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Pride Vocabulary 101: Your GAY B C's

Shari Bender


Have you ever wondered what is in the alphabet soup of LGBTQIA+? I got a crash course in the latest terminology when my son came out.

If you are new to this as I was, here is an introductory list of terms, just in time for Pride month!

L is for Lesbian.

The most basic definition of lesbian is a homosexual woman; a woman who is romantically and sexually attracted to women.

G is for Gay.

A person who is attracted to those of the same gender; often used to refer to men, but also can be used for anyone on the queer spectrum.

B is for Bisexual.

An individual who is attracted to and may form sexual and romantic relationships with men and women.
Bisexuality, like homosexuality and heterosexuality, may be a period in the process of self-discovery or a long-term identity. It is not uncommon for teens to explore their sexuality, and it is not necessary for them to fall into one particular category.

T is for Trans or Transgender.

This term describes a wide range of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on one’s assigned biological birth sex. This may involve transitioning wherein the individual changes their gender expression.

Q is for Queer or Questioning.

Queer is often used as an inclusive term, but it is important to note that it is a reclaimed term that was once (and sometimes still is) used as a hate term. Questioning refers to those who are in the process of exploring sexual orientation and/or gender identity as well as choosing not to identify with any other label.

I is for Intersex.

This term is used to describe a person who is born with anatomy that does not fit into the typical “male” or “female” category, or a chromosomal makeup that is neither XX nor XY but may be a combination of both.

A is for Asexual.

An asexual person does not experience sexual desire with anyone of any gender. Some asexual people desire romantic relationships, while others may not.

+ is for Plus.

As much as we want to put a label on things, and sexuality in particular, there is a growing understanding that a person may not fit into a specific category or may fluctuate on the spectrum. The plus acknowledges this and stands for love and acceptance for all. The plus can also serve as a term to encircle the diverse community and bridge the gap of any marginalized members within this sexually expansive community.

Here are some additional helpful terms:

Ally: A heterosexual/straight and/or cisgender person who supports and celebrates queer identities. Being an ally may involve a tacit understanding and passive support of the gay community, or more active involvement in LGBTQIA+ social movements and challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. By reading this article, you have already started as an ally to the gay community, and I applaud you!

Cisgender: Identifying with the same gender that you were assigned at birth, meaning a gender identity that matches your biological sex. Not to be confused with “straight,” which is used to describe sexual orientation. Still confused? Basically, if your birth certificate says you are male and you identify as a man, you are a cisgender man. If your birth certificate says you are female and you identify as a woman, you’re a cisgender woman. So is the opposite of cisgender, transgender? Yes and no. Some people identify as non-binary which means they don’t identify strictly as a man or a woman. Some non-binary people identify as Trans, and some do not.

Gender: This references either of the two sexes, male and female. Can refer to biological differences as well as social and cultural ones. One can express their gender through names and pronouns. Traditional gender roles have expanded, and your child may identify as gender non-conforming, gender fluid or gender queer.

Gender fluid: This term encompasses those who identify with neither male nor female, or conversely, identify with both male and female or somewhere in between, which may also vary from day to day. Often someone who is gender fluid will identify as non-binary. They may present in one gender or another or adopt a more androgynous presentation.

Heteronormative: The idea that heterosexuality is the presumed norm and superior to other sexual orientations.

Heterosexual: A person attracted to people of the opposite gender, often referred to as being “straight.”

Homophobia: Fear or hatred of homosexuals or homosexual behavior.

Homosexual: A person who is attracted to their own gender. A mostly outdated term which can be seen as cold or clinical, many people prefer and use other terms like lesbian, gay or queer.

Non-binary: This is a word used to describe people who may identify as having more than one gender, or who may feel genderless, or fluctuate between genders.

Pansexual: Often referred to as “pan,” this is someone who is attracted to and may form sexual and romantic relationships with men, women, transgender individuals, non-binary people. In other words, these people can be attracted to people of all genders and gender identities.

QPOC: An acronym for Queer People of Color. It is important to note that minorities and other marginalized groups within the gay community often can feel especially alienated.

Sexual orientation: One’s feelings of sexual, romantic and emotional attraction. These feelings may be fluid, or change.

Transition: The process during which transgender people change their gender expression to reflect their gender. Transitioning can involve a change in physical appearance and behavior. A person undergoing a transition may also change their name and pronouns. Hormone replacement therapy can be used, and a transgender person may also complete gender reassignment surgery.

Transgender man: This describes a person who is or has transitioned to a male. In other words, this person was born with the biological sex of a female, but whose gender identity is male and they are now living life as a man.

Transgender woman: This describes a person who is or has transitioned to a female. In other words, this person was born with male anatomy, but whose gender identity is female and they are now living life as a woman.

Want to learn more? Check out PFLAG’s glossary of terms here.
Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University and freelances all things Communication and Marketing. She is a cat-loving spiritual vegan and former admissions interviewer. With two grown children, Shari is happily and sentimentally embracing her Empty Nest along with her husband of nearly 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including CollegiateParent and Grown & Flown.

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