The FOLX Guide to LGBT Community Terminology

As a queer and trans healthcare brand, we use LGBTQ+ terminology not everyone is familiar with. If you’re curious about learning new vocabulary, we’ve compiled a glossary available for reference.

May 9, 2022
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Image is illustrated by Hugo Alberto.

Because LGBTQ people have been historically excluded from healthcare, our vocabulary is often not well known. Our brand, however, doesn’t shy away from using our own language to describe our experiences. We’ve compiled a glossary of important key terms used by the community.

Ally (noun): An ally is someone who is heterosexual or cisgender but who supports the autonomy, agency, and livelihood of the LGBTQ+ community and acts in ways that demonstrate their solidarity. 

Agender (adj.): Someone who does not identify as having a particular gender or feels a “lack of gender.”

Aromantic (adj.): A term describing someone who does not experience romantic attraction and/or doesn’t find romantic relationships desirable. Aromantic people can also be asexual people.

Asexual (adj.): Someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction to people, regardless of gender.

Assigned female at birth/AFAB (noun): A term used to describe people who were designated female on their birth certificate. This word is often used to describe people who were born with a vagina and/or ovaries.

Assigned male at birth/AMAB (noun): A term used to describe people who were designated male on their birth certificate.

BIPOC (noun): An acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

Binding (verb): The process of tightly wrapping someone’s chest or wearing a binder to reduce dysphoria and minimize the appearance of breasts. 

Bisexual (adj.): Someone who is attracted to both people of their own gender and people of other genders. Bisexual people typically are attracted to more than two genders, despite having a “bi” prefix implying “two.”

Bottom surgery (noun): A word used to describe a range of gender-affirming genital surgeries.

Cisgender (adj.): A term to describe a person for whom the gender they identify with now corresponds to the gender assigned on their original birth certificate (i.e. someone who is not transgender or non-binary). Sometimes shortened to “cis.” Cisgender people identify as either male or female/man or woman.

Cisheteronormativity (noun): A patriarchal system that normalizes those who are cisgender and heterosexual. It also centers the gender binary where there are only two gender options of male and female.

Cis man/cisgender man (noun): Someone who was assigned male at birth and identifies as a man.

Cis woman/cisgender woman (noun): Someone who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman.

Cis privilege (noun): The privilege you receive when your gender identity or expression matches your sex assigned at birth. For example, you are not denied access to healthcare, discriminated against in the workplace due to your gender identity, misgendered when addressed or spoken about, questioned about your gender, asked what your "real" name is, or fearful of violence because of your identity.

FTM (noun): Stands for female-to-male. This is an older term that many people still use to self-identify as someone who is transitioning or has transitioned from female-to-male, or in other words, a trans man.

Gay (adj.): A sexual orientation that describes someone who is sexually and romantically attracted to people of their own gender. The term can be used regardless of gender identity but is commonly used to describe men who date other men, i.e. gay men.

Gender affirmation surgery (noun): Gender affirming surgery refers to a number of surgeries that allow transgender people to live their lives authentically. Not all transgender people choose to get gender-affirming surgeries, although many trans people do to improve their wellbeing, mental health, and quality of life.

Gender binary (noun): The ideological concept and belief that there are only two genders, male and female, and that a person must strictly fit into one category or the other.

Gender dysphoria (noun): Emotional and physical distress experienced by some transgender and non-binary people whose perceived genders don’t match their sex assianged at birth. Gender dysphoria can cause depression, anxiety, mental unrest, and severe psychological and social distress. It is often made worse by unaddressed transphobia and gendered microaggressions in work, family and public life.

Gender expansive (adj.): An umbrella term to describe anyone whose gender is outside of the male and female binary. This can be a more flexible term to describe people who aren’t cisgender but don’t necessarily identify as transgender.

Gender expression (noun): How a person chooses to express their gender through appearance, mannerisms, behavior, hair, or style. This is how someone chooses to present their gender to the world around them. Gender expression can be fluid and doesn’t always directly correlate to a person’s gender identity. Everyone has a gender expression.

Genderfluid (adj.): Similar to gender expansive, this term describes a person whose gender identity is not fixed.

Gender identity (noun): A person’s internal sense of their gender or who they know themselves to be (i.e. a man or woman, both, neither, or another gender).

Gender neutral (adj.): A term to refer to language and ways of being that are not explicitly gendered one way or another. This can mean using gender-neutral language such as “folks” or “all” instead of “guys'' or “ladies and gentlemen.” It can also mean not prescribing gender to things that are not inherently masculine or feminine i.e. behaviors, activities, clothing, body parts, etc. 

Gender nonconforming (adj.): A term to describe a person whose behavior, appearances, or characteristics do not conform to the prevailing norms or social expectations of what is appropriate for a man or woman.

Genderqueer (adj.): Similiar to genderfluid, this term describes a person whose gender identity is not solely male or female. Genderqueer can describe a person who “queers” gender, meaning their gender can shift and change at any given time.

Gender role (noun): A term describing for how we're expected to behave (including dress, approach sexual relationships, and more) based upon our assigned sex. Gender roles are rooted in gender norms, which is a social code for restricting our gender identities into what is considered to be socially acceptable.

Gender variance (noun): Another word for gender nonconformity. Can also be used as an adjective, gender variant.

Harm reduction (noun): A set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. It can also be used to apply to sex, eating disorders, self-harm, etc.

Heteronormativity (noun): The assumption that heterosexuality (including heterosexual people) is the default and through which being straight becomes the standard for defining “normal” sexual, cultural, and social behavior.

Heterosexism (noun): Prejudice, discrimination, or bias against queer or gay people from heterosexuals based on the belief that heterosexuality is normal, natural, and innate.

Heterosexual/straight (adj.): A sexual orientation that describes women who are sexually and romantically attracted to men and men who are sexually and romantically attracted to women.

Homophobia (noun): An irrational and systematic fear, hatred of, or aversion to queer people or people who are perceived as such.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) / gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) (noun): Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) is a life-saving and life-affirming treatment process for people seeking to physically change their bodies to fit their gender identities. Estrogen HRT and testosterone HRT are two types of hormone therapy for transgender people. HRT and GAHT can be interchangeable terms; however, GAHT is more specific to transgender, nonbinary, and other gender variant people because HRT can include cisgender people.

Hysterectomy (noun): A surgical operation through which parts of all of a person’s uterus are removed. Some transgender people may choose to get a hysterectomy to relieve gender dysphoria or for other health reasons.

Intersectionality (noun): The concept that identities are influenced by multiple factors such as race, class, ethnicity, sexuality/sexual orientation, gender/gender identity, physical disability, national origin, etc., and that all of these factors do not exist individually outside of one another.

Intersex (adj.): Intersex people who are born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies, including chromosome patterns, gonads, or internal/external genitals. 

Lesbian (noun and adj.): A sexual orientation that describes a woman who is romantically and sexually attracted to other transgender or cisgender women.

LGBTQIA+ (noun): A collective term that is used to describe people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and more. Previously, LGBT has been used as the standard acronym.

Nonbinary (adj.): A term to describe people who do not identify as men or women. Some nonbinary people also identify as transgender while others do not. Non-binary can be thought of as an umbrella term to describe people whose genders fall outside of the gender binary.

Misgendering (verb): Refers to a person using gendered language, pronouns, or forms of address that do not correctly reflect the gender that they are, identify with, and wish to be known as. 

MTF (noun): Stands for male-to-female. This is an older term that many people still use to self-identify as someone who is transitioning or has transitioned from male-to-female, or in other words, a trans woman.

Pansexual (adj.): A sexual orientation that is not limited in choice by gender identity or sex assigned at birth. Some describe this as being attracted to all genders.

Passing (verb): A term used to describe when a transgender person is read as cisgender.

Pronouns (noun): A word that is used to refer to someone instead of a name or noun phrase. Different gendered pronouns include she, he, they, and many more. For a complete list of pronouns, check out this guide by the University of California, Davis.

QTPOC (noun): An acronym stands for queer and trans people of color.

Queer (adj.): A sexual orientation that can be thought of as “not straight.” This word is often used by people who think of their sexuality as outside of heteronormative societal norms. Some people view the term queer to be more inclusive and political than more traditional categories of sexual orientation, while other people do not use the word to self-identify because of its historical context as a derogatory slur.

Sex assigned at birth (noun): “Sex assigned at birth” refers to the label a medical professional gives to a baby when it is born. A medical professional may say a baby is male, female, or intersex, depending on an external biological evaluation. When an F or an M goes in the birth certificate, this is someone’s sex assigned at birth.

Sexual orientation (noun): How a person characterizes their emotional and sexual attraction to others.

Stealth (adj.): A word to describe a person or a scenario in which someone is not openly out as transgender for safety or other reasons.

Top surgery (noun): A word used to describe a range of gender-affirming chest surgeries. 

Toxic masculinity (noun): A narrow and repressive version of masculinity or manhood through which exaggerated traits of dominance, stoicism, strength, confidence, misogyny and/or violence become the unspoken code through which masculinity is achieved. 

Transgender (adj.): A term to describe a person whose gender identity and assigned sex at birth do not correspond. Also can be used as an umbrella term to include other gender identities outside of male and female. Sometimes shortened to “trans.”

Transitioning (verb): For transgender people, this refers to the process of coming to recognize, accept, and express one’s gender identity. Most often, this refers to the period when a person makes social, legal, or medical changes, such as changing their clothing, name, appearance, or sex designation.

Transgender man/trans man (noun): A transgender person whose gender identity is male. Trans men are men, just like cis men, only they happen to be trans. 

Transmasculine (adj.): A word to describe a transgender and/or non-binary person who identifies as masculine, but may or may not identify as a man.

Transfeminine (adj.): A word to describe a transgender and/or non-binary person who identifies as feminine, but may or may not identify as a woman.

Transmisogyny (noun): The intersection of transphobia and misogyny as experienced by trans women and transfeminine people.

Transsexual (noun): A term used in medical literature or by some transgender people to describe those who have transitioned through medical interventions. Some find the term to be outdated, while others still self-identify as such.

Transgender woman/trans woman (noun):  A transgender person whose gender identity is female. Trans women are women, just like cis women, only they happen to be trans. 

Transphobia (noun): The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of transgender people, gender non-conforming people, or those who are perceived as such.

Tucking (verb): The process that some people will undergo by hiding one’s genitals with tape, tight shorts, or specially designed undergarments to reduce dysphoria and the appearance of a bulge.

Two-spirit (adj.): An American Indian Indigenous term that refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some to describe their sexual identity, gender identity, and/or spiritual identity.

Vaginoplasty (noun): A surgical procedure by which a vagina and vulva are created from existing genital tissue. Some transgender women and transfeminine people choose to get this gender-affirming surgery to relieve gender dysphoria.


FOLX Health is the first digital healthcare company designed by and for the LGBTQIA+ community. Our services include virtual primary care, gender-affirming hormone therapy including estrogen and testosterone (HRT), mental health care, sexual and reproductive health care, preventive care, and fertility consultations. FOLX memberships give you access to LGBTQIA+ expert clinicians, peer support, thousands of LGBTQIA+ resources, and more. Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, or nonbinary, you can find LGBTQIA+-specialized health care that helps you meet your wellness goals. FOLX Health is health care that's queer all year. Get all the benefits of becoming a FOLX member and sign up today!

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