Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

See our identity graphic for an explanation of some of the basics.

More terminology below!

Sexuality and Orientation

Achillean: men who are attracted to men, inclusive of gay, bisexual, pansexual, and queer men and nonbinary people who identify with manhood. A term that refers to the Greek hero Achilles, modeled after the use of the term “sapphic” for women who are attracted to women. Similar to MLM.

Aesthetic attraction: a “tertiary attraction” different from romantic or sexual attraction, which involves finding a person aesthetically beautiful without wanting to act sexually or romantically on the feeling. It has been compared to the way that one might feel about a beautiful painting or a sunset.

Allosexual/Alloromantic: the opposite of asexual or aromantic; experiencing sexual or romantic attraction.

Alterous attraction: a type of attraction that can’t be easily or clearly labeled as either romantic or platonic, often includes a desire to be emotionally close to someone, sometimes without caring what particular type of relationship you have with them. Also can include a desire to be in a relationship with someone that is “soft-romo,” low on romance, or that is otherwise somewhere between platonic and romantic.

Aromantic (Aro): not experiencing romantic attraction. Aromantic people may or may not experience sexual attraction or other forms of attraction.

Asexual (Ace): not experiencing sexual attraction. Asexual people may or may not experience romantic attraction or other forms of attraction.

Bisexual: experiencing attraction to two or more genders, or to genders both the same as and different to one’s own. Can sometimes be used as a synonym for pansexual, or as an umbrella term for all people who experience attraction to more than one gender. Some avoid using the term “bisexual” because in the past, it has been used to mean “attraction to men and women,” in a way that is not inclusive of the wider gender spectrum. However, as of the 1990s, definitions of bisexuality that included attraction to a wider gender spectrum began to be produced, and these days, the most popular definitions of bisexuality from within the bisexual community are inclusive of people of all genders.

Some other identities under the multisexual or non-monosexual (attracted to more than one gender) umbrella that are sometimes used alongside bisexual and pansexual include:

  • Polysexual: experiencing attraction to people of multiple genders.
  • Omnisexual: experiencing attraction to people of all genders.

Though some draw distinctions between the various multisexual identity terms, the line between them is not strict, and identification as one or the other or multiple often comes down to personal preference.

Demiromantic/Demisexual: only feeling romantic or sexual attraction after establishing a deep emotional bond with a person. This is distinct from the experience of feeling romantic or sexual attraction but choosing not to pursue a relationship until after such a bond has been formed.

Gay: experiencing attraction to people of one’s own gender. May be used specifically to refer to gay men, or more generally as an umbrella term to talk about anyone who is attracted to people of their same gender, including lesbians and some people attracted to multiple genders, such as bisexuals or pansexuals. It may also at times be used as an umbrella term to refer to a wider portion of the LGBTQ+ community.

Gray aromantic/Gray asexual: feeling romantic or sexual attraction only occasionally, not very strongly, or only after certain conditions have been met, or feeling somewhere in-between aromantic and alloromantic or asexual and allosexual. Identifying with aromanticism or asexuality despite sometimes feeling romantic or sexual attraction. One example of an identity under the gray asexual umbrella or “on the asexual spectrum” is demisexual.

Lesbian: a woman who is attracted to other women. This term may also include some nonbinary and transmasculine people who feel a connection with womanhood, if they choose to identify as lesbian.

LGBTQ+: an acronym that stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus.” A popular way to refer to the queer community, or a community of people with marginalized genders and sexualities who are in solidarity together. Some other forms of this acronym that you might come across include LGBT, GLBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA, LGBTQIAP+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual/aromantic/agender, and pansexual, plus), or LGBTQQIP2SAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous, and asexual).

Some other acronyms that have been proposed to refer to this community include MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender identities, And Intersex)—though MOGAI is now more often used to refer specifically to a subset of the LGBTQ+ community that is vocal against gatekeeping and supportive of the use of microlabels—and QUILTBAG (queer and questioning, unsure, intersex, lesbian, transgender and two-spirit, bisexual, asexual and aromantic, and gay and genderqueer).

MLM: an acronym that stands for “men loving men.” Refers to men who are attracted to men, whether or not they are attracted exclusively to other men. This term is inclusive of but not limited to gay, bisexual, and pansexual men and nonbinary people who identify with manhood. Sometimes also known as achillean.

Some other terms that use the gender-loving-gender format include WLW (women loving women), NBLNB (nonbinary loving nonbinary), MLNB (men loving nonbinary), NBLM (nonbinary loving men), NBLW (nonbinary loving women), and WLNB (women loving nonbinary).

Pansexual: experiencing attraction to all genders, or attraction regardless of gender. Sometimes used as a synonym for bisexual. Pansexual as an identity term meaning “attraction to people of all genders” originated in the 1970s. Some choose to identify as pansexual over bisexual because it has historically been more inclusive of the wider gender spectrum, though contemporary definitions of bisexual from the bisexual community are most often inclusive of all genders as well. Though some draw distinctions between the two terms, the line between them is not strict, and identification as one or the other or both often comes down to personal preference.

Platonic attraction: a pull or desire to form a platonic relationship or deeper friendship with a particular person. This is distinct from the experience of simply wanting friends in general, as it is focused on someone is specific.

A platonic “crush” can be called a squish.

Queer: may be used as an umbrella term to describe anyone who is not cisgender, heterosexual, and heteroromantic, or anyone who engages with societally nonconforming relationships, sexualities and sexual expressions, and gender identities and gender expressions. Queer may also be used as a verb, as in “to queer” something, which means to challenge or examine normative ideas, especially as related to gender, sexuality, and social roles, or specifically to refer to a political identity having to do with actively disrupting societal norms with sexuality and gender. It may also refer to the discipline that studies marginalized and nonconforming gender and sexuality, as in “Queer Studies.”

Like many words that are used to refer to the LGBTQ+ community, the word “queer” has been used as a slur in the past, but it has since been reclaimed. It’s best not to use it to refer to anyone who doesn’t want the word applied to them or who feels that it doesn’t express their experiences, but it’s also best not to censor the word or ask those who identify as queer to stop using it.

Romantic attraction: a pull or desire to do romantic activities with a particular person. Often identified with the experience of “having a crush” on someone. What counts as a romantic activity or what “feels romantic” can vary from person to person and depend on context; for example, for some people, holding hands is strictly a romantic gesture, while other people are comfortable holding hands with their platonic friends, and many people would agree that holding hands can be part of a familial parent/child relationship, despite being a romantic gesture in other contexts.

Same gender loving (SGL):a culturally-affrming term coined by activist Cleo Manago in the 1990s for African American use. It is generally used for gay identities

Sapphic: derived from the name of the Greek poet, Sappho, this is a term referring to women who are attracted to women, and is inclusive of lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and queer women and nonbinary people who identify with womanhood. Similar to WLW.

Sexual attraction: a pull or desire to have sexual contact with a particular person. Often described as “having the hots” for someone, this is a distinct experience from simply desiring sex in general (sexual desire or libido), or from wanting to have sex with someone for another reason (such as because it will make you feel good, or because it will make your partner happy).

Sexual orientation: an enduring pattern of attraction (or a lack of attraction) to people of a particular gender or set of genders.

Split-Attraction Model (SAM): though not everyone finds it useful or accurate to their experiences, some people (especially in the asexual and aromantic communities) find it useful to differentiate their sexual attraction from their romantic attraction. The Split-Attraction Model is a model for doing that. For example, a person might identify as both aromantic and bisexual, or heteroromantic and demisexual.

Straight: attracted to a gender different from one’s own, generally refers to women who are attracted exclusively to men and men who are attracted exclusively to women.

WLW: an acronym that stands for “women loving women.” Refers to women who are attracted to women, whether or not they are attracted exclusively to other women. This term is inclusive of but not limited to lesbian, bisexual, and pansexual women and nonbinary people who identify with womanhood. Similar to sapphic.

Some other terms that use the gender-loving-gender format include MLM (men loving men), NBLNB (nonbinary loving nonbinary), NBLW (nonbinary loving women), WLNB (women loving nonbinary), MLNB (men loving nonbinary), and NBLM (nonbinary loving men).

Gender and Sex

AFAB: an acronym that stands for “assigned female at birth.” Describes a person who, when they were born, had their sex labeled as “female” by a doctor.

Agender: not having a gender. May identify as gender-neutral or genderless.

AMAB: an acronym that stands for “assigned male at birth.” Describes a person who, when they were born, had their sex labeled as “male” by a doctor.

Androgyne: a gender that is between man and woman or both masculine and feminine.

Bigender: having two genders. These could be static or fluid, and a bigender person might feel that their genders overlap, that they are both genders at the same time, or that they switch back and forth between the two. These could be any two genders: male and female, female and nonbinary, or two different nonbinary genders like androgyne and maverique, etc.

Cisgender: Not transgender. Describes someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a cisgender woman had their sex labeled as female at birth, and still identifies as a woman, while a cisgender man had their sex labeled as male at birth and still identifies as a man.

Demigender: being partially, but not entirely, a given gender. The “other” part may or may not be identified or known, and could be anything. Examples of demigenders include demiboy and demigirl.

  • Demiboy: being partially, but not entirely, a boy or a man. The “other” part may or may not be identified or known, and could be anything. Also known as “demiguy.”
  • Demigirl: being partially, but not entirely, girl or a woman. The “other” part may or may not be identified or known, and could be anything.

Dyadic: not intersex, someone whose sex from birth fits into the category of either male or female. Also known as “perisex.”

FTM: an acronym that stands for “female to male,” a transgender person who was assigned a woman at birth, but now identifies as, has transitioned, or is transitioning towards a masculine gender or sex. Generally used in a medical context, but also sometimes as an identity term in the transmasculine community.

FTX: an acronym that stands for “female to X,” describes a transgender person who was assigned female at birth but now identifies as, has transitioned, or is transitioning towards a neutral or androgynous gender or sex. Generally used in a medical context, and shouldn’t be used to refer to someone unless you know they identify that way. Another acronym that is sometimes used is FTN, which stands for “female to neutral” or “female to nonbinary.”

Gender (Gender identity): an identity that describes how masculine, feminine, both, neutral, other, and/or genderless a person feels. This identity may be related to the physical sex characteristics a person desires, the role they want to play in society, and the categories and rules that a given society has created for how people interact with those roles, but in the end, gender comes down to how a person individually feels about themself, and how they choose to identify. Gender is a “social construct,” meaning that it is a set of categories created by humans, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to many people. A person’s gender identity is their “real” gender, and should be respected as such, and only a person themself can tell you how they identify their gender.

Gender expression: how a person outwardly communicates gender, including through hairstyles, clothes, mannerisms, personal grooming choices, and other external markers, behavior, and decisions. A person’s gender expression and gender identity are not necessarily the same, so it’s best never to assume that you can know what a person’s gender is based on their gender expression.

Gender-neutral: describes something that is not associated with any particular gender, or something that is not gendered (or not gendered as man or woman). For example, gender-neutral bathrooms are open to people of all genders, and gender-neutral titles like Dr. or Mx. do not contain (binary) gendered information about the person to whom they refer.

May also describe having a gender that is neutral: neither masculine nor feminine, nor anything else. When used in this way, “gender-neutral” may overlap with the term “agender,” or may refer to having a gender that is specifically neutral in nature. (See also: neutrois.)

Gender-nonconforming (GNC): describes any person who performs or expresses their identity in a way that goes against societal norms and expectations for their gender.

Genderfluid: switching between two or more genders over time, or having a gender that changes. These could be any genders—including male, female, nonbinary, and others—and could take place over any amount of time, from minutes to days to months or years, and might change depending on certain circumstances, or might change at random. (Being genderfluid between agender and another gender, or having a gender that changes in intensity, is sometimes called “genderflux.”)

Genderqueer: a gender outside the gender binary, a queer gender. May be used as a synonym for nonbinary, or may be used as an umbrella term for anyone who experiences or expresses gender in a non-conforming way, including binary cis and trans people who feel that they have queer or non-normative gender experiences, or all those who express gender non-normatively. “Genderqueer” can also be a political identity, describing those who transgress gender norms and expectations.

Intersex: an umbrella term for those whose bodies fall outside the categories of male or female. Not all intersex people consider themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Maverique: having a gender that is neither masculine, nor feminine, nor anything in between, nor neutral, yet still having a strong gendered feeling. May be characterized by a strong autonomy and inner conviction regarding a sense of self and gender.

MTF: an acronym that stands for “male to female,” a transgender person who was assigned male at birth, but now identifies as, has transitioned, or is transitioning towards a feminine gender or sex. Generally used in a medical context, and shouldn’t be used to refer to someone unless you know they identify that way.

MTX: an acronym that stands for “male to X,” describes a transgender person who was assigned male at birth but now identifies as, has transitioned, or is transitioning towards a neutral or androgynous gender or sex. Generally used in a medical context, and shouldn’t be used to refer to someone unless you know they identify that way. Another acronym that is sometimes used is MTN, which stands for “male to neutral” or “male to nonbinary.”

Neutrois: having a neutral or null gender. May include the experience of feeling neither masculine, feminine, nor anything in between, but still feeling strongly gendered, or may include the experience of feeling genderless, overlapping with agender. May include a desire to transition, but may not.

Nonbinary: any gender that is not strictly man or woman all the time. Nonbinary identity may include being a gender that is somewhere on the spectrum between masculinity and femininity, being a neutral gender or a gender separate from masculinity and femininity, being genderless, having multiple genders, having a gender that changes over time, and more. “Nonbinary” may be used as an umbrella term for all gender identities that are anything other than 100% binary man or 100% binary woman, or it may be used as a specific gender identity on its own. Some examples of genders included under the nonbinary umbrella include bigender, agender, genderfluid, demigender, and more! Nonbinary is sometimes shortened to NB (or “enby,” a phonetic pronunciation of the letters N-B).

Some people will also add the word “nonbinary” to a more binary gender label to indicate that they experience masculinity or femininity, but in a way that is distinct from binary gender. For example, someone might identify as a nonbinary woman, or as both transmasculine and nonbinary.

Pangender: identifying as or experiencing many or countless genders, either fluidly between different genders or as one all-encompassing gender identity. May identify as being all genders that are available within a particular person’s culture and life experiences.

Polygender: having more than one gender or expressing characteristics of multiple genders, whether at the same time or switching fluidly between different genders.

Sex: a set of physiological traits including genitalia, reproductive organs, hormones, x and y chromosomes, and secondary sex characteristics. In our society, groupings of these traits are traditionally put into two categories: male and female, though these categories contain a lot of diversity and variation and do not accurately represent all people, and some people fall in-between male and female.

Trans man: a transgender person who identifies as a man, a man who was not assigned male at birth.

Trans woman: a transgender person who identifies as a woman, a woman who was not assigned female at birth.

Transgender (Trans): identifying as any gender different from the sex assigned to one at birth. This term is inclusive of binary trans people, who identify simply as men or women, as well as nonbinary people (though not all nonbinary people choose to identify as trans).

  • Note: the language “identifying as” is used here for clarity, but this is not meant to imply that transgender people are not “really” their gender in some way. The gender(s) (or lack of gender) that a person identifies with is their “real” gender.

Transfeminine: a transgender person who identifies with, is transitioning towards, or has transitioned to femininity. This includes both binary trans women and some nonbinary people.

Transmasculine: a transgender person who identifies with, is transitioning towards, or has transitioned to masculinity. This includes both binary trans men and some nonbinary people.

Two-spirit: a pan-Indian umbrella term used by some Indigenous North Americans to describe a wide variety of traditional gender-nonconforming, LGBTQ+, and third-gender and fourth-gender social and spiritual roles within Native American and First Nations cultures, distinct from man or woman. The term has received some mainstream acceptance and use, but it has also been criticized for applying binary, Western concepts where they don’t belong and erasing culturally-specific terms that already exist.

Questioning: the process of exploring sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof.

Relationships

Amatonormativity: a term coined by Arizona State University professor of Philosophy Elizabeth Brake to describe the common assumption in our society that everyone is better off in an exclusive, romantic, long-term coupled relationship, and that everyone is seeking such a relationship.

Compersion: the opposite of jealousy. A feeling of joy that comes from seeing your partner be happy with another person.

Metamour: your partner’s partner, with whom you are not intimately involved. For example, if your husband had a boyfriend, who you were not also dating, your husband’s boyfriend would be your metamour.

Monogamy: a relationship style characterized by commitment to a single intimate partner.

Polyaffectionate: having or wanting a non-romantic intimate relationship with more than one person at once, a word for a relationship style based on the word “polyamorous” and frequently used by aromantics, as well as others who desire or participate in having multiple intimate but non-romantic partners.

Polyamory: a relationship style characterized by a preference for or practice of having multiple intimate partners, where all participants know about and consent to having multiple partners. All the partners of a given person may or may not be intimately involved with each other. This is distinct from cheating, because all the individuals involved in the relationship know about each other and consent to being in a polyamorous relationship.

Queerplatonic relationship (QPR): a type of relationship distinct from both romance and friendship, a QPR is a non-romantic relationship that is more committed or more intense that what is generally considered acceptable in a platonic relationship, without being considered romantic by its participants. It typically involves emotional closeness and commitment, and might look like close friendship, or might involve things that are common in romantic and sexual relationships, such as cohabitation, hand-holding, cuddling, kissing, or having sex. It is a style of relationship commonly but not exclusively engaged in by aromantic and asexual people, and like romantic relationships, a QPR might or might not be monogamous.

A partner in a queerplatonic relationship can be called a queerplatonic partner (QPP) or a “zucchini.”

Relationship anarchy: the application of anarchist principles to intimate relationships. This can be considered a style of non-monogamy, but it is a relationship style that not only subverts norms around monogamy, but also around hierarchy in relationships (for example, having one primary partner who might be prioritized over other, secondary partners) and amatonormativity (prioritizing romantic relationships over platonic ones). Relationship anarchists’ relationships can vary widely, but might include elements like fostering communication and emotional intimacy with a wider community instead of a single partner, living with a mix of romantic and long-term platonic partners, or having multiple romantic partners, but not prioritizing them over other platonic relationships.

Solo poly: someone who participates in or prefers polyamorous or ethically nonmonogamous relationships, but prefers to have an independent lifestyle or not to have any primary partners.