Gender identity: The term that recognizes the unexplainable essence that makes up a person’s gender. Doesn’t always need to relate to gender norms or society unless the individual feels comfortable to do so. Identity includes strongly felt, self-identifying characteristics that make up their place in the world, and how they interact with it.
Biological sex: The term that recognizes the chromosomes an individual is born with, and may have the three known categories of male, female, or intersex. An individual cannot decide their chromosomes nor switch them medically yet, but this has no inward bearing on a person’s gender identity.
Presentation: The term to refer to someone’s outward expression, unrelated to gender, sexuality, or biological sex. May be feminine, masculine, androgynous, or a mix of all. Presentation usually refers to the way that trans, non-binary, or gender nonconforming people visibly express themselves to the outside world. Take note, however: presentation doesn’t need to match to gender. (Examples: men who decide to wear makeup or dresses, and still comfortably identify as men.)
Transgender - A transgender person is someone who does not identify with their birth sex, and receive dysphoria as a result of their outward appearance not matching their inside identity. Many start HRT, or undergo surgery to further their transition into their desired gender. They often wish to wear the clothing of the opposite gender to present as that gender, but not doing so doesn’t mean that their identity is “less real.”
(It is important to note that transgender is not a noun, and when referring to someone who is trans, one should always use “a transgender person”, or simply “a trans person”. Never “that transgender”, or “it.” That’s dehumanizing.)
HRT - Hormone Replacement Therapy. The medical therapy that many transgender people undergo. This therapy involves taking or injecting various hormones and other medications designed to help feminize or masculinize the body. Taking hormones without the help of a trained endocrinologist is not safe or recommended.
Transition - The mental and physical changes that a transgender person goes through over the course of many years while becoming their desired gender. A person’s transition is often counted by months on HRT, but for some, transitioning can be a social occurrence. Many begin several months or even years before starting HRT as they adjust themselves, and make efforts to change their appearance and/or attitude. Many trans people will document their transition with photographs or videos, either to show to other members of the community or to reflect on their own progress.
Non-Binary - An umbrella term meant for all individuals who don’t fall within the gender binary (man or woman). They may identify as gender fluid, multiple genders, no gender, or any other variant gender, which is not discernible. Genderqueer is an alternative umbrella term, but not all who are non-binary identify as genderqueer.
Agender - The gender, which recognizes no identifiable gender for the individual, and/or a lack of one as their gender. May present femininely, masculinely, or androgynously.
Gender fluid - Individuals who feel that their gender fluctuates, and may not always be pinned down as a specific one.
Bigender - People who may identify wholly as one gender for a period of time, while later identify as another separate gender on another day, month, or year. Doesn’t always have to be a binary gender.
Sexual attraction - Having a desire to engage in sexual acts with another human being. The asexual community refers to non-asexuals as allosexuals, and many allosexuals may or may not be aromantic. Sexual attraction may not always align to one’s romantic attraction.
Romantic attraction - Having a desire to engage in a romantic relationship with a certain individual, and doesn’t always include sexual aspects. (Such as: Dating, marriage.) This doesn’t always apply to asexuals, and may apply to anyone who isn’t aromantic. (Examples: a man who is biromantic, but not bisexual. A woman who is bi-romantic, but strictly homosexual. A woman who is hetero-romantic, but bisexual.)
Sensual attraction - Having a desire to engage in sensual acts with a certain individual, but may or may not include romantic or sexual undertones. (Examples: cuddling, hugging, and hand holding.)
Asexual: Individuals who lack sexual attraction to people specifically. The spectrum includes demisexual people, gray asexuals, and asexuals who may or may not have romantic attraction for other people. Asexuality does not exclude those who experience arousal, or masturbate.
For more information, check out www.asexuality.org.
Sex positive asexuals: Asexual people who are willing to have sex, whether out of curiosity, indifference, or for the satisfaction of their partners.
Sex repulsed asexuals: Asexual people who want nothing to do with sex, and are repulsed by the thought of themselves having a sexual relationship with another human being.
Aromantic: People who lack romantic attraction, but may or may not still experience sexual attraction. Those who don’t find the need or instinct to be in a romantic relationship, and are totally satisfied with platonic and/or sexual ones.
Queer: A reclaimed slur in the LGBTQ community, and an umbrella term to refer to all those who fall under the spectrum of non-heteronormative sexuality, gender, and expression. Not all who are LGBTQ wish to use this label, because in many southern states, the slur is still used to dehumanize people within our community. For those who do use it, use it respectively and do not use it for those who decline on using the label.
Femme - People who tend to have a feminine aesthetic, regardless of gender or sexuality. Not necessarily trans or genderqueer, but could identify that way. This includes cisgender or trans males who embrace femininity, lesbians who express themselves femininely(As opposed to butch lesbians), gay or bisexual males(Who may embrace the variant presentation), and all those with a feminine presentation.
Lipstick lesbian: Lesbians or bisexuals who exhibit a greater amount of feminine gender qualities and attributes.
Chapstick lesbian: Lesbians or bisexual women who exhibit a greater amount of androgynous or masculine traits, but aren’t fully presenting masculine or butch as a default.
Bisexual: People who have a romantic and/or sexual attraction towards two or more gender identities.
Pansexual: People who have a romantic and/or sexual attraction to individuals, regardless of gender. Gender is not a factor for pansexual people. Whether people identify as bisexual or pansexual is a personal decision, and to regard either as “less real” or a “on the fence” about being strictly gay is erasure. The difference between bisexual and pansexual is that bisexual could include more than two genders, but does not include all. (Examples: a bisexual, genderqueer person interested in men and non-binary folk, but not women. A bisexual man interested in women and men, but not non-binary people.)
NOTE: The definitions of these labels are ever-changing, and our definitions may or may not always reflect the identities of people who have alternative meanings, labels, or explanations. We apologize if any of our definitions are misinterpreted, or not comprehensive to the fullest understanding of the terminology.
For more information, check out Sam Killerman’s It’s Pronounced Metrosexual website, Janet Mock, Judith Butler’s books on gender theory, Julie Vu’s YouTube channel PrincessJoules, and Ashley Mardell’s ABC’s of LGBT series on YouTube.
Jamie Fowler is a cosplayer, manga reader, and upcoming high school senior. She has a desire to give back to the LGBTQ plus community, and advocates for wider queer awareness. She participates in community education along with her co-writers, Meaghan Iholts and Jae Kanella Markis.