LGBTQ+ Identities

When it comes to gender and sexual identity, there has been an explosion of labels that some find confusing. Terminology is changing to express a broad spectrum of identities beyond male/female, man/woman, and gay/straight.

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Hi! I’m here to help you explore the vast spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities. It’s a big world out there, and for a long time, we’ve tried to lump everyone into just a handful of categories: man or woman, gay or straight. We now know it’s more complex than that, factoring in all four core elements: biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and attraction. Let’s get started...

The infinite variety in human identity

For a long time, people have used pairs of opposites to make sense of the world—black or white, nature or nurture, gay or straight, boy or girl. Human beings and the world we inhabit just aren’t that simple.

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What’s in a name?

There has been an explosion of terms used to explain gender identity and sexual identity. Learn why some feel many terms are needed.

Beyond the binary

The term “non-binary” is used a lot these days. Learn more about identities beyond the categories of man/woman, gay/straight, and male/female.

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Gender beyond he and she

Non-binary gender identities have been around for a long time. They have recently begun to be recognized in the US and other western countries.

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We are all non-binary

This parent of young twin boys says gender stereotypes are too limiting.

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A spectrum of sexual orientations

Researchers have been measuring a spectrum of sexual orientations for over 70 years.

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Variety in our bodies

Our bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

Real people

Hear from real people with a variety of gender and sexual identities as they talk about their lives and experiences.

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It’s a learning process for everyone

Actor Asia Kate Dillon talks with Ellen DeGeneres about their identity.

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“I’m attracted to all different types of people”

A pansexual woman talks about her identity.

Glossary

Agender

(Adj.) Describes a person who does not identify with any gender.

Ally

(Noun) People who don't identify as LGBTQ+ but who support LGBTQ+ equality and challenge homophobia, either publicly or privately

Asexual

(Adj.) Describes a person who does not experience any form of sexual attraction. People who identify as asexual may or may not experience emotional, physical, or romantic attraction.

Bigender

(Adj.) Describes a person whose gender identity is a combination of two or more genders. A bigender person may consciously or unconsciously shift between traditionally masculine and feminine behavior and expression while identifying with both genders (and sometimes a third gender).

Bisexual

(Adj.) Refers to the sexual orientation of a person who experiences sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to persons of more than one gender, not necessarily equally or at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree. Also known as "bi".

Cisgender

(Adj.) Refers to a match between gender identity and sex characteristics observed at birth, i.e., a person born with female anatomy who identifies as a girl/woman.

Gay

(Adj.) Describes the sexual orientation of persons who are emotionally, sexually, and/or romantically attracted to persons of the same sex/gender. While the term is most often used to describe men, it can also be used more broadly to refer to both men and women (i.e., gay man, gay woman, gay people).

Gender

(Noun) A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity and ascribe qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and vary between cultures.

Gender binary

(Noun) A socially constructed system that defines gender as consisting solely of two categories--masculine/man and feminine/woman.

Gender expression

(Noun) The ways that a person communicates a gender identity to others such as dress, behavior, hairstyle, voice, and/or mannerisms.

Gender fluid

(Adj.) Describes a person who identifies their gender as shifting within a spectrum of gender identities and expressions. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of two (or more) genders, but may feel more one gender some days, and another gender other days. Gender-fluid people may or may not also identify as transgender.

Gender identity

(Noun) One’s deeply held, core sense of being a man, woman, or some other gender. A gender identity can be a combination of two or more genders (such as gender fluid), and some individuals don't identify with any gender at all--described as being agender.

Intersex

(Noun) An umbrella term for more than twenty distinct medical conditions in which a person is born with physical sex markers (genitals, hormones, gonads, chromosomes, or secondary sex characteristics like breasts or body hair) that are neither clearly male nor clearly female. Also referred to as disorders of sexual development (DSD).

Lesbian

(Adj./Noun) Refers to the sexual orientation of women who are emotionally, sexually, and/or romantically attracted to women.

Non-binary

(Adj.) An identity that does not conform to traditional two-sided categories of sex, gender, and sexual orientation, such as male-female, man-woman, and gay-straight.

Pansexual / Omnisexual

(Adj.) Describes a person who experiences emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction to persons of all gender identities and gender expressions. An alternative to bisexual, which evokes the idea of an attraction to only two genders.

Pomosexual

(Adj.) Describes a person who does not define their sexual orientation in terms of conventional labels or classifications (e.g., gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, etc.).

Queer

(Adj.) Alternative term to LGBTQ+. An umbrella term for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual. Historically a negative term and insult, queer is being reclaimed by many LGBTQ+ people—particularly youth—as a source of pride and political identity. The term is valued by some for its defiance, by some because it can be inclusive of the entire community, and by others who find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities. “Queer” is still disliked by some people in the LGBTQ+ community and its use by straight people can be considered offensive. Due to its varying meanings, this word should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who self-identifies as queer (i.e. “My cousin identifies as genderqueer.”)

Questioning

(Adj.) When a person is in the process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof.

Sex / Sex assigned at birth / Biological sex

(Noun) A person's sex (male, female, or intersex) is often determined based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth. In reality, biological sex is more complicated, referring to a combination of anatomical, physiological, genetic, and physical attributes. These include genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, genes, and secondary sex characteristics. The phrase "sex assigned at birth" is used by some to emphasize that genitalia alone are not always a sufficient indication of a person's sex, as well as the fact that a person's gender identity is not always aligned with the sex characteristics observed at birth.

Straight

(Adj.) Another term for heterosexual. Refers to the sexual, emotional, and/or romantic attraction to a gender other than one's own. Typically this means a woman who is primarily attracted to men and vice versa.

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Citations & Sources

Ainsworth, C. (2015). Sex redefined: The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943

American Psychological Association. (2006). Answers to your questions about individuals with intersex conditions. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/intersex.aspx

Ellen Meets Trailblazing Actor Asia Kate Dillon [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f97aLkl_kWc

Freeman, H. (2017, September 16). Let’s drop the gender stereotypes-we are all non-binary. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/16/drop-gender-stereotypes-we-are-all-non-binary

Khan, F. (2015, September 1). I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/im-pansexual-here-are-the-five-biggest-misconceptions-ab...

Kinsey Institute, Indiana University. (2014). Kinsey Institute Homepage. Retrieved from https://www.kinseyinstitute.org/

LGBT 101: An introduction to the Queer community [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE7bKmOXY3w

Pugachevsky, J. (2017, April 26). What Does It Mean to Be Pansexual? Retrieved from http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a9529384/pansexual-definition-meaning/

What is a Non-Binary Gender Identity? [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8UgxG8e2TY

What It’s Like To Be Intersex. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAUDKEI4QKI