LGBTTQ* Words/Definitions

The following list of words and definitions provide us with an introduction and foundation of language for LGBTTQ* communities. It is important to note words, definitions, and connotations change over time, culture, political climate, economic background, education, race, and geography. New words are created every day.

Individuals may self-identify and/or use terms in a variety of ways. If you are unsure how a person might be using a word, remain calm, mirror their language, and ask them how they define it for themselves.

* (Asterisk) - The asterisk invites folks to self-identify and self-define their identities for themselves. It symbolizes a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities, expressions, and experiences. The asterisk is meant to be inclusive and not to erase, ignore, or be dismissive.

Accessible gender inclusive washrooms - Gender Inclusive Washrooms are washrooms where all bodies are welcome to enter and use the facilities, free of harassment, and violence. Accessible Gender Inclusive Washrooms have the supports and equipment necessary to support folks with disabilities (including braille and textured floors), change tables, and a sharps container. Gender Inclusive Washrooms may also be known as Gender Neutral Restrooms.

Agender - Agender is a non-binary gender identity in which individuals are “without gender.”  

Ally - An ally is a member of a privileged group who takes an active stand against oppression and works to be a part of social change rather than being part of the oppression.

Asexual - Someone who is asexual does not experience sexual attraction towards other people. Asexual folks may still have romantic, emotional, affectional, or relational attractions to other people.

Bisexual - Bisexual individuals are emotionally, sexually, physically, spiritually, politically, and/or romantically attracted to female, women-identified, male, and man-identified people. Bi means two.

Cisgender - Cisgender individuals’ gender identity and expression corresponds with their assigned birth sex. For example: a non-transgender individual. Cis means “to remain the same.”

Cissexism - Cissexism is the system of oppression that assumes (and therefore acts on this assumption) that everyone is cisgender and that trans* folks, identities, and experiences do not and should not exist. If trans* folks, identities, and experiences do exist, they are inherently devalued, marginalized, and stigmatized.

Demisexual - Demisexual individuals only feel sexual attraction to people with whom they have an emotional bond.

Gay - A male and/or man-identified person who is attracted male and/or man-identified individuals.  Gay has also been used to identify a community or location (“The Gay Community” or “The Gay Village,” for example).

Gender - Gender is the socially and culturally influenced and constructed classification of masculine and/or feminine. It is not always determined by one’s birth assigned sex.

Gender Binary - The gender binary is a socially and culturally influenced classification system that rigidly divides and separates male (masculinity, “for boys and men only”) and female (femininity, “for girls and women only”). A strict set of rules, expectations, roles, and behaviors are policed and enforced by various acts of discrimination if these are not followed. Although the binary is a colonized and Western notion, it also exists throughout the word in a variety of ways.

Gender Expression - Gender expression is the way a person presents and communicates their gender identity to society. This may be done through clothing, speech, body language, hairstyle, voice, and/or the emphasis or de-emphasis of bodily characteristics, behaviours, and/or traits. The way we express our gender is individual, subjective, contextual, cultural, and may be intentional or not, and may change over time. A person’s gender expression is not an indication of their sexual orientation.

Gender Identity - Gender identity is how a person feels, identifies, and refers to their gender. This could include a subjective sense of being a man, woman, trans, two-spirit, gender neutral, genderqueer, all of these, none of these, or a combination of these.

Gender-Neutral/Gender-Inclusive - Inclusive language to describe relationships (“spouse” and “partner” instead of “husband/boyfriend” and “wife/girlfriend”), spaces (gender-neutral/inclusive restrooms are for use by all genders), pronouns ("they" and "ze" are gender neutral/inclusive pronouns) among other things. 

Gender Non-Conforming - A Gender Non-Conforming person is someone who does not conform to society's expectations of gender expression based on the gender binary, expectations of masculinity and femininity, or how they should identify their gender.

Genderqueer - Genderqueer is a gender identity that is non-normative and does not correspond with societal gender expectations. Genderqueer folks may queer gender through their expression and presentation for radical or political reasons. Some individuals may identify with both male and female genders, move between or beyond genders, or may reject the gender binary or gender altogether. Genderqueer folks may or may not also identify as trans.

Heterosexism - Heterosexism is the system of oppression that assumes (and therefore acts on this assumption) that everyone is heterosexual (straight) and that LGBTQ* folks, identities, and experiences do not and should not exist. If LGBTQ* folks, identities, and experiences do exist, they are inherently devalued, marginalized, and stigmatized.

Homophobia, Biphobia, Lesbophobia, and Transphobia - Homophobia, Biphobia, Lesbophobia, and Transphobia constellations of negative attitudes toward and feelings about LGBTTQ* people or those perceived to be. They are systemic prejudice, discrimination, marginalization, and violence toward LGBTTQ* people and occur at every systems level:

  • Personal (jokes, abuse, violence, absence of discussion)
  • Cultural (media representation, racial and ethnic beliefs)
  • Systemic/Institutional (housing, workplace, schools)
  • Internalized (bullying, self-harm, guilt, shame)

Intersectionality - Systems of oppression are interconnected and influence people’s experiences. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined this expression as intersectionality. People have different experiences within a social group as well as between social groups. For example, in a group of lesbians, all the women have experiences of sexism, misogyny, and homophobia but some may have additional experiences with abilism, racism, classism, transphobia, and/or colonization based on their membership in other social groups.

Intersex - Intersex refers to a person whose chromosomal, hormonal, or anatomical sex characteristics are not easily classified as male or female. There are approximately 22 identifiable variations that effect 1 in 1000 persons.

Lesbian - A lesbian is a female and/or woman-identified person who is attracted female and/or woman-identified individuals. 

Misogyny - Misogyny is the fear or hatred of women.

Non-Binary Gender - A non-binary gender identity is not one that is binary (for example: not man or woman, not male or female). There are a variety of non-binary gender identities in use today - such as: androgyne, intergender, agender, neutrois, bigender, pangender, genderqueer, genderfluid, demigender, or a culturally specific gender identity. Non-binary individuals may adopt gender neutral names, pronouns, titles (like Mx vs. Mr. or Ms.), clothing, etc. Some folks may seek out hormonal and/or surgical affirmations (transition) so that their exterior body reflects their interior identity.

Oppression - Oppression is systemic unfair treatment based on the inequalities related to race, sex, class, ability, gender, status, etc., and it impacts human lives. According to bell hooks, oppression is the lack of liberation, rights, and equality. People experiencing oppression have limited social, political, and economic power. Systems of oppression include, but are not limited to: sexism, racism, classism, patriarchy, misogyny, trans-misogyny, homophobia, biphobia, lesbophobia, heterosexism, ableism, HIV phobia, xenophobia, colonization, and imperialism.

Pansexual - A pansexual person is emotionally, sexually, physically, spiritually, politically, and/or romantically attracted to many individuals of diverse gender identities, expressions, and histories, and/or assigned birth sex.

Patriarchy - Patriarchy is a society or social system that is controlled by men and/or in which men have power.

Positive Space - A positive space is a place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of race/ethnic, sexual orientation, assigned birth sex, gender identity and/or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability. A Positive Space may also be called “Welcoming Space,” “Safer Space,” and/or “LGBTTQ* Friendly Space.” 

Privilege - Privilege is a set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group. Groups experiencing this, have power over oppressed groups.

Queer - Historically, queer has been a derogatory term used to insult and harm LGBTTQ* individuals, families, and communities. Recently, the term has been reclaimed by the majority of LGBTTQ* communities as a symbol of pride, an affirmation of difference and diversity, political, and/or a means of challenging rigid identity categories.

Questioning - Questioning refers to a person who is exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sex - Sex is the biological classification of a person as male, female, or intersex. A person’s sex is often assigned by a medical professional at birth, based on a visual assessment of external anatomy.

Sexism - Sexism is prejudice and the action, behavior, conditions, and/or attitudes fostering stereotypes of social roles based on sex. Discrimination against women is an example of sexism.

Sexual Orientation - Sexual orientation is a person’s emotional, sexual, physical, spiritual, political, and/or romantic attraction to other individuals.  A person's sexual orientation may change over time.

Transgender - A transgender individual does not identify (either fully or in part) with the gender associated with their birth-assigned sex. Some (but not all) trans* folks physically alter their body (sex reassignment surgery and/or hormone therapy) and participate in gender expressions that affirm their gender identity. Trans means “to cross.” A transgender individual may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, two spirit, straight, etc.

Transsexual - The word transsexual has come to represent the highly psychiatrized, medicalized, and fetishized experience of folks who surgically and hormonally altered their body to affirm their gender identity. The word and identity is rarely used by LGBTTQ* communities today.

Two Spirit - Two Spirit is a colonial term that represents the Anishinaabemowin words niizh manidoowag and has been adopted by a number of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Two Spirit is a safer space for Indigenous, Aboriginal, First Nation, Metis, and Inuit peoples to explore, voice, and define their own sexual orientation and gender identity within the context of surviving colonization. It also historically maps these experiences. Two Spirit serves a multitude of purposes and conveys a multitude of meanings/interpretations for Indigenous, Aboriginal, First Nation, Metis, and Inuit peoples, for those who claim it, receive it as a gift, and for those who don’t.

The creation of the term “two-spirited” is attributed to Albert McLeod, who proposed its use during the Third Annual Inter-tribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian American Conference, held in Beausejour, Manitoba 1990.

LGBTTQ* Initialism - You may be familiar with GLBT, LGBT*, LGBTTQ, LGBTTQQIA*, LGBTQQIP2SAA to represent Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Two Spirit, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual individuals, families, and communities. The placement and inclusion of letters is determined by the communities using the initialism. There is no universal or official initialism for LGBTTQ* communities. 

Sexual Orientation

Gender Identity

Both a Sexual Orientation & a Gender Identity

Neither a Sexual Orientation & a Gender Identity










Gender Non-Conforming





* (Asterisk)


Two Spirit



Additional LGBTTQ* words: