On the Edge: Why Sexuality & Gender Identity Matters

gender identity and sexuality matter - glossary of gender terms

As humans, we often like to see things as black or white. We put things in boxes and give them labels. But why? Perhaps it is a way to make sense of our complex world—a way to understand all the unpredictable and unexplainable parts and pieces. When we put things in a particular box, we expect them to behave in a specific way—helping us move through the chaos of life more easily.

But is this human instinct? Or is this a learned trait built by social constructs throughout time? Do we need to put things in boxes? Is adding new boxes as things change the best path forward? Maybe. But maybe not. You could start thinking about things along a spectrum rather than in concrete boxes. Imagine for a moment all the many differences throughout the human population. We can say she is a redhead, or we could be more specific and say her hair is a reddish brown. He may be an adventurous soul, but how adventurous? Putting things too discreetly in boxes is a form of ignorance if you think about it.

And so we arrive at the boxes formed for sexuality and gender identity. A modern-day creation studied and disputed by psychologists, philosophers, and social activists since the late 20th century—a core human variant since the beginning of time.

Gender identity and sexuality boxes are not concrete. And the best way to help people communicate about them accurately and respectfully is with education and information. This brings us to the purpose of our article, a glossary of terms to help you grow your library of boxes. We all deserve to have words to describe our authentic selves! (Note: This is by no means a definitive list.)

Gender Identity & Sexuality Glossary


The external manifestations of gender expressed through things such as names, pronouns, clothing, haircuts, behavior, voice, body characteristics, and more.


One’s innate sense of their gender. Some people identify entirely with the gender they were assigned at birth, while others may identify with only a part or another gender entirely. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others.


At birth, infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy, and often confused with gender. However, a person’s sex is actually a combination of bodily characteristics, including chromosomes, hormones, reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics. As a result, there are many more sexes than just male and female.


The desire one has for emotional, romantic, and/or sexual relationships with others based on their gender expression, gender identity, and/or sex. Many people choose to label their sexual orientation, while others do not.

Abrosexual, Abro, Sexual Fluidity (SO)

Adj. Someone who has different levels of sexual or romantic attractions throughout their life.

Androgynous or Stemme (GE)

Adj. Androgynous, or androgyne, presents as neither male nor female, mixed or neutral. And stemme, or stem, is someone whose gender expression is both masculine and feminine.

Asexual, Ace (SO)

Adj. Someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction or who experiences attraction but doesn’t feel the need to act on it sexually.

Bisexual, Bi (SO)

Adj. Someone who is attracted to the same gender and a different gender.

Cisgender, Cis (GI)

Adj. A person whose gender identity matches the gender assigned at birth.

Drag (GE)

Noun, Adj. The act of performing a gender or presenting as a different gender, usually for the purpose of entertainment (i.e., drag kings and queens).

Gay (SO)

Adj. Someone who is attracted to those of the same gender. Often used as an umbrella term but more specifically to describe men attracted to men.

Gender Dysphoria, Gender Euphoria

Noun. Gender Dysphoria is the feeling of significant discomfort or distress related to one’s biological sex, gender identity, or expression. Gender Euphoria is the feeling of substantial right-ness or comfort with one’s biological sex, gender identity, or expression.

Intersex (S)

Adj. Someone who, due to various factors, has reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not seem to fit the typical definitions for the female or male sex. Some people who are intersex may identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, while many others do not.

Lesbian (SO)

Adj., Noun. A woman (or non-male) who is attracted to other women (or non-males). Some prefer to identify as gay women, and some lesbians also identify as non-binary.

Non-binary (GI)

Adj. A person whose gender identity does not conform to the gender binary, the erroneous idea that only two distinct and opposite genders exist, male and female.

Pansexual, Pan (SO)

Adj. Someone who is attracted to people of any or all genders.

Pronouns, Neopronouns (GI, GE)

Noun. A word used in place of a name to refer to someone, often about their gender. Gendered pronouns include she/her/hers and he/him/his. Gender-neutral pronouns include they/them/theirs (used in the singular), ze/zir/zirs, and many others.

Queer (GE, GI, S, SO)

Adj. Anyone who is not heterosexual and/or cisgender. In the past, queer was a negative term for people who are gay and thus sometimes disliked. But the term is increasingly used to describe all identities and politics that go against normative beliefs.


Noun, Verb. A time in many people’s lives when they question or experiment with their gender expression, gender identity, and/or sexual orientation.

Transgender, Trans (GI)

Adj. Someone whose gender identity differs from the one assigned at birth.

Transition (GE)

Verb. The process through which some transgender people change their gender expression to more closely resemble how they view their gender identity.

Gender identity & sexuality definitions sourced from itgetsbetter.org, stonewall.org.uk, and the Oxford Dictionary
Introduction by Anna Beck
Feature Photo via Adobe Stock
Article Originally Appeared in Love Happens Volume 6

Explore More of Lh’s ‘Embracing Individuality & Authenticity’ Edition