweer]

Used as an umbrella term to describe individuals who don’t identify as straight. Also used to describe people who have a non-normative gender identity, or as a political affiliation. Due to its historical use as a derogatory term, it is not embraced or used by all members of the LGBTQ community. The term “queer” can often be used interchangeably with LGBTQ (e.g., “queer folks” instead of “LGBTQ folks”).

If a person tells you they are not comfortable with you referring to them as queer, don’t. Always respect individual’s preferences when it comes to identity labels, particularly contentious ones (or ones with troubled histories) like this.

Use the word queer only if you are comfortable explaining to others what it means. As some people feel uncomfortable with the word, it is best to know/feel comfortable explaining why you choose to use it if someone inquires.

Questioning | [kwes-chuh n-ing]

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

Sexual Orientation | [sek-shoo-uh l awr-ee-uh n-tey-shuh n]

An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.

Spectrum | [spek-truh m]

The range of sexual orientations and gender identities that go from heterosexual and cisgendered to homosexual and transgender. All sexual orientations and gender identities fall somewhere on their respective spectrums.

Trans* | [tranz]

An umbrella term covering a range of identities that transgress socially-defined gender norms.  Trans with an asterisk is often used in written forms (not spoken) to indicate that you are referring to the larger group nature of the term, and specifically including nonbinary identities, as well as transgender men (trans men) and transgender women (trans women).

Transgender | [tranz-jen-der]

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. The term “Trans” is shorthand meaning transgender.

Ze / Zir or Hir | [zee/ zeer or heer]

Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some trans* people. They replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively. Alternatively some people who are not comfortable/do not embrace he/she use the plural pronoun “they/their” as a gender neutral singular pronoun.

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