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Glossary

Bisexual: A person who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with both men and women or persons of all genders.  Bisexual persons may not be equally attracted to people of all genders.

Closeted: (also known as “in the closet”) A metaphor for not disclosing, or being able to disclose, one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  This can be self-imposed or externally imposed.

Coming Out: (also referred to as “coming out of the closet”) The process of becoming aware of one’s homosexual, bisexual orientation or transgender identity/status, accepting it and disclosing it to others.  Coming out is an on-going process that may or may not include coming out to people in all aspects of one’s life.  Some people may be completely “out”; some may be “out” to some people or in some areas of their lives and not others and some may never come out to anyone beside themselves.

Gay:   A person who forms sexual and affectionate relationships with those of the same gender; often used to refer to men only.

Homosexual: A man who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with other men; also used as an umbrella term for everyone who has same-sex romantic/sexual attractions or relations.  Many lesbian, gay, or bisexual people find the term “homosexual” to be too clinical and instead opt to use LGBT terminology.

Gay Bashing: Physical/sexual violence perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals or those perceived to be so.  Gay bashing can include verbal, physical and psychological assault and harassment.  All LGBT persons are vulnerable to bashing.  However, those who look visibly different by society’s standards are especially vulnerable.  Transgender persons, particularly those who are transitioning or who are non-operative, are often targets of violence.

Gender Dysphoria: The overall psychological term used to describe the feelings of anguish and anxiety that arise from the mismatch between a transgender person’s physical sex and their gender identity.

Gender Identity: One’s internal and psychological sense of oneself as female, male, both or neither.  A person’s self-concept of their gender may be the same as, or different from, their sex at birth (male, female, or inter-sexed).  Thus, adopting the female gender means becoming socially and culturally female, even if one is biologically male or inter-sexed.  A person may also define their gender identity as being more fluid than either male or female.  In other words, their gender identity may encompass parts of masculinity, femininity and/or other non-traditional gender expressions.

Gender Transition: The process of transitioning to one’s internal gender identity when this gender identity is different from the one typically assigned to one’s physical body at birth.  This may or may not involve surgical intervention or taking hormonal medication, which can result in some changes in appearance and/or behaviour.

Heterosexism: Prejudice based on societal values that dictate that everyone is or should be, heterosexual.  Intentionally or unintentionally, our society bestows privilege on heterosexuality and heterosexual persons, and devalues, mistreats or discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons and those perceived to be so.

Heterosexual: (or “straight”) A person who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with members of a different (“opposite”) sex.

Homophobia: Harassing, prejudicial treatment of, or negative attitudes, fear and intolerance toward, LGBT persons and those perceived to be of these sexual orientations or gender identities.  It includes a range of feelings and behaviours from discomfort and fear to disgust, hatred and violence.

Inclusive Language: The use of gender non-specific language (i.e. “partner” instead of “husband”) to avoid assumptions that limit and to enhance inclusion and the accessibility of information and services.

Internalized Homophobia: the experience of shame, guilt, or self-hatred in reaction to one’s own feelings of sexual attraction for a person of the same gender.

Inter-sexed: A person who is born with physical and/or chromosomal features in which sex characteristics usually considered to belong to distinctly male or female bodies are combined in a single body.  Inter-sexed persons are often subject to surgical intervention at birth.  The term inter-sexed is sometimes encompassed under the term “transgender”.  However, while there are some areas of overlap with inter-sexed and transgender issues, there are also many areas of distinction.

Lesbian: A woman who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with other women.

LGBT: An acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  It is used throughout this manual for convenience, but please use whichever label a person contacting you feels most identified with.

OP(operative): Non–Op = transgender persons who choose not to undergo sex reassignment surgery and may or may not transition.  Pre-Op = those awaiting sex reassignment surgery who may be in the process of transitioning.  Post-Op = those who have completed sex reassignment surgery.

Out: To be open about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity in some or all areas of one’s life.

Outing:   To disclose the sexual orientation or gender identity of someone else without their permission.

Queer:    A once derogatory term reclaimed by some LGBT persons.  Often used as an umbrella term to encompass all LGBTs, or refers to political activism or academic inquiry on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues.  In some cases, it has been adopted as a self-identifying label for persons who experience their sexuality as more fluid than the individual LGBT labels imply.

Questioning: Persons who are engaging in a process of self-exploration around issues of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Reclaiming Language: The process of taking back terms that were once used as insults and instead instilling them with positive meaning for self-empowerment. Examples in the LGBT communities include queer, fag, dyke and trannie.  If you are not a member of the LGBT community, it is often best not to use reclaimed terminology unless you are sure that the terms will be received with your positive intent and not seen as insulting.  If you are LGBT (and out), use of reclaimed language is generally safe, but you may wish to be careful around those just coming to terms with their sexual orientation.  Some may not be aware that these terms have been reclaimed.  Others may not feel comfortable using particular terms.

Sexual Orientation: One’s sexual, affectional and romantic interests to members of the same gender (homosexual), other gender (heterosexual) or both/all genders (bisexual).  Some people experience their sexual orientation as an unchanging, lifelong part of their nature, and others experience it in more fluid ways that change over time or across situations. 

Transgender, trans or trans-identified: A person who identifies with a gender identity other than the one that was ascribed to their biological sex at birth; or a person who views their gender as more fluid than the strictly male or female gender categories allow. 

Transsexual: A person who identifies with and lives as a gender different (“opposite”) from the one typically assigned to their sex at birth.  Transsexual persons usually undergo gender transition with or without surgical or hormonal intervention.  Also known as male-to-female, MTF, female-to-male, FTM, transwomen, and transmen.