Sexual Identity: An overall term that describes an individual's sense of their own sexuality, including the complex relationship of sex and gender as components of identity. Sexual identity includes a biopsychosocial integration of biological sex, gender identity, gender role expression and sexual orientation. This term is sometimes used in a more narrow sense to mean sexual orientation or preference, particularly for gay people who not only behaving homosexually, but have pride or "identify" with that aspect of their self.
Sex: Sex is the physiological makeup of a human being, referred to as their biological or natal sex. Sex is usually thought of in a bipolar way, dividing the world into males and females. In reality, sex is a complex relationship of genetic, hormonal, morphological, biochemical and anatomical determinates that impact the physiology of the body and the sexual differentiation of the brain. Although everyone is assigned a sex at birth, approximately 2% of the population are intersex and do not easily fit into a dimorphic division of two sexes that are "opposite."
Gender Identity: Gender is a social construct that divides people into "natural" categories of men and women that are assumed to derive from their physiological male and female bodies. Gender attributes vary from culture to culture, and are arbitrarily imposed, denying individuality. Most people's gender identity is congruent with their assigned sex but many people experience their gender identity to be discordant with their natal sex. A person's self concept of their gender (regardless of their biological sex) is called their gender identity.
Gender Role: Gender role is the expression of masculinity and femininity and has often been referred to as "sex roles." Gender roles are a reflection of one's gender identity and are socially dictated and reinforced. Gender roles describe how gender is enacted or "performed" (consciously or unconsciously) and may or may not be related to gender identity or natal sex.
Sexual Orientation: Sexual orientation is the self-perception of the direction of sexual desire. It describes sexual preference and emotional attraction. Some people experience their sexual orientation as an unchanging essential part of their nature, and others experience it in more fluid way. Sexual orientation can be directed towards members the same sex (homosexual) or the opposite sex (heterosexual), both sexes (bisexual) and neither (non-sexual). Sexual orientation is not merely "same-sex" attraction, but is experienced through the person's gender identity (regardless of their biology).
LGBT: An acronym for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender" also referred to as queer. Sometime an “I” is added for “Intersex” (LGBTI), "Q" is added for “queer” (LGBTIQ) and another Q is added for those "questioning" their sexual and gender identities (LGBTIQQ).
Queer: An umbrella term which attempts to embrace a matrix of sexual preferences, gender presentations, and habits of those who may not exclusively be heterosexual, monogamous, or heteronormative. Under this umbrella, queer might include lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, intersex persons, radical sex communities, and many other sexually transgressive people.
Heterosexism: The institutionalized set of beliefs that heterosexuality—opposite sex sexuality—is normal, natural and superior to homosexuality. Homophobia (a fear and hatred of gays and lesbians) is an outgrowth of heterosexism which confers certain privileges such as legal protection, the right to marry, and freedom to be publicly affectionate, on people who are heterosexual (or appear to be). Biphobia—a fear and hatred of bisexuals—and transphobia--a fear and hatred of transgender people—are also institutionalized and further reinforce sexual and gender norms.
Ally: Generally speaking, an ally is a member of a privileged group who takes a stand against oppression (example: a white person who speaks out against racism). An ally works to become part of social change rather than part of oppression. A trans ally is someone who commits to being open-minded and respectful to people who may have different or unconventional gender identities or presentations; who takes the time to learn more about trans people and trans lives; who confronts assumptions around gender roles and gender presentation; and who works to change the misunderstanding and mistreatment of transgender and transsexual people.
Transgender: Transgender is an umbrella term including many categories of people who are gender variant. This can include people who identify as transsexuals, crossdressers, masculine identified females, feminine identified males, MtF's, FtM's, transmen, transgender women, intersex, and other differently-gendered people. Transgender people can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or non-sexual. Transgenderist is a term used by some crossdressers who feel they are more than crossdressers, but not quite transsexuals.
Transsexuals (TS or T's): Transsexuals are people who believe that their physiological body does not represent their true sex. Most transsexual people desire sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) but transsexual people may be pre-operative, post-operative, or non-operative (i.e., choosing to not have surgical modification). Some transsexual people prefer to not have their birth sex known and to "pass" or go “stealth,” and others are comfortable been known as transsexual and take pride in this identity. Most transsexual people prefer to be referred to simply as men or women, according to their gender identity and gender presentation, regardless of their surgical status.
Intersex: Intersexuality refers to people who are not easily classified into the binary of male and female categories. They have physical sex characteristics, often including ambiguous genitalia, of both males and females, and are not easily differentiated into established sex divisions. Intersex people are assigned to either male or female categories at birth and many have been surgically altered at birth. People with intersex conditions can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or transsexual.
Crossdressers: Crossdressers (CD's) are people who wear the clothing usually assigned to the opposite sex. They have been referred to in the clinical literature as "transvestites" (TV's), but most prefer the term cross-dresser. Some crossdress for erotic fulfillment, some for social fun (i.e., doing "drag") and still others just for comfort. Since women have more freedom of dress in American culture, crossdressers are, by clinical definition, males who dress in women's clothing, and most are heterosexually identified. Many crossdressers purge their female clothing periodically as a way to try to cure themselves of their behavior. The length of time a person crossdressers can vary from infrequent to full-time.
Femme: Femme is a word commonly used in the lesbian community to identify feminine lesbians. These are women who are lesbian-identified who are often, although not exclusively, attracted to masculine females or butches. Femmes often feel invisible as lesbians, since they pass in the world appearing as normative heterosexual women. Femme is not an identity of passivity, but one of strength and power.
Butch: Butch is a word commonly used in the lesbian and gay communities to identify masculine females or sometimes masculine gay men. The spectrum of identity within the lesbian community can include "soft butches" who identify as masculine women, to transgender butches who often do not identify as "women" and are somewhat bigendered in their identity, to those who identify as transmen/ FtM's but still retain an identity as "butch."
Ag/Aggressive: Generally used to describe an African-American or Latina lesbian with a very masculine or butch gender presentation, often read as boys or men, but usually not identifying as male; also sometimes called “studs.”
Androgyne: A person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender that is mixed, neutral, or androgynous.
Drag queens are males, often gay men, who dress as women, in a extreme feminine manner, for fun, or "camp." Drag kings are the females, who dress as men, in an extremely masculine manner, often for entertainment. Some drag queens and drag kings might live full-time in these identities. Female impersonators are men who work in the entertainment industry and who dress as women as part of their job; they may be crossdressers or be transgender but not necessarily; male impersonators are their female counterparts.
Genderqueer: A gender-variant person who rejects the choices of male/female, man/woman and feel their gender encompasses "both" genders. Some genderqueer people feel that they are androgynous or bigendered, simultaneously exhibiting both masculine and feminine traits. Others feel they are neutral, without gender, or some combination of genders. This steps outside of a "changing sex" paradigm and allows for more flexibility of gender expression and identity.
Transition: The process that transgender people move through in accepting their gender identity, particular the physical, legal and psychological experience of moving from one gender identity to another, or allowing others to see their authentic identity. Transition is similar to a re-birthing experience, where the person re-emerges with a social identity that is the best expression of their internal core gender identity. Transition often implies hormonal and surgical treatment and the physical changes that accompany them.
Passing: To pass is to be able to successfully assume the gender role opposite sex when interacting with society and being able to function in public situations as a member of that gender. When someone does not pass well, or are "read" as a member of his or her assigned sex, it can invite public ridicule and violence. Some transgender activists reject the idea of trying to pass, seeing it as playing into a dual-gender system, however for many transsexual people passing well is seen as affirming their re-integration into society.
SRS (Sexual Reassignment Surgery): SRS, also referred to as GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery) is the surgical processes involved in changing one's sex. Also referred to as Gender Affirming Surgery. This most often refers to genital reconstruction, but also can include mastectomy and chest reconstruction for female-to-male transsexuals, and can also include a variety of cosmetic surgeries to enhance one's gender presentation. Genital surgeries for male-to-female people are currently more advanced than those available for female-to-male people.