In celebration of Pride Month in June, we are profiling Audre Lorde and sharing a glossary of keywords, along with videos and resources. Language is constantly evolving and can feel hard to keep up with, but as we do, we are showing our respect for others. Just as in the disability community, there are terms that have become outdated that we’d rather not be called, the same holds true for the LGBTQ+ community. We hope you’ll learn something new that expands your perspective!
Image Description: Photo of Audre Lorde, with the quote "It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." (Source)
"The Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, warrior Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a native New Yorker and daughter of immigrants. Both her activism and her published work speak to the importance of struggle for liberation among oppressed peoples and of organizing in coalition across differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age and ability. An internationally recognized activist and artist, Audre Lorde was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, which conferred the mantle of New York State poet for 1991-93. In designating her New York State’s Poet Laureate, Governor Mario Cuomo observed: 'Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice…She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere.'" (Source)
Gender: A broad term signifying a set of socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a society considers appropriate.
Gender Identity: A person’s deeply held sense of self in relation to gender – this does not always correspond to their biological sex. People may become aware of their GI anytime from 18 months of age to adulthood.
Cisgender: Describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the one associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. "Cis" is Latin for same as. This term is helpful in avoiding the use of “normal” to describe those who are not transgender.
What the L (GBTQ)?
Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to other women. May be used by women and non-binary people.
Gay: A person who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to members of the same gender. You may hear this being used by men, women, and non-binary people.
Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender, or gender identity (not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree). This is often used interchangeably with “pansexual.”
Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. The term does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Trans people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. (Avoid “tranny,” as it is used to humiliate and degrade trans individuals.)
Queer: Queer is an umbrella term that applies for many people who do not associate with heteronormativity.
As recently as 2016, The Human Rights Campaign adopted the Q in LGBTQ to help reflect the word’s positive evolution and join other allies and advocates who are actively taking back the term “queer” from those who strive to use it as derogatory.
There are other letters, too. You may see LGBTQQIP2SAA or even some longer acronyms, hence…
Ally: Used to describe someone (who may be straight/cis, or in the LGBTQ community) who is actively in support of LGBTQ people.
Asexual: The lack of sexual attraction to or desire for other people.
Intersex: Describes a person who is born with a mix of male and female anatomy; may include chromosomes and/or sex organs. (Avoid “hermaphrodites,” as it stigmatizes people.)
Non-binary: Describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman, but may identify as being both, somewhere in between, or somewhere outside the categories. Not all non-binary people identify as transgender, though some do. Agender, bigender, genderqueer, and gender-fluid all have similar meanings. The term does not imply any specific sexual orientation.
Pansexual: Describes someone who has the potential for romantic, emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to people of any gender; sometimes used interchangeably with bisexual.
Two-Spirit: Used within some Native American/First Nations/ Indigenous communities to refer to one who identifies as having both a male and a female essence of spirit. A very positive term. Should not be used by non-indigenous people.
Questioning: In addition to queer, the Q is also used for “questioning,” and applies to those who are exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.