Safe Zones


Below is a short list of LGBTQIA+ related terms. This is not an exhaustive list and it is not meant to be authoritative. People use terms and labels in myriad ways that do not always align with the definitions listed below. There is rarely an authoritative voice on the definitions of these words because many of them are neologisms and are yet to be explicitly defined.

One should also express caution when using these words. These terms are not meant for people to put others into boxes based on their understanding of these definitions. These terms are meant to be useful in enhancing thoughtful language and dialogue around subjects that do not receive much attention. These terms can be helpful for people to understand their own identities. If someone chooses a label for themselves, be respectful and acknowledge that person is the only expert when it comes to their own identity.

  • Ally - Any person whose attitude and behaviors work toward combating homophobia and heterosexism, both on a personal and institutional level.
  • Androgyny - The combination of both feminine and masculine traits in fashion, gender identity, or sexual identity.
  • Asexual - A sexuality usually defined by not feeling sexual attraction. Celibacy is a choice and thereby is not considered asexuality. The opposite of asexual is allosexual.
  • Biological sex - The anatomical and physiological sex characteristics of a person present at birth. The words male and female refer to biological sex.
  • Biphobia - The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are bisexual.
  • Bisexual - A person who is attracted to people of the same sex and not the same sex. This does not necessarily imply a gender binary and can also be an umbrella for pansexual. 
  • Bisexual erasure - the inclination to ignore, reexplain, or remove evidence of bisexuality from history, academia, and news media; in more severe instances, the denial of bisexuality's existence.
  • Cisgender - The term for an individual whose gender identity coincides with their biological sex; the opposite of transgender.
  • Coming out - To declare or affirm publicly one's orientation or gender identity, sometimes to one person in conversation or by an act that places one in the public eye. It is not just a single event but can occur in many different settings and environments.
  • Conversion therapy - Programs designed to "change" a person from a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual orientation; these programs may be found in religious doctrine and may involve classes, readings, and aversion therapy.
  • Cross-dresser - A person who enjoys wearing clothes, makeup, hair, and accessories typically worn by the other gender. Transvestite is a derogatory term that has a convoluted medical history.
  • Dyke/Fag - Terms sometimes used to describe a lesbian/gay man, often seen as derogatory.
  • FtM/MtF - Short for female-to-male and male-to-female, pertaining to transgender individuals.
  • Gay man/Lesbian - Preferred terms for men and women attracted to the same sex.
  • Genderqueer - A term for anyone whose gender identity falls outside of the gender binary.
  • Gender role - Socially constructed behavioral expectations associated with being either male or female.
  • Gender identity - A person's sense of being a man, woman, or third gender.
  • GSRM - Gender, Sexual, and Romantic minorities; an alternative term to LGBT that many believe to be more inclusive.
  • Heteronormativity - A societal bias toward distinct and complementary gender roles, implying that heterosexuality is the only norm.
  • Heterosexism - Sexual orientation prejudice combined with personal, institutional, or cultural power to impose that prejudice or discrimination. Heterosexism is used to the advantage of one sexual orientation. It includes the assumption that everyone is heterosexual or should be.
  • Hormone replacement therapy - A transgender person may opt to change the balance of sex hormones in their body by pill, injection, or patch.
  • Institutional oppression - Institutional arrangements of a society used to benefit one group at the expense of another, illustrated through the use of language, media, education, economics, religion, etc.
  • Internalized oppression - The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.
  • Intersex - A variation in sex characteristics that does not allow an individual's biological sex to be distinctly identified as male or female; 1 in 2,000 children are born intersex. The term hermaphrodite has been replaced by intersex for humans because hermaphrodite does not accurately describe everyone considered with this definition.
  • Pansexual - A person who does not limit themselves in sexual choice with regard to sex, gender, or identity.
  • Outing - Exposing someone's sexual orientation to others, usually without their permission, in essence "outing" them form the closet.
  • Queer - Term that is inclusive of people who are not heterosexual-include lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgendered people. For many LGBT people, the word "queer" has a negative connotation and provokes discomfort; however, many younger gay people are comfortable using the term and have "reclaimed" it.
  • Questioning, Curious, Unsure - Terms used to refer to anyone who is unsure of their attractions, usually willing to experience/experiment with gender & sexuality other than heterosexuality.
  • Sex - 1) A biological term dividing a species into male, female, or intersex, usually on sex chromosomes; hormone levels, secondary sex characteristics, and internal and external genitalia may also be considered criteria. 2) Another term for sexual behavior or gratification. Sex is a biological fact or a sexual act.
  • Sexual behavior - What a person does in terms of sexual acts.
  • Sexuality - The complex range of components which make us sexual beings; includes emotional, physical, and sexual aspects, as well as self-identification (including sexual orientation and gender), behavioral preferences and practices, fantasies, and feelings of affection and emotional affinity.
  • Sexual Orientation - The state of one's sexual attraction toward others. Can involve fantasy, behavior, and self-identification; a person's general make-up or alignment in terms of sexual attraction.
  • Transgender - The state of a person's gender identity not matching their assigned sex.
  • Transition - The time when a person begins living as the gender with which they identify rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Transphobia - The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are transgendered.


Correct pronoun usage is important for welcoming students to express themselves in a space. They can be tricky getting use to if you are new to using gender inclusive pronouns that some people identify with.

  • Want to learn more about pronoun usage, check out this guide from GLSEN (PDF)
  • To help familiarize yourself with popular gender inclusive pronouns, visit this website that has organized the most popular gender inclusive pronouns with links to the translation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland using the different pronouns.
  • There is also an online app that allows you to practice using pronouns in sentences.
  • If you are not convinced that you can change your pronoun usage, watch this funny video of John Oliver explaining that it is possible and we do it all the time.