LGBTQ / Pride

Pride, not prejudice: LGBTQ+ terms every ally needs to know

. 8 min read . Written by Muskan Miglani
Pride, not prejudice: LGBTQ+ terms every ally needs to know

If you’ve woken up with a brighter hope in your heart today, that’s possibly because Pride month is here! Every year, the world celebrates June as Pride month. From solemn and beautiful to snappy and bright, the world is adorned in the magical rainbow hues that we wish were never taken down.

This month witnesses the LGBTQ+ community’s celebration of love, individuality, and identity. It also marks the community’s defiance of everything that suppresses them, questions them, and challenges them.

While we are all for the cause, some of us might find ourselves a little alienated, just for the lack of knowledge. A lot of members as well as allies of the community might find themselves falling short when it comes to understanding the terms associated with them. If you’ve found yourself in this pickle, we’ve got you covered.

While understanding the vocabulary associated with LGBTQ+ community, it is imperative to understand that these terms don’t strictly define every member of the community.

The list of terms here isn’t exhaustive, but has been collated on the basis of what has gained popularity over the years. Again, these terms are highly flexible, and the way an individual chooses to be recognised depends solely on them.

Glossary of LGBTQ+ terms

1.   LGBTQ+

The term LGBTQ+ is an acronym for ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer’. The ‘+’ sign denotes that it includes people of varied orientations and identities, both gendered and sexual, without limiting them to any normative definitions. By extension, LGBTQIA or LGBTQIA+ can be used too (Q, I, and A denoting Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual/Aromatic respectively).

2.   Ally

An ally is exactly that – a friend or supporter of the community. The term can be attributed to straight and/or cisgender people, or to the members of the community who support each other. An ally might support the rights of the community, participate in rallies or protests, lend emotional comfort, help build up the community, or just be a good friend.

3.   Asexual

Asexual or Ace is the term used by people who experience little or no sexual attraction. The term can be used when describing one’s sexual orientation (a gay person might be asexual), or independently. For a lot of people, sexuality is a spectrum so they may experience conditional asexuality, while others might be more rigid.

4.   Aromantic

While asexuals and aromantics might find a mutual ground, the two can belong to different communities; not all asexuals are aromantic; not all aromantics are  asexual.

An aromantic individual might experience a different form of love as compared to the popular definition. Their way of expressing feelings might not be in sync with romantic depictions in movies and books, but they can still feel sexual attraction. Again, aromantics might feel conditional romantic expression depending on comfort and individual needs.

5.   Bisexual

A person who identifies as bisexual might be emotionally, sexually, or romantically attracted to more than one sex or gender. A bisexual individual might feel this attraction simultaneously or not, and to same or varying degree.

6.   Cis/ Cisgender

When an individual’s gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth, they can be called cisgender. For instance, if an individual is assigned the male sex at birth (pertaining to their reproductive anatomy), and they identify themselves as a man (based on their gender), they will be called a cismale or cisgender male.

7.   Coming out

Coming out is when a person first opens up (or literally comes out to others) about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Coming out can become a significant moment in a lot of people’s lives for it is the process through which they begin to acknowledge, recognise, and share their true selves with the world.

8.   Gay

When an individual is emotionally, sexually, or romantically attracted to people of the same gender or gender identity, they identify themselves as gay. While the term is mostly used by men who find themselves attracted to other men, it is an umbrella term that can be used by women and non-binary people as well.

9.   Gender

Often confused with sex, gender refers to the set of socially constructed norms, behaviours, and roles assigned to an individual (usually at the time of birth). Gender is a very expansive concept, one that evolves with an individual’s understanding of the world and of oneself.

Gender is an external experience; it is the way we choose to be perceived by the world. Every gender comes with its own responsibility and code of conduct; it is how we are socially accepted.

Traditionally, we recognise only two genders, both of them ascribing to the two sexes – male and female. But as we become more cognisant of how gender has nothing to do with sex, the former is a conscious choice while the latter is an anatomic reality, we recognise that gender has unlimited possibilities.

10.   Gender binary

Gender binary is the understanding that each individual can be assigned one of the two genders – male or female. This system does not view gender as a spectrum but as a rigid system in which every individual is either male or female.

The view that all individuals can be ascribed to one of the two genders has been long contested by the community. This is because such an understanding serves to cage and limit an individual’s identity to prescribed rules of conduct.

The norm dictates that an individual can be either male or female, and by extension either completely masculine or completely feminine.

This becomes further problematic when an individual refuses to conform to this set standard. Non-binary, gender-expansive, agender, and transgender people have been defying these norms for years, for they’re the ones most afflicted by this belief.

11. Gender-expansive

A gender-expansive individual can experience gender as a more flexible range of identity and expression, usually not conforming to the binary system. Individuals who do not identify as a single gender, identify with both (or multiple) genders, or as transgender can be called gender-expansive.

12.   Gender-fluid

When an individual does not confine themselves to a single gender identity or expression, they can be called gender fluid. A gender fluid individual might identify themselves as agender (not belonging to any gender), bigender (belonging to both genders), or non-binary (where gender isn’t a binary system).

The whole idea of gender fluidity dictates that an individual’s gender identity isn’t fixed; it can be as dynamic or as permanent as they want.

13.   Heterosexual

When a person is emotionally, sexually, or romantically attracted to a person of the opposite sex or gender, they’re heterosexual in nature. Heterosexuality is about sexual orientation, and heterosexual individuals are often termed ‘straight’.

Heterosexuality is often confused with being cisgender, but there is a monumental difference between the two.

While the former is about sexual orientation, the latter is about gender identity. A cisgender person can be homosexual, and a transgender person can be heterosexual.

14.   Homosexual

When a person is emotionally, sexually, or romantically attracted to a person of the same sex or gender, they’re homosexual in nature.

15.   Homophobia

Homophobia is the fear, discomfort, or negative attitude based on an array of prejudices towards homosexual people. Homophobia can be discriminatory or take violent forms, and can manifest itself in cultural, social, and legal restrictions.

16.   Intersex

Intersex can be used to describe people who are born with atypical reproductive or sexual anatomy. This can be manifested by variations in chromosomal patterns, gonads, or genitals. An intersex person does not fit the biological definition of either male or female. The term pertains to one’s biological identity as opposed to sexual or gendered one.

17.   Lesbian

An individual (usually, a woman) who is emotionally, sexually, or romantically attracted to people of the same sex (women in this case) can identify themselves as lesbian. The term can be used by non-binary people as well.

18.   Non-binary

A person who does not identify as either male or female, i.e., someone who does not conform to a binary division of genders/sexes can use the term non-binary to describe themselves. A non-binary individual can identify as both male or female, somewhere in between (for those who view gender as a spectrum), or not belonging to either.

19.   Outing

When the sexual or gendered identity of a person is divulged or exposed without their choice or consent, they’re said to be outed. Outing can have serious effects on the emotional and mental well being of the individual, not to forget the social consequences of the same.

20.  Pansexual

An individual who is emotionally, sexually, or romantically attracted to people irrespective of their sexual or gendered identity can identify themselves as pansexual.

Pansexuality, often used interchangeably with bisexuality, is used as a wider umbrella term to acknowledge the presence of more than two gender identities, and the relations arising thereof.

The idea is to identify with a more inclusive label, one that can be attributed to cisgender, transgender, agender, and non-conforming individuals as well.

21.   Queer

Any individual who does not identify as heterosexual or cisgender can call themselves queer. The umbrella term can be used to include a myriad of sexual and gendered identities, expressions, and orientations. The idea behind the term is to reject all conventional structures and understandings of sexual orientation and gendered identity.

To be queer is to be free from accepting constricting norms, just to be yourself.

22. Questioning

When an individual is in the process of understanding and acknowledging their sexual orientation and/ or gender identity, they said to be questioning. The term does not pertain to identity, it can be more loosely understood as a process.

23.  Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation, often confused with gender identity, refers to an individual’s romantic or sexual attraction of other people. Unlike gender identity, it is not about the expression of oneself. It is individual interaction with the world, one that goes beyond one’s identity, beyond the gender.

24.  Trans/ Transgender

When an individual’s gender identity doesn’t align with the sex assigned to them at birth, they can be called trans or transgender. For instance, if an individual is assigned the male sex at birth (pertaining to their reproductive anatomy), and they identify themselves as a woman (based on their gender), they will be called a trans man or transgender man.

25.  Trans man

When an individual is assigned male at birth but later identifies themselves as a woman, they can identify themselves as a transman/ transgender man.

26.  Trans woman

When an individual is assigned female at birth but later identifies themselves as a man, they can identify themselves as a transwoman/ transgender woman.

27.  Transitioning

The term refers to the process that trans people may go through to actively live the gender they decide to identify with. Transitioning is a perpetual process and can be undertaken in a range of ways – medical transition (involving medical procedures, surgeries, hormone therapies), legal transition (changing one’s name and gender on social and legal records), or social transition (rediscovering one’s physical and social expression).

Whether an individual transitions, the extent to which they do, and when they do it depends on their individual discretion.

With the rainbow-coloured flags and pro-LGBTQ+ slogans serenading the world, there’s still a lot of scope for acceptance, openness, and unconditional love.

Whether you’re a quiet member of the community, rebelling for the cause in the confines of your home, or a blatant activist ally, it’s okay to be uninformed and to feel left out.

But every time you do, remember that there is always space to learn, to love, and to be included.

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