Asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to anyone. Asexuals aren’t sick or wrong and they don’t feel this way because they were abused as children. Additionally, asexual doesn’t always mean aromantic. Asexual people can be (but are not always) romantically attracted to people and can identify as heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, or panromantic.
Gay or straight. Man or woman. Society as a whole tends to assume that people are one thing or the other—and anyone that doesn’t fit into the binary checkboxes is abnormal. Things like sexuality and gender aren’t that simple, though.
Contrary to popular belief, bisexuality does not simply mean to be attracted to both men and women, as that implies that there are only two genders—and, as shown in the last definition, that simply isn’t true. Bisexuality means that a person is attracted to people with the same gender and a different gender, not necessarily “man” and “woman”. Bisexual people are not inherently transphobic—there are, indeed, bisexual trans* individuals!
Being gay means that a person is attracted to people of the same gender. While usually associated with men, some women use the term as well.
Genderqueer is a catch-all term for any person who identifies outside of the gender binary. This includes agender (see below), bigender (those who are both masculine and feminine interchangeably), androgynous (those who are both masculine and feminine at once), and gender-fluid (those who move between the genders) people, among others.
Genderless (also agender)
Agender and genderless people do not identify as having a gender. They have no gender identity and/or gender expression. This does not mean that a genderless person’s physical body is also genderless. Some genderless people describe their identity through their personality rather than a gender.
The “technical” term for liking the same sex, though many LG people prefer not to use it, as doctors coined the word in the 50s as a medical diagnosis. The most frequent use today is by ignorant backwater Congressmen trying to prove that the homosexual agenda is destroying America. If a person says that they support “homosexual rights” (and I have heard that exact phrasing at Emerson), I will side-eye the heck out of you.
Intersexuality is a medical condition wherein an individual is born with medically abnormal primary sex characteristics (genitals). In most cases, the infant’s genitals are “corrected” soon after birth. The ethics of such decisions are now coming into question, as some intersex individuals do not know about the corrective surgery until much later in their lives. Unusual hormone levels in utero or an abnormal sex-determination genotype can cause intersexuality. Note that not all intersex individuals identify as LGBTQ+, and that some transition later in life to a gender that does not correspond with their sex.
A lesbian is a woman who is exclusively attracted to other women.
This is the acronym that groups together anyone whose gender and/or sexual identity is different from what is culturally considered the norm. The letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer; the + includes any individuals who do not fall into those categories. There are many variations, such as LGBT, LGBTQIAA, GLBT, and QUILTBAG. The last is a newer term that stands for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer. It’s meant to be a more inclusive (and pronounceable!) alternative to the other acronyms. Some use GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities). This has never taken off and can be problematic (for example, straight kinky people can be GSM, and that can compromise the safety of queer-only safe spaces).
Pansexuality is a sexual identity described as “gender-blindness.” Pansexual people are attracted to people without regard to gender. As Mx. Punk, a queer blogger, puts it, “Pansexuality hinges on the capacity to experience attraction to people of all genders (genders are hot!), possibly regardless of gender (people are hot–who cares about gender?).”
A phobia is a completely irrational, persistent fear of an object or situation and in a clinical, psychological context it’s a type of anxiety disorder. Non-clinically, the term is used to describe a prejudice. Some examples of common, non-clinical phobias are xenophobia (fear of the unknown), homophobia (fear of ~the queer~), biphobia, and transphobia.
This is a tricky term to define. To non-LGBTQ+ people, it is a slur (see below) and not to be used. To some LGBTQ+ people, it is an umbrella term that sounds less like alphabet soup. For example, there is a freshman class called “Queer Identity in Science Fiction and Fantasy” that uses queer instead of LGBTQ+ consciously. To others, it is a way of defining and identifying their sexuality and/or gender. To people to whom I am not completely out, I sum up my non-conforming gender and sexuality as “queer”. Tread with care when using this term. Since its still new to the effort of reclamation, it doesn't have a solidified definition.
Slurs aren’t okay. Period. You’re not being edgy by calling your buddy a f*g. Calling a short-haired girl on the street a d**e ain’t cool. Tyler Oakley doesn’t get points for calling a friend a tr***y. If you aren’t part of an oppressed group, you don’t get to use oppressive words. Period. So stop it.
The term transgender (and trans*) is an umbrella term applied to a variety of individuals who don't subscribe to culturally conventional gender roles. The term includes transsexual (see below), genderqueer, and agender (see above). Contrary to popular belief, the term is an adjective, not a noun, so don’t refer to a trans* person as “a transgender.” It makes my queer little grammar freak cringe.
Transexual people's gender identities are incongruous with their assigned sex. While this may seem like the same thing as being transgender, there is a subtle distinction. Transsexuality is a specific identity under the transgender umbrella, and is most frequently used to describe and identify those who transition from one “traditional” gender to the other—aka male-to-female and female-to-male individuals.
Rebekah Bailey is a queer, over-caffeinated Emerson College freshman WLP major from eastern Kentucky. She enjoys Stargate, violently critiquing other people’s work, procrastinating on Tumblr, and being sassy with her roommates. She has had a 5-point plan to take over the world ready since fifth grade, and had it been for math she would have become an evil genius physicist (but since math is hard, she just writes about them).