This activity focuses in on the essential vocabulary and LGBTQ terminology relating to gender and sexuality.
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  • Core list participant handout
  • Do’s/Don’ts handout
  • Pens/pencils for participants


  • On a flipchart or whiteboard, draw a star (or asterisk) with “new word” next to it and check mark with “check in” next to i

Facilitator Framing

  • The goal of vocabulary isn’t to read definitions for every word, but to allow your participants to highlight the words that they are most interested in and to clarify those words.
  • The length of clarification, or of additional information you provide on any word (which is not required), will impact the amount of words that participants are able to/will ask about. Longer answers = fewer words covered.

Goals & Learning Outcomes

  • Participants will be able to clarify questions that they have about foundational LGBTQ vocabulary.
  • Participants will be on the same page about common terminology that will be used throughout the rest of the training.
  • Participants will have a clearer understanding of the importance of language in relation to creating affirming environments LGBTQ individuals.

Process Steps

  1. Frame the activity. For example, “We are going to be diving into vocabulary. Having a common understanding of these terms is important as many of them are going to be used throughout the workshop. Also vocabulary is often the subject where folks have the most questions or misconceptions and we want to make sure to let y’all ask any questions you may have regarding language.”  
  2. Give participants 1 minute to read through terms, specifying that they only read the boldface terms, not the definitions. Tell them to put a star next to new words, and a checkmark next to any word they have a question about or want to “check in on.”
  3. Once participants have looked through all the terms, begin with the starred terms on the first page. Ask participants, “What is a term you have starred on the first page?” When someone names a term, ask that participant if they would read the definition aloud to the group. After reading the definition, check in to make sure the definition is understood. (If you want, you can open it up for any additional questions.)
  4. Add tidbits or examples of your own to help contextualize the definitions. (One of our favorite is to highlight why the part of speech is important — see Notes section for why.)
  5. Start with the next starred term on that page and repeat.
  6. Advise participants that in the resource guide they will find a link to a longer list of terms for them to explore on their own.  

Do/Don’t Handout

This handout is a handy reference guide for your participants. These are words and phrases that are often well-intentioned, but cause harm or aren’t received the way the speaker often means for them to be. You can simply mention it at the end of the vocab for participants to read later and move on, or you can spend 5 minutes working through the handout.

If you spend some time working through the handout, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Ask your participants to read down the “avoid saying” column. Ask them what questions they have about those phrases or words.
  2. Any questions that come up read the “say instead” and the example. Offer any further clarification you’d like to add.
  3. Repeat down the list.
  4. Move into wrap-up.


While you are wrapping up vocabulary, let folks know that terminology is going to continue to come up throughout the workshop. Participants should feel free to ask/inquire about terms they don’t know/understand that any point.

Unlock the Magic

Role model imperfection! If you struggled with a term or concept, share that with your group.


Participants only receive the “Core Vocab” pages and the “Do’s and Don’ts” handout. The “Comprehensive list” is simply for you (the facilitator’s) reference.

Vocabulary can go for much longer than 20 minutes. It is important to clarify with your co-facilitator (or just prepare yourself) how you are going to decide the amount of time that is appropriate for vocabulary in relation to your training (i.e., are you going to let it go long if there’s a ton of questions/pressure, or are you cutting it at 20 minutes no matter what?).

If the same person keeps volunteering starred/checked terms, ask other participants to read the definitions (don’t require one person to read all the definitions). Similarly, if someone volunteers a word, but doesn’t feel comfortable reading the definition, ask for another volunteer.

Parts of speech matter. Using the correct part of speech for certain words is crucial. Some words are not affirming when they are used as nouns (queer, gay, transgender). As a general rule, when in doubt, adjectives are always safer. They add on an aspect of someone’s identity rather than reducing them to a single identity. For example, it feels different when you say, “Meg is a blonde,” vs. “Meg is blonde.”

With identity terminology, no definition is absolute, or applicable to 100% of people who use that term to describe themselves. We like to say that we embrace the 51/100 rule, meaning that if we can write a definition for a term that 51 out of 100 people who use that label personally would agree with, we’re nailing it. With this in mind, know that 49/100 people might disagree — slightly, or severely —  with any definition your provide. That’s okay! Someone can use a word to mean something different from the definition here, and you can provide a definition as an “in other cases” context.

These definitions and terms change (sometimes quite rapidly), so don’t be alarmed if you haven’t seen a term before or have heard a different definition.