As you may have noticed in the last couple of entries, I tend to sling around queer vernacular without taking any time to clarify what those words mean. While words and sexual identity deserve their own conversation at a later date, let me take a moment to supply you with a quick primer on some basic terminology.

Asexual: A person who harbors no sexual attraction for anybody.

Cisgendered: A term for people who identify as the biological sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender: A social construction of how people should behave based on their biological sex. There are more than two genders.

Heteronormative: The term for the societal privileging and normalizing of heterosexuality, which results in the othering of anything that deviates from that model.

Intersectionality: You may have noticed that people have an identity beyond their sexual orientation. When two or more of those identities affect each other, it’s referred to as intersectionality. For instance, the intersectionality between being gay and Jewish.

LGBT: Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Trans. This term has been expanded to include intersex and asexual individuals, and those who are questioning.

Intersex: Folks with biological sexual attributes that do not fall within the traditional male/female binary. They do exist, and are probably more common than you think; 1 in 2000 people are born intersex.

Pansexual: A person who is attracted to anybody, regardless of whether they fall into the traditional gender binary or way outside of it. Or, as I like to refer to them (myself included), “equal opportunity employers.”

Polyamorous: Referred to as “poly,” this term references folks who have romantic relationships with more than one person. It does not refer to your scumbag cheating ex, unless he did identify as poly and came out about this to you a little bit too late.

Trans: Shorthand for transgendered individuals.

Queer: A catch-all term that encompasses any sexual identity falling outside of the heteronormative and/or cisgendered system. Because it is a reclaimed slur, it is not a one-size-fits-all term, and it is politically charged.

Questioning: People who aren’t sure about their identity yet.

Sex: A person’s biological sexual attributes, either physically or chromosomally. Despite society’s best efforts to convince you otherwise, there are more than two of these, as well.

This list is small, incomplete, and constantly evolving. The only way to get a truly proper grip on the vernacular is to keep an ear out for it and read as much as you can. I am not a walking info-box, and neither is any other queer individual. Truthfully, I feel uncomfortable giving out definitions, because it can rope people into thinking that our words are rigid, which is patently untrue. Be open-minded. Know that a person defines their own identity. The best thing you can do is be respectful of it and honor their wishes.


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