Do Ask, Do Tell



This glossary of terms may be useful in developing good communication with LGBT people. A few of the more common terms include:

Sex: Either of the two categories—male and female—into which people are commonly divided based on characteristics such as anatomy. “Sex” can also refer to sexual activity or intercourse.

Assigned Sex at Birth: At birth, infants are assigned a sex (male or female), usually on the basis of the appearance of their external anatomy.

Gender: Attitudes, feelings, behaviors, and expectations that a culture associates with either males or females.

Gender Binary: The idea that there are only two genders (male/female and man/woman), and that a person must be one or the other.

Genderqueer: An umbrella term for gender identities other than man and woman. People who identify as genderqueer sometimes consider themselves outside of the gender binary.

Gender Identity: A person’s internal sense of being male, female, both, or another gender.

Gender Expression: A person’s way of demonstrating their gender identity to others. Examples include names, behavior, mannerisms, speech patterns, dress, and hair styles.

Gender Non-conforming: Refers to people whose gender expression is different from what society expects for a male or female.

Transgender: An umbrella term used when a person’s gender identity does not correspond with their assigned sex at birth. Some terminology includes transgender woman or transgender man, trans woman or trans man, male to female (MTF) person, female to male (FTM) person, and other terms.

Cisgender/Non-transgender: A person who is not transgender; i.e., someone whose gender identity and assigned sex at birth are the same.

Sexual Orientation: How people identify their physical and emotional attraction to others. Common terms for sexual orientation include “gay/lesbian,” “bisexual,” “straight/heterosexual,”,and “queer.” Some people use other terms to identify their sexual orientation.

Queer: A term used by some individuals to describe non-heterosexual sexual orientations. Many people refrain from using this term due to its historical use as a derogatory word.

Coming Out: A figure of speech–based on the slang phrase “coming out of the closet”—referring to an LGBT person’s self-disclosure or disclosure to others of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gender Affirmation/Transition: The period in which a transgender person “transitions” from one gender to another and affirms their gender identity. This may include: coming out; changing their name, dress, and voice; changing their sex on legal documents; taking cross-sex hormones, and/or having surgeries.

Gender-affirming Procedures: Hormonal, surgical and other medical procedures that are used to help to affirm an individual’s gender identity. Gender-affirming surgical procedures may also be referred to as gender confirmation surgeries, sex reassignment surgeries, and gender reassignment surgeries.

Cross-sex Hormone Therapy: Cross-sex hormones (estrogens in people assigned a male sex at birth and androgens in people assigned a female sex at birth) are used to induce or maintain the physical and emotional characteristics of the sex that matches the person’s gender identity.

Gender Dysphoria: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013 Edition (DSM-5) lists this diagnosis for people who experience distress at the incongruence between their gender identity and the sex they were assigned at birth.


Questions or Suggestions? Let us know at [email protected].

© 2024