In our role as Chicago’s leading psychotherapy practice dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, we proudly create safe spaces for inclusive discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression – with clients, colleagues, area organizations and businesses, local community members, and with online resources like this glossary of affirming LGBTQ+ terms. We recognize that this list will always be incomplete and evolving, because LGBTQ+ individuals are unique, and we use different and evolving terms to identify and describe ourselves. The glossary is offered as a resource, to:

  • help us share, learn, and take part in conversations that are meaningful and feel comfortable
  • remind us to listen for and honor other people’s self-identified terminology

For anyone in need of affirming and validating support, click here to get started with therapy now. If you have questions or would like additional information about our services, please contact us at, or leave a message on our callback line at 312-379-9476. We look forward to connecting with you soon.

Click the links below to browse terms & definitions alphabetically.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "A" Terms

Affirmed Gender – the gender by which someone wants to be known. Affirmed Gender is preferred by some to terms like “new” or “chosen” gender, both of which imply that an individual’s gender was chosen rather than simply in existence / always their gender.

Affirming – the emotional strengthening of another person through being receptive and open to the goodness and value of that person. In the context of psychotherapy, it is an approach that embraces a positive view of LGBTQ+ identities and relationships, and addresses the negative influences and impact of homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism on the lives of LGBTQ+ clients.

Agender – describes a person who does not identify with any gender.

Ally – describes someone who is supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and those in it, either personally or as an advocate. Allies can identify outside of or within the LGBTQ+ community.

Androgyne – an androgynous individual.

Androgynous – describes a person’s appearance or clothing as having both feminine and masculine attributes.

Aromantic – describes someone who does not experience romantic attraction.

Asexual – a sexual orientation describing someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality is not celibacy or sexual abstinence (which are both chosen behaviors) and does not necessarily entail either of those behaviors. Asexual individuals experience relationships, attraction and arousal somewhat differently, and there is considerable diversity within the asexual community.

Assigned Gender – the gender that is assigned to an infant at birth, and which is meant to match the child’s assigned sex.

Assigned Sex – the sex that is assigned to an infant at birth, based on visible sex organs / genitalia.

Assumed Gender – the gender that others assume of an individual, based on the sex they are assigned at birth and visible gender markers (including voice, clothes, hair, physical stature, etc.).

LGBTQ+ Glossary "B" Terms

Bigender – someone who identifies with both male and female genders, or even with a third gender.

Biological Sex – anatomical, physiological or genetic attributes (e.g. genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, genes, secondary sex characteristics, etc.) that are used to determine if a person is male, female, or intersex. Sex is often confused or interchanged with gender, which involves personal identity and social factors, and is not determined by biological sex.

Biphobia – prejudice, fear or hatred directed toward bisexual people.

Bisexual – sometimes referred to as bi or bi+, bisexual refers to individuals who have the capacity for sexual, romantic, emotional, or other types of attraction to people with both the same and with a different gender and / or gender identity as themselves. Individuals who identify as bisexual do not need to have had equal experience or levels of attraction with people across genders, or any experience at all. It is merely attraction and self-identification that determine the orientation.

BlaQ / BlaQueer – used by those of Black or African descent and / or from the African diaspora who recognize their queerness / LGBTQ+ identity as a salient identity attached to their Blackness, and vice versa.

Butch – a term used mainly within the LGBTQ+ community to describe a gender expression that matches societal definitions of masculinity. Some consider “butch” to be its own gender

LGBTQ+ Glossary "C" Terms

Cisgender – a term that refers to an individual whose gender identity aligns with the one typically associated with the biological sex that was assigned to them at birth.

Closeted – a term to describe a person who is not open with others about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Coming Out – (or “coming out of the closet”) refers to the process a person goes through when they first acknowledge, accept and appreciate their gender identity or sexual orientation, and begin to share their story with others.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "D" Terms

Demisexual – an individual who feels sexual attraction towards someone only after they form a strong emotional bond with them. That bond isn’t a guarantee of subsequent sexual attraction, but it is a prerequisite.

Disclosure – in an LGBTQ+ context, it’s a term sometimes used to describe the act or process of revealing one’s LGBTQ+ identity to another person in a specific instance. Some find the term offensive, saying that it implies that their identity is in some way inherently shameful, others prefer it to “coming out”.

Drag – the act of performing a gender or presenting as a different gender, usually for the purpose of entertainment (i.e. drag kings and drag queens). People who perform drag may or may not wish to present as a different gender all of the time.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "F" Terms

Femme – historically used within the lesbian community to describe someone whose appearance and behavior are viewed as traditionally feminine. The term is now increasingly used by the larger LGBTQ+ community to describe gender expressions that reclaim, claim and / or disrupt traditional constructs of femininity.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "G" Terms

Gay – an adjective used to describe someone who is emotionally, romantically, and / or physically attracted to another person of the same gender. In contemporary contexts, “gay” is more often used to describe men or communities of people; “lesbian” is often a preferred term for gay women, although many women also use the term gay to describe themselves. Someone who is gay does not need to have had any sexual experience; simply self-identification and attraction.

Gender – a set of socially-constructed traits, characteristics, roles and norms that are traditionally associated with being labeled a man or boy, a woman or girl, a mixture of both, or neither, as well as defining relationships with each other. As it is a social construct, gender expectations can vary from society to society and can change over time.

Gender Binary – the antiquated concept that there are only two genders, male and female; that everyone must be either one or the other; and that gender is presumed to be biologically determined.

Gender Dysphoria – a sense of discomfort or distress that someone may feel due to a mismatch between their gender identity and the sex that was assigned to them at birth. Children with gender dysphoria may (1) prefer toys, games, clothes, roles, and / or activities typically associated with the opposite gender, (2) feel ill-at-ease with their sexual anatomy and, (3) believe that they are a different gender than assigned at birth. In adults, gender dysphoria may manifest as (1) a preference to be recognized and treated as an alternative gender identity; (2) a belief that they exhibit the emotions of a different gender; and even (3) a strong desire to undergo surgical procedures to more closely align their sex characteristics with those of the opposite gender. If left untreated, this sense of dissatisfaction can lead to depression or anxiety, and impact a person’s ability to manage their daily lives. With the publication of DSM–5 in 2013, “gender identity disorder” was eliminated and replaced with “gender dysphoria”, focusing the diagnosis on the gender identity-related distress that some transgender people experience (and for which they may seek psychiatric and medical treatments).

Gender Expression – the external appearance of someone’s gender identity, usually visible through their behavior, voice, clothing, hairstyle etc. A person’s gender expression may or may not conform to socially-defined behaviors, traits and characteristics that are typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender Identity – a person’s innermost concept of themselves as male, female, a blend of both, or neither. A person’s gender identity is how an individual perceives themselves and what they call themselves. Gender identity can match or be different from the sex assigned to someone at birth.

Gender Non-Conforming – an umbrella term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional societal expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a single socially-defined category.

Gender Outlaw / Genderqueer – someone who refuses to be defined by conventional, traditional definitions of male and female. Those who identify as gender outlaws / genderqueer reject the socially-created notions of static gender categories and instead embrace a fluid concept of gender identity, and sometimes (though not always) of sexual orientation. These individuals may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling outside these categories altogether.

Gender Socialization – the traditional process by which children within a society are taught how they should behave, as boys or as girls. The agents of gender socialization can include family, peers, teachers, books, the media, religious institutions, etc.

Gender Spectrum – a concept that allows for gender to exist on a continuum, beyond a simple man / woman binary model. In this concept, some individuals fall towards more masculine or more feminine identities, some move fluidly within the spectrum, and some identify off the spectrum completely.

Gender Transition – the process used by some people who want to more closely align their internal gender identity with their outward appearance. Some people socially transition (e.g. via how they dress, through the use of names and pronouns, and / or by being socially recognized as another gender). Other people undergo physical transitions in which they modify their bodies through medical / surgical interventions (see GAS below).

Gender Variant – a term predominantly used within the medical community to describe transgender children, youth or adults who do not conform to dominant gender norms, and instead dress, behave or express themselves in ways that society deems to be gender nonconforming. Outside the medical community, this term is avoided as it suggests these identities are abnormal. See also Gender Expansive.

Gender-Affirming Surgery (GAS) – surgical procedures designed to help transgender adults adjust their physical bodies to more closely match their internal gender identity. The process is also referred to as sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), genital reconstruction surgery, or medical transition. The term GAS should be used in place of the older (and often offensive) phrase “sex change”. Not every transgender person desires or has the resources for this surgery.

Gender-Expansive – a term used to describe someone whose gender identity encompasses two genders. This term embraces a wider, more flexible and equitable range of gender identity and / or gender expression than is commonly associated with the more restrictive gender binary definition.

Gender-Fluid – someone whose gender identity and expression isn’t fixed, but instead remains flexible. A gender fluid person does not identify with a single fixed gender, even from day to day.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "H" Terms

Heterosexism – the assumption that sexuality between people of different sexes is standard, superior, or universal and that other sexual orientations are therefore substandard, inferior, abnormal or invalid.

Homophobia – an aversion to lesbian or gay people that often presents in the form of prejudice and bias. Homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic are related adjectives. Biphobia is an aversion to those who are bisexual; transphobia is an aversion to those who are transgender. Collectively, these discriminatory attitudes are referred to as anti-LGBTQ bias.

Homosexual – this outdated clinical term referring to someone who is emotionally, romantically, and / or physically attracted to another person of the same gender. Today, it is often considered derogatory and offensive, as opposed to the generally preferred terms gay, lesbian, or queer.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "I" Terms

Intergender – describing a person whose gender identity is between genders and / or is a combination of gender identities and expressions.

Intersectionality – the concept that people who find themselves at the crossroads of multiple identities (e.g. in terms of race, gender, or sexuality) experience discrimination in a way that is uniquely different from those with whom they have only one or some identities in common. For example, Black women will experience racism differently than Black men, and experience sexism differently than White women – and the way they experience racism and sexism are informed by their unique intersectional identities.

Intersex / Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) – Refers to individuals born with any of several sex characteristics (including chromosomes, gonads, physical bodies) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female. This often arises from chromosomal anomalies or ambiguous genitalia. Medical professionals often arbitrarily “assign” a gender to the individual at birth and perform surgeries to “align” their physical appearance with typical male or female sex characteristics. These surgeries can begin in infancy and often continue into adolescence, before a child is able to give informed consent.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "K" Terms

Kink – a colloquial term for non-normative sexual tastes and fantasies, which includes a wide variety of behaviors and preferences. Fetishes and kinks are often a healthy expression of a person’s sexuality and desires. Kink only becomes classified as a disorder when a person experiences recurring distress due to their fetish, which disrupts their everyday life and well-being. Examples of kink can include bondage, domination and submission, role-play, and voyeurism.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "L" Terms

LGBTQ+ – an acronym that collectively refers to individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex or asexual. Originally stated as LGBT or GLBT, the addition of the Q (queer or questioning) is more recent. The newer LGBTQ acronym is preferred to the former version, as (1) the term “queer” focuses increasingly on its positive reclaimed definition and recognizes more fluid identities for greater inclusivity, and (2) questioning refers to those who are still exploring their own sexuality and / or gender. The full acronym LGBTQ+ (or LGBTQIA) also includes people who are asexual and intersex.

Latinx – a term created to be more inclusive / gender-expansive than the binary terms Latino or Latina can be, as they are terms of identity found in Spanish, which is a gendered language.

Lesbian – Refers to a woman who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to other women. People who are lesbians need not have had any sexual experience; it is the self-identification and attraction that helps determine orientation.

Lifestyle – A term often incorrectly used within an LGBTQ+ context to describe the lives of people who are LGBTQ+. The term is deemed offensive by many because it implies that being LGBTQ+ is a choice, a “lifestyle”.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "M" Terms

Misgender – to refer to someone, especially a transgender or gender-expansive person, using a pronoun or form of address which does not correctly reflect the gender they identify with.

LGBTQ+ Glossary "N" Terms

Non-Binary – An adjective that describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a “man” or a “woman,” “male” or “female.” Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, being somewhere in between, or fall completely outside these categories. While many non-binary individuals also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do.

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