For Learners

Defining LGBTQ+: A Guide to Gender & Sexuality Terminology

Meg Bolger

Demisexual. Agender. Non-binary. Ally. Cisgender. Constellation. Pansexual.

When I first attended a Safe Zone training in 2009, I wouldn’t have been able to define any of those terms. When I first started facilitating in 2010, only about half of those words were even in my vocabulary activity.

Vocabulary has changed a lot in the past 10 years that I’ve been interacting with gender and sexuality in an educational setting. And it can be intimidating. There are new terms that didn’t exist 10 years ago and there are even more terms that existed but were not part of popular culture.

And this can create a real barrier to anyone who wants to be part of the conversation.

Whether you’re looking for an identity term that fits you, or just wanting to know what all the different language used around you means, vocabulary is often the place you need to start. But when it changes so rapidly and new words enter the lexicon constantly, it can be hard to feel like there is a place to start your learning. Especially a place that you know is LGBTQ+ affirming, accessible, and friendly for beginners.

For years now Sam (Killermann, the other co-creator of this site) has been maintaining a list of LGTBQ+ vocabulary (centered around identity terms) on his site It’s Pronounced Metrosexual. The vocab list is updated regularly and informed by thousands of emails that Sam gets from people all around the world weighing in on the definitions and sharing new identity terms/definitions.

Recently Sam decided to turn it into a lil e-book!

Behold! Defining LGBTQ+: A guide to gender & sexuality terminology.

In this book you’ll find:

  • Primers on why terminology is so important
  • A list of dozens of frequently heard gender/sexuality terminology, including all the ones I listed above 🙂
  • Some good best practices when it comes to vocabulary (like parts of speech)
  • A short write up of why to use this term vs. that term
  • And so much more!

Head over to IPM to download a copy of the e-book. It’s:

  • Pay-what-you-want/can. You can get it for free $0 or choose whatever amount you’d like/want to pay).
  • Uncopyrighted free for you to use, share, edit, etc!
  • Rainbow-tastic seriously, lots of rainbow and features a font that was specifically designed to honor Gilbert Baker the designer of the rainbow flag.

When I ran Safe Zone workshops people would often think, “wow this is a lot of vocabulary,” and it is. It is a lot. But you don’t have to memorize or even know all of the terms in order to be a rad and supportive ally. Heck — even when I was teaching Safe Zone workshops often people would bring up terms to me I hadn’t heard. The trick isn’t to memorize all the terms, but to get comfortable with them, get a sense of the concepts they are pointing to, and begin to appreciate the feeling of learning something new.

And this lil resource can help with all of that.