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LGBTQ+ Terms and Definitions

By: ahiraiDiversity Insights
LGBTQ+ terms

Is your workplace respectful of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community? Are you compliant to avoid criminal prosecution and/or costly lawsuits? In today’s business world, LGBTQ+ is one of the most important facets of diversity training. To ensure and build LGBT workplace inclusion, here are some of the LGBTQ+ terms and acronyms that are commonly used in American English for LGBT issues.

LGBTQ+ Terms

Ally: An ally is a member of the majority, who works to end the oppression of a minority, by supporting and advocating with the oppressed population. A popular video on this topic is Anyone Can Be An Ally.

Biphobia: The fear or hatred of bisexual people.

Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to more than one gender. Also called “bi”.

Cisgender: A person whose gender identity and expression matches the gender typically associated with their biological sex. For example: a female who identifies as a woman.

Gay: A homosexual person, usually used to describe men but may also describe women.

Gender expression: Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, and voice. It also includes emphasizing, de-emphasizing, or changing their body’s characteristics. Gender expression is not necessarily an indication of sexual orientation.

Gender identity: The sense of “being” male or “being” female. For most people, gender identity is in accord with their physical anatomy. For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are not necessarily linked.

Heterosexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. Also called “straight”.

Homophobia: Thoughts, feelings, or actions based on fear, dislike, judgment, or hatred of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Homophobia has roots in sexism and can include prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence.

Homosexual: A person who is primarily and/or exclusively attracted to members of their own sex or gender. A clinical term that originated in the late 1800s, many avoid the word because it contains the base word “sex.” The terms “lesbian, bi, and gay” are preferred by many in the LGBT community.

Lesbian: A homosexual woman.

Queer: Used as an umbrella identity term encompassing lesbians, questioning people, gay men, bisexuals, non-labeling people, transgender folks, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual. While “queer” originated as a derogatory word, it has been reclaimed by many LGBT people as a statement of empowerment.

Sexual orientation: A person’s emotional, physical, and sexual attraction, and the expression of that attraction with other individuals. Some of the better-known labels or categories include “bisexual” (or “multisexual”, “pansexual”, “omnisexual”), “lesbian”, “gay” (“homosexual” is more clinical), or “heterosexual”.

Transgender: This term has many definitions. It is frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to all people who deviate from their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system. This includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueers, drag kings, drag queens, two-spirit people, and others. Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two standard gender categories, but rather somewhere between, beyond, or outside of those two genders.

Transphobia: The fear or hatred of transgender people or gender non-conforming behavior. Like biphobia, transphobia can also exist among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as well as among heterosexual people.

Transsexual: A person who experiences an intense, long-term discomfort resulting from feeling the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and discomfort of their body. Transsexuals adapt their gender roles and body to reflect and be congruent with their gender identity.

Learn to Accept All People by Learning LGBTQ+ Terms

Taking time to understand people properly is our responsibility for being a good human. By doing so, we create a society where all people feel valued, understood, and accepted. Understanding these important LGBTQ+ terms helps us all coexist in a positive world.

For more important resources, our LGBTQ+ Inclusion Training can help you and your staff learn how to respectfully identify others in your workplace. A diversity and inclusion calendar also is helpful for learning about those different from you.


What does LGBTQ+ mean?
This stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual and others. They are used to describe someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Who are the members of the LGBTQ+ community?
This can include but is never limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or questions and asexual people. This also includes others not listed in this acronym as it’s meant to be all-inclusive.

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