Words to Know

There are dozens of new terms that you might see on the PFLAG site or the websites of our allies and colleagues. Here are a few helpful definitions to get you started.
GLBT: Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. This acronym is used to refer to these individuals collectively. (It is sometimes stated as LGBT.) Occasionally, the acronym is stated as GLBTA to include allies – straight and supportive individuals – in the community.
Sexual Orientation: Enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings to other people. Heterosexual (straight) individuals experience these feelings primarily for people of the opposite sex. Homosexual (gay or lesbian) individuals experience these feelings primarily for people of the same sex. Bisexual (Bi) individuals experience these feelings for people of both sexes.
Gender Identity: A person’s sense of being male or female; resulting from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. Awareness of gender identity is usually experienced in infancy and reinforced in adolescence.
Gender expression: A person’s way of communicating gender identity to others.
Queer: Think of queer as an umbrella term. It includes anyone who a) wants to identify as queer and b) who feels somehow outside of the societal norms in regards to gender, sexuality or/and even politics. This, therefore, could include the person who would rather not identify with any particular label, the gender fluid bisexual, the gender fluid heterosexual, the questioning GLBT person, and the person who just doesn’t feel like they quite fit in to societal norms and wants to bond with a community over that.
Transgender: A broad term describing the state of a person’s gender identity which does not necessarily match his/her assigned gender at birth. Other words commonly used are female to male, male to female, crossdresser, drag queen or king, gender queer, gender blender, two-spirit, and androgyny.
Disorders of Sex Development (Intersex): The disorders called hermaphroditism (in the past) and intersex more recently are now being called by a preferred term which is Disorders of Sex Development or DSD. This large group of disorders and people with them are sometimes confused with people who are transgender. People who have a disorder of sex development are no more likely to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender than people in the general population. This topic is included on the PFLAG web site not only to help clear up this confusion, but also because people with these disorders often face the same type of discrimination as do GLBT people. People with DSDs are “coming out of the closet” in increasing numbers. Most all of these disorders are genetic, which means they are caused by having too many or too few chromosomes, or a normal number of chromosomes with one or more of them not working properly.