Much like neurodivergent vocabulary, the queer community often has its own little “language”
that you don’t necessarily understand fully until you delve deep into the culture. For many
people exploring their sexuality or gender for the first time, these terms may feel overwhelming
or confusing. I have compiled a list of terms that I think could be helpful below. Again, like the
neurodivergent blog post I created, there are always more terms and differing views on the
“exact” definitions or uses of the LGBTQ+ vocabulary, so my best advice is to take what I have here as a
groundwork for meeting people of different backgrounds and identities and explore what they
mean for you!
Often used as an umbrella term to describe folx who don’t identify as straight or
cisgender. The term “queer” can often also be used interchangeably with the LGBTQ+
community as a whole. This term has been used derogatorily in the past, so many members of
the LGBTQ+ community are uncomfortable with its use, and others have reclaimed the word to
define their experience in the community.
Experiencing attraction to people who are not their same gender; a more colloquial
term for heterosexual.
Experiencing attraction solely or primarily to members of the same gender; can refer to
both gay man-identified people and lesbian woman-identified folx. “Gay” is also often used as
an umbrella term to encompass all of the queer community, or an individual identity for someone
who broadly identifies as not straight.
Experiencing emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction to people of the same
gender. This term is typically considered medical, stigmatizing, and is discouraged from
common use due to its history of being pathologized as a mental illness.
Woman-identified individuals who are primarily or solely attracted to other woman-
Unsure about or exploring one’s own sexual orientation or gender identity.
Experiencing attraction to some people of their gender and other genders; bisexuality
does not need to be equally split between two genders, nor does it have to exist on the
Experiencing sexual/romantic/physical/spiritual attraction to members of all gender
identities and expressions.
Experiencing little to no sexual attraction to others; may also have a lack of interest in
sexual relationships and/or behavior.
Often referred to as the “demi-spectrum,” this term refers to people who have some
sexual attraction to others but this attraction may depend on their level of closeness to a person,
romantic attraction, simply timing, or a number of other things. People who identify as
demisexual could also feel that sometimes they feel sexual attraction towards others, and other
days they do not at all.
These terms refer to the same meaning as asexual/demisexual, but
with romantic attraction instead of sexual attraction. It is possible for someone to feel romantic
attraction to someone but not sexual attraction, and vice versa. If someone identifies as
aromantic, they do not experience romantic attraction or the desire for a romantic relationship. If
someone identifies as demiromantic, they may experience romantic attraction sometimes or in
certain situations with specific people.
The way someone feels that their body and their understanding of what it
means to be “masculine” or “feminine” align with what they feel inside. Gender identities can be
transman, transwoman, nonbinary, cisgender, agender, genderfluid, and others.
The way in which someone presents themselves on a day to day basis
(clothing, accessories, hair, makeup, vocal intonation, physical expression). Someone’s gender
identity and gender expression can be different. For example, you can identify as nonbinary but
enjoy expressing yourself as feminine.
Pronouns are the way that the English language “labels” gender when discussing other
people in third person. These are typically very important to the trans community, as they are
one of the most important ways others can be actively affirming in their language about gender.
Using someone’s pronouns correctly can make a trans person’s day. Examples of pronouns
include: she/her, he/him, they/them, ze/zir.
This acronym stands for “assigned male at birth.” Trans and nonbinary folx prefer this
term to other non-affirming phrases people sometimes use.
This acronym stands for “assigned female at birth.” Trans and nonbinary folx prefer this
term to other non-affirming phrases people sometimes use.
Someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth (AMAB identifies
as a man; AFAB identifies as a woman).
This term typically refers to folx who identify as a
gender they were not assigned at birth. This can also refer to more broadly people who don’t
identify as cisgender; therefore, many agender and nonbinary people also identify as part of the
transgender community. Trans folx sometimes choose to transition, socially or medically, but do
not have to in order to identify as trans.
This is a more colloquial, broad term for someone who identifies as transgender
and expresses or identifies themselves as mostly masculine.
This is a more colloquial, broad term for someone who identifies as transgender and
expresses or identifies themselves as mostly feminine.
Folx who identify as nonbinary feel as though they do not fit into the male/female
binary that society has created for gender. Nonbinary folx typically feel they do not identify as a
man or a woman, but a gender in between the binary. People who identify as nonbinary
sometimes use the phrase “enby” as a fun, colloquial term. Nonbinary folx can express their
gender in many different ways, such as androgenous, masculine, or feminine at different times.
This term refers to folx who do not feel as though they fit into any gender “category”
and feel most comfortable identifying as “without gender” or not gendered at all. Agender folx
also can express their gender in many different ways and can express themselves as
androgenous, masculine, or feminine at different times.
Genderfluid folx often will describe their experience as feeling like they are more
masculine, feminine, or nonbinary at different times, and their gender expression or identity may
change day to day, hour to hour, or minute to minute. Genderfluid folx also can express their
gender in many different ways and can express themselves as androgenous, masculine, or
feminine at different times.
This refers to the feeling when someone feels that their body and sex
assigned at birth do not match the gender they identify with. For example, someone who is
AMAB and identifies as a transwoman might feel dysphoria about their voice being lower or
having facial hair.
This refers to the feeling when someone feels excited, happy, and confident
in the way that their body aligns with their gender identity. This can be anything from feeling
good in a gender-neutral outfit to feeling excited when someone uses different pronouns for you
for the first time.
This term is what the trans community uses when someone (sometimes
purposely, sometimes accidentally) uses the wrong pronouns for someone’s gender identity. This
often feels very upsetting and non-affirming to the trans individual.
This term refers to someone’s name given at birth in relation to their gender assigned
at birth that they no longer identify with. “Deadname” or “deadnaming” can be a noun or verb
and is used for the action when people (purposely or accidentally) use someone’s name assigned
at birth instead of their chosen name that feels more aligned with their gender identity.
Deadnaming someone can feel devastating to a trans person, and can cause immense gender
Socially transitioning refers to the experience of using different pronouns, a
different name, and identifying as a different gender than assigned at birth socially. Medically or physically transitioning refers to the experience of using hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgery to change their body to be more aligned with the gender they identify with.
Personal Experience and Conclusion:
One of my favorite ways to conceptualize gender and sexuality is the Gender Unicorn. This
visual is helpful to demonstrate the distinctions between sexuality, gender, expression, identity,
romantic attraction, and sexual attraction.
It is also important to understand these terms because folx often try a few of them before they
realize what “fits” with their experience. Like the neurodivergent experience, it makes me feel
less alone and less confused about terminology to hear others’ coming out stories. For me, I first
thought I was asexual, not attracted to any gender. After some exploration, I realized I was gay and attracted to other AFAB individuals.
Years later, I started exploring gender and came out as nonbinary. Also important to note is that these terms are not “hard and fast,” your experiences
and “labels” might change throughout your life, and gender and sexuality are not only fluid, but also socially constructed made-up boxes that we live within.
Personally, it is important for me to find a therapist who understands my perspective and the ways in which LGBTQ+ folx are marginalized from personal experience. If this feels important to you too and you are a resident of North Carolina, please click on this link to schedule a free consultation with me!