By Lauren Means
“I’m genderqueer.” “I’m trans.” “I’m demisexual.” “I’m intersex.”
A lot goes into determining one’s identity. Some people are assigned a sex at birth and it matches with their gender identity. Others are assigned a sex at birth and struggle with an internal battle of their sex and gender identity not aligning. Then there are individuals who are born with anatomy matching both sexes and their parents are faced with making a decision of which sex they should be assigned at birth… and sometimes their gender identity matches and other times it does not. Once we finally get through that battle, there is the question of sexual orientation.
Identity can be simple for some but for others it can be exhausting. First, there is the internal struggle one must deal with on a daily basis. Then, there is the added scrutiny and input from all sides- family, friends, co-workers, medical community, social media- the list goes on and on. There is no handbook to help navigate this complex journey.
There is no guideline for our loved ones and the people around us either. Many times this means there is a lot of fear, doubt, and even skepticism. Author Andrew Smith has been quoted to say, “People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” FEAR. Fear is why our society faces hate and discrimination. Not knowing and not understanding one another just fuels the fire that is fear.
In order to try to break down barriers and provide education on the various members that make up our community, Focus is presenting a series of articles to dispel rumors, clarify misinformation, and answer questions on the different gender identities and sexual orientations that comprise LGBT+. Before we can start, we need to first layout some basic terminology.
Sex: Typically assigned at birth and refers to one’s biological status as either male or female. This classification is usually based on someone’s physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Sex is similar across different cultures. 
Gender: Something society assigns to us and is typically comprised of roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys/men or girls/women. This can influence how we act, interact, and feel about ourselves. Gender may differ with different cultures. 
Gender Identity: Gender identity is one’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. 
Cisgender: An individual whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth are in alignment. 
Transgender: An individual who identifies as a gender that does not align with sex assigned at birth based on anatomy. 
Transsexual: One who is transgender AND is undergoing some type of physical change to another sex (hormones, surgeries, etc). 
Transition(ing): Refers to the timeframe/process of undergoing a physical change to match preferred gender expression/identity. 
Transman/Transwoman: Identity label sometimes adopted by female-to-male/male-to-female transgender people or transsexuals to signify that they are men/women while still affirming their history as assigned female/male sex at birth. 
Intersex: Someone who identifies as both male and female. Due to having a combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, and/or genitals they do not fit the typical definition of male or female. Formerly known as hermaphrodite until the 20th century. 
Gender-Fluid: A person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender. This person may identify as different genders, no gender, or many genders, at different times. 
Agender: When an individual does not identify as male or female and prefers to not identify with a gender. Also can be referred to as gender neutrois. 
Genderqueer: Often used by people who do not identify with the binary of man/woman; umbrella term for many gender non-conforming or non-binary identities (i.e. may combine aspects man and woman and other identities (bigender, pangender); not having a gender or identifying with a gender (genderless, agender); moving between genders (genderfluid); third gender or other-gendered; includes those who do not place a name to their gender having an overlap of, or blurred lines between, gender identity and sexual and romantic orientation). 
Gender dysphoria: Strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned sex that results in significant distress or impairment. 
Gender Non-Conforming: Descriptor that indicates a non-traditional gender presentation (masculine woman or feminine man); indicates a person who identifies outside of the gender binary. Often abbreviated as “GNC.” 
Sexual Orientation: Sexual orientation is an individual’s physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person. 
Heterosexual: A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. Also referred to as “straight”. 
Homosexual: A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex/gender. More commonly referred to in present day as gay or lesbian. 
Gay: Male-identifying individual who is attracted to other male-identifying individuals; traditionally cisgender. Can also be used for female-identifying individuals attracted to other female-identifying individuals or for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual. 
Lesbian: Female-identifying individual who is attracted to other female-identifying individuals; traditionally cisgender. 
Bisexual: An individual who is attracted to both male-identifying and female-identifying individuals; dual attraction; attraction does not have to be equally split or indicate a level of interest that is the same across the genders or sexes an individual may be attracted to. [1, 4]
Pansexual: Attraction to any gender; experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions. [1, 4]
Polysexual/Polyamorous: Attraction to multiple partners simultaneously; having ethically, honest, and consensual non-monogamous relationships; partners can be be bi, straight, gay, pan, or other type of orientation. [1, 4]
Asexual: experiencing little or no sexual attraction to others and/or a lack of interest in sexual relationships/behavior; could still be very interested in romantic gestures like cuddling or hand-holding, and may even choose to engage in sexual activity if their partner is not asexual. [1, 4]
Aromantic: An individual who does not have romantic attraction; can be attracted to people sensually or aesthetically. 
Queer: Individuals who don’t identify as straight; also used to describe people who have a non-normative gender identity, or as a political affiliation; historically used as a derogatory term but in recent years has been reclaimed by the queer community. 
Questioning: An individual who or a time when someone is unsure about or exploring their own sexual orientation or gender identity. 
Skoliosexual: Someone who is attracted to non-cisgender people. This includes trans, gender-fluid, androgynous, gender-queer, and/or non-binary people. [1, 4]
2 (Two) – Spirit: Term used by Native American people to recognize individuals who possess qualities or fulfill roles of both genders; individuals who feel as though their bodies are inhabited by both a male and female spirit; more recently also used by non-native American individuals. 
Demisexual: An individual who has little or no capacity to experience sexual attraction until a strong romantic or emotional connection is formed with another individual, often within a romantic relationship. 
Ally: A heterosexual and cisgender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBT social movements, and challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia; this term encompasses non-LGBT allies as well as those within the LGBT community who support each other, e.g. a lesbian who is an ally to the bisexual community. 
Cross-dresser: someone who wears clothes of another gender/sex for one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification; not to be confused with drag king/queen. [1, 4]
Drag King/Drag Queen: One who performs masculinity/femininity theatrically. 
Now the groundwork has been laid and we can delve into who actually makes up “LGBT+” a little more closely. Stay tuned.