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Learning all the terms that are used in the Trans or LGBTQ+ community can seem daunting for allies or those just now finding their way. It can also be a touchy subject for some. You don’t have to learn them all, just find the ones that fit your needs. Labels can be limiting, but they can also be freeing. Knowing that there is a word for how you feel can take some of the weirdness out of a new or “controversial” idea. And having a word and definition to share with your allies enables communication. But don’t think you have to stick to just one label or its definition. Gender, biological sex, and sexuality are separate and fluid. They are all on a spectrum (or convoluted mind map, depending on your views) and they do not have to correlate to one another… For example and individual may have a female gender, XX chromosomes, and be attracted to men, or they may have a male gender, XX chromosomes, and be attracted to women and men (like me). Gender isn’t just male or female, there is a grey area in between. Individuals in that area of the spectrum often identify as non-binary or gender fluid. Sex isn’t just man (XY) or woman (XX). There are a multitude of variations and manifestations (XXXY, XXY, etc.). And sexual orientation isn’t just about being attracted to only men or only women, or about being heterosexual or homosexual. There is also bisexual, pansexual/omnisexual, and asexual.

A sad side note here - I had a former coworker tell me she though all these labels exist because modern humans have to much time on their hands to think about such things. I’d argue against that. There are several indigenous cultures that celebrate many genders, such as the Bugis society in Indonesia, which have five. They correlate to ciswomen, cismen, androgynous, transwomen, and transmen. Mention of transgender or third gender and homosexuality goes back to ancient times in Egypt and Greece. Check out Wikipedia if you want a quick history lesson. Queen Hatshepsut (c. 1479-1458 BCE), for example, made herself a Pharaoh, not queen, and required artists to show her as a man. She even wore a fake beard. You may argue she did it just because she was power hungry, but would you live as the opposite gender for rank? Homosexuality can also be found in Ancient Egypt as far back as 2400 BCE. So no, this isn’t a modern trend we are experiencing.

Let’s get the basics out of the way. Most people know the acronym LGBT or GLBT - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. But did you know there is also a more inclusive set of letters, LGBTQ+ or LGBTQQIA? This adds to the equation Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and/or more. You may be wondering at this point, why does there have to be so many labels. My only answer is that there are an awful lot of people in this world, and if we want to get technical about it, there could be as many different terms as there are people because we are all different. Here are some basic definitions:

Lesbian - a female (an individual assigned female at birth with XX chromosomes, or a Transwoman assigned XY at birth) who is sexually attracted to other females.

Gay - a male (an individual assigned male at birth with XY chromosomes, or a Transman assigned XX at birth) who is sexually attracted to other males.

Bisexual - an individual of either sex or gender who is attracted to both the same sex and gender and the opposite sex and gender. (An XXfemale attracted to XXfemales and XYmales)

Transgender - and individual whose assigned sex at birth or chromosomes do not match their true gender

Queer - an umbrella term that may mean different things to different people. In general it means that a person is homosexual, bisexual and/or not binary on the gender, sex, or sexual orientation spectrums. They fit somewhere in between.

Questioning - when someone has not quite identified their labels yet. They may not know their true gender, sex, or sexual orientation and are exploring their feelings.

Intersex - an individual whose chromosomes and/or genitalia to not match the binary system of XX-woman or XY-man.

Asexual - an individual who does not identify as male or female, or as anything in between. This person does not feel as though they possess a gender. This is not the same as a Non-Binary person who may identify as part of one gender and part of another.

These are all definitions that I have come to know, synthesized from 20+ years of being in the LGBT arena from various sources. But I’m no expert. Your definition may be different, and that’s fine. If you’d like to discuss, contact me.

Here are several other definitions that I think are essential:

Cisgender - when a person’s gender matches their assigned sex (ex: Cisman, Ciswoman).

Transman or FTM - an individual who was assigned female at birth, but is of the male gender.

Transwoman MTF - an individual who was assigned male at birth, but is of the female gender.

There are additional definitions you may find helpful in navigating your identity. Here are a few links to sites with more extensive glossaries:

Trans Student Educational Resources - LGBTQ+ Definitions

Transgender Pulse - Gender Glossary

GLAAD - Glossary of Terms - Transgender

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