Sex, Gender & Expression terms
Sex assigned at birth — Sex refers to one’s makeup of physical characteristics, including genitals, chromosomes, and hormones, and secondary characteristics (ex. breasts, facial hair). At birth our sexes are assumed based on our external or visible genitalia, and we are thus assigned a sex term, typically ‘male’ or ‘female.’
Please note: Using “sex assigned at birth” is more affirming than saying “born a male/female” when referring to a trans or nonbinary person because it recognizes that the sex assigned at birth is an assumption by another person, not a fact or an identity of the person being referred to.
AFAB/AMAB — Assigned female at birth/Assigned male at birth. Often used as a prefix to another term like “AFAB Nonbinary”
Cisgender/cis: Describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex and gender assigned at birth. “Cis” means “on the same side of” in Latin. So if the sex you were assigned at birth is “on the same side” as your gender, you are cisgender.
Transgender —Describes a person whose gender identity does not align with the sex and gender assigned at birth. This term is often used as an umbrella term to describe people who are not cisgender. “Trans” means “across from” or “on the other side of” in Latin. So if the sex you were born with is “on the other side of” or different from your gender, you are transgender.
Transmasculine — An umbrella term that refers to people who were assigned female at birth but identify with masculinity
Transfeminine — An umbrella term that refers to people who were assigned male at birth but identify with femininity.
Nonbinary — Someone who does not identify solely as a man or a woman. Nonbinary people may identify as both a man and woman, as neither a man or woman, or somewhere in between. Nonbinary people should not be presumed to be transgender. Some nonbinary people are transgender, some are not.
Gender Identity — One’s internal sense of who they are— man, woman, nonbinary, gender fluid, agender, etc.
Gender Expression/Presentation — This refers to how a person expresses themselves to others. The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. People are often expected to be masculine or feminine in their gender expression/presentation based on their sex and gender assigned at birth. Please note: one’s gender expression does not determine one’s gender, sexual orientation or romantic orientation.
Intersex — Describes a person whose sex does not fit into the traditional sex binary of male or female. Variations may appear in a person’s chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs like testes or ovaries. Some intersex traits are identified at birth, while others may not be discovered until puberty or later in life. About 1.7% of people are born intersex.
Two-Spirit — an umbrella term used to describe a person whose body simultaneously houses a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit. Coined in 1990, the term was created to unify various gender identities and expressions of Native American/First Nations and Indigenous individuals. Also used to sometimes denote whether an Indigenous person is a member of the LGBTQ community but does not necessarily mean that Indigenous person identifies as LGBTQ. Please note: “2-S” stands for Two-Spirit in the LGBTQIA2-S acronym.
Sexual orientation terms
Heterosexual — A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to people of a different sex and/or gender.
Gay — a person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender. Men, women and nonbinary people may use this term to describe themselves
Lesbian — A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women. Women and nonbinary people may use this term to describe themselves
Asexual — someone who experiences a lack of sexual attraction. Asexuals may experience partial or no sexual attraction—or a lack of interest in sexual activity with other people. Asexuality exists on a spectrum. Asexuality is a sexual orientation. It is not to be confused with celibacy, which is a choice not to have sex as opposed to not experiencing sexual attraction or experiencing a lack of sexual attraction.
Bi+ — an umbrella term for all labels that mean you are attracted to multiple genders—labels such as pansexual, fluid, polysexual, etc. Bi+ is used to refer not just to people who call themselves bi, but folks who identify as these labels as well. Please note: some bisexuals don’t use labels at all and are label-free.
Bisexual — a person who can be emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity. Someone who is attracted to gender identities similar to their own and different to their own. Also used as an umbrella term for all people who are attracted to more than one gender (pansexual, fluid, etc).
“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
~Veteran bisexual activist Robyn Ochs
Pansexual — Someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to people of any gender. Sometimes used interchangeably with bisexual, sometimes used as a separate distinctive term. Sometimes used to denote that gender plays little if no role in their attractions. (Please note: Many bisexuals also feel gender plays little if no role in their attractions).
Fluid — An attraction to various genders that changes—or might fluctuate—over time.
Queer — An umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Folks use the term “queer” sometimes when they don’t feel like the terms gay, lesbian or bisexual really feel right. Sometimes people call themselves queer because they don’t feel the need to specify or label their exact attractions. Some trans people use “queer” to denote that they are not cisgender. Some people who are attracted to more than one gender use the term “queer” because they feel it suits them better than terms like “bisexual” or “pansexual” or to avoid stigma in gay and lesbian spaces.
Romantic orientation terms
Romantic orientation — The sex or gender/s with which a person is most likely to have romantic relationships or fall in love. Also known as “affectional orientation.”
Aromantic — someone who does not experience romantic attraction.
Greysexual or Grey-Asexual — The experience of limited sexual attraction that exists on the scale between asexuality and sexual attraction.
Demisexual — A person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone
Heteroromantic — Someone who experiences romantic attraction toward members of a different gender.
Homoromantic — Someone who experiences romantic attraction toward members of the same gender.
Biromantic/Panromantic — Someone who experiences romantic attraction toward more than one/any genders.