Sexual Identity and
Gender Identity Terms
This page is designed to give heterosexuals and people
just starting to think of coming out some basic common terms with the
gender and sexual identity communities, so that they can speak
somewhat intelligently with members of these communities without
seriously offending people or appearing totally clueless. Keep in
The definitions of these words are not standardized throughout
society, and are used differently by different individuals and in
different regions. In particular, these definitions assume the
existence of two and only two each of "sexes", "genders",
"sex/gender roles", which are separate and distinct from one
but many people see them as overlapping, closely related, or as a
limited view or model of a much richer reality.
The meanings of words change over time. Changes in thinking
attitudes toward sexual and gender identity are taking place in
society as a whole and within the sexual and gender identity
communities. The meanings of these words will continue to change.
For instance, some words are listed For example, there is a slow but
clear movement in society away from thinking of most human behaviors
as appropriate to one sex and not appropriate to another, toward
thinking of most human behaviors as appropriate to both sexes and both
"Sexual Identity" and "Gender Identity"
are similar in some ways and
very different in others. Both refer to how one thinks of a person.
The existence and perpetuation of gender and sexual identities is
based in the historic and continuing oppression (systematic
mistreatment condoned by society as a whole) of people do not conform
to certain aspects of society's gender roles. Gender roles refer to
the clothing, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, relationships, etc., that
are considered appropriate or inappropriate for members of each sex.
However, "sex", "gender identity",
and "sexual identity" refer to
different aspects of oneself. Therefore, one may be any combination
of sex (male/female), gender (masculine/feminine), and sexual identity
(straight, bisexual, lesbian/gay.) In recent history, people
oppressed on the basis of different sexual identities (bisexuals,
lesbians, gay men) and people oppressed on the basis of gender
identity have formed communities which are partly separate and partly
overlapping with one another. Because of this historic separation,
someone who is a member of one of these communities does not
necessarily understand and prioritize the issues of others of these
communities. One who belongs to more than one of these communities
may feel welcome in both, but usually neither addresses all one's
needs or the way that one's needs from different communities overlap
"Gender identity" refers to how one thinks of
one's own gender:
whether one thinks of oneself as a man (masculine) or as a woman
(feminine.) Society prescribes arbitrary rules or "gender roles"
one is supposed to and not supposed to dress, act, think, feel, relate
to others, think of oneself, etc.) based on one's "sex" (whether
has a vagina or a penis.) These gender roles are called "feminine"
and "masculine". Anyone who does not abide by these arbitrary
may be targeted for mistreatment ranging from not being included in
people's circle of friends, through the cold shoulder, snide comments,
verbal harrassment, assault, rape, and murder based on one's
(perceived) gender identity.
"Sexual identity" refers to how one thinks of
oneself in terms of whom
one is sexually and romantically attracted to, specifically whether
one is attracted to members of the same gender as one's own or the
other gender than one's own. Society prescribes arbitrary rules that
one should be sexually and romantically attracted to members of the
other gender than one's own, and should not be attracted to members
the same gender as one's own. Anyone who does not abide by these
arbitrary rules may be targeted for mistreatment ranging from not
being included in people's circle of friends, through the cold
shoulder, snide comments, verbal harrassment, assault, rape, and
murder based on one's (perceived) sexual identity. (See homophobia
and biphobia.) When one's sex and one's gender identity are
different, one may base one's sexual identity on either one.
Alternatively, one may have two sexual identities, one as a man and
one as a woman.
These are terms often used within the sexual identity
identity communities. Self-identification terms are often spelled
with initial caps (e.g. Queer, Bisexual) to emphasize that they refer
to how one think of oneself, rather than how someone else labels one.
(For instance, researchers often classify bisexual-identified women
and men as lesbians and gay men and transvestites as transsexuals,
obscuring important distinctions.)
Androgenous/Androgeny: One who is / the quality of simultaneously
exhibiting "masculine" and "feminine" characteristics..
Bigendered: One who switches between masculine
and feminine gender
roles from time to time.
Biphobia: The oppression or mistreatment of Bisexuals,
lesbians and gay men. (See homophobia.)
Bisexual: One who has significant sexual and romantic
members of both the same and the other sex, or who identify as members
of the bisexual community. Derogatory terms include the same terms as
are applied to lesbians and gay men. Derogatory terms from lesbians,
gay men, and some heterosexuals: fence sitter, AC/DC, double-gaited,
Boy: 1. A young male. 2. Colloquial term for "masculine".
to specify gender of clothes. ["My boy clothes."] "Boy"
been used as a condescending term for a man (especially a man of
color), and is therefore distasteful to many people. (See "girl".)
Butch: 1. Masculine or macho dress and behavior,
regardless of "sex"
or "gender identity". 2. A sub-identity of lesbian or gay,
masculine or macho dress and behavior. (See "femme".)
Camp: To joke or playact exaggerated masculine
or feminine behaviors
for others' entertainment. Especially men exhibiting exaggerated
feminine behaviors. Also "to camp it up".
Come out: 1. To disclose one's own sexual identity
to another. [I
came out to my mother over Thanksgiving vacation.] 2. To discover
that one's own sexual identity is different than previously assumed.
[I came out to myself three months ago.] 3. To deal with one's own
and others' reactions to the discovery or revelation of one's sexual
identity. 4. ("- for") To disclose another's sexual identity with
their permission or at their request. [I asked my mother to "come
out" to my grandparents for me.] (See "out".) 4. Sometimes applied
to disclosure of other information than one's sexual identity.
Cross Dresser (CD): One (regardless of the motivation)
clothes, makeup, etc. which are considered (by the culture)
appropriate for the other sex but not one's own.
Drag (In Drag): 1. Clothes, often unusual or dramatic,
those considered appropriate to the other sex. 2. Can be applied to
any recognizable "look." ["(to a man in a suite)": I see you
corporate "drag" today.] 3. "In drag": Wearing clothes of the
opposite sex. [I went to the halloween party "in drag".]
Drag Queen: A M->F transvestite who employs
dramatic clothes, makeup,
and mannerisms, often for other people's appreciation.
Dyke: Reclaimed derogatory slang. Refers to Lesbians,
or to Lesbians
and Bisexual women.
Electrolysis: Process of killing hair follicles,
especially of facial
and neck hair, usually with an electric needle.
F->M: Female to male. Used to specify the direction
of a sex or
gender role change.
Femme: 1. Feminine or effeminate dress and behavior,
"sex" or "gender identity". 2. A sub-identity of lesbian or gay,
based on masculine or macho dress and behavior. (See "butch".)
Female: One who has a vagina.
Female Impersonator (FI): A male who, on specific
dresses and employs stereotypical feminine dialog, voice, and
mannerisms for the entertainment of other people.
Feminine: The "gender role" assigned
Fetishistic Transvestite: A Transvestite who consistently
Cross Dressing. May also eroticize fantasies of gender/sex change.
Gay (man/male) (community): One who has significant
romantic attractions primarily to members of the same sex (as
oneself), or who identifies as a member of the gay community.
Sometimes refers only to gay males, sometimes only to gay males and
lesbians. Although some people use the term "gay (commmunity)" to
refer to all sexual minorities (or the "sexual minority community"),
Lesbians and Bisexuals often do not feel included by it. Derogatory
slang includes: queer, faggot, swish.
Gender (identity): A psychological "gender
role". "Masculine" or
Gender (identity) community: People who identify
transsexual, or transgendered, or as members of the gender community.
Members of the gender community do not necessarily identify as members
of the sexual minority community. (See "transgender community".)
Gender dysphoria (GD): Unhappiness or discomfort
experienced by one
whose sexual organs do not match one's gender identity.
Gender neutral: Clothing, behaviors, thoughts,
relationships, etc. which are considered appropriate for members of
Gender role: Arbitrary rules, assigned by society,
that define what
clothing, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, relationships, etc. are
considered appropriate and inappropriate for members of each sex.
Some clothing, behaviors, etc. are considered appropriate for members
of both sexes. Which things are considered masculine, feminine, or
neutral varies according to location, class, occasion, and numerous
other factors. (See "masculine", "feminine", and "gender neutral".)
Genetic Boy (GB): Colloquial term for Genetic Male.
Genetic Male/Man (GM): One who was considered male
regardless of one's present sex or gender identity.
Genetic Female/Woman (GF/GM): One who was born
female, regardless of
one's present sex or gender identity.
Genetic Girl (GG): Colloquial term for Genetic
Female. (See "girl".)
Girl: 1. A young female. 2. Colloquial term for
used to specify gender of clothes. ["My "girl" clothes."]
often been used as a condescending term for a woman, and is therefore
distasteful to many people. (See "boy".)
Hermaphrodite: One who has both a penis and a vagina.
Heterosexual (het): One who has significant sexual
attractions primarily to members of the other sex (than oneself.)
Derogatory terms include: breeder. (See "straight".)
Heterosexism: The assumption that identifying as
having sexual and romantic attractions only to members of the other
sex (than oneself) is good and acceptable, and that other sexual
identities and attractions are bad and unacceptable. The assumption
that anyone is straight whose sexual orientation is not known, usually
coupled with a "blindness" to the existence and concerns of
Homophile (community): Obsolete term for gay male
Homophobia: Originally, an irrational fear of sexual
attraction to the
same sex. Developed into a term for the oppression of Lesbians and
Gay men, and later into a term for all aspects of the oppression of
Lesbians, Gay men, and Bisexuals (sometimes does not include
bisexuals.) This oppression ranges from not including LesBiGays in
one's circle of friends and media reports on and representations of
society, through the cold shoulder, snide comments, verbal
harrassment, assault, rape, and murder based on the target person's
(perceived) sexual identity. (See also "Biphobia".)
Homophobe: One who is afraid of or oppresses people
(perceives them to) have sexual and romantic attractions to members
the same sex.
Homosexual: Formal or clinical term for "gay",
usually meaning "gay
male", sometimes meaning "LesGay", and occasionally meaning
"LesBiGay". "Homosexual" and "homosexuality" are often associated
with the proposition that same gender attractions are a mental
disorder (homophilia), and are therefore distasteful to some people.
Hormone therapy: Used to change secondary sex characteristics,
including breast size, weight distribution, and facial hair growth.
Identify/ied (as): To think of oneself as having
a particular sexual
identity or gender identity. [I "identify as" a bisexual. I am
bi-"identified".] To emphaise that an identity term refers to one's
internal reality, as opposed to what others think or observe of one,
"self-identify" is sometimes used.
Identity: How one thinks of oneself. One's internal
self, as opposed
to what others observe or think about one. (See "Label".)
Label: How someone else sees or thinks of one.
Lesbian: A woman who has significant sexual and
to members of the same sex, or who identifies as a member of the
lesbian community. Bisexual women often do not feel included by this
term. Derogatory slang: dyke, lesbo.
LesBiGay (community): Contraction of "lesbian,
bisexual, and gay."
Colloquial term for the sexual minority community or its members.
Often spelled with capital "B" and "G" to prevent
"lesbian and gay." (See "sexual minority/identity community".)
LesGay: Contraction of "lesbian and gay."
Sometimes used to mean
LesBiGay, but bisexual women and men often do not feel included by
M->F: Male to female. Used to specify the direction
of a sex or
gender role change.
Male: One who has a penis.
Male Impersonator: A female who, on specific occasions,
and employs stereotypical masculine dialog, voice, and mannerisms for
the entertainment of other people.
Masculine: The "gender role" assigned
Monogendered: One who is comfortable in only one
gender role. (Do
people actually use this, or is it just a syntactic extension of
Monosexual: One who has significant sexual and
primarily to members of one sex. Straight, Gay, Lesbian. Someone who
is not Bisexual.
Neuter: 1. One who has neither a penis nor a vagina.
used to mean "androgenous".
Other sex/gender: The other sex or gender than
the reference person's
own. [She has an other sex partner (than her own sex).] [Are you
currently in a relationship with a member of the same sex (as
(to be) Out: To be open about one's sexual identity
with someone or in
a situation. [I am "out" to my mother.] [I am "out" at work.] (See
Out [someone]: 1. To disclose a second person's
sexual identity to a
third person, especially without the second person's permission. 2.
To disclose one's own sexual identity, sometimes without choosing to
do so. [I outed myself by leaving a political letter on my desk,
which my boss saw when he was looking for me.] (See "come out".)
Pre-operative transsexual (Pre-op TS): One who
is actively planning to
switch physical sexes, mostly to relieve "gender dysphoria".
Probably, but not necessarily, "cross dresses", takes "hormone
therapy", and gets "electrolysis". (See "transsexual.")
Primary sex organs: Penis (male) or vagina (female.)
"male", "hermaphrodite", "neuter".)
Queer: 1. Reclaimed derogatory slang for the sexual
(eg. "Queer Nation".) Not accepted by all the sexual minority
community, especially older members. 2. Sometimes used for an even
wider spectrum of marginalized or radicalized groups and individuals.
Same sex/gender: The same sex or gender as the
reference person's own.
[He has a same sex partner (as his own sex).] [Are you currently in
relationship with a member of the same sex (as yourself)?]
Self-identify/identity as: See "identify as"
Sex: "Male" or "female", depending
on one's "primary sex organs".
Sex role: See "gender role".
Sexual identity: How one thinks of oneself, in
terms of being
significantly attracted to members of the same or the other sex.
Based on one's internal experience, as opposed to which gender one's
actual sexual partners belong to. (See "sexual
Sexual identity/minority community: The community
of people who have
significant sexual and romantic attractions to members of the same
sex, or who identify as a member of the sexual minority community. A
formal term which includes LesBiGays and sometimes members of the
gender community. Members of the "sexual minority community" usually
do not identify as members of the "gender community".
Sexual orientation/preference: How one thinks of
her/himself, in terms
of being significantly attracted to members the same or the other sex.
"Sexual orientation" emphasizes that some people feel that one has no
control or influence over the development of one's sexual and romantic
attractions or one's sexual orientation. "Sexual preference"
emphasizes that some people feel that one does or should have some
control or influence over the development of one's sexual and romantic
attractions or sexual one's orientation.
Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS): A surgical procedure
one's primary sexual organs from one sex to another (penis to vagina
or vagina to penis.)
SRS: Colloquial for "Sexual Reassignment Surgery".
Straight: Colloquial for "heterosexual".
Because "straight" has
connotations of "unadulterated," "pure," and "honest,"
some members of
the sexual identity community object to the implication that one who
is not straight is "bent," "adulterated," "impure,"
"Straight" has connotations of "narrow," "straight-laced"
"conservative," and some heterosexual-identified people object
Transgender community: Formal term for "gender
Transgendered (TG): One who switches gender roles,
whether just once,
or many times at will. Inclusive term for transsexuals and
Transsexual (TS): One who switches physical sexes
(usually just once,
but there are exceptions.) Primary sex change is accomplished by
surgery. (See "SRS".) "Hormone therapy", "electrolysis", additional
surgery, and other treatments can change secondary sex
characteristics. (See Pre-op TS.)
Transvestite (TV): One who mainly cross dresses
for pleasure in the
appearance and sensation. The pleasure may not be directly erotic.
It may be empowering, rebellious, or something else. May feel
comfortable in a focused transgender role while cross dressed. May
occasionally experience gender dysphoria.
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