The LGBTQ Competency Toolkit is a great introductory resource for providers, community members, and allies to build their skills using LGBTQ-inclusive language. The toolkit reviews basic LGBTQ terms and descriptions and provider “Do’s and Don’ts.” It is important to note that our list is not exhaustive, and people may describe their identities differently than the terms in the toolkit.
Basic LGBTQ Terms and Descriptions
Sex: The classification of people as male, female, or intersex. A person’s sex is a combination of characteristics, including chromosomes, hormones, and internal and external reproductive organs.
Intersex: A term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
Gender: A concept of feminine and masculine or femaleness and maleness. Note: When talking about gender, it is important to recognize that people may fall anywhere within or outside of the gender binary. A sex or gender “binary” is the classification of sex or gender into two distinct, opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. This concept may vary over time and by culture.
Gender Identity: A person’s internal, deeply held sense of one’s own gender.
Gender Expression: Gender as presented through one’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, or other characteristics.
Transgender: A term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Note: Transgender is a broad term and is okay for people who are not transgender to use.
Cisgender: A term for people whose gender identity and gender expression align with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.
Gender Fluid: A term for people whose gender identity varies
Gender-Nonconforming: A term for people who do not follow society’s ideas or stereotypes about how they should act or express themselves based on their sex assigned at birth.
Sexual Behavior: A person’s sexual contact and/or activity.
Sexual Orientation: Describes a person’s physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to others. Note: How a person identifies may be different from the behaviors they exhibit.
Lesbian: A woman whose primary attraction is to other women.
Gay: People, typically men, whose primary attraction is to members of the same sex.
Bisexual: A person whose attraction is to more than one sex or gender.
Straight/heterosexual: A person whose primary attraction is to people of a different sex or gender. Remember! Straight/heterosexual is also a sexual orientation.
Homosexual: The clinical term formerly used to describe people attracted to the same sex. Note: This term is no longer embraced because it was used to label lesbian and gay people with a psychological disorder.
Asexual: A person who experiences little or no sexual attraction or desire.
Queer: A term that can be used to describe gender and sexual identities, claim a unique identity, or to describe the “LGBTQ” community. Note: “Queer” has been reclaimed by some, though in the past has been used as a slur against LGBTQ people. When used in context with the above description, it is generally accepted to use the term.
Ally: Someone who stands up, advocates, supports, and speaks out in solidarity with members of a marginalized group. An ally typically does not identify as a member of the group they support. Note: “Ally” is not a sexual orientation or gender identity, but is expressed through action.