Queer Jargons

Queer Jargons

The Queer community is at the crossroads where public opinion spans supportive and opposing views on the assertion of their identities and rights in the larger Indian context. As the queer community is diverse, it is extremely important that there is correct representation and portrayal of sexual minorities. Here are terms and definitions for better understanding queer terminologies.


  • Ally

    (Heterosexual Ally, Straight Ally) Someone who is a friend, advocate, and/or activist for LGBTQ people. A heterosexual ally is also someone who confronts heterosexism in themselves and others. The term ally is generally used for any member of a dominant group who is a friend, advocate or activist for people in an oppressed group (i.e. White Ally for People of Color).

  • Androgynous

    A term used to describe an individual whose gender expression and/or identity may be neither distinctly “female” nor “male,” usually based on appearance.

  • Asexual

    A sexual orientation generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or desire for partnered sexuality.

  • Asexuality

    Is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexual people do have sex. There are many diverse ways of being asexual.


  • Biphobia

    The fear, hatred, or intolerance of bisexual people.

  • Bisexual, Bi

    An individual who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to men and women. Bisexuals need not have had a sexual experience with both men and women; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.


  • Cisgender

    a term used to describe people who, for the most part, identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.

  • Closeted

    Describes a person who is not open about his or her sexual orientation.

  • Coming Out

    A lifelong process of self-acceptance. People forget a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity first to themselves and then may reveal it to others. Publicly identifying one’s orientation may or may not be part of coming out.

  • Cross-Dressing

    To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. “Cross-dresser” should NOT be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex or who intends to do so in the future. Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not necessarily tied to erotic activity. Cross-dressing is not indicative of sexual orientation.


  • Down Low

    Pop-culture term used to describe men who identify as heterosexual but engage in sexual activity with other men. Often these men are in committed sexual relationships or marriages with a female partner. This term is almost exclusively used to describe men of colour.

  • Drag Queen/Drag King

    Used by people who present socially in clothing, name, and/or pronouns that differ from their everyday gender, usually for enjoyment, entertainment, and/or self-expression. Drag queens typically have everyday lives as men. Drag kings typically live as women and/or butches when not performing. Drag shows are popular in some gay, lesbian, and bisexual environments. Unless they are drag performers, most Trans people would be offended by being confused with drag queens or drag kings.


  • Gay

    The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex (e.g., gay man, gay people). In contemporary contexts, lesbian (n. or adj.) is often a preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals” an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people.

  • Gender Expression

    Refers to how an individual expresses their socially constructed gender. This may refer to how an individual dresses, their general appearance, the way they speak, and/or the way they carry themselves. Gender expression is not always correlated to an individuals’ gender identity or gender role.

  • Gender dysphoria

    Gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender. People with gender dysphoria may often experience significant distress and/or problems functioning associated with this conflict between the way they feel and think of themselves (referred to as experienced or expressed gender) and their physical or assigned gender. Read more

  • Gender Identity

    Since gender is a social construct, an individual may have a self-perception of their gender that is different or the same as their biological sex. Gender identity is an internalized realization of one’s gender and may not be manifested in their outward appearance (gender expression) or their place in society (gender role). It is important to note that an individual’s gender identity is completely separate from their sexual orientation or sexual preference.

  • Gender Identity Disorder

    (GID) A controversial DSM-IV diagnosis given to transgender and other gender-variant people. Because it labels people as “disordered,” Gender Identity Disorder is often considered offensive. The diagnosis is frequently given to children who don’t conform to expected gender norms in terms of dress, play or behaviour. Such children are often subjected to intense psychotherapy, behaviour modification and/or institutionalization. Replaces the outdated term “gender dysphoria.”

  • Gender Neutral

    This term is used to describe facilities that any individual can use regardless of their gender (e.g. gender-neutral bathrooms). This term can also be used to describe an individual who does not subscribe to any socially constructed gender (sometimes referred to as “Gender Queer”).

  • Gender Non-Conforming

    A person who is, or is perceived to have gender characteristics that do not conform to traditional or societal expectations.

  • Gender/Sexual Reassignment Surgery

    Refers to a surgical procedure to transition an individual from one biological sex to another. This is often paired with hormone treatment and psychological assistance. A “Transsexual” individual must go through several years of hormones and psychological evaluation and live as the “opposite” or “desired” gender prior to receiving the surgery (see intersex).

  • Gender Role

    A societal expectation of how an individual should act, think, and/or feel based on an assigned gender in relation to society’s binary biological sex system.


  • Heterosexual

    An adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite sex. Also straight.

  • Hijra

    Hijras are biological males who reject their “masculine’’ identity in due course of time to identify either as women, or “not-men”, or “in-between man and woman”, or “neither man nor woman”. Hijras can be considered as the Western equivalent of transgender/transsexual (male-to-female) persons but Hijras have a long tradition/culture and strong social ties formalized through a ritual called “reet” (becoming a member of the Hijra community).After acquiring a “reet”, the Hijra comes under the patronage of a senior Hijra who is known as a “guru”. The Hijra is then known as the guru’s “chela”. Gurus have substantial control over their chelas’ lives as well as their health-seeking behaviour.

    There are regional variations in the terms used to refer to Hijras; for example, “Kinnars” (Delhi) and “Aravanis” (Tamil Nadu). Hijras may earn by blessing new-born babies, or dancing at ceremonies (badhai). Some Hijras may engage in sex work (pun) for lack of other job opportunities, while others are into begging (mangti). A few Hijras may be self-employed or work for non-governmental organizations; very few may have started their own community-based organizations.

  • Homosexual

    Outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people. The Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Post restrict usage of the term. Gay and/or lesbian accurately describe those who are attracted to people of the same sex.

  • Homophobia

    Fear of lesbians and gay men. Prejudice is usually a more accurate description of hatred or antipathy toward LGBT people.


  • Intersex

    People who naturally (that is, without any medical interventions) develop primary and/or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society’s definitions of male or female. Many visibly intersex babies/children are surgically altered by doctors to make their sex characteristics conform to societal binary norm expectations. Intersex people are relatively common, although society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Has replaced “hermaphrodite,” which is inaccurate, outdated, problematic, and generally offensive, since it means “having both sexes” and this is not necessarily true, as there are at least 16 different ways to be intersex.

  • In the Life

    Often used by communities of colour to denote inclusion in the LGBTQ communities.


  • Kinsey Scale

    Alfred Kinsey, a renowned sociologist, described a spectrum on a scale of 0 6 to describe the type of sexual desire within an individual. 0 Completely Heterosexual – 6: Completely Homosexual. In his 1948 work Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. The Kinsey Scale is often used to dissect the bisexual community and describe the differences between sexual orientation and sexual preference.


  • Lesbian

    A woman whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay (adj.) or as gay women.


    An acronym used to refer to all sexual minorities: “Lesbian, Gay/Gender Neutral/Gender Queer, Bisexual/Bigender, Transgender/Transvestite/Transsexual, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, and Allies/Androgynous/Asexual.”

  • Lifestyle

    An inaccurate term used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives. As there is no one straight lifestyle, there is no one lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lifestyle.


  • Men Loving Men

    (MLM) Commonly used by communities of colour to denote the attraction of men to men.

  • Men Who Have Sex with Men

    Men, including those who do not identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual, who engage in sexual activity with other men (used in public health contexts to avoid excluding men who identify as heterosexual).


  • Openly Gay

    Describes people who self-identify as lesbian or gay in their personal, public and/or professional lives. Also openly lesbian, openly bisexual, openly transgender.

  • Outing

    The act of publicly declaring (sometimes based on rumour and/or speculation) or revealing another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity without that person’s consent. Considered inappropriate by a large portion of the LGBT community.


  • Pansexual

    Not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.


  • Queer

    Traditionally a pejorative term, queer has been appropriated by some LGBT people to describe themselves. However, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless someone self-identifies that way. Questioning The process of considering or exploring one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.


  • 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.

  • Sex Reassignment Surgery

    (SRS) Refers to surgical alteration and is only one small part of the transition. Preferred term to “sex change operation.” Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have SRS.

  • Sexual Orientation

    The scientifically accurate term for an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual (straight) orientations. Avoid the offensive term “sexual preference,” which is used to suggest that being gay or lesbian is voluntary and therefore “curable.”

  • Sexual Behavior

    Refers to an individual’s sexual activities or actions (what a person does sexually). Though often an individual’s sexual orientation is in line with their sexual behaviour, it is not always the case.

  • Sexual Minority

    An all-inclusive, politically oriented term referring to individuals who identify with a minority sexual orientation, sex identity, or gender expression/gender identity.

  • Sexual Preference

    This term refers to an individual’s choice in regards to attraction. Sexual preference can be based on gender/sex, physical appearance (height, weight, race, ethnicity), or emotional connection. It is important to note that sexual preference denotes a “choice” and has a negative connotation when used to describe the LGBTQ population.

  • Straight

    Pop culture term used to refer to individuals who identify as a heterosexual, meaning having a sexual, emotional, physical and relational attraction to individuals of the “opposite” gender/sex. The term “straight” often has a negative connotation within the LGBTQ population, because it suggested that non-heterosexual individuals are “crooked” or “unnatural”.


  • Third Gender

    The terms third gender and third sex describe individuals who are categorized (by their will or by social consensus) as neither man nor woman as well as the social category present in societies that recognize three or more genders.

  • Transgender

    An umbrella term (adj.) for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term (transgendertranssexualcross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.

  • Transition

    Altering one’s birth sex is not a one-step process; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition includes some or all of the follow­ing personal, legal and medical adjustments: telling one’s family, friends and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) one or more forms of surgery.

  • Transsexual

    (also Transexual) An older term which originated in the medical and psychological communities. While some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe them­selves, many transgender people prefer the term transgender to transsexual. Unlike transgendertranssexual is not an umbrella term, as many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. It is best to ask which term an indi­vidual prefers.

  • Transvestite

    An umbrella term, which refers to people who wear the clothing of the “opposite” gender. These individuals can be transgender, transsexual, cross-dressers, Drag performers, or individuals who express their gender in a unique way. This term is often thought to be outdated, problematic, and generally offensive since it was historically used to diagnose medical/mental health disorders.


  • Women Loving Women

    (WLW) Commonly used by communities of colour to denote the attraction of women to women.