What do all those terms meanIt seems like there’s a new addition to the alphabet soup of LGBTQ every day. Well, not really, but there are so many letters, so many terms. What do all those terms mean?

Let’s start with the obvious. LGBTQ-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (the q is referred to as queer or questioning, depending on who is using it). Here are some of the others:

I – intersex. People born intersex may have ambiguous genitals, may have one gender genitals on the outside and another on the inside. The “typical” chromosomes may not be. For a good definition, check out Intersex Society of North America’s definition.

A – Ally or Asexual. An ally is someone who supports and affirms the LGBTQ community, even when they do not identify as LGBTQ. Asexuality is characterized by a persistent lack of sexual attraction toward any gender. You can learn more at What is Asexuality.

P – Pansexual. Someone who is pansexual is attracted to a person, not a gender. That includes people who fall anywhere on the gender spectrum – male, female, genderqueer, non-binary. There’s some great information at Stop Homophobia, including the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality.

P – Polysexual .Attraction to more than one gender, but not necessarily one’s own gender. (Bisexual meaning attraction to one’s own gender and at least one other.)

People can get confused by the terms indicating gender identity. Gender non-conforming is often used to describe someone who doesn’t conform to “standards” of their gender. For example, a boy who likes princess dresses, purple and pink, and sparkles. He doesn’t feel like or identify as a girl, he just likes what “standard” says are girl things.

Nonbinary refers to someone who doesn’t fall on the gender binary. They don’t feel male or female. Gender queer (or genderqueer) is similar. Someone who identifies as genderqueer may be nonbinary. They may feel they move along the gender binary – sometimes feeling more male, sometimes more female or both at the same time.

Transgender refers to a person who feels in their heart and mind like the gender opposite the one they were identified as at birth. For example, a boy assigned male at birth (AMAB) knows in her heart and mind that she is really a girl. They may express this as early as when they can talk or much later. A girl assigned female at birth (AFAB) knows in his heart and mind that he is really a boy. They may express this as early as when they can talk or much later.

Cisgender refers to the person who feels in their heart and mind the same as their gender assigned at birth. That’s most of us.

Nonbinary, genderqueer, transgender, cisgender are all terms to indicate one’s gender identity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, bisexual are terms indicating one’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is who a person is attracted to. Gender identity is who a person knows themselves to be in their heart and mind.

When did you know your gender identity and sexual orientation? How old were you? For those of us who are cisgender and straight, it’s not often something we’ve even thought of. I’ve always known I was a girl. I never questioned it or felt it not to be true. It’s been who I am as far back as I can remember. I knew my sexual orientation at about puberty. Many know much earlier. I don’t remember having crushes in elementary school but I know lots of people who do. Their sexual orientation was evident from an early age.

What other questions do you have? Feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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