An introduction to LGBTQI+ terminology

by Jess Freedman


If you have been on the campus of the University Currently Known As Rhodes (UCKAR), then you have definitely been meeting a lot of new and exciting people. There are many people at UCKAR who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, etc. (LGBTQI+) community.


Photo by Sara Rampazzo on Unsplash

[ABOVE: The image shows a rainbow flag with a black and white background. The photo looks like it was taken at a march or a parade. The colours of the flag are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. This is the LGBTQI+ Pride flag. The photo is taken from a low angle and the tops of people’s heads can be seen below the flag, but the flag is the focal point and no faces are visible. There are buildings, but these are also in the background. It looks like the location of the photo is a city.]


While it is important to meet LGBTQI+ people, it can be daunting when language is used that you are unfamiliar with.


However, maybe you are a LGBTQI+ person who is just tired of having to repeatedly explain yourself. Whichever person you are, here is a guide to common LGBTQI+ terminology.


It is important to note that these are the commonly accepted definitions of these terms.


Identity and labels are nuanced and definitions cannot fully carry the weight of living with these identities.


Lesbian – A woman who is only attracted to other women.


Gay – A man who is only attracted to other men. This has also been used as an umbrella term to cover the entire LGBTQI+ community.


Bisexual – Someone who is attracted to two or more genders. Another accepted definition is someone who is attracted to their own gender and other genders.


Transgender – Someone whose gender identity is different to their gender assigned at birth.


Queer – This word has been considered a slur and is a controversial term. It can be reclaimed by LGBTQI+ people as an identity.


Intersex – Someone who was born with sexual characteristics that are not necessarily male or female.


Ace – A shortened word for asexual.


Agender – A nonbinary identity in which the person does not identify with any gender.


Androgyny – A form of gender expression in which the person does not appear masculine or feminine, but can be a combination of both or neither.


Aromantic – Someone who does not experience romantic attraction.


Asexual - Someone who does not experience sexual attraction.


Bigender – A nonbinary identity in which the person identifies with two genders.


Cisgender – Someone whose gender identity is the same as their gender assigned at birth.


Demiboy – A nonbinary identity in which the person’s gender may change, but they always maintain a connection with being a man.


Demigirl – A nonbinary identity in which the person’s gender may change, but they always maintain a connection with being a woman.


Demisexual – Someone who only experiences sexual attraction after forming an emotional connection with the person.


Gender Binary – Refers to gender existing as two distinct categories (man and woman).


Gender Non-Conforming – Someone whose gender expression is outside of the expectations placed on their gender.


Gender Spectrum – Refers to gender not existing as two distinct categories, but rather as an infinite number of experiences.


Genderfluid – Someone whose gender fluctuates.


Heterosexual – Someone who is only attracted to the opposite* gender.


Homosexual – Someone who is only attracted to the same gender.


Nonbinary – A person who does not identify with a binary gender (binary genders are man and woman).


Pansexual – Someone who is attracted to people regardless of their gender.


Trans Man – Someone who was assigned female at birth and now identifies as a man.


Trans Woman – Someone who was assigned male at birth and now identifies as a woman.


Transfemme – A transgender person who identifies close to femininity.


Transmasc – A transgender person who identifies close to masculinity.


[Content warning: Beyond here, slurs and outdated terminology will be discussed. If you are sensitive to this sort of language, please take caution. If you are not someone who is targeted by the word, under no circumstances should you say it. If you are targeted by the word, it is preferable that you only use it to refer to yourself. The words will be written out in full to ensure there is no misunderstanding in what these words are. ]


Dyke – A slur against lesbians.


Faggot – A slur against gay men.


Tranny – A slur against transgender people.


Transsexual – Typically regarded as an outdated term for a transgender person who has undergone medical transition (i.e. hormone replacement therapy and/or gender affirming surgeries).


Of course, there are many more words to describe LGBTQI+ identities and it is always a good idea to educate yourself further.


*Because gender is a spectrum and not a binary, there are no opposite genders. The word has been used for ease of understanding.

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