What's In A Name? A LOT!


All I know is, one day I felt like I was left out of the Gay club. You too? You thought you knew who you were - Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Homosexual. You remember Stonewall, don’t you? Good. Our history remains but the names are changing. Now, there are new names to identify us; Cisgender, Transsexual, Ze, They, Gender identity, Gender non-conforming, Gender Queer, Asexual, Bisexual, Transitioning, Intersex, FTM, MTF, Pansexual, Polysexual, Questioning, and Queer. You think, how did I get so out of touch?

A few years back, one of my clients was questioning her sexuality. She said, ‘I’m Queer’. I admit that word sent shivers. I grew up in the 80’s when ‘Queer” was used derogatorily. I t meant odd, peculiar, not quite right, sexual deviant. This is the word she wanted to use? She continued to talk about how she and her friends were taking back that word, Queer. Reclaiming it! I asked her why she didn’t identify as a lesbian. She said she rejects a traditional gender identity. Didn’t like rigid boundaries associated with labels such as gay, homosexual or lesbian. She was fluid. Oh, no am I a rigid Lesbian? I did like the sound of ‘fluid’. More and more younger clients began streaming in using pronouns like ‘they, them, her, hir and Ze.

I realized as we age things seems to happen at a millennial speed. How we identify ourselves is ever evolving. So for those of us who want to be in the know, here are some definitions to help us feel a sense of community and connection today. Remember definitions are historically constructed and change over time, especially evident with sexuality and gender vocabularies.

Here’s a short list to get you up to speed:

ALLY: Typically straight or cisgender. A person who supports and has respect for members of the LGBTQ community.

ASEXUAL: The lack of sexual attraction or desire.

CISGENDER: A person whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth align.

GENDER BINARY: The concept that there are only two genders, male and female and that everyone must be one or the other.

GENDER EXPRESSION: How a person communicates their gender to others based on external presentations such as clothing, appearance or mannerism. A person’s gender may not always match their gender identity.

GENDER FLUID: a person who does not identify with a single fixed gender.

GENDER IDENTITY: How someone feels inside about whether they are male, female, neither or something outside the traditional binary system. One’s gender identity can be different from their sex assigned by birth.

GENDER NON-CONFORMING: A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender. More current terms include, gender expansive, gender creative, gender fluid, bigender, gender diverse, gender neutral.

GENDERQUEER: People who do not identify as either male or female but rather something outside the traditional binary gender system. People who identify as “genderqueer” may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categories.

GENDER SPECTRUM: gender exists beyond simple male/female binary model, instead exists on an infinite continuum that transcends the two.

INTERSEX: People who are born with physical or genetic characteristics that do not fit the traditional definition of male or female.

MALE-TO-FEMALE (MTF): People assigned the male sex at birth who identity as female.

FEMALE-TO-MALE (FTM): People assigned the female sex at birth who identify as male.

POLYSEXUAL: Sexually attracted to more than one gender or sex.

PANSEXUAL: Attracted to all genders.

PREFERRED GENDER PRONOUNS: Pronoun or set of pronouns an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual.

  • Ze: corresponds to him and her;

  • HIR: his, her, him, used by some trans persons to connote one’s identity as both male and female.

  • They, Them, Theirs: sometimes used as gender neutral pronouns.

QUEER: A term used by some, especially youth, to describe themselves and or their community. The term is valued by some for its defiance and by others who find it to describe their more fluid identities and orientations.

QUESTIONING: A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their orientation or gender identity.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION: A person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted.

TRANSGENDER: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and /or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation.

TRANSSEXUAL: A person who identifies as a gender/sex other than the one they were given at birth. Transsexuals generally desire a physical transition that includes hormone and /or surgery.

Still not sure if you have that grasp of the new vocabulary normal? Take the Quiz and guess the LGBTQ identity:

  1. One who does not define their sexual orientation? __________________________

  2. One attracted solely to their own gender? _____________________________

  3. One who is attracted to both male and female? ___________________________

  4. One is does not experience sexual attractions? ____________________________

  5. One who does not identity as male or female? _____________________________

  6. One attracted to all genders? __________________________________________

  7. One who does not conform to gender norms? ______________________________

  8. One who does not identify as either male or female? _______________________

  9. One who supports and respects the LGBTQ community? _______________________

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For more information or to seek help with any question or concerns, please check out the our website, and contact any member of our team. For answers to the quiz, contact Joan Bellsey.


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