Sexual Orientation: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual (LGB)
Emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings toward other people. People who are straight experience these feelings primarily for people of the opposite sex. People who are gay or lesbian experience these feelings primarily for people of the same sex, people who are bisexual experience these feelings for people of both sexes, and people who are asexual experience no sexual attraction at all. Other terms include (but are not limited to) pansexual and polysexual. Sexual orientation is part of the human condition, while sexual behavior involves the choices one makes in acting on one’s sexual orientation. One can have sex with someone and even have children, but that doesn’t necessarily define or align with their sexual orientation. Many LGB people have first married an opposite-sex partner and had children with them, sometimes out of a sense of obligation or cultural expectation, before coming out as gay or lesbian. It is important to remember that one’s sexual activity does not define who one is with regard to one’s sexual orientation; it is the attraction that helps determine orientation.1
Gender Identity: Transgender, Queer
Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics. “Trans” is sometimes used as shorthand for “transgender.” While transgender is generally a good term to use, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender-nonconforming will identify as a transgender person. The ways that transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academia and science are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge and openness about transgender people and their experiences grow.
1American Psychological Association
A term currently used by some people—particularly youth— to describe themselves and/or their community. Some value the term for its defiance, some like it because it can be inclusive of the entire community, and others find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities. Traditionally a negative or pejorative term for people who are gay, “queer” is disliked by many within the LGBT community, who find it offensive. Due to its varying meanings, this word should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who self-identifies as queer (i.e. “My cousin self-identifies as genderqueer.”)1
1PFLAG National Glossary of Terms