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Common Terms to Know

Sexism: The societal/cultural, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege men, subordinate women, and denigrate women-identified values.

Heteronormativity: The societal/cultural, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that assume heterosexuality is the only natural, normal, acceptable sexual orientation.

Heterosexism: A system of attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of heterosexual sexuality and relationships.

Sexual Orientation: The desire for intimate emotional and sexual relationships with people of the same gender, people of a different gender, or a variety of genders.

Homophobia: The fear, hatred, or intolerance of lesbians, gay men, or any behavior that is outside the boundaries of heteronormativity. Homophobia can be manifested as fear of association with lesbian or gay people or being perceived as lesbian or gay. Homophobic behavior can range from telling jokes about lesbian and gay people to physical violence against people thought to be lesbian or gay. Many are replacing the term 'homophobia' with 'heterosexism', to more accurately express the system of oppression experienced.

Biphobia: The fear, hatred, or intolerance of individuals are identify as, or are perceived as, bisexual.

Heterosexual Privilege: The benefits and advantages heterosexuals receive in a heterosexist culture. Also, the benefits lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people receive as a result of claiming heterosexual identity.

Heterosexual Ally: Heterosexual people who confront heterosexism, transphobia, and heterosexual privilege in themselves and others out of self-interest, a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and a belief that heterosexism is a social justice issue.

Gender Identity: A person's individual, private sense of, and subjective experience of, their own gender.

Gender Expression: Everything we do that communicates our sex/gender to others: clothing, hair styles, mannerisms, way of speaking, roles we take in interactions, etc.

Gender Roles: The socially constructed and culturally specific behavior and appearance expectations imposed on women (femininity) and men (masculinity).

Biological Sex: The physiological and anatomical characteristics of maleness or femaleness with which a person is born.

Transgender: An umbrella term for a person whose self-identification challenges traditional notions of gender.

Transsexual: An older term which originated in the medical and psychological communities. Many transgender people prefer the term "transgender" to "transsexual". Some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe themselves. However, unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term, and many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

Queer: Originally a derogatory label used intimidate, threaten, and offend lesbian and gay people. More recently this term has been reclaimed by some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as an inclusive and positive way to identify all people targeted by heterosexism and homophobia. Some lesbians and gay men have similarly reclaimed previously negative words such as "dyke" and "faggot" for positive self-reference.

Drag Queen: A gay man who dresses in clothes, typically flamboyant and glamorous styles, associated with female movie stars or singers, all with theatrical intent and sometimes with the intention of poking fun at gender roles.

Cisgender: A person whose gender identity matches their body and the sex they were assigned at birth.

Pansexual: Sexual attraction, sexual desire, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward persons of all gender identities and biological sexes. Self-identified pansexuals may refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in determining whether they will be sexually attracted to others. Others identify as pansexual to break notions of a gender binary in which only 'men' or 'women' exist.

Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part the individuals identity. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.

Intersex: The presence of intermediate or atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish female from male. This is usually involving chromosomal, morphologic, genital and/or gonadal anomalies, such as diversion from typical XX-female or XY-male presentations, genital ambiguity, or sex developmental differences. The term "hermaphrodite" is considered outdated and inaccurate, and the term "intersex" in now preferred.

Outing: The act of disclosing a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBT) person's sexual orientation or gender identity without that person's consent. Outing gives rise to issues of privacy, choice, hypocrisy, and harm, and is heavily discouraged.

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