45 Gender and Sexuality-Related Terms You Need to Know

As we all know by now, gender, sexual orientation, and romantic preferences all span across a spectrum. And thanks to language constantly evolving, this means there are many more terms people can use to describe themselves that go well beyond just “straight” or “gay” and “male” or “female.”

But because sexuality and gender identity is so nuanced, it’s important to stay informed and knowledgeable about inclusive language so you can continue to provide a safe space for those around you. Especially since LGBTQ+ people can oftentimes be demonized for simply being themselves.

So whether you are one of the identities below or just want to be a better ally, read on to learn more about 45 LGBTQ+ terms that are absolutely essential to know.

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1. Aromantic

Aromantic is used to describe someone who doesn’t experience a romantic attraction to another person. This could look like someone who doesn’t want to go on dates, has no interest to ever be in a romantic relationship, and/or doesn’t need to get to know someone above and beyond a friendship.

Aromanticism is most often confused with asexuality. The difference is (to put it very simply) an asexual person may not want to sleep with you, while an aromantic person may not want a romantic relationship with you. But they might still decide to have one anyway.

2. Alloromantic

On the flip side of aromantic is alloromantic. The term describes people who experience romantic feelings for one or more individuals. An alloromantic person can experience romantic feelings with someone from the opposite gender or the same gender, of two genders, or of various genders. This is a privileged identity since it’s often the (incorrectly) assumed romantic orientation.

3. Agender

The term agender describes someone who doesn’t have any particular gender. This can include people who are not their assigned sex or not any gender. A tip to remember: “A” as a prefix means the absence of something, so when you look at the term “agender,” it refers to the absence of gender completely.

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4. Asexual

Put simply, if someone is asexual, it could mean they are not sexually attracted to other humans, explains sexologist Timaree Leigh, PhD. According to The Trevor Project , it’s “little interest in having sex even though most desire emotionally intimate relationships.”

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“You may desire close relationships with people, even romantic ones, but the idea of touching each other’s genitals is not particularly thrilling,” says Leigh.

But keep in mind that asexuality is different than celibacy, which is making an intentional decision not to have sex with others. “Asexual folks may still enjoy masturbation, but they may not fantasize about involving another person in it.”

5. Sex-repulsed

“Sex-repulsed” can describe someone who is uninterested in sex and/or finds sex undesirable. Chances are, they wouldn’t want to look at, hear about, or talk about any sexual activity. The reason for sex repulsion can be circumstantial, contextual, psychological, medical, or related to past trauma.

Oh, and while the term is commonly used within the asexual community, it’s not actually a marker of asexuality. Asexuality is a sexual identity, but being sex-repulsed describes the lived-in sexual experience.

6. Cupiosexual

Cupiosexuality falls under the larger asexual spectrum as a more specific label of asexuality. While asexuality describes someone who feels little to no attraction to others, cupiosexuality describes someone who still desires a sexual relationship despite feeling little to no attraction. So basically they want to have a sexual relationship, but they don’t experience sexual attraction.

7. Greysexuality

Another orientation within the asexuality spectrum is greysexual (or graysexual, grey-ace, or gray-ace). This term is used to describe people who experience sexual attraction and sexual feelings very rarely—whether that’s a few times their whole lives or more. Outside of the rare occurrences where they feel attraction, they’re virtually identical to asexual individuals.

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8. Greyromantic

Greyromantic is a romantic orientation, meaning it describes someone’s romantic interests and patterns—not their gender or sexual orientation. It’s kinda like a flip-flop of sexuality in the sense that “greyromantic” is used to describe a person who rarely feels a romantic attraction to someone. A greyromantic individual will experience romantic attraction more often than someone who is aromantic but less often than someone who is alloromantic.

9. Omnisexual

Since “omni” means “each and every one,” omnisexual means someone who can find themselves attracted to all people, regardless of their gender. It’s important to clarify that omnisexual people aren’t gender blind though—they see gender but someone’s gender is not why they’re attracted to them.

10. Trans feminine

While the term trans feminine most commonly describes someone who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) and is feminine, different people use the term in different ways. Some trans feminine people may be trans women (aka someone assigned male at birth who is a woman), whereas others may be non-binary people, genderqueer people, or any other gender identity.

11. Trans masculine

The term trans masculine describes someone who was assigned female at birth (AFAB) and is masculine. Like with trans feminine people, some trans masculine people may be trans men, whereas others might be non-binary, genderqueer, or another gender identity.

12. Demiboy

Demiboy is a gender identity that can be used to describe someone who embraces aspects of masculinity. It doesn’t matter whether they were born with X or Y chromosomes—their identity is tied in some way to the male gender.

Keep in mind that demiboy differs from what it means to be transgender though, because a demiboy might still be their assigned gender at birth.

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13. Demigirl

Opposite of demiboy, a demigirl is someone who embraces aspects of femininity. Demigirl is also different from the identity transgender since a demigirl might still be their gender assigned at birth.

14. Bigender

As the name suggests, bigender describes a person who is two genders. People who are bigender can alternate between being masculine and feminine or they can be both at the same time. They can also be two gender identities, like female and male, or femme and genderqueer, or trans feminine and agender, etc.

15. Allosexual

Allosexual simply means you’re a person who experiences sexual attraction but with no specific definition for who you feel attraction toward. The term originated from the asexual community in order to call attention to the power and privilege dynamics of attraction since being allosexual is a privileged identity and sexual attraction is assumed to be the “norm.”

16. Heteronormative

Heteronormativity is the perspective that all relationships are between cisgender, heterosexual people. This is problematic because it assumed that heterosexual relationships are the “norm” and heterosexuality is the default sexual orientation. Essentially, it says everyone is straight unless otherwise stated, which discredits the experiences of those who are not.

17. Amatonormativity

Amatonormativity describes the belief that everyone is better off in an exclusive, romantic, long-term, coupled-up relationship. This discredits the experiences of those who are asexual and polyamorous. Amatonormativity also suggests that romantic relationships are more important than other platonic relationships like with your friends, family, and coworkers.

18. Polysexuality

Polysexuality means someone is attracted to many genders and identities. More often than not, those who are polysexual ignore gender binaries altogether—especially when it comes to who they are and aren’t attracted to. Being polysexual means a person isn’t necessarily attracted to all genders, but they are to many of them.

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19. Pangender

The term pangender is used to describes someone who feels comfortable with different gender labels, meaning they are cool being labeled every gender identity known to them all at once. A pangender person might choose to shift between identities over time or simply be one, all-encompassing identity like “pangender” forever.

20. Compulsory heterosexuality

Compulsory heterosexuality, also called “comphet,” is the idea that heterosexuality is the only valid sexuality and everyone should be straight. Typically, this looks like an acquaintance asking you if you have a boyfriend or your mom insinuating you’re dating your guy friend because he’s, you know, a guy. For obvious reasons, this notion is super harmful to queer, trans, and/or non-cisgender folk.

21. Abrosexual

Abrosexual describes someone whose sexuality is fluid and whose sexual preferences, intensity, and/or attraction may change over time. There’s no time frame as for when or how often this person might change their sexual orientation.

22. Gender nonconforming

Gender nonconforming is an umbrella term that essentially challenges “accepted” gender expectations. The term is super broad and can relate to anything from how you live your life to how you perform gender through clothing, hairstyle, facial hair, and more.

23. Ceterosexual

This term refers to someone who is attracted to a person who is non-binary, transgender, and in some cases, anyone who isn’t cisgender. You may hear people use the term skoliosexual also, but this is no longer appropriate since “skolio” means “crooked” in Latin. Stick with ceterosexual.

24. Demiromantic

Demiromantic can be used to describe someone who feels romantic feelings only after they build a strong bond or connection with someone. But keep in mind that while someone who is demiromantic can experience romantic attraction, they don’t actively seek it.

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“The major difference for someone who is demiromantic is not that it’s a feeling that comes and goes with different people but an actual absence of any feeling around romanticism until they get deeply mentally connected to a partner,” says Courtney D’Allaird, assistant director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at University at Albany.

25. Biromantic

A biromantic person is capable of feeling a romantic connection with people of both similar and different genders from their own. Biromantic is only used to describe someone’s romantic preferences, not sexual preferences like bisexuality would.

26. Autosexual

If you are autosexual, it could mean you feel a sense of sexual attraction toward yourself, says sex and relationship expert Carmel Jones. And while autosexuality is often associated with narcissism, experts agree that’s not an accurate way of thinking of the term.

“Narcissists require admiration and attention from others and lack empathy,” explains Megwyn White, director of education for Satisfyer. “People who are autosexual are able to have relationships with others, but have a preference for sex with themselves,” she adds.

27. Orientation

Orientation, or sexual orientation, describes who you are attracted to.

28. Gender

Although they’re often misunderstood to mean the same thing, there’s a crucial difference between gender and sexual orientation. “Sexual orientation is whom you are attracted to romantically, while gender identity is how one perceives themselves, such as male, female, non-binary, etc.,” says sex educator and trauma specialist Jimanekia Eborn.

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29. Heterosexual

Heterosexuality means being straight. Someone is hetero if they are attracted to their opposite gender.

30. Gay

While gay traditionally refers to men who are attracted to other men, it also has an umbrella definition to describe anyone who dates their same gender. For instance, many lesbians may refer to themselves as gay.

31. Lesbian

A lesbian is a woman who dates and is attracted to other women.

32. Queer

Queer is another umbrella term that someone might use to describe themselves as not straight, but not comfortable with the gendered limitations of words like gay or lesbian,” says Leigh.

Keep in mind that queer is a word that was once a slur and was reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community though, so you never want to call someone this word unless they give you permission to.

33. LGBTQ+

LGBTQ+ is an acronym for the broader queer community. It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and more. Sometimes the “Q” also represents “question” (those questioning their sexuality) or it’s written out as LGBTQQ or LGBTQ+. Originally GLBT, the letters may also appear as LGBT or LGBTQI (adding an “I” for intersex).

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34. Bisexual

Bisexuality refers to the capacity for attraction to your own gender as well as genders that aren’t your own.

35. Pansexual

There’s a lot of overlap between bisexuality and pansexuality, and some people use both to describe their orientation. Pansexuality is defined as attraction to people regardless of their gender identity. For pansexuals, gender is not a determining point in who they are interested in.

36. Biphobia

Biphobia is fear, hatred, and stigma toward bisexual people. It’s typically rooted in incorrect stereotypes, like the assumptions that bi people can’t be monogamous and further perpetuate the gender binary by dating only cis people or that bisexuality is just a stepping stone away from gay or straight rather than a legit sexual orientation (which it is).

37. Gender binary

The gender binary assumes that someone is either male or female and relies on the gender assigned at birth based on genitals. As the gender revolution grows and more is understood about socialized gender roles, the more many people understand themselves and those around them as not just male or female but somewhere in between. That could mean both male and female, trans, or both non-binary and trans.

38. Non-binary

A non-binary person is someone who isn’t on the gender binary (meaning male or female). Non-binary is an umbrella term, and the pronouns someone uses and the way they describe their gender varies from person to person.

39. Gender fluid

In general, being gender fluid describes someone whose gender fluctuates. They maybe different genders at different times or points in their life. Like non-binary people, how a gender fluid person describes themselves and the pronouns they use vary from person to person. They may be male one day and female another. They may be both male and female at the same time, non-binary and female at the same time, all at the same time, etc.

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40. Transgender

Sometimes referred to as trans, this term refers to someone whose sex assigned at birth does not match their gender identity.

41. Intersex

Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which someone is born with reproductive anatomy that doesn’t match the traditional definitions of female or male. This can refer both to genitals and chromosomes doctors use to mark gender.

42. Cis

Cis is short for cisgender and used to describe a person whose gender matches the sex and gender assigned to them at birth.

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43. Cishet

Cishet is an abbreviation for someone who is both cisgender and heterosexual. A cishet person both identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth and is straight.

44. Hypersexual

Hypersexuality is exactly what it sounds like. Leigh defines it as the ability to be attracted to someone based on looks alone, without knowing them personally. As long as there’s communication involved, there’s nothing wrong with being hypersexual, just like there’s nothing wrong with being asexual.

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45. Demisexual

If sexuality is a spectrum, with asexuality at one end and hypersexuality at the other, demisexual sits in the middle. “Demisexuality implies that you don’t feel attraction for other people innately but can develop it over time with intimacy and connectedness,” says Leigh.

For even more guidance on sex and gender vocabulary, check out GLAAD’s Glossary of Terms.

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Updated: September 8, 2021 — 4:24 pm
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