Definitions


The following is a list of terms that arise when speaking about gender identity and sexual orientation. You may notice that identity terms such as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer” are not included. This is done purposefully. Since identities are very personal it is important to realize that each person will define their identity differently. If you research definitions of the different identity terms you will find many different definitions depending on culture, geographic location, generation, etc. We welcome you to visit some of the links under the [resource section] (hyperlink) of this website to explore some of the different definitions of identity terms. Please remember identity terms are meant for individuals to use to identify themselves and not for us to identify them.

Biphobia
The fear, hatred and/or dislike of people who are or are perceive to be bisexual.
Note: This includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment and acts of violence. It can often manifest as discrediting or doubting the existence of bisexuality.

Cisgender
A range of different identities wherein a person is comfortable identifying with the sex or gender they were assigned at birth

Ciscentrism
A pervasive and institutionalized system that places transgender people in the “other” category and treats their needs and identities as less important than those of cisgender people.
Note: This includes the lack of gender neutral restrooms, locker rooms, and residences.

Coming out (of the closet)
The process of accepting one’s own sexual orientation and/or gender identity
Note: this can be a difficult process but one that needs to be done by the individual; the only help that can be offered to this person is subtly letting them know that you are accepting of LGBTQ people

The process of telling friends, family, loved ones, co-workers, acquaintances, etc. one’s own sexual orientation or gender identity
Note: this can also be a difficult process; one should not be forced to come out to anyone for any reason

Gender
A socially constructed system to classify traits, appearance and/or other things as masculine, male, feminine, and/or female
Note: although masculinity is typically ascribed to biological males and femininity is typically ascribed to biological females, those connections are socially constructed and therefore are not always accurate

Gender Attribution
The act of assuming someone’s gender upon first impressions based usually on their appearance
Note: the gender attributed to a person does not always coincide with that person’s gender identity

Gender Expression
The way an individual expresses their gender through their clothing, attitude, hairstyle, etc.
Note: many times homophobic attacks are actually attacks on an individual’s gender expression and not necessarily their sexual orientation since it is not something you can actually see about a person

Gender Identity
One’s innate inner feeling of being a man, woman, both or neither
Note: gender identity may or may not be associated with one’s physical body

Heteronormativity
The presumption that heterosexuality is universal and/or superior to other sexual orientations
Note: this includes seeing a ring on a woman’s finger and saying “congratulations, what’s his name?”

The presumption that in a same-sex relationship one person is “the man” and the other is “the woman”
Note: even though it may seem this way in some relationships where one person is more masculine and/or feminine than the other, the idea of someone being “the man” and the other being “the woman” is a reflection of gender stereotypes

Heterosexism
Prejudice, bias, or discriminations based on the presumption that heterosexuality is universal and/or superior to other sexual orientations

Homophobia
The fear, hatred and/or dislike of people who are or perceived to be attracted to the same gender
Note: this includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment and acts of violence. It is possible for someone who is attracted to people of the same gender to be homophobic.

Out
To be open about your sexual orientation and/or your gender identity
Note: some people may be out only in particular areas of their life for example they may only be out to friends but not family and vice versa; it can never be assumed that someone is out to everyone

To tell an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity to one or more people without the permission of that individual
Note: this is an extremely undesirable action and can lead to dangerous situations

Sexual Behavior
What sexual acts an individual actually performs and with whom
Note: talking about behaviors as opposed to identities sometimes prompts more direct communication with service providers

Sexual Orientation
A person’s innate physical, emotional and/or spiritual attraction toward others
Note: This attraction is typically, but not always, specific to a particular gender (or multiple genders).  For example, some people are attracted only to men or women, other people are attracted to both men and women, and still other people’s attractions transcend gender (e.g., they are attracted to specific individuals, regardless of their gender).

Transphobia
The fear, hatred, and/or dislike of people who are/are perceived to be outside of the typical systems of sex and/or gender.
Note: It includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment and acts of violence.