This resource provides foundational understandings of language and concepts in relation to identity and sexual and gender diversity. Terms can mean different things to different people. This resource is an entry point to offer some common language.
Language and identities in 2Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, and additional sexually and gender diverse (2SLGBTQ+) communities are complex and ever-changing; this list is not definitive, exhaustive, nor is any term mutually exclusive. People have the right to self-identify with the language that resonates with them.
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Agender: A person who does not identify as having a gender or does not identify as falling anywhere within the gender spectrum or matrix.
Asexual, also known as ace: A spectrum of sexual orientations characterized by feeling little to no sexual attraction or desires for a partnered sexuality. Distinct from celibacy, some asexual people do have sex and experience varying degrees of sexual attraction. Asexual people might experience romantic attraction, physical attraction, and emotional attraction.
Bisexual, also known as bi: A person who has emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction towards people of the same gender and to people of other genders.
Cisgender, also known as cis: a gender identity in which a person feels alignment between the gender they were assigned at birth, their body, and their identity.
Drag Queen/King: Someone who performs femininity or masculinity in a theatrical way. While drag culture has roots in queer and trans communities, it does not correlate to one’s sexual or gender identity.
Gay: A person who has emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction towards people of the same gender.
Gender Non-Conforming or Genderqueer: A person who does not conform to social expectations of binary gender identity and gender expression, a person who might challenge social expectations of masculine and feminine behaviour and appearance.
Intersex: Describes a wide range of natural body variations and physical sex characteristics (genitals, hormones, chromosomes, etc.) that do not fall within traditional medical definitions of male or female. Not all intersex people identify belonging within the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
Lesbian: Usually a woman who has emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction towards other women. Some lesbians might have emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions towards people of other genders, and this does not negate or erase their lesbian identity.
Nonbinary, also known as non-binary, enby: Sometimes referred to as gender nonbinary, a gender identity that emphasizes a moving beyond binary conceptions of gender, a person who does not fit within the gender binary of man and woman. Not all nonbinary people identify as trans.
Pansexual: A person who has emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction towards people regardless of gender identities or bodies.
Queer: A term that is often used as an umbrella term for the 2SLGBTQA+ communities; a term that was formerly used as a slur but that has been reclaimed as a term of defiant pride and suggests breaking binary conceptions of sex, gender, and/or sexuality.
Trans or Transgender: A person who identifies with a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth, or to a person whose gender identity and gender expression differs from the stereotypical masculine and feminine norms. It is also used as an umbrella term for those who identify as transgender, trans, gender variant, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, or an analogous term.
Two-Spirit, also known as Two Spirit, 2Spirit, 2 Spirit, or 2S: A cultural and spiritual identity used by some Indigenous people. This identification can vary between Indigenous cultures and 2Spirit people have held important cultural and spiritual roles within their communities, especially prior to colonization. Identifying as Two-Spirit is different from identifying as with a particular gender and/or sexual identity. For example, some 2S people can identify as 2Spirit and trans, or 2Spirit and gay, or only 2Spirit.
These are key concepts for understanding broader frameworks about sexual and gender diversity.
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Ally/Allyship: Typically a cisgender and/or straight person who wants to show respect and support for gender and sexually diverse people. This is a term that is controversial to some, as becoming an ally/allyship is a process, or an identifier that is given by members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, rather than a self-determined identity. Allyship comes through action. Allyship is a continual practice, rather than a single action.
Assigned at birth: The assignment or classification of a person as male, female, intersex, or another sex, usually based on the observation of physical anatomy by medical doctors at birth.
Cisnormativity/cissexism: The assumption that all people are cisgender, i.e. that all people feel alignment between the sex and/or gender they were assigned at birth, their body, and their identity.
Gender: How we might perceive our identity as male, female, both or neither, regardless of our physical bodies; ideas and norms can change over time and can vary between cultures.
Gender Attribution: The way that your identity is perceived by others. The act of categorizing people we come into contact with as male, female, or another identity. This can be related to gender expression and gender identity, and can be mediated by stereotypical and/or cissexist and heterosexist understandings of what a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ should be. Gender attribution can result in misgendering.
Gender Expression: How a person publicly presents their gender, which can include external characteristics and behaviours that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine. Examples include dress (clothing), hair, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, and voice. A person’s name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender.
Gender Identity: a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman, both, neither, or another gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth.
Heteronormativity/Heterosexism: The assumption that gender is a binary, that one’s gender indicates one’s sexuality (romantic and sexual attraction to the ‘opposite sex’) and that heterosexuality is the only ‘right,’ ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ way to be. The everyday assumption that everyone is or should be heterosexual. Also includes the erasure of LGBTQ+ people.
Homophobia: The irrational fear, hatred, prejudice, and/or intolerance of people who are LGBTQ+. Manifests in several ways, including violence, harassment, and discrimination. Homophobia can manifest in interpersonal and systemic ways, in both overt and covert ways.
Misgendering: Attributing gender identification, gendered language, and gender expectations to someone that is incorrect or does not align with their gender identity. This can happen through incorrect use of pronouns, gendered language, or assigning gender to someone based on assumptions/without concrete knowledge of how they identify.
Sex: Refers to physical aspects of the body, including genitals, chromosomes, and hormones, etc.
Sexuality: A person’s identity and/or behaviours based on their desire, romantic or sexual attractions.
Transition: Can refer to the process of taking steps to living in one’s gender identity and expression, socially and/or medically, or neither. This can mean changing pronouns, changing legal name or gender markers, starting hormone replacement (and then stopping, or remaining on it), or seeking out gender-affirming surgeries. Transition is not always a goal for trans people, may not involve a transition towards a binary identity, and may not look the same or include the same process for everyone, even two people who share a similar gender identity. The extent of one’s transition does not shape their gender identity, and this can be a very personal and private process for some people.
Transphobia: The irrational fear, hatred, prejudice, and/or intolerance of people who are trans, genderqueer or gender non-conforming. Manifests in several ways, including violence, harassment, and discrimination. Transphobia can manifest in interpersonal and systemic ways, in both overt and covert ways.
Transmisogyny: A term that refers to the specific prejudice, discrimination, hatred, and violence that trans feminine and trans women face. This term refers to the specific ways that trans feminine people’s bodies, presence in public and/or women’s spaces, and expressions of femininity are policed and demonized. This was conceptualized by author Julia Serano.