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Glossary of Terms

The following glossary offers a brief overview of terms that define lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities of color, as well as terms that relate to racial equity and effective grantmaking. For foundation leaders interested in exploring these subject matters, we've highlighted four comprehensive resources. Funders for LGBTQ Issues recognizes that identity-based terminology continuously evolves and welcome suggestions for additional terms and definitions.

A-F   |   G-L   |   M-R   |   S-Z

Bi-Gendered
One who has a significant gender identity that encompasses both genders, male and female. Some may feel that one side or the other is stronger, but both sides are there. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Bisexual
An individual who is physically, romantically, emotionally and/or spiritually attracted to men and women. Bisexuals need not have had equal sexual experience with both men and women; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual. Source: GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)

Cross-Cultural Competence
Emphasizes an ability to move fluently across many cultures by developing the skills to ask the right questions about the practices of any cultural group or any new situation. Source: Community Science

Cross-Dresser
A term for people who dress in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by the other sex, but who generally have no intent to live full-time as the other gender. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Cultural Competence
The integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services; thereby producing better outcomes. Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

Cultural Racism
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as "other," different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only white people as the great writers or composers. Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

Discrimination
The unequal treatment of members of various groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion and other categories. Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

Diversity
The wide range of national, ethnic, racial and other backgrounds of U.S. citizens and immigrants as social groupings, co-existing in American culture. The term is often used to include aspects of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class and much more. Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

Drag King
Used to refer to women who dress as men for the purpose of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Drag Queen
Generally used to accurately refer to men who dress as women (often celebrity women) for the purpose of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events. It is also used as slang, sometimes in a derogatory manner, to refer to all transgender women. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Ethnicity
A social construct which divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base. Examples of different ethnic groups are: Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American (Black); Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese (Asian); Cherokee, Mohawk, Navaho (Native American); Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican (Latino); Polish, Irish, and Swedish (White). Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

FTM
A person who transitions from "female-to-male," meaning a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male. Also known as a "transgender man." Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Gender Expression
How a person represents or expresses one's gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Gender Identity
An individual's internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one's gender identity is not necessarily visible to others. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Gender Non-Conforming
A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Genderqueer
A term used by some individuals who identify as neither entirely male nor entirely female. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Heterosexism
The attitude that heterosexuality is the only valid sexual orientation. It often takes the form of ignoring lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. Source: GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)

Individual Racism
The beliefs, attitudes and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can occur at both an unconscious level, and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of white people. Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

Institutional Racism
The network of institutional structures, policies and practices that create advantages and benefits for white people, and discrimination, oppression and disadvantages for people from targeted racial groups. The advantages created for whites are often invisible to them, or are considered "rights" available to everyone as opposed to "privileges" awarded to only some individuals and groups. Examples of institutional racism include policies and practices that: arbitrarily govern a person's credit-worthiness; determine what information, positive or negative, is presented in the media about individuals involved in newsworthy events; or place undue value on selective educational experiences or qualifications in establishing promotion criteria in jobs and schools. Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

Intersex
A term used for people who are born with external genitalia, chromosomes, or internal reproductive systems that are not traditionally associated with either a "standard" male or female. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

LGBTQ
Acronym for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer." Often used because it's more inclusive of the diversity of the community.

MTF
A person who transitions from "male-to-female," meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as a female. Also known as a "transgender woman." Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

People of Color/Communities of Color
For the purposes of this toolkit, refers to the many racial /ethnic communities living in the United States, including Arab and Iranian people, Asian and Pacific Islander people, Latina/o people, Native American/Two Spirit people and People of African Descent. All of these categories comprise diverse, multiracial sub-groups with unique histories, cultures and realities. Review the NewsWatch guide for people of color terminology

Queer
A term used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people. Some use queer as an alternative to "gay" in an effort to be more inclusive, since the term does not convey a sense of gender. Depending on the user, the term has either a derogatory or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used in a negative way. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Race
A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time. Racial categories subsume ethnic groups. Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

Racial Equity Lens
A racial equity lens brings into focus the ways in which race and ethnicity shape experiences with power, access to opportunity, treatment, and outcomes, both today and historically. Assessing racial equity in our institutions involves "analyzing data and information about race and ethnicity; understanding disparities—and learning why they exist; looking at problems and their root causes from a structural standpoint; and naming race explicitly when talking about problems and solutions. Source: Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity

Sex
The classification of people as male or female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex based on a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, and genitals. Source: GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)

Sex Reassignment Surgery
Surgical procedures that change one's body to make it conform to a person's gender identity. This may include "top surgery" (breast augmentation or removal) or "bottom surgery" (altering genitals). Contrary to popular belief, there is not one surgery; in fact there are many different surgeries. "Sex change surgery" is considered a derogatory term by many. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Sexual Orientation
A term describing a person's attraction to members of the same sex or different sex. Usually defined as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Structural Racism
A structural racism analytical framework identifies aspects of our history and culture that have allowed the privilege associated with 'whiteness' and the disadvantage of 'color' to endure and adapt over time. It points out the ways in which public policies and institutional practices contribute to inequitable racial outcomes. It lays out assumptions and stereotypes that are embedded in our culture that, in effect, legitimize racial disparities, and it illuminates the ways in which progress toward racial equity is undermined. Source: Evaluation Tools for Racial Equity

Transgender
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth, including but not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers, androgynous people, genderqueers, and gender non-conforming people. Transgender is a broad term and is good for non-transgender people to use. "Trans" is shorthand for "transgender." Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Transgender Man
A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a man (see also "FTM"). Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Transgender Woman
A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a woman (see also "MTF"). Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Transition
The period during which a person begins to live as their new gender. Transitioning may include changing one's name, taking hormones, having surgery, or changing legal documents (e.g. driver's license, Social Security record, birth certificate) to reflect their new gender. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Transphobia
The fear and discrimination surrounding transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Transsexual
A term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth. Often transsexual people alter or wish to alter their bodies through hormones or surgery in order to make it match their gender identity. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Transvestite
A term for a cross-dresser that is considered derogatory by many. Source: National Center for Transgender Equality

Two-Spirit
A contemporary term that references historical multiple-gender traditions in many First Nations cultures. Many Native/First Nations people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming identify as Two-Spirit; in many Nations, being Two-Spirit carries both great respect and additional commitments and responsibilities to one's community. Source: First Nations/Indigenous/Two-Spirit Collective, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force


Featured Resources

Media Reference Guide
GLAAD (GAY & LESBIAN ALLIANCE AGAINST DEFAMATION)
 
Transgender Terminology
NATIONAL CENTER FOR TRANSGENDER EQUALITY
 
News Watch Diversity Style Guide
CENTER FOR INTEGRATION AND IMPROVEMENT OF JOURNALISM
 
Glossary of Philanthropic Terms
THE FOUNDATION CENTER

Have a suggestion for a term or definition? Email us at info@lgbtfunders.org.