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Terminology

Please note: Some explicit language is used

Finding a Common Language

ALLY:  An ally is a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in his or her own personal and professional life through support of and as an advocate with and for the oppressed population.  This definition can be expanded to include LGB and/or T identified people who are allies within their community.  Although all of the different identities within “LGBT” are often lumped together (and share sexism as a common root of oppression), there are specific needs and concerns related to each individual identity. 

Androgyny (also androgynous, bi-gendered, no-gendered):    A person who identifies as a member of both or neither of the two culturally-defined genders, female/male,  or a person who expresses merged culturally/stereotypically feminine and masculine characteristics or mainly neutral characteristics.
 
Asexual:  A person who does not experience sexual attraction or desire.  See http://www.asexuality.org/home/
 
Binary Gender:  A system that defines and makes room for two and only two distinct and “opposite” genders (female and male).  These two genders are defined in opposition to each other, so that masculinity and femininity are seen as mutually exclusive.  In this system, there is no room for any ambiguity or intermingling of gender traits.
 
Biphobia:  The fear or hatred and intolerance of bisexual people. 
 
Bisexual/Bi:  A person who feels love, affection, and sexual attraction regardless of gender.
 
Coming Out:  To declare and affirm to oneself and perhaps to others one’s identity as queer,   transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay. etc.  Coming out is not a single event, it is a life-long process.
 
FTM or F2M (Female to male):  Term used variously to identify a person who was female-bodied at birth and who identifies as masculine, identifies as male, lives as a man, or (most often) may be contemplating sex-reassignment surgery.
 
Gay:  A homosexual person.  The term usually refers to males but may be used to describe females as well.
 
Gender Assignment (Birth Gender Assignment):  The classification or grouping of individuals at birth as “female” or “male” on the basis of their observed biological sex.
 
Gender:  A cultural notion of what it is to be a woman or a man.  A construct based on the social shaping of femininity and masculinity.  It usually includes identification with males as a class or with females as a class.  Gender includes subjective concepts about character traits and expected behaviors that vary from place to place and person to person.
 
Gender Dysphoria:  An intense continuous discomfort resulting from an individual’s belief in the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and consequent gender-role expectations.  Also, a clinical psychological diagnosis, which offends many in transgender communities, but is often required for individuals to receive hormones and/or surgery in the course of gender transition.  See also Transition.
 
Gender Expression (orPresentation):  How a person represents or expresses their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice and emphasizing, de-emphasizing or changing their body’s characteristics.  Gender expression is not necessarily an indication of sexual orientation or gender identity.
 
Gender Identity:  Internal sense of being female or being male. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity in not necessarily visible to others. For some people, gender identity is in accord with physical anatomy.  For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles.  It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are not necessarily linked.
 
Heterosexual/Straight:  A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted and committed to the members of a gender or sex that is seen to be the “opposite of” or other than the one with which they identify or are identified.  
 
Heterosexism:  The concept that heterosexuality is natural, normal, superior, and required.A system of beliefs, actions, advantages, and assumptions in the superiority of heterosexuals or heterosexuality.  It includes unrecognized privileges of heterosexual people and the exclusion of non-heterosexual people fromdecision-making, protective policies, and decision-making.
 
Homophobia:  Fear and intolerance of homosexual people 
 
Homosexual:  A person who is primarily and/or exclusively attracted to members of what they identify as their own sex or gender.  A clinical term that originated in the late 1800s.  Some avoid the word because it contains the base word “sex.”   For some people orientation has as much to do with the love as with sex, and it is believed that the use of “homosexual” devalues the orientation of individuals.  The terms like “lesbian, bi, gay,” queer and other terms are preferred by many in the LGBT community.
 
In the closet:  To be in the closet means to hide one’s TBLG identity in order to avoid negative social consequences, such as losing a job, housing, friends, or family, or experiencing harassment or physical assault.  Many TBLG individuals are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others, based on their perceived level of safety.
 
Intersex:  A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy (including chromosomes and hormones) that does not appear to fit the typical definitions of female or male.  See http://www.isna.org/
 
Lesbian:  A common and acceptedword for female homosexuals only.  
 
M2F/MTF (Male to Female):  Used to identify a person who was male-bodied at birth       and       who identifies as a female, lives as a woman, or identifies as feminine.
 
Queer:  An inclusive, unifying umbrella term for people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning, particularly used by teens and young adults. Historically, “queer” has been used as a derogatory word to demean LGBT people; it should not be used freely by non-queer people.
 
Sex /Physical Sex: A classification based on reproductive biology. It is commonly assumed that there are two sexes; since a person’s sex is identified in four main ways (genetic sex, gonads, primary and secondary sex characteristics).  It is more nearly accurate to think of physical sex as a continuum with most individuals situated near its ends.
 
Sexism:  A system of beliefs, assumptions, and actions in the superiority of one
            sex (usually male) over another (female).
 
Sexual Identity:  One’s subjective experience of belonging to one sex or the other.  One’s
sexual identity may or may not be congruent with their biological sex.  The term is  sometimes confusingly used to refer to Sexual Orientation.
 
Sexual Orientation:  The internal experience that determines whether we are physically and emotionally attracted to men, to women, to both, or neither.  Some of the better-known labels or categories include gay, lesbian, (homosexual is more clinical), heterosexual, bisexual or asexual.
 
Sex-Reassignment Surgery (SRS):  A surgical procedure that alters one’s primary and/or  secondary sex characteristics in order to bring their body into alignment with hir gender identity.
 
Transgender: This term has many definitions. It is frequently used as an “umbrella” term to refer to all people who deviate from their assigned gender at birth or from the binary gender system.
 
Transition:  To change over time, generally through use of hormones and/or surgery, from one sex to another.
 
Transsexual (also Female to Male, Male to Female, Pre-Operative, Post-Operative, Non-Operative):  A person who, through experiencing an intense, long-term discomfort resulting from feeling the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and discomfort of their body, adapts their gender role and body to express and be congruent with their gender identity.  Includes cross-dressing, synthesized sex hormones, surgery and other body modification.

Please Note:It is very important to respect people’s desired self-identifications. One should never assume another person’s identity based on that person’s appearance. It is always best to ask people how they identify, including what pronouns they prefer, and to respect their wishes.

"For a more comprehensive list of terminology, please visit the University of Michigan Spectrum Center's web site at Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Affairs"

Explore the many resources and links provided. Please contact us if you have additional resources you would like to add.

 

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