From cisgender to 2-spirit, here's the LGBTQ vocabulary you need to know now

·7 min read
Worried you'll say the wrong thing if you're not part of the LGBTQ community? Here's a primer.  (Facebook- Outloud North Bay - image credit)
Worried you'll say the wrong thing if you're not part of the LGBTQ community? Here's a primer. (Facebook- Outloud North Bay - image credit)

With much of the summer dedicated to Pride events, you may need a little help navigating unfamiliar language, unless you are currently part of the LGBTQ community.

Want a short primer on terms you might hear and see nowadays?

Thanks to Andy Glydon, Chair of the P.E.I. Transgender Network, who agreed to vet and augment this cisgender, heterosexual journalist's glossary of LGBTQ terms.

This is by no means a definitive list, just a primer.

Bisexual erasure is a pervasive problem

asexual: Asexuality has its own spectrum and can encompass emotional, spiritual and romantic attraction. Some asexual people may experience physical attraction and will want to have sex, while others may not.

Getty Images/Hero Images
Getty Images/Hero Images

bisexual: Often shortened to "bi." Did you know the meaning of the term bisexual is evolving? Where it may have been common to use bi if one was attracted to more than one gender, bisexuality is now understood as being attracted to two or more genders, but not necessarily all genders. Some bi people use bisexual synonymously with pansexual: someone who is attracted to any gender.

bisexual erasure: When the legitimacy or even existence of bisexuality is undermined or denied. This can happen to a partnered bisexual person, whereby their attraction to another gender is in question because of their current relationship. For example, a bisexual man in a straight relationship with a woman may experience bisexual erasure by having his attraction to other men (or other genders) ignored. This can happen to unpartnered people too.

bottom surgery: A term used by trans and non-binary people to refer to gender-affirming medical procedures that involve their reproductive organs. Trans people are often over-medicalized by cisgender people because of a hyper-focus on surgeries. Not all trans and non-binary people seek bottom surgery. It is frowned on to ask trans or non-binary people about their surgery.

cisgender: Cisgender people identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. Often shortened to "cis." Lucky Fusca, executive director of the P.E.I. Transgender Network, says if you are assigned male or female at birth and "that feels in alignment to you, then when you become an adult you would identify as cisgender. If I were born a male, I grow up and I feel in alignment with being male, then I identify as cisgender."

dead name: A transgender or non-binary person's former or birth name. For many trans people, being referred to by their dead name (called "dead-naming") can be invalidating and result in harm and trauma. Dead-naming someone intentionally can be seen as a form of violence because it denies the trans or non-binary person's identity. Intentionally dead-naming someone in public can also "out" the person which could result in physical harm.

demisexual: someone who feels attraction only to someone with whom they have a deep emotional connection.

Gender dysphoria can lead to anxiety, depression

femme: used in LGBTQ culture by someone who expresses themselves in a typically feminine way. Anyone cis, trans or non-binary can identify as femme if they connect with femininity.

The Big Sex Talk
The Big Sex Talk

gender dysphoria: mental and/or emotional discomfort felt by a trans or non-binary person when their gender identity doesn't align with the gender they were assigned at birth. Gender dysphoria can significantly impact the mental well-being of the person experiencing it.

gender expression: How someone presents, or expresses, their gender outwardly. Gender expression is not the same thing as gender identity.

gender-fluid: People who don't identify as strictly male or female are gender-fluid. Some days they may feel and present more masculine, other days feminine, or anywhere in between. Celebrity Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black) is gender-fluid.

gender identity: How someone understands and experiences their own personal gender.

gender non-conforming: People who don't conform outwardly to the societal norms expected of their gender.

heteronormativity: The assumption that heterosexuality is the normal, dominant sexuality.

heterosexual: sometimes shortened to "het." Typically describes cisgender people who are attracted to someone of the opposite gender.

Misgendering is a form of microagression

microaggression: A term used for commonplace daily verbal, behavioural or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, ignorant or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups.

Getty Images
Getty Images

misgender: When someone calls a transgender or non-binary person by the wrong gender. This can be done by mistake or intentionally. Misgendering someone, even by mistake, can be harmful to them. Misgendering someone is a form of microaggression. Using "they or them" to refer to a binary trans person, ex: a trans man who uses the pronoun "he" is a form of misgendering.

non-binary: An umbrella term for someone whose identity doesn't fit into a strictly male/female binary. Sometimes called NB's or enbys, non-binary people might use gender-neutral pronouns or use combinations of pronouns such as she/them, they/him, or simply keep the pronouns from the gender they were assigned at birth. Anyone can identify as non-binary. Pop star Demi Lovato came out last year as non-binary.

pansexual: People who are attracted to people of all genders or regardless of gender. Singer/author/actor Janelle Monae, who identifies as non-binary, also came out as pansexual in 2019.

polyamory: romantic or sexual relationships involving more than two people. Polyamorous relationships can take many shapes and sizes. Often shortened to "poly." Polyamory is built on the idea that one partner can't fulfill all one's romantic and sexual needs. Polyamory is different from cheating because partners give informed consent and have developed clear boundaries around what cheating might look like for their partnership. Polyamory can take many different forms.

pronouns: Everyone has pronouns! They/them, she/her and he/him are a few common examples of pronouns. A good way to express allyship with queer/trans/non-binary people is by introducing yourself with your name and pronouns, including them in your email signature or social media bios.

queer: The LGBTQ community has begun to reclaim the word queer, taking away past negativity and using it as a term to encompass anyone who is not straight or cisgender.

straight: Someone who identifies with traditional relationship norms, practices and expectations. "This may blow your mind", says Glydon, "but not all heterosexual people are straight!" Someone who is transgender may identify as straight, their sexuality is separate from their gender identity.

iStock/Getty Images
iStock/Getty Images

straight passing: Passing as straight when you're not, intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, someone married to a person of the opposite sex appears straight passing, when in fact they may feel attraction to other genders.

straight privilege: Societal privilege given to straight/straight-passing individuals and partnerships.

top surgery: Often refers to a gender-affirming surgical procedure called double mastectomy, sometimes with nipple grafts and chest masculinization. Many transgender men and non-binary people seek top surgery to relieve the effects of gender dysphoria.

transgender: A person who aligns with a different gender from that which they were assigned at birth. For instance male-to-female, female-to-male, female-to-non-binary, etc. Sometimes shortened to "trans." That change can be social (the way people appear and dress) and also medical (involving gender reassignment surgery). Halifax-born actor Elliot Page recently came out as a transgender man and uses he/him pronouns.

trans man: a man who was assigned female at birth.

trans woman: a woman who was assigned male at birth.

two-spirit: A term coined in 1990 by Anishinaabe elder Myra Laramee after it came to her in a dream. At the time, it meant someone who holds both feminine and masculine energy or spirit. It's now used by Indigenous people to recognize there's a diversity of sexuality and gender within their cultures. Non-Indigenous people cannot identify as two-spirit.

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