Having an accurate knowledge base for the terms and definitions associated with the GLBTQ community is a good start to becoming an ally, or simply becoming more knowledgeable. While the list below is not all inclusive, it may assist you in laying the foundation of knowledge.
BIPHOBIA: The fear, hatred, or intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as bisexual.
CIVIL UNION: A type of legal recognition given to non-married couples, particularly same-sex partners, so that they can have access to the benefits enjoyed by married heterosexuals. Granted and recognized in only a few states.
CLOSETED or IN THE CLOSET: Hiding one’s sexual orientation.
COMING OUT: The process by which lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals recognize, acknowledge, accept, and typically appreciate their sexual identities.
DISCRIMINATION: Different treatment that favors one individual or group over another based on prejudice.
DOMESTIC PARTNERS or DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS: Individuals who share a life together, but are not married or joined in a civil union. A number of jurisdictions and institutions recognize and grant rights to same-sex domestic partners. For example, ten state governments, more than 200 colleges, and nearly half of Fortune 500 companies offer health benefits to the domestic partners of GLBT employees.
DRAG or IN DRAG: Wearing clothes considered appropriate for someone of another gender.
DRAG KING and DRAG QUEEN: A woman (typically a lesbian) and a man (typically a gay man), respectively, who employ gender-marked clothing, makeup, and mannerisms for their own and other people’s appreciation or entertainment.
FTM: A female-to-male transsexual, or a transsexual man. Some transsexuals reject this term, arguing that they have always been a male or female and are only making that identity visible. Others feel that such language reinforces an either/or gender system.
GENDER: The social construction of masculinity and femininity in a specific culture. It involves gender assignment (the gender designation of someone at birth), gender roles (the expectations imposed on someone based on their gender). Gender attribution (how others perceive someone’s gender), and gender identity (how someone defines their own gender).
GENDER EXPRESSION: How one chooses to express one’s gender identity.
GENDER IDENTITY: How one sees oneself as a gendered being.
GENDER QUEER: A term used by many trans youth who do not identify as either male or female and who often seek to blur gender lines.
GENDER VARIANT: An alternative term for transgender, meaning someone who varies from traditional expressions of “masculine” and “feminine.”
HETEROSEXISM: The cultural, institutional, and individuals beliefs and practices that privilege heterosexuals and subordinate and denigrate LGB people. The critical element that differentiates heterosexism (or any other “ism”) from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systematic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects.
HETEROSEXUAL ALLY: Heterosexual people who confront homophobia and heterosexism in themselves and others.
HETEROSEXUAL PRIVILEGE: The benefits and advantages that heterosexuals receive in a heterosexual culture. Also, the benefits that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming a heterosexual identity and denying a lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity.
HOMOPHOBIA: The fear, hatred, or intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as lesbian or gay, including the fear of being seen as lesbian or gay yourself. Homophobic behavior can range from telling jokes about lesbians and gay men, to verbal abuse, to acts of physical violence. (Some people choose not to use the word “homophobia,” preferring instead to include anti(GLBT attitudes and behavior in how they define “heterosexism”).
INTERSEX: A person who is born with “sex chromosomes,” external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered “standard” for either male or female (preferred term to “hermaphrodite”). About one in 2,000 children, or five children per day in the United States, are born visibly intersex.
MTF: A male-to-female transsexual, or a transsexual woman. Some transsexuals reject this term, arguing that they have always been a male or female and are only making that identity visible. Others feel that such language reinforces an either/or gender system.
OPPRESSION: The systematic exploitation of one social group by another for its own benefit. It involves institutional control, ideological domination, and the promulgation of the dominant group’s culture on the oppressed. Oppression = Prejudice + Power.
PREJUDICE: A set of negative beliefs or feelings that are generalized to apply to a whole group of people and any member of that group. Anyone can be prejudiced toward another individual or group.
QUEER: A once exclusively derogatory term that some GLBT people, especially GLBT youth, have reclaimed as an inclusive and positive way to describe themselves and their community. The term is now being used in popular culture, but it is still viewed as an insult, depending on who is saying it and in what context.
RACISM: the cultural, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege white people and subordinate and denigrate people of color.
SEX: The biological assignment of “male” or “female” based upon the genitalia that an individual possesses at birth. The biological sexes are commonly seen as mutually exclusive, and it is often believed that a person’s sex should indicate their gender expression (those born with “male” genitalia should behave in a masculine way and those born with “female” genitalia should behave a feminine way). However, many individuals are born with the sexual characteristics that cannot be categorized as wholly “male” or “female.” The commonality of intersex births challenges the belief that there are only two categories of sex and they are mutually exclusive, and that individuals are innately programmed to behave in a manner dictated by the genitalia they possess at birth.
SEXISM: The cultural, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege men and subordinate and denigrate women.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION: The desire for intimate emotional and sexual relationships with people of the same gender (lesbians and gay men), another gender (heterosexuals), or more than one gender (bisexuals).
TRANS or TRANSGENDER: An umbrella term for someone whose self-identification or expression challenges traditional notions of “male” and “female.” Transgender people include transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens and kings, gender queers, and others who cross or transgress gender categories. TRANSPHOBIA: The fear, hatred, or intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as transgendered.
TRANSSEXUAL: A person who identifies with a gender different from their biological gender. Transsexuals often undergo hormone treatments and sex reassignment surgeries to align their anatomy with their core identity, but not desire or can afford to.
TWO SPIRIT: A Native American/First Nation term for people who blend the masculine and the feminine. It is commonly used to describe individuals who historically crossed gender boundaries and were accepted by Native American/First Nation cultures (preferred term to “berdache”). It is also often used by contemporary GLBT Native American and First Nation people to describe themselves.
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Developed by Ohio State’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Student Services 4th floor, Ohio Union, 1739 North High St., Columbus, OH 43210 614-688-8449, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://multiculturalcenter.osu.edu/glbtss.