Center for Women and Families

LGBTQ Community Definitions


  • 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.
  • Internalized Homophobia - hatred of one’s own sexual orientation resulting from societal oppression of GLTBQ people.
  • Intersex - an individual with psychical characteristics of those of both a male and a female
  • Lesbian - A woman who is only attracted to other women.
  • LGBT - Acronyms for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender." You may also see LGBTQ or QI meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning and intersex
  • 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. In the past, this term has been considered offensive and some LGBT people still consider it so.
  • 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.
  • Transsexual - a person who strongly identifies with the opposite gender, usually includes a desire to actually be the opposite sex. Most often refers to a person who has had a sex change operation.
  • Transvestite - Someone who derives sexual pleasure from dressing in clothing generally identified with the opposite sex. While the terms homosexual and transvestite have been used synonymously, they are in fact two different terms. The majority of transvestites and heterosexuals. Cross-dressing that doesn't include any sexual change is usually referred to as drag.