LGBT+ Terminology & History


For a list of common terms please browse the list below. This list isn’t meant to provide a comprehensive body of terminology, but rather to provide a snapshot of some terms that you may come across as an LGBT+ individual, ally, or knowledge seeker.

  • Agender – Literally “without gender”. A person who does not identify with any gender.
  • Ally – Someone who confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and gender-straight privilege in themselves and others; a concern for the well-being of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex; a belief that heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are social constructs.
  • Androgynous - An appearance and/or identification that is neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral
  • Aromantic - An aromantic is a person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others. Where romantic people have an emotional need to be with another person in a romantic relationship, aromantics are often satisfied with friendships and other non-romantic relationships
  • Asexual/Nonsexual – A person who is not physically/sexually attracted to another person. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who they are. Asexual people still have the same emotional needs as anyone else and experience attraction. However, they feel no need to physically act upon that attraction.
  • Assigned SexWhen all of us are born, a doctor or other official surveys the evidence and assigns us one of two sexes: “male” or “female.” If the available physical evidence at birth is unclear, many times the evidence is “fixed” surgically to conform to one of those two identities.
  • Biphobia – The fear or hatred of bisexual people, bisexuality, or any behavior or belief that does not conform to rigid sex-role stereotypes. It is this fear that enforces sexism as well as heterosexism.
  • Bisexual – – A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to one or more gender. This attraction is not necessarily split equally between genders and there may be a preference for one gender over others.
  • Cisgender – A person whose assigned sex at birth matches their gender identity and/or expression. Literally “not transgender.” This is a less problematic term for people who are not transgender – preferred over terms like “real man/woman,” “biological man/woman,” or “natural man/woman.”
  • Coming Out – Refers to the process by which one discloses their sexuality, gender identity, and/or intersexuality to another. This process is often life-long and is not confined to one “coming out event”.
  • Gay – – A man who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to other men. “Gay” is sometimes used as an umbrella term, referring to both men and women who are attracted to people of the same gender identity. Many object to the universal use of “gay” because of its inherently exclusionary nature.
  • Gender Binary – The idea that there are only two genders – male/female or man/woman and that a person must strictly identify as either/or.
  • Gender Expression - The way in which an individual externally represents their gender identity and presents it to the world.
  • Gender Identity – A person's sense of being masculine, feminine, agender, non-binary, two-spirit,etc. The way an individual identifies their unique gender; which may not always align with their assigned sex.
  • Gender Normative / Gender Straight – A person who either by nature or by choice conforms to gender based on societal expectations.
  • Gender Queer – A person who redefines, plays with, or rejects the concept of gender all together. It is sometimes used as an umbrella term for somebody who identifies outside the gender binary or as a catchall for the many variations gender can present.
  • Gender Variant / Gender Non-Conforming – A person who either by nature or choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society (e.g. transgender, transsexual, intersex, gender- queer, cross-dresser, etc.).
  • Heterosexual – A person who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to a person of the opposite gender.
  • Homophobia – The fear or hatred of homosexual people, homosexuality, or any behavior or belief that does not conform to rigid sex-role stereotypes. It is this fear that enforces sexism as well as heterosexism.
  • In the Closet – Refers to a person within the LGBTQ+ community who will not or cannot disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, co-workers, or society. There are varying degrees of being “in the closet”; for example, a person can be out in their social life, but in the closet at work or with their family.
  • Intersex – A term used to describe a person whose chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female.
  • Lesbian – A woman, who desires and/or is drawn to another woman. The term lesbian is derived from the name of the Greek island of Lesbos and as such is sometimes considered a Eurocentric category.
  • LGBTQ+ – A common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersexed, asexual, ally, and pansexual community.
  • Nonbinary – A person who does identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female.
  • Outing – When a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed by someone other than the individual. Outing a person can potentially lead to both emotional and physical harm.
  • Pansexual – A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to someone regardless of gender. Gender is not a factor which influences the attraction someone who is pansexual may experience.
  • Polyamory – Refers to having honest, non-possessive, and openly communicative relationships with more than one partner.
  • Polygamy/Polyandry – The practice or condition of having more than one spouse.
  • Queer – Once used as a derogatory term, queer is being reclaimed by many LBGTQ+ people in an attempt to disband rigid labels. This umbrella term is used to be more inclusive of the broad diversity of race, class, and gender that are often under-represented in the LBGTQ+ community. However, many members of the LGBTQ+ community still feel uncomfortable with the use of the word, so it is important to use “queer” only when someone indicates it is how they identify.
  • Questioning – Someone who is questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These individuals may be exploring their feelings or unsure of their own sexuality. They may not identify as LGBTQ+ because they have yet to determine how to best identify themselves.
  • Sexual Orientation – The preferred term used when referring to an individual's physical and/or emotional attraction. “Gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual”, “asexual”, and “straight” are all examples of sexual orientations. A person's sexual orientation is distinct from a person's gender identity and expression.
  • Straight – A term used to describe a person who identifies as heterosexual.
  • Trans – An umbrella term for people who, for any number of reasons, have a gender identity/expression not commonly associated with their assigned birth. A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex or assigned sex. The trans umbrella encompasses those who fall outside of the gender binary (such as someone who identifies as agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, two-spirit, etc.) or someone who identifies as transgender.
  • Transgender – A person whose gender identity does not match that of their assigned gender. A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex or assigned sex. Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity.
  • Transphobia – The fear or hatred of transgender individuals or any behavior or belief that does not conform to rigid gender-role stereotypes. It is this fear that enforces sexism as well as heterosexism.
  • Transsexual – a person whose gender identity/expression is not commonly associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transsexuals may wish to transform their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to be more congruent with their inner sense of gender/sex. The term is now considered largely outdated and disparaging.
  • Two Spirited/Māhū – A culturally distinct gender apart from the gender binary. Individuals naturally possess male and female gender/spirit simultaneously. They are sometimes valued as tribal spiritual leaders and/or healers.
  • Ze / Hir – Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some gender variant persons. Pronounced /zee/ and /here/ they replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively


Interactive timeline of where same sex marriage is legal.

0 A.D.


Nero becomes Emperor of Rome. Nero married two men in legal ceremonies, with at least one spouse accorded the same honors as an empress. Gay relationships are accepted and institutionalized in this time period.


In early medieval Visigothic Spain, there is great persecution of gays and Jews. Homosexuality is criminalized. However, outside of Spain, homosexuality remains completely legal, and even relatively accepted, in almost all of Europe.

1000 A.D.


An eleventh century Byzantine legal treatise makes it clear that gay unions are well-known and legal in early medieval Byzantine society.


King Henry VIII begins the English proclaims sodomy, then-defined as any non-procreative sexual activity, a crime.


France decriminalizes sexual acts between men.


Bavaria decriminalizes sexual acts between men.

1900 A.D.


Gay people are rounded up from German-occupied countries and sent to concentration camps. Gay people were identified by an upside down pink triangle.


A. Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male revealing that queer people number far more than was commonly believed.

1950 A.D.


Christine Jorgensen creates awareness for Trans issues after medically transitioning to a woman.


Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexual acts.


Compton Cafeteria Riots – fight for transgender rights.


The Stonewall Riots in New York mark the beginning of major resistance by gay men and lesbians to discrimination. Trans Women Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were two of the first instigators of resistance against the police raid at Stonewall in 1969.


Anniversary of Stonewall Riots- First gay pride parades took place across United States.


American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the DSM, and added “gender dysphoria syndrome” to the DSM, the precursor to what the most current DSM calls “gender dysphoria”.

1975 A.D.


On November 27, Harvey Milk, an openly gay city council member and San Francisco’s Mayor George Moscone were murdered.


Wisconsin became the first state to pass state-wide gay rights legislation.


On October 11, The National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights drew over 500,000 people making it the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. history. THis date would become National Coming Out Day.


The Hate Crime Statistics Bill passed through Congress.


Canada joined the vast majority of other NATO countries permitting military service by lesbians and gay men.


The first large study of female sexual orientation found that there was a strong genetic component to homosexuality and heterosexuality.

“Don't Ask, Don't Tell” is signed into law, banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.


President Bill Clinton signs the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), denying same-sex couples to the right to have their unions/partnerships recognized by the federal government.


Mathew Shepard brings hate crimes against gays to the forefront of news. The 21-year-old gay college student in Wyoming was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die.

2000 A.D.


Rev. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blame gays & lesbians among other groups for contributing to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


Massachusetts became first state to officially legalize Same Sex Marriage.


The United Church of Christ becomes the first mainstream Christian church to support gay marriage.


Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, passes in California.

Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire legalize same-sex marriage. Maine's law was later overturned.


US District judge rules California's Prop 8 ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.


“Don't Ask, Don't Tell” is repealed allowing LGBT men and women to openly serve in the U.S. Armed Services.

New York legalizes gay marriage.


U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals rules California Prop. 8 unconstitutional.

Maine, Maryland, and Washington become the first states to legalize gay marriage by popular vote.


Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Section 3 was repealed which led to recognition of Same Sex Marriage on a federal level.


Religious Freedom Acts begin to be passed in a few states, and pushback begins to happen from businesses and prominent community members in support of LGBTQ rights and freedoms. (Ex: Indiana).


LGBTQ Families were called “counterfeit” by LDS Leaders at the 2015 Conference Broadcast.

Supreme Court hears marriage equality case on April 28, 2015, which could lead to nationwide marriage equality.

In Obergefell v. Hodges the Supreme court ruled in favor of marriage equality throughout the United States.