Teaching Resource: LGBTQIA+ Community Vocabulary
Identity and words are intrinsically connected in all cultures. Vocabulary is essential to an accurate understanding of issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community. Through words, we can educate, support and amplify the many voices of the LGBTQIA+ community.
LGBTQIA+ stands for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual community. The plus sign is included to ensure people that don’t necessarily align within the larger umbrellas are not left out of the community.
Queer functions as both an umbrella term and as a specific identity. Used as an umbrella term, queer is often used as a replacement for the acronym “LGBTQIA+” So instead of saying the “LGBTQIA+ community” people simply say the “queer community.” It’s basically a way to abbreviate the abbreviation. Used as a specific identity, queer attempts to reject the idea that the labels of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are able to explain any one person’s identity. If someone tells you that they’re queer, it typically means that they aren’t explicitly heterosexual or gender-conforming.
Gender Identity refers to an individual’s intrinsic sense of self and their sense of being female, male, intersex, or gender non-conforming regardless of the sex assigned at birth.
Gender Expression is the way an individual expresses their gender identity (e.g., in the way they dress, the length and style of their hair, the way they act or speak, the volume of their voice, and in their choice of whether or not to wear make‐up.) Understandings of gender expression are culturally specific and will change over time.
Sex or Biological Sex is often based solely on external genitalia but sex also includes internal reproductive structures, chromosomes, hormone levels, and secondary sex characteristics.
Transgender refers to individuals whose gender identity is different from what was assumed based on their sex assigned at birth. This is an umbrella term for a variety of gender identities and expressions that an individual may self-identify with. It is important to note that not all transgender individuals need nor want to go through a medical transition in order to present as a cisgendered person.
Transition is a way to describe the process(es) an individual may go through in order to change their gender expression and identity documents to match their gender identity. Transitions can be social, emotional, legal, and/or medical and are different for every individual. In children, adolescents, and adults, it is increasingly common for gender transition to be fluid.
Cisgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity corresponds with their assigned sex at birth. This is typically the sex reflected on one’s original birth certificate.
Gender Non‐Conforming is a term that refers to individuals who do not follow other people’s ideas or stereotypes about how they should look or act based on the female or male sex they were assigned at birth. Some people also identify as Agender, Gender Variant, Gender Expansive, Non-Binary, or Gender Creative and may use pronouns outside of the binary “he” and “she” including “they/them” pronouns, or may prefer to use their name instead of gender pronouns.
Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with sex characteristics that don’t fit the typical definitions of male and female.
Sexual Orientation is a person’s emotional and/or sexual attraction to other people based on the gender of the other person. Sexual orientation is not the same as gender identity.