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Glossary of LGBT Terms


Allies (n) People who don't identify as LGBT but who support LGBT equality.

Androgyny (n) A rejection of the binary model (see below) and advocacy of gender fluidity. Many believe gender stereotyping pressurises us from infancy to conform to behaviour patterns associated with our perceived gender.


Binary model (n) A model that presupposes everyone to be exclusively male or female.

Bisexual (n) A sexual orientation in which an individual is sexually attracted to both males and females.

Bullying (n and vt) behaviour designed to hurt someone. Can be physical, mental and/or emotional. A person does not need to be LGBT to be homophobically or transphobically bullied. In European countries, homophobia and transphobia form the motive behind a disproportionately high amount of bullying.


Camp (adj) An affected or effeminate mode of male comportment and/or behaviour; a gay stereotype.

Celebrate (diversity) (v int & t) To celebrate diversity and difference means to accentuate the positive values of a diverse society as a method of promoting equality and human rights.

Cisgender (n & adj) The term for someone whose birth sex and gender are matched exactly.

Closet (in the) (n) The term used to describe lesbians, gay men and bisexuals who are not open about their sexual orientation. This can be total or partial.

Coming Out (prep. v int) The process by which someone acknowledges that being gay, lesbian or bisexual and chooses to be open with others about it. Sometimes people refer to 'Coming Out of the Closet'. People may be 'totally' or 'partially' out; e.g. open to friends but not to family or vice-versa.

Cross-dressing (v int & t) transvestism or transvestitism.


Difference (n) Recognition that we are not all the same. Recognising, accepting and celebrating difference is part of developing an equal society. See Diversity.

Diversity (n) An approach to equalities that seeks to celebrate people's differences.

Drag (n) dragging up (prep. v int) Cross dressing; usually for entertainment purposes.

Dyke (n) Derogatory term for a lesbian. Origin uncertain. Literally a dam or a bank, it could be a sexual reference to blocking a passage. Or it could come from 'buildyker' a dam-builder, referring to a macho stereotype. Some lesbians have repossessed the term and use it as an affirmation.


Equality (n) The concept that all people should be treated as equals and be given the same political, economic, social and civil rights.

Equal Opportunities (n) The concept that everyone should have equal access to jobs, services, housing, health etc. whatever their race, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender etc. All European countries have equalities legislation but it varies in extent.


Faggot; fag (n) derogatory term for a gay or bisexual man. Literally a bundle of sticks that fuel a fire. Thought to relate to a medieval tradition of throwing 'sodomites' onto the fire whilst burning convicted criminals at the stake as a form of execution.

Family (n) A real loving family does not need a female mother and a male father. In-vitro fertilisation and progress in adoption legislation has led to a growth in families with same-sex parents. Children in western society are coming out as LGB and presenting as T earlier in life, so many families are bringing up children they know to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. This needs to be reflected in school curricula and resources.

Freedom Flag (n) See 'Rainbow'.

FTM (adj) Female-to-male transsexual. Also known as Tran-man/men.


Gay (n & adj) Emotionally/physically attracted to someone of the same gender.

Gender (n) Either male or female based on psychological and emotional characteristics. Gender affirmation See gender reassignment.

Genderqueer (n & adj) Alternative term for trans person that rejects society's binary model of assumptions about gender. See 'Androgyny'.

Gender dysphoria (n) The feeling that one's gender is different from his/her birth sex.
N.B.: Gender dysphoria is a recognised medical condition. Those who experience the condition do not feel, on the inside, to be of the gender that their bodies are perceived to be. Many…experience such intense and prolonged discomfort that…they undergo a process of gender role transition in which they express their innate gender identities and, usually, obtain medical treatment to modify their bodies accordingly. They may be regarded as having the condition termed transsexualism." (Whittle, 2002)
'Transgender' is a broader term and includes those who temporarily change their gender. Some people prefer 'gender variance' because dysphoria suggests something malfunctioning and therefore has negative connotations and implies mental illness. This feeling usually begins early in childhood.

Gender reassignment (surgery) (n) medical intervention to change one's physical sex, including genitalia. Sometimes it is called Gender affirmation. This surgery is available to adults throughout Europe.

Gender variance (n) See 'gender dysphoria'.


Harassment (n) Unwanted conduct or behaviour which may be used to upset, offend or coerce; often sexual in nature. Like bullying, it is often motivated by homophobia and transphobia.

Hate crime (n) a crime that is motivated by prejudice. In most European states this includes homophobia or transphobia.

Heterosexism (n) The assumption that all people are heterosexual and that heterosexuality is the norm. Institutionalised heterosexism (n) means heterosexism that is embedded and systematic; making LGB people feel invisible or isolated. Heternormativity (n) assumes that everyone is white, able bodied, young, middle class, heterosexual, male and Christian. Others are 'different' and may present a 'challenge'.

Heterosexual (n & adj) Attracted emotionally or physically to members of the opposite gender.

Homophobia (n) An irrational fear, hatred, intolerance or prejudice towards LGB people. It can manifest itself in verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse against LGB people. Internalised homophobia (n) means self-hatred by LGB people who are homophobic themselves. Institutional homophobia (n) means homophobia that is embedded and systematic.

Homosexual (n & adj) A generic term for someone who is generally attracted physically/emotionally to someone of the same sex. It can refer to both lesbians and gay men. In English speaking countries the word is often used offensively and the terms Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) are preferred.

Human Rights (n) An agreed criteria that every individual should expect; e.g. justice, freedom of speech and movement etc. Often used with Equality.


Intersex (n) Having physical characteristics of both sexes. Many children are born intersex and their birth sex is usually defined by surgery. This often causes gender dysphoria.

Intolerance (n) Intolerance is a term meaning bigotry; proscription based on ignorance. Some people confuse 'tolerance' with acceptance because it is the opposite of intolerance. However we 'tolerate' a bad thing, such as a certain level of crime or vandalism in our community. Thus we 'celebrate' rather than 'tolerate'. See Celebrate.


Lesbian (n & adj) The term used to describe a woman who is emotionally/physically attracted to women.

LGB (adj) Abbreviation of Lesbian (L), Gay (G) or Bisexual (B). Commonly used abbreviation. Often T for Trans is also added to form LGBT. You may also see QQIA added this would stand for Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Allies.

LGBT History Month (n) USA every October; UK every February. An annual affirmation of the history of LGBT people and their achievements throughout the world, held to celebrate our hidden histories and make people aware of who we are and what we have done.


Medical model (n) a model that sees sexual orientation and/or gender variance as a medical issue. Proponents of the medical model will tend to see LGBT people as having 'a problem' that needs to be 'fixed' through medical intervention. The medical model tends to pathologise homosexuality and transgenderism and was common in Eastern and Western Europe during the twentieth century. See Social model. In 2010 France removed 'transsexualism' from its list of mental disorders. To date it is the only country to have done so.

MTF (adj) Male-to-female (transsexual). Also known as Tran-woman/women.


Oppression (n) The exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.

Outing (someone) (v t) Revealing that someone is LGB or T against their wishes. In the UK and some USA States, it is illegal for an employer to disclose an employee's transsexual status to a third party without permission.


Prejudice (n) A preconceived belief, opinion or judgment toward a group of people.

Pride (n) Pride in this sense is an affirmation of one's self and the community as a whole. The modern "pride" movement began after the Stonewall riots in 1969. Pride marches are common in western societies.


Queer (n) Alternative term to LGBT. The term has also been used in a derogatory way so not all lesbian and gay people are comfortable with it, but many young LGBT people use it as an affirmation.

Questioning (v int) Describes a person who is not certain of his/her sexual orientation.


Rainbow (n) Emblem of Gay pride, most commonly displayed in a flag format sometimes referred to as a "freedom flag". Red: life; orange: healing; yellow: sunlight; green: nature; blue: serenity/harmony; and violet: spirit.

Rainbow flag, originally designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, is similar to, but not the same as the peace flag of seven colours, based on a design by Picasso, which was first flown in a protest in Italy in 1961.


Same-sex (adj) an adjective that often pre-fixes terms e.g. same-sex marriage, same-sex relationship.

Sex (n) Either male or female based on physical sexual characteristics.

Sexual Identity (n) Describes the ways a person self-identifies sexually. For example, a person may have sex with members of the same gender without identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Therefore sexual identity is not the same as sexual orientation.

Sexual Orientation or Sexuality (n) Emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction towards the same or opposite gender partners.

Social model (n) a model that sees sexual orientation and or gender variance as a part of the diversity of the human race. Proponents of the social model will tend to see society and its institutions as the obstacle if LGBT people suffer from discrimination or their needs are not met. The social model has been or is being adopted in most European countries in the twenty-first century. See Medical model.

Stereotype (n) A fixed, commonly held notion or image of a person or group, based on an oversimplification of some observed behaviours or traits. Generally, stereotypes are negative. Children are usually expected to conform to gender stereotypes.

Straight (n & adj) Colloquial term for people who are heterosexual.

Straight 'acting' (adj) gay or lesbian with no outward appearance of being so. See 'Camp'.


Tolerance (n) See 'Intolerance'.

Trans person or people (n) Someone who does not conform to predominant gender roles.

Transgender(ed) 1 Same as 'Trans'.

Transgender(ed) 2 Someone who lives in the sex/gender they were not assigned at birth but does not undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Transphobia (n) The irrational fear, hatred, intolerance or prejudice towards trans people. It can manifest itself in verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse against trans people.

Transsexual (n and adj) A legal term for someone who is preparing to undergo/is undergoing/has undergone gender reassignment surgery. It is offensive to describe a person as a transsexual (like referring to a gay or lesbian as a homosexual) and one should always identify a person in the gender to which they identify. It is fine, however, to use transsexual as an adjective; e.g. 'transsexual status' or 'transsexual conference'.

Transvestite (n) someone who dresses in clothes associated with the opposite sex to that in which they were born. This may be public or private; occasional or full- time. Also called cross-dressing.
N.B.: Cross-dressing and TV tend to be used to describe male to female transvestism for the purposes of sexual gratification. However there is a historic tradition of transvestism, both male to female and female to male for comfort, security and a range of other motives.


Victimisation (n) When a person is treated less favourably because they have taken action in respect of discrimination e.g. making a complaint. Victimisation is unlawful.

Visibility (n) How visible a group is among the wider public. Young LGBT people often feel 'invisible' because they don't see or hear of anyone like themselves.


Zero-tolerance (n) An approach to equality that advocates no acceptance of racism, disablism, homophobia, transphobia etc. including childhood name-calling.