Sometimes shortened to LGBTQ+, an initialism that refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual identified people. The + at the end of the initialism is designed to encompass a broad and diverse range of gender and sexual identities that are non-heterosexual or non-cisgender.

Gender Identity

A person's perception and experience of their own gender. Gender identities are complicated, and they can be binary (man and woman, male and female, masculine and feminine) or non-binary. A person's gender identity may or may not align with the gender assigned to them at birth based on their sex characteristics or chromosomes.

Gender Expression

How a person might use their appearance, clothing, mannerisms, voice, interests, or other behaviors to express their gender. In most cultures, masculine and feminine gender expressions correspond with the gender assigned to a person at birth, and consist of a long and sometimes complicated list of acceptable behaviors, appearances, activities, and expectations related to each gender. However, non-normative gender identities often mix masculine and feminine expressions, subvert more traditional social norms, or leave behind preconceived notions about the gender binary and its social implications entirely.


A complex umbrella term that encompasses a variety of non-cisgender and non-heterosexual gender identities and sexual orientations. The term queer is rooted in radical political resistance. The term is common in academic circles, and has a rich and dynamic history within the LGBTQ+ movement. Originally used as a slur, the term queer has been reclaimed as a self-identifier by many LGBTQ+ people, which is radical and empowering in itself. However, it's important to remember that this term isn't entirely divorced from its status as a slur, and should be used with discretion.

Top Surgery

Top surgery refers to several different surgical procedures that trans, non-binary, or gender non-conforming people may undergo in order to masculinize the chest. These surgeries vary, but generally consist of the periareolar or “keyhole” procedure, bilateral mastectomy, and chest reconstruction. Some trans, gender non-conforming, or non-binary people might pursue top surgery as part of a medical transition, or to more closely align their gender markers with more fluid identities and presentations. However, not all trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people want top surgery. Additionally, surgical procedures related to gender identity are not commonly covered by medical insurance in the United States, which makes them expensive and exclusive. Crowd-funding and fundraiser parties for these kinds of surgical procedures are common.


A term first coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in the late 1980s, intersectionality suggests that we each exist in the world as complex individuals with multiple identities. Those identities (gender, race, class, ability, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender identity, ethnicity, etc.) overlap, inform one another, and determine how each of us might experience privilege or oppression throughout our lives. Because our identities can't be experienced separately, each of us might experience privilege at the intersection of certain identities, and oppression at the intersections of others. Utilizing intersectional thought is crucial when considering the lived realities of trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people, because their identities and experiences are diverse and complex. If the full identity of an individual is not considered (i.e. gender, race, class, ability, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender identity, ethnicity, etc.), the depth of context of their experiences may be lost.

Toxic Masculinity

A term that refers to versions of masculinity that hinge on violence, intense competition, aggression, social and sexual dominance, emotional suppression, and homophobia. These masculine cultural norms are the result of a complex system of gender socialization, and manifest in harmful ways through larger cultural trends. Often, young boys are subjected to violent gender socialization that teaches them to ignore pain, inflict pain, and avoid displays of emotion at all costs. These particular elements of masculinity may leave boys psychologically or emotionally traumatized, and are considered toxic because they may slowly erode the ability to form strong emotional bonds, or negotiate conflict nonviolently. Versions of toxic masculinity are closely tied to the harmful or violent elements of sports culture, rape culture, and heteronormative gender ideologies. Men who are unable, or unwilling, to fulfill certain cultural narratives surrounding maleness and masculinity experience isolation, shame, guilt, and high levels of depression and anxiety. Toxic versions of masculinity discourage close friendships or emotional connections between men (at the risk of being perceived as weak, feminine, or gay), and instead foster intense sexual and social competition between men. As a result, men are more likely to commit suicide or inflict physical or psychological violence upon women.


Passing refers to the act of “passing” as a cisgender person in daily public life, and is mostly used in reference to people who identify as transgender. Passing is a complicated cultural notion, because it is binarist in its very nature. Passing might increase a transgender person’s level of safety in public spaces, and change the ways in which they might experience oppression or privilege. For transgender women, in particular, passing can dramatically increase their level of personal safety. However, if they are outed as transgender, they risk experiencing violence, harassment, and discrimination at disproportionately high rates, specifically at the hands of law enforcement and intimate partners. It’s important to note that passing is not a measure of legitimacy. Not all trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people strive to pass as cisgender people. Some people intentionally mix gender markers in an effort to dismantle binarist ideas about gender, or because they simply do not feel comfortable presenting as exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine.


The fear, hatred, or dislike of transgender people. Transphobia affects people who identify as transgender, but might also affect people who do not fall squarely or identifiably on one side of the gender binary. Transphobia, much like misogyny, often manifests in violence, discrimination, or harassment, and must also be considered intersectionally. For instance, people will experience transphobia differently based on their individual abilities, races, religions, and nationalities. Many people are doubly affected by both transphobia and other modes of discrimination like racism, homophobia, or ableism. People who are made doubly vulnerable by multiple identities will experience transphobia differently based on how and where each of their identities intersect.


A term that refers to a person who consistently passes as their desired gender. Living stealth is complex. It often affords trans men and women social privilege by reducing the likelihood that they might experience violence, harassment, or discrimination based on their gender presentations or identities. Transgender men, in particular, often gain access to social and cultural privileges reserved for cisgender men if they pass well and remain stealth. However, for transgender men, living stealth may also create barriers to resources such as health care, education, housing, and employment for fear of being outed. Living stealth can be a strategic decision intended to limit the negative effects of discrimination, harassment, and violence that often affect trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people, or it may simply be a personal choice that feels most comfortable. Many people disclose their gender identities selectively, or based on concerns about safety, and live stealth at work or school while living openly with family and close friends. A person’s decision to live stealth is complex, dependent on a variety of factors, and might be the only way for them to stay safe or healthy.


A term/identifier that refers to any person who either does not identify with any gender (is "without gender"), or claims a non-binary identity that exists outside of gender as we commonly understand it. Agender people may be assigned any gender at birth, may embody any combination of traditionally “masculine” or “feminine” behaviors, characteristics, or appearances, and may use a variety of pronouns. People who identify as agender do not subscribe to the idea that gender is fixed and dichotomous, like the idea of the gender binary suggests. Often, the primary focus of agenderism as an identity is to highlight a person’s lack of gender, or their status as gender neutral.


Refers to a person who embodies a combination of characteristics typically perceived as masculine and characteristics typically perceived as feminine. Androgyny is a broad term, and might encompass any combination of masculine and feminine traits. It’s important to note that while androgyny can be a personal identity, it is more common for people to use identifiers such as genderqueer, genderfluid, gender non-conforming, or agender to describe themselves. Unlike androgyny, these terms have more to do with one’s own internal perception of who they are than they do with the description of outward characteristics. It’s important to note that androgyny, by its very definition, subscribes to binary-based ideas about masculinity and femininity.


The process of transitioning from one gender presentation to another in order to more closely align one's body with one's gender identity. Transitioning is not only for people who identify as transgender. Many people who identify as non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, bigender, agender, or gender non-conforming also undergo social and medical elements of transition. A medical transition might entail hormone replacement therapy and/or gender affirming surgeries. Social transitions often consist of a name and pronoun change. It's important to remember that not everyone feels comfortable discussing the details of their transitions, and that the ability to access hormone replacement therapy and other elements of a medical transition are often affected by a person's race, socioeconomic status, nationality, or ability. Not all transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming people pursue a medical or social transition, and that makes their identities no less valid.


A term and identifier used to refer to a person whose gender identity, presentation, or expression includes traits, behaviors, or ideologies assigned to two genders. Bigender’s definition isn’t inherently binary, but many people who identify as bigender use the term to suggest that they identify somewhere near the middle of the gender spectrum, or as both male and female, man and woman. Bigender people may adjust their gender presentations and expressions to the levels of masculinity or femininity that make them most comfortable on a day-to-day (or even hour-to-hour) basis. However, it is also important to remember that bigenderism may include any two gender identities or presentations, not just male and female or masculine and feminine.


A term/identifier that simply indicates that a person identifies opposite, or “on the other side of,” the gender assigned to them at birth. A person might self-identify as transgender without ever having expressed or discussed their identity publicly. There are many transgender people who do not pursue social or medical transitions for a variety of reasons. It’s also important to note that the very etymology of the word transgender is rooted in binary-based thought; or, the idea that male and female, man and woman, masculine and feminine are fixed and dichotomous, that they exist “across from,” one another. However, the usage and interpretation of this term has changed over the past decade, and often encompasses non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, and gender non-conforming identities, as well as gender identities and expressions that adhere more closely to the gender binary.


A term/identifier that refers to a person whose gender identity and presentation falls someplace on the gender spectrum between or beyond man/male/masculine and woman/female/feminine, and may not adhere exclusively to masculinity or femininity. Genderqueer people may self-identify with multiple genders, no genders at all, overlapping gender identities or presentations, or refuse to name their gender. Genderqueer specifically references gender identities that fall outside of traditional binary-based ideas about what men and women can and should be, do, or look like. Genderqueer people encompass a wide range of presentations, use a wide variety of pronouns, and may or may not seek to masculinize, feminize, or neutralize their bodies through hormone replacement therapy and other medical procedures. Genderqueer identities also carry inherently political implications, because the term queer is deeply rooted in body politics.

Gender Variance

A term commonly used to describe gender identities, presentations, or expressions that do not subscribe to binary-based ideas about masculinity and femininity. Gender variance is often used in place of gender non-conforming, and may even be used to describe people who identify as cisgender, but present or express their gender in a way that defies normative gender ideologies.


A term that describes the process by which an individual or a group is portrayed or perceived to be apart from, or inherently alien to, the larger population. The experience of being othered is often painful and isolating, and while LGBTQ+ people are deeply othered, and often made to both be and feel somehow inferior to their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts, the experience of othering is not unique to LGBTQ+ communities. Groups and individuals are often othered based on ethnicity, religion, race, nationality, gender, and ability. It is important to remember that othering can be both an informal, lived reality that may include targeted harassment in public places such as schools and places of worship, but the process of othering also manifests in public policy through the limited use of public restrooms for gender non-conforming people in the U.S., discriminatory immigration policy based on religion or ethnicity, and racist policies widely implemented by law enforcement such as stop and frisk. It’s important to remember that othering is not only a feeling, but also a quantifiable reality that is easily identifiable in law and policy and may be catastrophic if left unchecked.


A term/identifier used in LGBTQ+ communities that most commonly refers to a person who was assigned female at birth, and identifies as a woman, but whose gender presentation is considered to be traditionally masculine. Butch has been used as a derogatory term meant to devalue or delegitimize women whose gender presentation is traditionally masculine, but it has been reclaimed in recent decades and is suggestive of a long and complex history of gender subversion and trans identities in the LGBTQ+ communities over the last century. While the term butch is associated with lesbian identities, it is not exclusive and might be claimed by trans men, or folks who do not identify as women or lesbians. The term leaves room for non-binary interpretations. Butch is a distinct identity that provides an interesting look at how and why gender performance, presentation, sexual orientation, and language are intimately connected. Like all identifiers, butch identities are varied and complex. They may reinforce harmful normative ideas about masculinity, or they might defy and dismantle binary-based ideas about sexuality, masculinity, and the gender binary. It’s also important to remember that the term butch should never be used casually. It is still considered a slur when used outside communities that have reclaimed it.


A term/identifier used to describe a person who identifies as a woman and is sexually or romantically attracted to people who also identify as women. The term lesbian has a long and storied history. While lesbianism is often framed in larger cultural narratives as an identity claimed exclusively by women who were assigned female at birth and who are attracted exclusively to women who were assigned female at birth, lesbianism is not explicitly rooted in the idea of the gender binary. In fact, many trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people identify as lesbian, and there are many different variations of gender presentations, expressions, and identities present within lesbian communities. While lesbian communities are varied and diverse, they are not without flaw. It is important to remember that lesbian communities may intentionally ostracize trans, non-binary, or gender non-conforming people, or privilege female masculinity over more traditionally feminine gender expressions. It’s also important to remember that while lesbian communities are often radical and political in nature, they still may reproduce potentially harmful gender dynamics.

Gender Binary

A social system that suggests there are two separate and distinct genders, dependent on a set of biological characteristics. Binarist cultures, like ours, limit gender to two fixed and dichotomous identities (male and female, man and woman, boy and girl), and two fixed and dichotomous corresponding expressions: feminine and masculine. Binary-based cultures often produce psychological, physical, and systemic violence upon folks whose gender identities, expressions, or ideologies defy or transgress those narrow heteronormative standards.


A term/identifier used to describe people who are born with ambiguous internal or external sex characteristics, or variations of sex chromosomes that do not always fit the typical definitions of male or female sex anatomy. The sex categories we commonly categorize as "male" and "female" are themselves biological constructs, and often fail to account for the biological diversity of sex anatomy that actually appears in human beings. On average, 1 in 1,000 babies is born with some variation of sex characteristics that may be considered intersex.


In the English language, we commonly use gender-specific third person pronouns: she/her/hers and he/him/his. But for people who identify as trans, non-binary, or gender non-conforming, the binary gendered pronouns assigned to them at birth may not be the pronouns they currently use. Many people choose to use they/them as a singular pronoun. When used as a singular pronoun, they/them is gender neutral and non-binary. Other non-binary, gender neutral pronouns include, but aren't limited to, ze/zir and ze/hir. If you aren't sure which pronouns a person might prefer, stick with a gender neutral one (like they/them) or simply use their name. It's important to remember that using a person's correct pronouns lets them know you respect them.


A term that refers to compressing the chest in order to masculinize the body. Trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people might masculinize the chest by compressing them with bandages, tape, or elastic undershirts called binders. While binding may reduce gender dysphoria or minimize emotional or psychological trauma for trans or gender non-conforming people, binding the chest improperly, too tightly, or for long periods of time can be extremely dangerous, and may lead to serious health problems, including fractured ribs, blood clots, collapsed lungs, and nerve damage.


A shortened version of the term transgender, trans is an umbrella term/identifier that is more reflective of gender identities and presentations that transgress, transform, or transcend gendered expectations and binary-based heteronormative ideologies (such as non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, bigender, or agender identities). While the term trans technically means the same thing as transgender, and is often used simply as a shortened version of transgender, the term also has radical, political, and non-binary roots. It doesn’t subscribe to the idea that there are two separate and distinct genders that exist “across from” or “on the other side of” one another as the term transgender suggests in its etymology. It is porous and inclusive, and has been adopted by many gender non-conforming people who seek to transgress the gender binary completely.


A term/identifier that describes a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies more with femininity than masculinity, and skews toward femininity in their gender presentation. Transfeminine identities often embrace the concepts of transcendence, transformation, or transgression, as opposed to the more binary based idea that trans means only “across from,” or “on the other side of.” Transfeminine people may or may not seek out hormone replacement therapy or medical procedures designed to feminize their bodies, and it’s important to remember that choosing not to undergo HRT makes a transfeminine person’s identity no less valid. It’s also important to note that this term leaves space for gender non-conforming and non-binary people to use this identifier, because it is less rooted in binary-based ideas about gender identity and presentation.

Conversion Therapy

A pseudoscientific process that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity by subjecting them to psychological or physical torture, prayer-based intervention, or aversion therapies. Until the early 1980s, trans-orbital lobotomies were also performed on LGBTQ+ people in an effort to make them heterosexual or cisgender. Conversion therapy for minors has been banned in 9 states, and the American Psychiatric Association has called conversion therapies unethical, inefficient, and non-evidence based. Conversion therapy's most ardent proponents are fundamental Christian organizations, and other groups that use religious doctrine to justify the use of conversion therapies.

Gender Non-conforming

An umbrella term/identifier that refers to any person whose gender identity, expression, or presentation does not conform to fixed, binary-based, and socially acceptable ideas about gender. This term is broad and intentionally inclusive, and within the context of this project, this term aims to encompass any person whose gender identity, presentation, or expression makes them vulnerable to violence, abuse, harassment or discrimination, or defies any normative binary-based standard of appearance, behavior, or expectation.


Drag is a complex and layered form of gender performance and expression with a rich history and culture. Drag may be performed by individuals who claim any gender identity or sexual orientation, but mainstream modern drag often centers performers assigned male at birth, who create performances based on complex cultural interpretations of femaleness and femininity. Drag performers often perform under a drag name or an alter-ego. Drag styles are diverse and might include singing, dancing, stand-up or sketch comedy, and references to artistic and cultural movements. Because drag is a nuanced gender performance with a long and complex history, drag performance may or may not embrace non-binarism, and has a well-documented history of perpetuating transphobia, racism, and transmisogyny. Current mainstream drag culture is often thought to delegitimize the identities of transgender women, and perhaps even expose trans women to further systemic violence, and deeper misunderstandings of their identities in larger culture. However, it is also important to note the status of drag as a personal identity is complex. Throughout the 1900s, drag culture often functioned as a safe space for transfeminine, non-binary, transgender, and gender non-conforming people to explore the nuance of their identities, and has been claimed and re-claimed by trans, queer, and gender non-conforming people of color over the last century.


A gender neutral term/identifier used to describe people who claim a Latin racial, ethnic, or cultural identity. This term provides gender non-conforming people with an identifying term that lacks the inherent gendered language present in Latino/Latina. While this term has gained popularity over the past several years, and is often embraced by LGBTQ+ people, it has also been met with resistance and controversy.


Misgendering occurs when a person is referred to with gendered language that does not reflect their gender identity. Misgendering can be intentionally cruel and hurtful, or an unintentional slip of the tongue. When a person has only recently changed their name or pronouns, it can be difficult to shift the patterned language you're used to, especially if you have used a certain name or pronoun to refer to someone for a long time. Nobody is perfect, but it's important to make an effort. If you make a mistake and refer to someone with gendered language that doesn't match their gender identity, it's best to quickly correct yourself, apologize, and move on. 


A word, name, or phrase that might be claimed as a way of declaring how one views or understands oneself. Identifiers are not limited to gender identity or sexual orientation.


The assumption that all people are heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is the default. Heteronormativity assumes that all people are cisgender, and that there are only two fixed and dichotomous genders and gender presentations (man and woman, male and female, masculine and feminine). These two genders are assumed to operate only within the context of heterosexuality (i.e. heterosexual marriage, heterosexual reproduction, childrearing etc.) Heteronormativity implies that all people assigned female at birth are heterosexual, and will become girls who enjoy toys, clothes, and hobbies typically associated with femininity, and then women who are wives, mothers, nurturers, and caretakers. Heteronormativity also assumes that all people assigned male at birth will be heterosexual, and will become boys who enjoy and pursue interests and behaviors deemed typically masculine. Toxic versions of masculinity play a large role in heteronormative culture. These versions of masculinity socialize and encourage boys and men to engage in violence, and value physical strength, sexual aggression, and social dominance. People whose identities do not conform to these heteronormative standards might face harassment, violence, or discrimination. Failing to embody heteronormative expectations is often framed as a personal failure.


The assumption that every person identifies as one of the two binary-based genders assigned to each of us at birth: male or female, masculine or feminine, man or woman. Cisnormativity is part of a larger social system that deems trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary identities invalid, and contributes to their erasure. Cisnormativity hinges on the idea that the gender binary (male and female, man and woman, masculine and feminine) is rooted in biology/physiology. Cisnormativity assumes that men have XY sex chromosomes, while women have XX sex chromosomes, and that XX and XY sex chromosomes are intrinsically linked to a person’s gender presentation, expression, or identity. This simply isn't true, and contributes to the erasure of intersex people in cultural narratives. Much like the process of othering, cisnormativity seeks to delegitimize and devalue non-normative identities through law and policy, as well as more informal social systems.


Most simply defined as a hatred toward, contempt for, or prejudice against women. Misogyny manifests in many different ways, including rape culture, physical violence, and systemic discrimination. The experience of misogyny must always be considered with intersectional thought. For many women, other identities such as socioeconomic status, religion, race, nationality, and ability inform the ways in which they might experience misogyny. These identities inform one another, and cannot be considered separately. It’s also important to remember that misogyny is built into our culture through versions of toxic masculinity that hinge on violence, dominance, enduring or inflicting emotional or physical pain, and adherence to heteronormative standards that degrade or delegitimize all things typically deemed “feminine,” such as displays of emotion, patience, and compassion. The ways in which misogyny manifests can be complicated, and often affect men in negative ways too. Misogyny affects nearly every part of our culture, and is produced and reinforced via policy and media.


Sometimes shortened to the term ace, a person who identifies as asexual does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality shouldn’t be confused with abstinence. Asexuality is a sexual orientation in the same way that homosexuality and heterosexuality are sexual orientations. It's important to note that while gender identity and sexual orientation are related, agenderism and asexuality are entirely unrelated. A person who is asexual might also claim any gender identity, or use any pronoun.


A sexual orientation in which a person might experience sexual or romantic attraction to many genders. The Greek prefix pan-, meaning all, every, or everything, indicates that pansexuality does not subscribe to the idea of the gender binary. In fact, pansexuality suggests that there are many different combinations of gender identities, expressions, and presentations that a person might be sexually or romantically attracted to, including non-binary and trans bodies and identities.

Gendered Expectations

Refers to a complex set of social or cultural expectations attached to gender, which hinge on the idea of the gender binary, and might include harmful or restrictive gender-based standards. For men, heteronormative gender expectations include motherhood, marriage, certain “feminine” activities like cooking, shopping, etc., or even certain personality traits such as passivity, nurturance, or emotionality. For men, gendered expectations are often tied to toxic versions of masculinity that may hurt both men and women, including sexual aggression or conquest, physical strength, intense and constant competition, breadwinning, and little to no emotional literacy or interaction. If a person fails to meet these gendered expectations, they may be socially ostracized or experience harassment, violence, isolation, guilt, or shame. Gendered expectations are taught from birth, and may even begin before a person is born, with the gendering of the name, toys, and clothes parents pick in preparation for either a boy child or a girl child. Children are then guided and policed into their respective gendered expectations through constant social sanction and reward by parents and peers. It’s important to remember that LGBTQ+ people often cannot fulfill these narrow gendered expectations (i.e. marriage, parenthood, heterosexuality), or refuse to adhere to them outright. Because gendered expectations are deeply rooted in heterosexuality and the idea of the gender binary, LGBTQ+ people are often framed as having somehow “failed” in larger cultural narratives about gender.

Open and Affirming

The phrase “Open and Affirming” was coined and defined by the United Church of Christ, a Protestant Christian denomination, “with roots in the Reformed, Congregational and evangelical Protestant traditions.” Often abbreviated as ONA, “open and affirming” is the UCC’s official designation for congregations, ministries, and groups that make a “public covenant” to serve and minister to people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. UCC frames “opening and affirming” as an ongoing process, and believes that churches must be actively affirming for people with LGBTQ+ identities in order to minister to LGBTQ+ people in a way that truly validates and celebrates their full and unique personhood.


The fear or hatred of LGBTQ+ identified people. It is important to remember that queer people who do not conform to traditionally masculine or feminine presentations or identities often experience homophobia more acutely than LGBTQ+ people whose gender identities and expressions adhere more closely to the gender binary. Homophobia may be enacted through law and policy that intends to marginalize, dehumanize, or delegitimize the identities of queer people. Homophobia may be overt, or subtle. It may manifest in microaggressive phrases that reduce queer identities, fetishize queer stereotypes, and imply that queerness is inherently “other,” or merely a consumable commodity. Homophobia is not always physically violent, but it is always emotionally and psychologically violent. Homophobia is an important element of toxic versions of masculinity and rape culture. Queerness is understood to be indicative of weakness, powerlessness, femininity (which is itself often synonymous with weakness or powerlessness in patriarchal social structures), and moral or ethical failures. Toxic versions of masculinity pose physical violence as a logical and acceptable response to queerness.


A term that refers specifically to the presence or portrayal of LGBTQ+ identities in popular cultural narratives. Representation of LGBTQ+ people in television, film, music, and literature has grown over the last several decades. And gay, lesbian, and bisexual white people are frequently written into television shows, or accepted into positions of power or prestige. However, all representation isn’t good representation. Trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people are still underrepresented in the media. And when they are present, they are often reduced to narratives that exclusively pertain to the experiences of transitioning, coming out, or experiencing violence or discrimination. Additionally, they are often played by cisgender actors, which devalues trans identities and perpetuates the idea of transness as “dressing up.” LGBTQ+ people of color fare even worse in terms of representation. And when they are represented in media, their narratives are often reduced to a sad, unempowered monolith.


A term/identifier used to describe a person whose gender identity matches the gender assigned to them at birth. If you're cisgender, using the term to self-identify helps validate the identities of trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and intersex people by implying that cisgender identities are not the default, but rather one of many valid identities.


A term/identifier used to describe identities that reject the notion of gender as fixed and binary, limited exclusively to masculine and feminine presentations and behaviors, or dependent on certain biological traits or sex chromosomes. Non-binary identified people may claim a diverse range of identifiers and expressions. They might present a mixture or combination of masculine and feminine traits and behaviors, or maintain androgynous or neutral gender presentations. Their identities exist outside of the established gender binary, and refuse to conform to heteronormative gender ideologies.


The term normative refers to identities or behaviors that conform to social or cultural norms, and are widely considered to be standard or default by mainstream culture. The term normative is different from the word "normal" because "normal" implies that identities that are non-cisgender or non-heterosexual are inherently "abnormal," and therefore wrong, or bad. The term normative suggests that non-normative identities are not "abnormal," but simply do not conform to mainstream standards.


Initialisms that refer to people who identify as female-to-male transgender people or male-to-female transgender people. It's important to remember that these terms and initialisms are binary, but may be used and interpreted differently on an individual basis.


Hormone replacement therapy is part of the process of medically transitioning for many trans people, and also a process that many gender non-conforming and non-binary people choose to undergo. For people looking to feminize their bodies, HRT often includes a combination of hormone blockers, estrogen, and/or progesterone. Conversely, masculinizing the body entails injecting doses of testosterone. The effects of HRT, as well as the approved dosages, vary on an individual basis. It's important to note that here, "masculinize" and "feminize" are used in the binary sense, and that the identities of trans and gender non-conforming people aren't dependent on undergoing hormone replacement therapy. Not all trans or gender non-conforming people want to, choose to, or are able to undergo HRT.

Sexual Orientation

Refers to the types of presentations, identities, or bodies one is attracted to. Gender (who you are) is different from sexuality, or sexual orientation (who you are attracted to). However, gender and sexuality are complex. And because heteronormative cultures place gendered expectations on both the theory of sexuality and the act of sex itself, sexual orientation is often intimately linked to the ways in which we express our gender identities.


A subtle act or comment that delegitimizes, devalues, dehumanizes, or discriminates against a person or group of people. People of color, LGBTQ+ people, women, and people with disabilities experience microaggressions constantly. While these comments or actions may be unintentionally harmful, and the result of implicit biases we all learn through larger cultural narratives, these instances of dehumanization and devaluation often become emotionally and psychologically taxing over time. It’s important to note that microaggressions affect marginalized groups, and disproportionately affect people who exist at the intersections of racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, classism, and ableism.


A term/identifier that describes a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies more with masculinity than femininity, and skews toward masculinity in their gender presentation. Transmasculine identities embrace the concepts of transcendence, transformation, or transgression, as opposed to the more binary-based idea that trans means only "across from" or “on the other side of." Transmasculine people may or may not seek out elements of medical transitions to masculinize their bodies, and it's important to remember that choosing not to undergo HRT or top surgery makes a transmasculine person’s identity no less valid. It’s also important to note that this term leaves space for gender non-conforming and non-binary people to use this identifier, because it is less rooted in binary-based ideas about gender identity and presentation.


A type of systemic violence specific to transgender women and transfeminine people that is produced at the intersections of transphobia and misogyny. Cisgender women are affected deeply by misogyny, and are often subjected to violence, harassment, or discrimination based solely on their identities as cisgender women. But transgender women face a unique version of misogyny because they pose a very particular threat to heteronormative culture, heterosexuality, and versions of masculinity that hinge on heterosexuality. Transgender women, and transfeminine people, are often perceived as a threat to the heterosexuality of cisgender men. Often, cisgender men inflict violence upon trans women who they perceive as having “deceived” them. Transmisogyny is complex, because it interacts so deeply with heteronormative ideas about gender and sexuality. As a result of these entangled cultural elements, transgender women are more likely to be the victims of a violent homicide than members of any other population in the United States. They also experience disproportionately high rates of sexual assault, addiction, homelessness, intimate partner violence, unemployment, underemployment, poverty, and discrimination in job and housing markets, which are all manifestations of transmisogyny. Trans women of color, who exist at the intersections of racism and transmisogyny, are more likely to experience violence, sexual assault, or become the victim of a violent homicide than their white transgender peers.


A term/identifier that refers to a person who does not identify with a fixed gender, but rather moves beyond or between multiple genders. A genderfluid person may or may not embody any combination of feminine, masculine, or androgynous characteristics. Androgyny, however, refers specifically to a mixture of traditional, binary-based incarnations of masculine traits and feminine traits, which a genderfluid person might reject. Genderfluid people use a variety of pronouns, encompass a variety of presentations, and may or may not seek to alter their gendered characteristics through hormone replacement therapy or other medical procedures. Genderfluidity allows for the complex expression of more than one gender at any given time.

Gender Attribution

The process by which we, as a larger society, ascribe gender to a person based on a complex set of behaviors, presentations, sex markers, speech, and mannerisms, often subconsciously. Gender attribution hinges on the idea of the gender binary. It is a constant process that occurs in every social interaction, and often fails to take into account a person’s actual personal identity. Gender attribution is a good way to help explain gender as a social identity, or a social construct. It is also a good way to explain how and why gender is present and significant in even the most insignificant moments of our lives.

Informed Consent

A term that broadly refers to the acceptance of medical treatment with full knowledge of the treatment's risks and consequences. In most states, a person who is under eighteen years of age is not able to give informed consent. More specifically, informed consent refers to clinics that operate on an informed consent model, and do not require trans and gender non-conforming people to complete extensive therapy sessions, or obtain a diagnosis/referral from a therapist before prescribing trans and gender non-conforming people with prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy or referrals for gender affirming surgeries. Clinics that operate on an informed consent model do not subscribe to the dangerous and outdated standards that trans and gender non-conforming people have faced for decades when trying to obtain trans-specific health care. Older standards often required trans or gender non-conforming people, who may or may not currently pass, to live openly and constantly as the gender with which they identify. This requirement, for transgender women in particular, could be catastrophic, making them more vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and harassment. Clinics that operate on the informed consent model recognize the danger and cruelty of such outdated requirements, and aim to address each patient’s identity as distinct and individual.


Refers to the intentional and unintentional erasing of the languages, cultures, traditions, and histories of marginalized groups, and within the specific context of this project, the intentional or unintentional erasing of LGBTQ+ histories, identities, and narratives. Erasure is often perpetuated by institutions, and may take form in policy; for example, any policy that seeks to make LGBTQ+ identities illegal by limiting the legality of behavior deemed non-normative (i.e. same-sex marriage, consensual sex between adults, transgender “bathroom” bills that delegitimize gender non-conforming identities and make existing in public spaces dangerous or illegal for gender non-conforming people, etc.). Erasure also occurs more casually in the social or cultural narratives displayed in books, movies, music, and television. Often, LGBTQ+ people’s identities are narrowed to a single, palatable narrative that excludes the complex, intersectional stories and experiences of LGBTQ+ people who are disabled, black, Latinx, homeless, indigenous, incarcerated, or non-passing.

The Panic Defense

The panic defense argues that violence produced upon queer and trans people is justified when the perpetrator feels "threatened" by an LGBTQ+ person's identity and harms them in a fit of “panic.” The panic defense all but legalizes violence produced upon LGBTQ+ people, and codes them within policy as predatory, dangerous, and threatening to heteronormative societies. In all but two states in the U.S., people who assault or murder transgender or gender non-conforming people are permitted to use a “panic defense” in court.

Coming Out

The act of publicly self-identifying as an LGBTQ+ person. Coming out is complex, because the consequences may be catastrophic, particularly if a person claims multiple identities that might intersect and subject them to physical violence, discrimination or harassment in the workplace, housing market, or within their own families and communities. Often, remaining “in the closet” is a strategic choice to avoid marginalization, violence, and cruelty. In many instances, if a person’s social environment or religious community is particularly hostile toward LGBTQ+ people, coming out may be fatal. Many gender theorists and activists argue that coming out frees LGBTQ+ people from internalized homophobia or transphobia, or that it is an act of social responsibility, a rite of passage, or an assertion of personal agency. However, it is important to remember that while coming out increases visibility, and might be empowering or inspiring for other LGBTQ+ people who are struggling, coming out is simply not a safe option for everyone.

Sex Worker

A general term that describes any person employed in the sex industry. The definition of sex work is broad, and may or may not include any kind of sexual contact. It’s important to remember that while some kinds of sex work may be empowering and allow a sex worker personal agency, some LGBTQ+ people engage in low-paying, exploitative, or dangerous sex work as a result of abuse, violence, homelessness, or addiction. While sex work may be dangerous or exploitative, it is legitimate work in the case that it is performed consensually. However, it is often difficult to define or identify true consent if sex work is being performed in order to simply survive or gain access to basic necessities. It is also important to note that sex work must always be considered through an intersectional lens. For instance, people whose intersecting identities place them at a high risk of discrimination in the housing market, the workplace, or in education and health care systems are more likely to engage in dangerous or exploitative sex work out of necessity.


A sexual orientation in which a person experiences sexual or romantic attraction to two genders. Claiming a bisexual identity is not a substitute for identifying as exclusively gay or lesbian. Bisexual identities are valid and legitimate, but are often erased, diminished, dismissed, or delegitimized within larger cultural narratives concerning sexuality, as well as within LGBTQ+ communities themselves.

Cultural Appropriation

The act of using or borrowing elements of a historically oppressed or marginalized culture by members of dominant cultures. Art, language, culture, fashion and many other elements of marginalized cultures might be subject to appropriation. Members of dominant cultures, or, more specifically, descendants of the white European cultures, are part of a long and painful historical legacy of colonization that has crafted overt power imbalances and left non-white cultures fractured, destabilized, or erased entirely. The crux of cultural appropriation is this imbalance of power, and the inability or refusal of dominant cultures to recognize such imbalances. For example, when young, white concert-goers wear imitations of sacred and traditional objects belonging to indigenous cultures, they are engaging in cultural appropriation. White Europeans colonized the Americas, produced genocide upon North America’s indigenous people, forced them to assimilate, destroyed their unique languages and cultural traditions, intentionally exposed them to disease and illness, and performed forced sterilizations in an effort to shrink indigenous populations or eliminate them entirely. This violent, imperialist legacy continues in the violation of contracts made between indigenous tribes and the federal government. When young, white concert-goers wear sacred objects as fashion statements, it illuminates a historical imbalance in power, and fails to recognize the cultural context of the object itself within a larger historical context. Cultural appropriation may be perpetuated by any member of a dominant culture, even unintentionally, and are deeply painful and harmful for members of marginalized populations.


The act of reclaiming a phrase or term that has been used to devalue, delegitimize, harass, or brutalize marginalized or systemically oppressed populations. Reclamation is sometimes referred to as reappropriation. Beginning in the late 1980s, many LGBTQ+ people began incorporating the term queer into their political movements and using it as a self-identifier. Previously, queer had been used as a hate-based slur, but many LGBTQ+ people gained a kind of empowerment by re-associating it with pride and agency. Reclamation is a reminder that language has power, shapes power dynamics, and can be shifted and changed over time. Reclamation is not utilized exclusively in LGBTQ+ communities, and it can be utilized as a powerful tool for all marginalized populations. Reclaimed terms should never be used casually or outside the communities that have reclaimed them. These terms are still considered violent and offensive when used by people who have not experienced their negative effects.

The AIDS Epidemic

While HIV/AIDS is considered a global pandemic, this term refers specifically to the infection of Americans beginning with a small group of gay men in New York City in 1981. While the AIDS epidemic is considered ongoing, it reached its statistical peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As of 2017, more than 200,000 people nationwide have died from AIDS-related illnesses. It is important to remember that while HIV/AIDS can be contracted through blood transfusions, sharing needles, and other contact via bodily fluids, it was, and continues to be, deeply stigmatized and associated with LGBTQ+ communities and individuals. Due to a variety of factors, including increased risk of violence, discrimination, abuse, and harassment (which may lead to an increased risk of homelessness, addiction, and unsafe sexual behaviors), people of color are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Because they are doubly, sometimes triply, affected by homophobia, transmisogyny, and racism, black men, Latinx men, and trans women of color are among the most vulnerable to infection.