GLBT Student Support Services

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Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Definitions

Many terms and definitions are provided below. These terms and definitions are instructive as starting points – providing basic conceptual understandings and tenets of sexual and gender identity.   If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call or email the GLBTSSS office.

As with the acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), many terms exist that may arise in discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The following is a partial list of definitions for common words and phrases.

Ally - Typically any non-LGBT person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people, though LGBT people can be allies, such as a lesbian who is an ally to a transgender person.

Bisexual - A person who is attracted to both men and women.

Closeted/”In the Closet” - Describes a person who keeps their sexual orientation or gender identity a secret from some or all people.

Coming Out - The process of acknowledging one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity to other people. For most LGBT people this is a life-long process.

Gay - A person who is attracted only to members of the same sex. Although it can be used for any sex (e.g. gay man, gay woman, gay person), “lesbian” is usually the preferred term for women who are attracted to women.

Gender Expression - The manner in which a person outwardly expresses their gender.

Gender Identity - A person’s inner sense of self as male, female or somewhere in between. Most people develop a gender identity that corresponds to their biological sex but many do not.

Heterosexual/Straight - A person who is only attracted to members of the opposite sex.

Heterosexism - The attitude that heterosexuality is the only valid or acceptable sexual orientation.

Homosexual - A clinical term for people who are attracted to members of the same sex. Some gay men and lesbians find this term offensive.

Homophobia - Fear of lesbians and gay men.

Lesbian - A woman who is only attracted to other women.

LGBT - Acronyms for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”

Openly Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender - A person who publicly acknowledges their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Outing - The act of revealing an LGBT person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity without that person’s consent.

Queer - An umbrella term used by some LGBT people to refer to themselves.

Questioning - A person who is unsure about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual Orientation - A person’s attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex. Includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual.

Transgender - A person whose gender identity does not correspond to their biological sex.


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