learn about terms related to gender identity and sexual orientation
Words to Avoid
- Androgynous: A mixture of masculine and feminine gender expressions.
- Cisgender: Gender identification with the gender or sex that was assigned at birth.
- Feminine: Expressing gender along attributions, behaviors, and roles traditionally or culturally associated with girls/women.
- Gender Expression: The ways in which a person performs, communicates, understands, and shares their gender with others.
- Gender Identity: Internal sense or identification with a specific set of gender roles or behaviors.
- Gender nonconforming/expansive: Having a gender expression atypical with sex assigned at birth.
- Gender queer: a nonbinary, transgender identity in which an individual identifies with genders simultaneously or is flexible about gender (i.e., gender fluid), identifies with multiple genders (i.e., bigender, trigender, pangender), does not identify with any specific gender (i.e., agender), or does not define their gender (i.e., third, other gender).
- Gender typical/conforming: Having a gender expression consistent with sex assigned at birth.
- Man: A binary cisgender or transgender identity in which an individual identifies exclusively with more a more masculine gender.
- Masculine: Expressing gender along attributions, behaviors, and roles traditionally or culturally associated with boys/men.
- Nonbinary: A transgender identity in which an individual does not identify exclusively with either masculine or feminine genders.
- Transgender: Gender identification with the gender or sex opposite that was assigned at birth.
- Woman: A binary cisgender or transgender identity in which an individual identifies exclusively with a more feminine gender.
- Biological Sex: The biological sex as informed by hormonal composition (i.e., ratio of estrogens to androgens) or medical intervention (i.e., gender affirming surgeries).
- Intersex person: An individual with sex characteristics atypical of what is medically accepted as male or female.
- Sex Assigned at Birth: The biological sex as assigned by a doctor and recorded on a birth certificate.
- Sex: Biological classification based on genetic and physical characteristics and informed by culture. Typically assigned as male (i.e., XY chromosomes, penis, testicles), female (i.e., XX chromosomes, uterus, ovaries), or intersex (i.e., having atypical characteristics).
- Transsexual: An individual who has completed a medical transition from their sex assigned at birth.
- Asexual/Ace/Demi: No sexual attraction, though romantic attraction or limited sexual attraction may exist. Exists separate of psychological distress at having no attraction.
- Bisexual: Attraction to both men and women.
- Gay/Lesbian: Attraction to the same sex.
- Pansexual: Attraction is not contingent upon gender or sex (e.g., “hearts not parts”).
- Polyamorous: Mutual attraction with multiple individuals who are aware of each other and accept multiple partnerships. May exist as multiple partners in relationships with each other, multiple people with a common partner, multiple people with common partners, or any possible combination.
- Queer: Self-defined sexuality.
- Sexual Orientation: Physical (i.e., biological), emotional (i.e., psychological), and/or romantic (i.e., social) attraction to another person or people.
- Straight: Attraction to the opposite sex.
- Gay/Homosexual Lifestyle: Lifestyle implies choice. Use [sexuality/gender term] lives.
- Gender Identity Disorder: This is no longer a diagnosis. Unless your sample was collected prior to DSM-5, do not use. The new diagnosis is Gender Dysphoria. It is different, so be sure to understand what it is and how it differs from GID.
- Homosexual: Use gay man or lesbian woman when referring to a person. Homosexual is a behavior, and people are not behaviors. Because of its history of pathologizing and oppressing LGB people, it should be avoided. If you need to qualify the type of relationship, coupling, sex for research purposes, use gay, lesbian, or same-sex as the qualifier. However, if you are also talking about straight couples, use straight or opposite-sex as qualifiers.
- Pejoratives: Faggot, dyke, sodomite, deviant, tranny, shemale, he/she, it, hon/honey, trap, or any language that pathologizes or compares to pedophilia, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, and/or incest.
- Sexual Preference: Preference implies choice. Use sexual orientation, orientation, or sexual identity.
- Transgendered: Transgender identity is life-long, and adding –ed to the end implies it is a choice or something that happened to you. Instead, use transgender.
- Transgenders/a transgender: Do not use transgender as a noun (e.g., “look at those transgenders,” my friend is a transgender.”). Always use transgender as an adjective combined with a noun such as people, individuals, folk.
- Transman, transwoman, etc.: Trans is an acceptable abbreviation of transgender, but you should maintain the space between it, an adjective, and man/woman, a noun. Use instead: trans man, trans woman.
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