MSU's Safe Zone has compiled a downloadable LGBTQIQ Terminology Guide


A sexual orientation label referencing asexuality. Sometimes called the “Ace Umbrella” to represent the wide spectrum of asexual identities and experiences.


“Affect” names a conceptual problem as much as a tangible thing. As such, it is best understood as an umbrella term that includes related, and more familiar, words such as “feeling” and “emotion,” as well as efforts to make distinctions among them. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) traces the history of the term to the seventeenth century, aligning it with “desire” or “passion” and opposing it to “reason.” Further specifying that “affect” is both a “mental” and a “bodily” disposition, the OED sets in place a persistent ambiguity that challenges distinctions between mind and body. More technical uses of the term emerge from mid-twentieth-century scientific psychology, where “affect” designates sensory processes or experiences prior to cognition and distinguishes such sensations from the cognitive processes that produce emotions (Damasio 1994)...

AGENDER (Also Non-gender)

Not identifying with any gender, the feeling of having no gender.


1) Someone who confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and genderstraight privilege in themselves and others; 2) a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people and a belief that heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia are social justice issues.


1) A person who may appear as and exhibit traits traditionally associated as both male and female, or as neither male nor female, or as in between male and female; 2) Being neither distinguishably masculine or feminine, as in dress, appearance or behavior; 3) of indeterminate sex.


1) A sexual orientation where a person does not experience sexual attraction or desire to a partner for the purposes of sexual stimulation; 2) a spectrum of sexual orientations where a person may be disinclined towards sexual behavior or sexual partnering.

ASSIGNED SEX (Assigned Sex at Birth)

The classification of people as male, female, or intersex.  At birth, infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the visual assessment of their external anatomy.  However, a person's sex is actually a combination of several corporeal characteristics, including chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics.

BDSM (Bondage, Discipline/Domination, Submission/Sadism, Masochism)

The terms “submission/sadism” and "masochism" refer to deriving pleasure from inflicting or receiving pain, often in a sexual context.  The terms 'bondage' and 'domination' refer to playing with various power roles, in both sexual and social contexts.  These practices are often misunderstood as abusive, but when practices in a safe, sane, and consensual manner can be part of a healthy sex life.  Sometimes referred to as leather.


A curioustiy about having sexual relations wth a same gender/sex person.


A person whoe gender identity is a combination of male/man and female/woman.


The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of bisexuals, which is often times related to the current binary standard.  Biphobia can be seen within the LGBTQIQ community, as well as in general society.


A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to males/men and females/women. This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders, and there may be a preference for one gender over others.


As a term that designates the physical or material frame of human and other living beings, “body” has a long career in the language and a relatively brief one as a focus of critical engagement in the study of culture. For Christian theology as for speculative philosophy in the West, the body figures as the devalued term in a structuring dualism of body/soul (in sacred thought) and body/mind (in secular traditions). These dualisms apprehend the body as a material substrate of human life that is fundamentally distinct from and subordinated to the privileged term in the dichotomy (mind, soul), which alone comprehends the human capacity for knowledge and self-knowledge, as well as the repertoire of human sensibilities, dispositions, and affects on which the salvation, expression, or advancement of humanity is understood to depend. In Christian theology as in humanist philosophy, the body turns up on the side of animality or merely mechanical existence and so dwells outside the bounded domain of what is proper or essential to human culture, a domain which the exclusion of the body guarantees...


A person, usually female identified, who identifies themselves as masculine, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. 'Butch' is someties used as a derogatory term for lesbians but is frequently claimed as an affirmative identity label among lesbian women and gender non-conforming people designated female at birth.


1) Cisgender and cissexual describe related types of gender identity where an individual's self-perception of their gender aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth; 2) an individual whose gender identity by nature of by choice aligns with culturally determined appropriate roles and behaviors based on their sex; 3) A non-trans* person.


Prejudice or discrimination against transgender people.


May refer to the process by which one accepts one's own sexualty, gender identity, or status as an intersexed person (to "come out" to oneself).  May also refer to the process by which one shares one's sexuality, gender identity, or intersexed status with others (to "come out" to friends, etc.).  Coming out is a continual and life-long process that may occur to varying degrees (e.g., a person may be ut to their friends and co-workers, but not to their family).


Usually refers to heterosexual men who at times wear clothes, makeup, and/or accessories culturally assocaited with women.  Cross-dressing is usually engaged in for emotional and/or psychological satisfaction related to gender expression and not for entertainment purposes.  People who cross-dress are not seeking to perminently change their sex or live full-time as the opposite sex.  Soe cross dresser may, but do not necessarily, identity as transgender.


As a keyword in American studies and cultural studies, the site of a political movement, and the name of an interdisciplinary field, “disability” articulates vital connections across the many communities of people with disabilities, their public histories, and a range of cultural theories and practices. People with disabilities have too often been rendered invisible and powerless because of a mainstream tendency to valorize the normal body. As a result of disability activist work emerging from the civil rights movement, legal reforms, and grassroots activist work, the framing of disability has shifted from an emphasis on “disability” as a medical term to one of disability as a social construction. In the 1980s, disability activists began to move into the academy and to formulate a wide range of scholarship around the keyword. In the first phase, their work centered largely on the analysis and reform of public policy. By the early 1990s, a second phase in the humanities began to analyze the implications of representation on how people think about disability. In more recent years, disability scholarship has shifted to a focus on theories of intersectionality (the ways in which disability interacts with other modes of power and privilege) and transnationality (the ways in which nation-based frames of analysis misrecognize networks of affiliation that cross national borders)...


A person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone.  It is more commonly seen in but by no means confined to romantic relationships.


Traditionally an African American slang term that typically refers to a subculture of black men who usually identify as heterosexual, but who have sex with men; some avoid sharing this information even if they have female sexual partner(s), married or single.  The terms is also used to refer to a related sexual identity.  Down-low has been viewed as "a type of impression management that some of the informants use to present themselves in a manner that is consistent with perceived norms about masculine attributes, attitudes, and behaviors."


1) A person who identifies as a woman or female who dresses in masculine or gender-marked clothing, makeup, and mannerisms for the purpose of performance. Many drag kings perform by singing, dancing or lip-synching; 2) A person who feels connection to a male or masculine identity while wearing masculine clothing, either in a performance space or in everyday life; 3) A person of any gender identity that identifies with masculine drag “king” performance communities.


1) A person who identifies as a man or male who dresses in feminine or gender-marked clothing, makeup, and mannerisms for the purpose of theater or performance. Many drag queens perform by singing, dancing or lip-synching; 2) A person who feels connection to a female or feminine identity while wearing feminine clothing, either in a performance space or in everyday life; 3) A person of any gender identity that identifies with feminine drag “queen” performance communities.


1) A person who expresses and/or identifies with femininity; 2) A community label for people who identify with femininity specifically through a queer and/or politically radical and/or subversive context; 3) A feminine-identified person of any gender or sex.


A gender identity where a person identifies as 1) neither or both female and male; 2) experiences a range of femaleness and maleness, with a denoted movement or flow between genders; 3) consistently experiences their gender identity outside of the gender binary.

FTM or F2M (Female-to-Male)

Term used to identify a person who was designated a female sex at birth and currently identifies as male, lives as a man, or identifies predominantly as masculine. This includes a broad range of experiences, from those who identify as men or male to those who identify as transsexual, transgender men, transmen, female men, new men, or FTM. Some reject this terminology, arguing that they have always been male internally and are now making that identity visible, where others feel that such language reinforces an either/or gender system.  Some individuals prefer the term MTM (male-to-male) to underscore the fact that although they were assigned female at birth, they never had a female gender identity.


1) Term used to refer to homosexual/same gender loving communities as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual; 2) term used in some cultural settings to specifically represent male-identified people who are attracted to other male-identified people in a romantic, erotic, and/or emotional sense.  Not all men who engage in "homosexual behavior" identify as gay, and as such this lable should be used with caution.


A social construction combining identity, expression, and social elements related to masculinity and femininity. Includes gender identity (self-identification), gender expression (self-expression), social gender (social expectations), gender roles (socialized actions), and gender attribution (social perception).


1) The cultural insistence of two diametrically opposed, traditionally recognized genders - man and woman - based on the cultural attribution of gendered expectations relating to one assigned sex at birth; 2) the idea that there are only two genders, male and female.  May include a sensed requirement that a person must be strictly gendered as either/or.


Medical surgery used to modify one's body to be more congruent with one's gender identity.  See Sex Reassignment Surgery.


Culturally significant singals used to attempt to tell the gender/sex of antoher person.  Examples include hairstyle, gait, vocal inflection, body shape, facial hair, etc.


How one chooses to express one’s gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, body characteristics, etc. Gender expression may change over time and from day to day, and may or may not conform to an individual’s gender identity.


An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, both, neither, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.


1) A person who disrupts, or "bends", expected gender roles.  Gender bending is sometimes a form of soical activism undertaken to destory rigid gender roles and defy sex-role stereotypes, notably in cases where the gender-nonconforming person finds these roles oppressive.  it can be a reaction to, and protect of, homophobia, transphobia, misogny or misandry.  Some gender benders identify with the sex assigned them at birth, but challenge the societal norms that assign expectations of particular, gendered behavior.  This rebellion can involve androgynous dress, adornment, behavior, and atypical gender roles.  Gender benders may self-identify as trans or genderqueer.  However, many trans people do not consider themselves "gender benders."  Also see Genderfuck.


1) Gender expression or identity that falls outside or beyond a specific culture or society’s gender expectations; 2) a term used to refer to individuals or communities who may not identify as transgender, but who do not conform to traditional gender norms.  May be used in tandem with other identities.


A person who by nature or by choice conforms to gender based expectations of society.  Also referred to as Genderstraight.


The societal, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege cisgender (gender-typical people) and subordinate and disparage transgender or gender variant people.  Also known as Genderism.


The behaviors, attitudes, values, and beliefs that a cultural group considers appropriate for men and women on the basis of their biological sex.


A person who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society (e.g., transgender, transexual, intersex, genderqueer, cross-dresser, etc.).


See Gender Oppression.


The conscious effort to subvert traditional notions of gender identity and gender roles.


A gender variant person whose gender identity is neither male nor female, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders.  Often includes a political agenada to challenge gender stereotypes and the gender binary system.


See Gender Normative.


An out-of-date and offensive term for an intersexed person.  See Intersex.


1) The worldview and the institutions that support it that promotes heterosexuality as a normalized, preferred, and more validated sexual orientation; 2) the assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality and bisexuality.


1) Prejudice against individuals and groups who display non-heterosexual behaviors or identities, combined with the majority power to impose such prejudice and usually used to the advantage fo the group in power; 2) any attitude, action, or practice - backed by institutional power - that subordinates people on the basis of their sexual orientation.


A person who is sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex.


The benefits automatically derived from being heterosexual that are denied to sexual minorities or the benifits homosexuals and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming a heterosexual identity or denying a homosexual or bisexual identity.


The irrational fear or hatred of persons living with HIV/AIDS.


The favorable association between a nationalist ideology and LGBTQ people or their rights.  Homonationalism refers to the processes by which some powers line up with the claims of the LGBTQ commnity in order to justify racist and xenophobic positions, espeically against Islam, basing them on prejudice that migrant people are necessarily homophobic and that Western society is entirely egalitarian.  Thus, sexual diversity and LGBTQ rights are used to sustain political stances against immigration, being increasingly common among far-right parties and in White Americans.


A politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions, such as marriage and its call for monogramy and reproduction, but upholds and sustains them while promising the possibility of demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption.


The irrational fear or hatred of homosexuals , homosexuality, or any behavior of belief that does not conform to rigid sex role stereotypes.  It is this fear that enfroces sexism as well as heterosexism.


One of our most common terms, “identity” is rarely defined. In everyday language, its most common usages—“personal identity” and “social identity”—designate meanings not only distinct from one another but also hierarchically related. Personal identity is often assumed to mediate between social identities and make sense of them. Whereas our social identities shift throughout the day, what allows us to move coherently from one to another is often imagined to be our personal identity, or “who we are”—our constant.

Personal identity conventionally arbitrates taste and lifestyle. “It’s just not me,” a potential home buyer says to her realtor. “That’s so you,” a helpful friend appraises as the shopper steps out of the dressing room. An “identity crisis” is a crisis rather than an “identity opportunity” because personal identity demands proper and unimpeded expression. It is a value, something we prize. This sense of identity as ours implies an immutable essence unchanged by physical development or external circumstances. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the origins of this usage to the late sixteenth century, but it has recently been challenged by social theory and postmodern conceptions of subjectivity, and feminist theory has generated especially rich rethinkings of our notions of identity...


The idea that gender identities and expressions do not fit on a linear scale, but rather on a sphere that allows room for all expression without weighing any one expression as better than another.


Refers to a homosexual, bisexual, transperson or intersex person who cannot or chooses not to disclose their sex, sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, co-workers, or society.  An intersex person may be closeted due to ignorance about their status since standard medical practice has historically been to "correct," whenever possible, intersex conditions early in childhood and to hide the medically history from the patient.  There are varying degrees of being "in the closet"; for example, a person can be out in their social life, but in the closet at work or with their family.  Also see Down-low or D/L.


A person whose gender identity is between genders or a combination of genders.


The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.


The idea that social identities, related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination, and multiple group identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities.  These aspects of identity are not "unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but rather ... reciprocally constructing phenomena."  The theory proposes that individuals think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with all of the other elements in order to fully understand one's identity.  This framework, it is argued by its proponents, can be used to understand systemic injustic and social inequality in many ways.  Proponents claim that racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and religious or other belief-based bigotry and persecution---do not act independently of each other.  Instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a systme of oppression that reflects the "intersection" of multiple forms of discrimination.


1) One who is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, and/or an internal reproductive system that is not considered “standard” or normative for either the male or female sex; 2) a variety of conditions that lead to atypical development of physical sex characterisitcs and can involve uncommon and non-binary presentations of external genitalia, internal reproductive organs, sex chromosomes or sex-related hormones.


Term used to describe female-identified people romantically, erotically, and/or emotionally attracted to other female-identified people.  The term lesbian is derived from the name of the Greek island of Lesbos and as such is sometimes considered a Eurocentric category that does not necessarily represent the identities of African-Americans and other non-European ethnic groups.  As such, not all individual female-identified people embrace the term "lesbian" as an identity label and may prefer to identify as gay or queer.


The heterosexist notion that any woman who prefers the company of women, or who does not have a male partner, is a lesbian.


Usually refers to a lesbian with a feminine gender expression.  Can be used in a positive or a derogatory way, depending on who is using it.  Is sometimes also used to refer to a lesbian who is seen as automatically passing for heterosexual.


First used in 1994 by British journalist Mark Simpson, a term coined to refer to an urban, heterosexual male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.  This term can be perceived as derogatory because it reinforces stereotypes that all gay men are fashion-conscious and materialistic.

MTF or M2F (Male-to-Female)

Term used to identify a person who was designated a male sex at birth and currently identifies as female, lives as a woman, or identifies as feminine. This includes a broad range of experiences, from those who identify as women or female to those who identify as transsexual, transgender women, transwomen, male women, new women, or as MTF as their gender identity.  Some reject this terminology, arguing that they have always been female where others feel that such language reinforces an either/or gender system. Some individuals prefer the term FTF (female-to-female) to underscore the fact that though they were assigned male at birth, they never had a male gender identity.


A gender identity that is neither female nor male; 2) Gender identities that are outside of or beyond two traditional concepts of male or female.


The systematic subjugation of a group of people by another group with access to social power, the result of which benefits one group over the other and is maintained by social beliefs and practices.


Involuntary disclosure of one's sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status.


A person whose gender identity is comprised of all or many gender expressions.


1) A sexual orientation where a person desires sexual partners based on personalized attraction to specific physical traits, bodies, identities, and/or personality features which may or may not be aligned to the gender and sex binary; 2) a sexual orientation signifying a person who has potential emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction to any sex, gender identity or gender expression; 3) sexual orientation associated with desiring/loving a person's personality primarily, and specific bodily features secondarily.


1) The ability to present oneself as their chosen gender identity rather than one’s assigned gender; 2) being normatively accepted as one’s promoted identity, as part of specific cultural expectations; 3) an individual’s desire or ability to be perceived as a member of a particular gender, race, or cultural group.


Refers to having romantic, emotional, and/or sexual relationships with multiple partners and can include: open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to those), and sub-relationships (which denote distinguishing between a “primary” relationship or relationships and various "secondary" relationships).


A conscious or unconscious negative belief about an entire group of people and its individual members.


1) An umbrella term whihc embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively- heterosexual-and-monogamous majority.  Queer includes but is not limited to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transpeople, intersex persons, the radical sex communities, and many other sexually transgressive (underworld) explorers; 2) a reclaimed work that was formerly used solely as a slur but that that has been semantically overturned by members of the maligned group, who use it as a term of defiant pride.  "Queer" is an example of a word undergoing this process.  For decades, "queer" was used solely as a derogatory adjective for gays and lesbians, but n the 1980s the term began to be used by gay and lesbian activits as a term of self-identification.  Eventrually, it came to be used as an umbrella term that included gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people.  Nevertheless, a sizable percentage of people to whom this term might apply still hold "queer" to be a hateful insult, and its use by heterosexuals is often considered offensive.  Similary, other reclaimed words are usually offensive to the in-group when used by outsiders, so extreme caution should be taken concerning their use when one is not a member of the group; 3) increasingly used to describe non-normative (i.e., anti-heteronormative and anti-homonormative) identities and politics.  Academic disciplines such as queer theory and queer studies share a general opposition to binarism, normativity, and a perceived lack of intersectionality within the mainstream LGBTQ movement.


The study of race incorporates a set of wide-ranging analyses of freedom and power. The scope of those analyses has much to do with the broad application of racial difference to academic and popular notions of epistemology, community, identity, and the body. With regard to economic and political formations, race has shaped the meaning and profile of citizenship and labor. In relation to corporeality, race has rendered the body into a text on which histories of racial differentiation, exclusion, and violence are inscribed. Analyzed in terms of subjectivity, race helps to locate the ways in which identities are constituted...


A term sometimes used by members of the African American/Black community to express an alternative sexual orientation without relying on terms and symbols of European descent.  The term emerged in the early 1990s wiht the intention of offering Black women who love women and Black men who love men a voice, a way of identifying and being that resonated with the uniqueness of Black culture in life.  Sometimes abbreviated as SGL.


How a person identifies physically as female, male, in between, beyond, or neither.


An individual's physical and/or emotional attraction to and desire ot sexually or emotionally partner with specific genders and/or sexes.  Includes heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, and pansexual.  One's identity as transgender is not an indicator of a person's sexual orientation.


Refers to the surgical procedures some transgender individuals pursue as part of their transition.  Avoid the phrase "sex change operation" and do not refer to someone as being "pre-op" or "post-op."  Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to undergo sex reassignment surgery.


A person's exploration of sexual acts, sexual orientation, sexual pleasures, and sexual desires, and sexual fantasies.


Refers to when a person chooses to be secretive in the public sphere about their gender history, either after transitioning or while successfully passing.  Also referred to as "going stealth" of "living in stealth mode."


A person whose gender expression falls somewhere between a stud and a femme.


A preconceived or oversimplified generalization about an entire group of people without regard for their individual differences.  Though often negative, stereotypes can also be complimentary, but even positive stereotypes can have a negative effect simply because they involve broad generalizations that ignore individual realities.


Another term for heterosexual.


A term usually applied to gay men who readily pass as heterosexual.  The term may imply that there is a certain way that gay men should act that is significantly different from heterosexual men.  Straight-acting gay men may be looked down upon in the LGBTQ community for seemingly accessing heterosexual privilege.


An African American and/or Latina masculine lesbian.  Also known as butch or aggressive.


1) Umbrella term, originated from Transgender (see below). Used to denote the increasingly wide spectrum of identities within the gender variant spectrum. The asterisk is representative of the widest notation of possible trans* identities. Aimed at promoting unification among gender variant communities by placing focus on gender transgression over specific identity labels, genders, or bodies; 2) an abbreviation that is sometimes used to refer to a gender variant person.  This use allows a person to state a gender variant identity without havig to disclose hormonal or surgical status/intentions.


The political and social movement to create equality for gender variant persons.


A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex.  Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity.


A loose category of people who transcend gender norms in a wide variety of ways.  The central ethic of this community is unconditional acceptance of individual exercise of freedoms including gender and sexual identity and orientation.


The irrational hatred of those who are gender variant, usually expressed through violent and often deadly means.


Refers to the process a gender variant person undergoes when changing their bodily appearance either to be more congruent with the gender/sex they feel themselves to be and/or to be in harmony with their preferred gender expression.


An identity label sometimes adopted by female-to-male transsexuals to signify that  they are men while still affirming their history as females.  Also referred to as transguy(s).


Prejudice or discrimination against transgender women.


The irrational fear of those who are gender variant and/or the inability to deal with gender ambiguity.


A person who identifies psychologically as a gender/sex other than the one to which they were assigned as birth.  Transsexuals often wish to transform their bodies hormonally and surgically to match their inner sense of gender/sex.


Someone who dressed in clothing generally associated with the opposite gender/sex.  While the terms "homosexual" and "transvestite" have been used synonymously, the do in fact signify two different groups.  The majority of transvestites are heterosexual males who derive personal pleasure and satisfaction from dressing in clothes traditional associated with women.  The preferred term is cross-dresser, although the term transvestite is still used in a positive sense in England.


An identity label sometimes adopted by male-to-female transsexuals to signify that they are women while still affirming their history as males.


1) Native persons who have attributes of both genders, have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with mystical rituals (shamans).  Their dress is usually a mixture of male and female articles and they are seen as a separate or third gender.  The term "two-spirit" is usually considered to be specific to the Zuni tribe. Similar identity labels vary by tribe such as Wintke (Lakota), Hee-man-eh (Cheyenne), and Nedleeh (Navajo); 2) Native Americans who are queer or transgender.


If you have questions about this terminology, or other terminology not listed in the guide, please contact: 

Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons
Montana State University
P.O. Box 172105
Bozeman, MT 59717-0545

(406) 994-5801 
[email protected]
Strand Union Building Room 286