LGBT A to Z: A Crash Course

Welcome to a very brief, limited, crash course list of common LGBT terms and identities. Before going through this list, it may be helpful to check out our previous post on gender. Gender can be super complicated, but to understand the following terms and identities, you need to have a basic understanding of it.

This list is not exhaustive, but is is a basic list of common terms and identities.


Asexual: A person who is not sexually attracted to anyone or does not have a sexual orientation.

Ally: Any person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people.

Bisexual: A person who is attracted to both people of their own gender and another gender. Also called “bi”.

Cisgender: Refers to people whose sex assignment at birth corresponds to their gender identity and expression.

FTM: Abbreviation for female-to-male transgender or transsexual person.

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

Heterosexual: A person who is only attracted to members of the opposite sex. Also known as “straight.”

Homosexual: A clinical term for people who are attracted to members of the same sex. Some people find this term offensive.

Intersex: Someone whose sex a doctor has a difficult time categorizing as either male or female. A person whose combination of chromosomes, hormones, internal sex organs, and/or genitals differs from one of the two expected patterns.

Lesbian: A woman who is primarily attracted to other women.

MTF: Abbreviation for male-to-female transgender or transsexual person.

Queer: An umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTQA people to refer to the entire LGBT community. It is also an alternative that some people use to “queer” the idea of the labels and categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc. It is important to note that the word queer is an in-group term, and a word that can be considered offensive to some people, depending on their generation, geographic location, and relationship with the word.

Questioning: For some individuals, this is the process of exploring and discovering one’s own sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Pansexual: A person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions, not just people who fit into the standard gender binary (i.e. men and women).

Sexual orientation: The type of sexual, romantic, and/or physical attraction someone feels toward others. Often labeled based on the gender identity/expression of the person and who they are attracted to.

Transgender: This term has many definitions. Sometimes used as an umbrella to describe anyone whose identity or behavior falls outside of stereotypical gender norms. More narrowly defined, it refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match their assigned birth gender. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation (attraction to people of a specific gender.) Therefore, transgender people may additionally identify with a variety of other sexual identities as well.

Transsexual: A person whose gender identity is different from their biological sex, who may undergo medical treatments to change their biological sex, often times to align it with their gender identity, or they may live their lives as another sex.


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