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.
DeeWho is Dee?
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.
There has been an explosion of terms used to explain gender identity and sexual identity. Learn why some feel many terms are needed.
If you had just one word to describe yourself, what would it be? That's the challenge posed to Mengjue Jiang. Watch this video to learn her response.
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.
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.
Researchers have been measuring a spectrum of sexual orientations for over 70 years.
Hear from real people with a variety of gender and sexual identities as they talk about their lives and experiences.
(Adj.) Describes a person who does not identify with any gender. Learn More
(Noun) People who don't identify as LGBTQ+ but who support LGBTQ+ equality and challenge homophobia, either publicly or privately. Learn More
(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. Learn More
(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). Learn More
(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". Learn More
(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. Learn More
(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). Learn More
(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. Learn More
(Noun) A socially constructed system that defines gender as consisting solely of two categories--masculine/man and feminine/woman. Learn More
(Noun) The ways that a person communicates a gender identity to others such as dress, behavior, hairstyle, voice, and/or mannerisms. Learn More
(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. Learn More
(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. Learn More
(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). Learn More
(Adj./Noun) Refers to the sexual orientation of women who are emotionally, sexually, and/or romantically attracted to women. Learn More
(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. Learn More
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. Learn More
(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.). Learn More
(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 queer.”) Learn More
(Adj.) When a person is in the process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof. Learn More
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. Learn More
(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. Learn More
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Citations & Sources
Adam, M. (2017, March 26). What is a non-binary gender identity? [Video]. YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8UgxG8e2TY
Ainsworth, C. (2015). Sex redefined: The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that. Nature, 518, 288-291. https://www.nature.com/news/polopoly_fs/1.16943!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/518288a.pdf
American Psychological Association. (2006). Answers to your questions about individuals with intersex conditions. http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/intersex.aspx
Dowd, R. (2017, December 13). 27% of California adolescents say they are viewed as gender nonconforming, study finds. UCLA Newsroom. https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/27-of-california-adolescents-are-gender-nonconforming-study-finds
Freeman, H. (2017, September 16). Let’s drop the gender stereotypes-we are all non-binary. Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/16/drop-gender-stereotypes-we-are-all-non-binary
Goldberg, S.K., Rothblum, E.D., Russell, S.T., & Meyer, I.H. (2020, January 20). Exploring the Q in LGBTQ. Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/exploring-q-in-lgbtq/
Hammack, P. (2019, April 8). The future is non-binary, and teens are leading the way. Pacific Standard. https://psmag.com/ideas/gen-z-the-future-is-non-binary
Khan, F. (2015, September 1). I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality. Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/im-pansexual-here-are-the-five-biggest-misconceptions-ab...
Pugachevsky, J. (2017, April 26). What does it mean to be pansexual? Cosmopolitan. http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a9529384/pansexual-definition-meaning/
Schindler, M. (2016, August 1). LGBT 101: An introduction to the queer community [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE7bKmOXY3w
The Advocate. (2018, January 25). What is intersectionality? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXJ4Dbdm1ks
The Ellen Show. (March 20, 2017). Ellen meets trailblazing actor Asia Kate Dillon [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f97aLkl_kWc
The Kinsey Scale. (2019). Kinsey Institute. https://www.kinseyinstitute.org/research/publications/kinsey-scale.php
Watson, R., Wheldon, C., & Puhl, R. (2019). Evidence of diverse identities in a large national sample of sexual and gender minority adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 30(52), 431-442. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12488