2SLGBTQIA+ glossary: list of definitions 

April 23, 2024
  • Research & Publications

2SLGBTQIA+ terminology is continuously evolving. As a result, it is important to note that this list is not an exhaustive list and these definitions are a starting point to understanding 2SLGBTQIA+ identities and issues. Different 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and communities may have broader or more specific understandings of these terms. 

2SLGBTQIA+: An acronym for Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and other people in the rainbow community. 

AFAB /AMAB: Short for “assigned female at birth” and “assigned male at birth,” or usually based on the appearance of a person’s genitals when they are born. These terms are preferable to inaccurate statements like saying someone is “biologically female” or “used to be a man.”  

AGENDER: A person who feels that they do not have a gender identity or that their gender identity is neutral. 

ALLY: Someone who fights alongside a marginalized identity group but who does not share that same identity. They believe in the dignity of and respect for all people and are willing to stand up in that role. For example, someone who identifies as heterosexual could be an ally for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as a whole; or a lesbian could be an ally for the trans community. 

ANDROGYNOUS: Identifying and/or presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine. 

ASEXUAL: The lack of a sexual attraction/desire for other people. 

BIGENDER: A person who identifies as two genders, either at the same time or moving back and forth between them. 

BIOLOGICAL SEX: Includes external genitalia, internal reproductive structures, chromosomes, hormone levels and secondary sex characteristics (for example, breasts, facial and body hair). These characteristics are objective: they can be seen and measured.  

Surprising to some, sex consists not just of two categories (male or female) but is a continuum. Most people exist somewhere near one end or the other. The space more in the middle is occupied by intersex people.  

BIPHOBIA: Prejudice, fear or hatred directed toward bisexual people. 

BISEXUAL: A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. 

CISGENDER: A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. 

CISNORMATIVITY: The societal idea that assumes all people are cisgender, and which privileges cisgender identities and underrepresents transgender and non-binary identities. 

CISSEXISM: Prejudice and discrimination in favour of cisgender identities, including the belief that it is better to be cisgender than transgender. 

CLOSETED: Describes an 2SLGBTQIA+ person who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

COMING OUT: The process in which a person acknowledges, accepts and appreciates their sexual orientation or gender identity and shares that with others. 

GAY: A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender. 

GENDER AFFIRMING SURGERIES (GAS) OR SEXUAL REALIGNMENT SURGERIES (SRS): Refers to medical procedures by which an individual is surgically altered to create the physical appearance of their authentic gender. Not all trans people seek surgery.  

GENDER BINARY: The idea that there are only two possible, opposing genders and that a person must identify as either a man or a woman. 

GENDER DYSPHORIA: Significant distress caused when a person’s assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify.  

GENDER EXPRESSION: Is everything that we do to communicate our gender to others. For example, the type of clothing we wear, our hair styles, mannerisms, the way we speak, the roles we take in interactions, etc.  

Gender expression is a continuum, with feminine at one end and masculine at the other. In between are gender expressions that are androgynous (neither masculine nor feminine) and those that combine elements of the two (sometimes called gender bending).  

Sometimes we communicate our gender expression purposefully, sometimes it’s accidental. Our gender expression could be forced on us as children or by dress codes at school or at work. 

Gender expression can vary for an individual from day to day or in different situations, but most people can identify a range on the scale where they feel the most comfortable. Some people inhabit a wider range of gender expression than others.  

GENDER FLUID: Describing someone whose gender is not fixed and shifts over time or depending on a situation.  

GENDER IDENTITY: Each person’s internal and individual experience of gender, their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither or anywhere on the gender spectrum. Gender identity may develop as a person goes through life and learns more about themselves. 

GENDER NON-CONFORMING: A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category. 

GENDERQUEER: A person whose gender identity may not align with gender binary expectations. They may identify as both a man and a woman, move between genders or reject the gender binary altogether. 

HETERONORMATIVITY: The societal idea that assumes all people are heterosexual, and which privileges heterosexuality over other sexual orientations. 

HETEROSEXISM: Prejudice and discrimination in favour of heterosexuality, including the belief that heterosexuality is the best sexual orientation. 

HOMOPHOBIA: The fear, hatred of /or discomfort with people who are attracted to members of the same gender. 

INTERSECTIONALITY: The understanding that every individual occupies many overlapping identity categories (race, gender, class, etc.) and that the combination of these categories shapes the way they experience the world and the privilege/marginalization that they encounter. 

INTERSEX: An umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, these traits are visible at birth, and in others, they are not apparent until puberty. A person whose chromosomes, hormonal make-up or anatomy fall outside the categories of male or female. Some chromosomal variations of this type may not be physically apparent at all. 

LESBIAN: A woman who is attracted physically and emotionally to other women. 

MTF/FTM (male to female/female to male): An older short-form indicating transition from one binary gender to another. MTF is someone who was assigned male at birth and is transitioning to female. FTM is someone who was assigned female at birth and is transitioning to male.  

NON-BINARY: Gender that exists outside of the gender binary (see gender binary). While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do. 

PANSEXUAL: Describes someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. 

QUEER: Sometimes used as an umbrella term for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Some people may also identify as queer instead of or in addition to more rigid identity categories. Historically a negative term, it has been reclaimed by many in the 2SLGBTQIA+ movement in the last few decades. 

QUESTIONING: A person who is unsure of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

SEXUAL ORIENTATION: An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. It indicates who we are attracted to/want to be intimate with. 

SEX ASSIGNED AT BIRTH: The sex (male or female) given to a child at birth, most often based on the child’s external anatomy. This is also referred to as “assigned sex at birth.” (See AFAB /AMAB). 

SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity): Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). It’s an inclusive term that applies to everyone, whether they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, heterosexual or cisgender. It’s important for workplaces to be inclusive and safe spaces for workers of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Being SOGI-inclusive means speaking about SOGI in a way that makes every workers feel like they belong, not limiting a person’s potential based on their biological sex and how they understand or express their gender, and welcoming everyone without discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

TRANSGENDER: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Often shortened to trans. 

TRANSITION: The process of changing one’s gender presentation and/or sex characteristics to align with one’s internal sense of gender identity. Transitioning can mean lots of different things. It can involve medical treatment and hormones. It can involve changing your name and pronouns. It can involve changing your appearance and dress. It can involve coming out to your friends and family. It can be a long and ongoing process, or it can be something that happens over a short period of time.  

TRANSPHOBIA: The fear and hatred of/or discomfort with transgender and gender non-conforming people. Like all prejudices, it is based on negative stereotypes and misconceptions that are then used to justify and support hatred, discrimination, harassment and violence toward trans people.  

TWO-SPIRIT (also Two Spirit or Two-Spirited (2S)): Some Indigenous people identify themselves as Two-Spirit rather than as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Historically, in many Indigenous cultures, Two-Spirit persons were respected leaders and medicine people. Two-Spirit persons were often accorded special status based upon their unique abilities to understand both male and female perspectives. Note that this term is specific to Indigenous peoples and should not be used by those who are not Indigenous to describe themselves.