An LGBTQIA+ Vocabulary: A Resource for Faith Communities


Dear Reader:

Since 2000, The Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) at Pacific School of Religion has pursued its mission “to advance the well-being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, and Transgender people and to transform faith communities and the wider society by taking a leading role in shaping a new public discourse on religion, gender identity, and sexuality through education, research, community building, and advocacy.”

To that end, we have created for you this newly restructured LGBTQIA+ vocabulary resource, adapted from a booklet published by CLGS’s Latinx Roundtable that was last updated in 2016.

It is our sincere hope that this booklet will help people build and maintain safe, affirming, and empowering faith communities where people of all gender identities and sexual orientations can feel welcome.  Religion has all too often been a source of shame, oppression, and even violence for LGBTQIA+ people.  We at CLGS believe that we can move beyond hatred and fear toward a new future.  Ultimately, the work of fostering LGBTQIA+ inclusion in faith communities has to be completed in community and we can’t do this work without you!

Why do we need a new vocabulary resource now? 

Language, as many of us know, is constantly evolving. LGBTQIA+ communities are always in the process of revising outdated terms and creating new ones.  Words that are included in this resource may no longer be in use five years from now, or even just a few months from now.  This booklet provides terms and definitions that CLGS understands to be up-to-date, but not all people in the LGBTQIA+ community will agree with these definitions, because even inside the LGBTQIA+ community there is disagreement on specific words, labels, and their meanings.  This booklet represents our best efforts to be as inclusive and informative as possible.

This resource is for you – religious leaders and faith community members; LGBTQIA+ people and our allies; whether you’re already familiar with the LGBTQIA+ community or this is your first time encountering these words. Thank you so much for embarking on this journey with us!

Rowan Queathem (he/him/they/them)

Student Intern, CLGS | Master of Theological Studies and Certificate of Sexuality & Religion, Pacific School of Religion, Class of 2019

Elle Black (they/their/Elle) | Office Manager, CLGS

Spring 2019

Defining the Spectrum: LGBTQIA+

 While there are many variations of the acronym representing this vast community, the one that we are using for this resource is LGBTQIA+.  So, what do all these letters stand for?

L: Lesbian

G: Gay

B: Bisexual

T: Trans

Q: Queer/Questioning

I: Intersex

A: Asexual/Aromantic/Agender

+: Indicates the range of identities that are not included in the rest of the acronym

We’ll define each of these identities in the vocabulary section of this guide.  You may encounter other versions of this acronym out in the world, like LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning), LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex), LGBTQQIP2SAA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-Spirit, Androgynous, Asexual), MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Genders, and Intersex), and others.

There is no single acronym that is “correct” or “incorrect.” Different people prefer different versions.  Undoubtedly, new versions will arise in the future, and the ones we use today will fall out of use, because the specific needs of the LGBTQIA+ community will change over time.  In the hope of furthering the conversation, and as our offering based on our own engagement with LGBTQIA+ communities, we will use this acronym as our baseline.

Defining Broad Concepts

Before we move into specific definitions, let’s go over a few broad concepts.  In an effort to foster LGBTQIA+ inclusion in faith communities, it’s important to have a base understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality.

Sex: Sex is assigned at birth, usually by a doctor, based on external characteristics (namely genitalia), but also encompassing a combination of chromosomes, hormones, and secondary sexual characteristics that develop through puberty.  Not everyone identifies with their sex assigned at birth, and not everyone has an unambiguously “female” or “male” sex.  For instance, intersex people are born with ambiguous or mixed sex characteristics.  Some trans people feel that their sex remains unchanged through the course of their gender transition; some feel that their sex characteristics are neither male nor female; and some feel that their sex is the same as their gender identity, either because aspects of physical transition have changed their sex designation or because they simply reject being defined by their assigned birth sex.

Gender: Gender is a socially- and culturally-specific designation, usually applied based on one’s assigned birth sex and referring to the social roles, physical expression, and other traits associated therewith. However, gender is not a fixed category (meaning that one’s gender identity can change one or more times throughout the course of their life); nor is it a simple binary (meaning that there are gender identities that exist outside the normative categories of male or female).

Sexuality: Sexuality refers to a person’s patterns of attraction — physical, emotional, and/or romantic. A person’s sexuality may or may not change throughout their life.

We’re including this graphic below — the “Gender Unicorn” — to help make sense of how all these concepts intersect.

[1] This resource is from Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER). More information can be found at The descriptions of the axes on the graphic are our own.

The first axis — gender identity — indicates a person’s sense of their own gender.  Try marking your own gender identity on the lines provided.  Do you identify as a woman or man? Or is your gender a mix of the two, or perhaps even something else altogether?

The second axis — gender expression — indicates how a person presents their gender to the rest of the world.  Do you tend to dress in a way that is typically perceived as masculine, or in a way that is typically perceived as feminine?  Do you switch between masculine and feminine styles, or does your gender expression not align with either masculinity or femininity?

The third axis — sex assigned at birth — indicates what was marked on your birth certificate.  What was your original sex designation when you were born?  Remember that a person’s assigned sex does not necessarily indicate the kind of person they will grow up to be.

The fourth axis — physical attraction — is relatively straightforward: Are you physically attracted to men, women, or nonbinary/third-gendered people?  Or are you attracted to a mix of one or more genders?  Or, if you’re asexual, you may experience very little physical attraction, or none at all.

The fifth and final axis — emotional attraction — is also pretty straightforward.  The split between physical and emotional attraction may be confusing for people who are not asexual/aromantic or familiar with the spectrums of asexuality and aromanticism.  These terms will be defined in more detail later on, but to put it simply, there are some people who do not experience either physical or emotional attraction to other people.  Some folks desire sexual relationships, with or without a romantic dimension; while others don’t.  Some folks desire romantic relationships, with or without a sexual dimension; while others don’t.

No visual aid can perfectly encapsulate sex, gender, and sexuality, because these concepts that are deeply complex and are experienced differently by each individual. However, we hope that this graphic will help you and your communities to better understand how these concepts intersect in individual bodies and minds, and also to better understand where each of you fits on the spectrum.

LGBTQIA+ Symbols

This section of our guide will provide you with various LGBTQIA+ symbols and what they mean.  Most of these symbols are pride flags, which represent different sub-groups within the larger LGBTQIA+ community.  However, this is not an exhaustive list: there are many LGBTQIA+ symbols and flags, and this guide includes just a few of the most common ones.

Gay Pride Flag: Probably the most famous of all the pride flags, the rainbow gay pride flag has become not just a symbol for people who identify as gay, but for the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.  The original design had eight colors – the six rainbow colors plus hot pink and indigo – and was designed by Gilbert Baker.

Philadelphia Pride Flag: This flag was designed in 2017 by activists in Philadelphia.  With the inclusion of black and brown stripes, the flag explicitly includes people of color, who are often still marginalized within the larger LGBTQIA+ community.

Trans Pride Flag: The trans flag has the traditional colors blue and pink to represent trans men and women and includes a white stripe in the middle to represent people who do not identify within the gender binary.  This flag was designed by Monica Helms.

Lipstick Lesbian Flag: The lipstick lesbian flag has shades of pink and red.  It may appear with or without the lips symbol. It is linked back to a blog titled “This Lesbian Life” and represents lesbians with a more feminine gender expression.

Labrys Lesbian Flag: While it is not commonly used, you may see this lesbian flag flown at Pride.  It was designed by Sean Campbell and has a black triangle (see page 14) and a labrys, which is a Grecian Amazons (female warriors) weapon.

Bisexual Pride Flag: The bisexual flag includes a pink stripe for same-gender attraction, a blue stripe for different-gender attraction, and a purple stripe for attraction to multiple genders.

Pansexual Pride Flag: While the origins of the pansexual flag are unclear, the general consensus is that the pink stripe is for women, the blue stripe is for men, and the yellow stripe is for nonbinary people.


Asexual Pride Flag: The asexual flag includes a black stripe for asexuality, a gray stripe for demisexuality, a white stripe for allies and partners of “ace” people, and a purple stripe symbolizing community.  It was designed by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

Aromantic Pride Flag: The aromantic pride flag’s origins are unclear, and there are multiple versions.  There is also some disagreement among members of the “ace/aro” communities with regard to the meaning of each colored stripe.  However, this design seems to be one of the most popular.

Genderqueer Pride Flag: The genderqueer flag, designed by Marilyn Roxie, includes a lavender stripe, which represents both a pink-and-blue mix and queerness in general, a white stripe, whose meaning is similar to that of the white stripe on the trans flag, and a green stripe, which is the inverse color in relation to lavender, and represents people who identify outside of the binary.

Genderfluid Pride Flag: The genderfluid flag includes a pink stripe to represent femininity, a blue stripe to represent masculinity, a purple stripe to represent masculinity and femininity, a black stripe to represent an identity of no gender, and a white stripe to represent all genders.  It was designed by J.J. Poole.

Intersex Pride Flag: The intersex flag was designed by Intersex International in Australia.  Yellow is a color traditionally associated with “hermaphrodites,” and the purple circle in the center represents “wholeness, completeness and potential.”

Leather/BDSM Flag: The leather flag is used outside the gay community, but is still a common symbol within it, especially for gay men.  It was designed by Tony DeBlase, who declined to specify what he intended for the colors, stripes, and heart to mean, preferring to leave it open to interpretation.

Bear Pride Flag: The bear community is inclusive and welcoming of many body types, and its pride flag includes stripes of all different (nonhuman) bear colors to symbolize the global bear community.  It was designed by Craig Byrnes for the International Bear Brotherhood.

Pink and Black Triangles: During the Holocaust, Nazis designated gay male prisoners with pink triangles, and female prisoners accused of “antisocial behavior,” an umbrella term that included lesbianism, were designated with black triangles.  Both of these symbols have since been reclaimed by some members of the LGBTQIA+ community in an empowering way, similarly to terms such as “queer,” “fag/faggot,” and “dyke.”



Advocate: A person who supports, accepts, and encourages someone or something within the LGBTQIA+ community.

Agender: Someone who does not identify with any gender.

Ally: A person who may/may not identify as LGBTQIA+, but unites with, aligns, supports, or helps the LGBTQIA+ community in social justice issues.

Androgynous/androgyne: Someone having what are typically perceived as both masculine and feminine characteristics.  This may be used to refer to someone having gender ambiguity in fashion choices, gender identity, sexual identity, and/or in their sexuality.

Aromantic: Describes someone who experiences little or no romantic attraction or does not desire a romantic relationship with others.  Aromanticism exists on a spectrum, including identities such as gray-romantic and demiromantic.

Asexual: Describes someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction or does not desire sex.  Asexuality exists on a spectrum, including identities such as demisexual and gray-asexual.


Bigender: A person who identifies with more than one gender.

Biphobia: The fear, hatred, or intolerance of bisexuals. Biphobia can be witnessed both inside and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Bisexual: A person who has the capacity to be emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to people of their own gender and one or more other genders.  Bisexuality used to be more commonly understood to mean the capacity for attraction to men and women, but the term’s meaning has since evolved to become more inclusive of nonbinary gender identities.


Cisgender: An individual whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

Closet/Closeted/Out of the Closet/In the Closet/Coming Out/Outing:

  • Closet: The emotional space in which a person who chooses not to openly disclose their sexuality and/or gender identity resides. This may be for a variety of reasons, including physical safety, maintaining employment, lack of family (or faith community) acceptance, or personal comfort.
  • Coming out of the closet: For LGBTQIA+ people, to “come out of the closet” is the long (and sometimes difficult) process of being open with themselves and others about their gender identity and/or sexuality. People acknowledge and accept their LGBTQIA+ identity first to themselves, and then may later reveal their discoveries to others.  There are many different degrees of being “out” – some may be out to family or friends only, some may be out publicly, and some may be out only to themselves.  It’s important to remember and respect that not everyone is in the same place when it comes to being “out.”  It is also important to remember and respect the difficult process of deciding one’s own level of disclosure of this information to others.
  • In the closet: Describes LGBTQIA+ people who choose not to disclose or “come out” regarding their own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • Outing (someone): To reveal in public the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of another person who is still “in the closet.” Outing someone without their consent is a violation of that person’s privacy and may even put them in danger of losing their job or the support of their family and/or faith community, if they belong to one.  “Coming out” should be a personal and free decision, and no one should ever be pressured or forced into coming out before they are ready.


Demiboy: Describes someone who identifies somewhat as male/a man but does not feel a strong attachment to that binary gender concept.

Demigirl: Describes someone who identifies somewhat as female/a woman but does not feel a strong attachment to that binary gender concept.

Demiromantic: Describes someone who only experiences romantic attraction to another person after a strong emotional bond has been formed.  This identity exists on the aromantic spectrum.

Demisexual: Describes someone who only experiences sexual attraction to another person after a strong emotional bond has been formed.  This identity exists on the asexual spectrum.


FTM: FTM stands for “female-to-male,” and is sometimes used to refer to trans men – people who were assigned female at birth and identify as men.  Some trans men do not want to be referred to as “female” in any context.  For this reason, it is advisable to avoid using “FTM” to describe anyone who does not openly claim this term for themselves.  It is important to respect each trans person’s right to define their own gender identity, as well as the terms that they use to describe their bodies, including their sex.


Gay: The preferred term to refer to men whose primary emotional, romantic, and physical attraction is to other men.  The term is also used more widely to refer to people of other genders who are attracted to people of the same gender as themselves.  Please avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals,” due to the term’s medical or pathologizing connotations.

Gender: Social classification of being (most often) a man or a woman.  It is important to note, as we discussed above, that gender is not the same as sex.  Each of us is assigned a sex at birth based on observed physical characteristics, and from that sex follows the social prescription of gender.  Gender is often thought of as being a simple binary – someone can either be a man or a woman, but not a mixture of both or neither, nor can they move from one classification to the other.  However, there are many people for whom their gender differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.  Some people who were assigned female at birth identify as men, and some people who were assigned male at birth identify as women.  Others identify outside the binary; e.g., as genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, or another nonbinary identity.  Everyone has the right to be treated and recognized as the gender with which they identify, regardless of whether they “pass,” choose to physically transition, identify traditionally as a man or woman, or none of the above.  Furthermore, trans people have the right to claim the terms “male” and “female” for themselves, or not, as they wish – e.g., not all trans men or transmasculine people are comfortable being categorized as “female,” and not all trans women or transfeminine people are comfortable being categorized as “male.”

Gender-confirming surgery: Trans people may or may not seek out a variety of gender-confirming surgical procedures in order to bring their bodies into alignment with their genders.  Gender-confirming surgery may include, but is not limited to, top surgery (mastectomy), hysterectomy, and/or the surgical creation of a phallus for trans men and transmasculine people; and breast enhancement, removal of the testes, and/or the surgical creation of a vagina for trans women or transfeminine people.  The journey of discerning which surgeries are necessary for one’s bodily comfort and peace of mind is incredibly personal, and no trans person should be pressured to disclose their medical history.  Some trans people seek out some or all possible gender-confirming surgeries, and others do not seek out any, whether due to cost, medical restrictions, or for other personal reasons.  A person’s trans identity is not contingent upon them seeking out surgical intervention.

Gender dysphoria: Distress that is caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth (and the associated gender role and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics). Gender dysphoria is a psychiatric diagnosis that many doctors require trans people to receive before they can obtain various procedures relating to medical transition.  Dysphoria may manifest itself as physical dysphoria – e.g., a trans man may experience dysphoria because of the pitch of his voice – or social dysphoria – e.g., a trans woman may experience dysphoria if she is called “sir” by a retail worker.  However, not all trans people experience dysphoria in the same way, and some trans people do not experience dysphoria at all.

Gender expression/role: Associated with a person’s way of expressing their gender identity to others through means such as behavior, dress, or manner.  Gender expression or gender role is the sum of various characteristics that, in any given culture or historical period, are designated as “masculine” or “feminine” (that is, more typical of the social roles of men or women, respectively).  While many individuals present themselves socially in clearly male or female gender roles, others do not, and someone’s gender expression does not necessarily indicate their gender identity.  For instance, someone may present in a traditionally “feminine” way but still identify as nonbinary and use they/them/theirs pronouns.  This is why it is important to respect someone’s right to present the way that makes them feel most comfortable and to define their gender identity in the way that feels right to them.  No one should be pressured to conform to certain norms in order to win the respect of others.

Gender identity: An individual’s own deeply felt sense of their own gender.

Gender-nonconforming: A person who does not conform to the gender-based expectations of their society, regarding their style of dress, grooming and appearance, and/or other socially recognized gender cues.

Genderfluid: Refers to a person whose gender identity fluctuates between two or more genders.

Genderqueer: This gender identity label indicates a person who identifies as neither male nor female.  “Genderqueer” may sometimes be used interchangeably with “nonbinary.”  However, different people may prefer one term over the other.

Gray-Asexual: Describes someone who only rarely experiences sexual attraction.  This identity exists on the asexual spectrum.

Gray-Romantic: Describes someone who only rarely experiences romantic attraction.  This identity exists on the aromantic spectrum.


Hate crime: Any assault on a person, family, or property in which there is evidence of significant prejudice based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, or gender identity.  Different jurisdictions may have their own definitions of what constitutes hate crimes and what proof might be required by the courts.

Heteronormativity: Socially-sanctioned norms with prescribed roles of gender, sex, and sexuality that prioritize identities and relationships that align with strict binaries of gender and sex.  It presumes that heterosexuality is the only acceptable sexual orientation and stigmatizes non-heterosexual sexual/romantic relationships.

Heterosexism: The institutional and social reinforcement of heterosexuality as the only valid or permitted sexual orientation. Heterosexism denies and suppresses the experiences of lesbians, gay men, bi/pansexual, and asexual people.

Heterosexuality: Physical, emotional, and romantic attraction toward people of the “opposite” gender – men attracted to women and women attracted to men.

Homophobia: The fear, hatred, or intolerance of LGBTQIA+ people.  It is the root of anti-LGBTQIA+ violence.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Trans people may or may not seek out hormone replacement therapy in order to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity.  HRT for trans men and transmasculine people involves taking testosterone, usually through injections but also sometimes through the application of a gel or patches.  HRT for trans women and transfeminine people involves taking testosterone blockers and estrogen, usually through injections or pills taken orally.  Not all trans people take HRT, and a person’s trans identity is not contingent upon them taking HRT.


Intersex: Describes someone born with ambiguous sex characteristics.  The spectrum of intersex identities is vast.  The categorization of human bodies as “intersex,” while purportedly describing a biological reality, is nonetheless a social assignment, meaning that it is primarily related to social expectations of what constitutes normative sex characteristics that lead to intersex bodies being categorized as abnormal, disordered, or wrong.


Lesbian: The preferred term for women whose primary romantic, emotional, and physical attraction is to other women.

LGBTQIA+: Different people, communities, and organizations use different acronyms to refer to the vast community of people who are non-cisgender and non-heterosexual.  For the purposes of this vocabulary resource, we are using what we are familiar with as the most up-to-date acronym. The letters in the acronym represent the following identities:

L:     Lesbian

G:    Gay

B:     Bisexual

T:     Transgender

Q:    Queer and Questioning

I:      Intersex

A:    Asexual, Aromantic, and Agender

+:      Expresses the inclusion of other identities that may not be covered in the acronym, such as (but not limited to) genderqueer, pansexual, or genderfluid.


MTF: MTF stands for “male-to-female,” and is sometimes used to refer to trans women – people who were assigned the identity of male at birth and identify as women.  Some trans women do not want to be referred to as “male” in any context.  For this reason, it is advisable to avoid using “MTF” to describe anyone who does not openly claim this term for themselves.  It is important to respect each trans person’s right to define their own gender identity, as well as the terms that they use to describe their bodies, including their sex.


Nonbinary: This gender identity label indicates a person whose gender identity is neither male nor female.  Nonbinary individuals may identify as a mix of male and female, androgynous, a third gender that exists outside of the traditional binary, or no gender at all.  “Nonbinary” may sometimes be used interchangeably with “genderqueer.”  However, different individuals may prefer one term over the other.


Pansexual: Describes someone who has the capacity to experience sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to anyone, regardless of their gender identity or expression.

Passing: Refers to the phenomenon of trans people being socially recognized as the gender with which they identify, e.g., a trans man being recognized as a man in public, with most people not perceiving that he is trans.  For some trans people, their goal in transitioning is to pass full-time as a man or a woman. For others, passing may not be their primary goal, or it may be unattainable – especially for nonbinary people, who have a much harder time being socially recognized as the gender with which they identify.  Passing can also be complicated because, although it provides an element of safety, it also comes with invisibility.  For instance, a trans man who passes as a man full-time may feel a sense of disconnect from the rest of the trans community or may feel as though he is not fully recognized for the person he is because most people simply perceive him as a cis man.

Phobia: Irrational fear, hatred, or intolerance of something, someone, or a group of people.

Polyamorous/polyamory: Refers to being romantically and/or sexually involved with more than one person with the knowledge and consent of all parties.  Polyamorous relationships can take many forms.

Polysexual: Describes someone who is attracted to more than one gender, but not necessarily all genders.

Pride: Umbrella term for pride in being an LGBTQIA+ person or family member, friend, or ally.  A term also associated with numerous yearly celebrations honoring LGBTQIA+ people and their achievements.  The ability to celebrate Pride openly is only a recent development in LGBTQIA+ history.  Contemporary Pride celebrations have their roots in historical protests by queer activists, such as the Stonewall and Compton’s Cafeteria riots.


Queer: This term has historically been used as a slur against LGBTQIA+ people but has since been reclaimed by some people within the community as an identity label and/or as a political statement.  There is not a specific definition of “queer” – any person who identifies within the LGBTQIA+ community may identify as queer.

Questioning: The process of questioning one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation by people who may be unsure or still exploring.


Sex: Sex is assigned at birth as either male or female, usually based on the appearance of the external genitalia.  Sex is generally thought of as being a fixed binary; however, it is better understood as a spectrum, due to the existence of a wide variety of intersex variations. (See Intersex.)

Sex assigned at birth: The declaration (by doctors and civil authorities) regarding a person’s sex, based on what their external genitalia looks like at birth.  Thereafter, one is expected to grow up, live, and express oneself within a certain gender role that one’s culture associates with the sex assigned at birth.

Sexual orientation (sexuality): Emotional, romantic, and/or sexual feelings towards other people.  People who are straight experience these feelings primarily for people of the “opposite” gender – men attracted to women and women attracted to men.  Gay or lesbian individuals experience these feelings primarily for people of the same gender. Bisexual and pansexual individuals experience these feelings for people of two or more genders.  Asexual people seldom or never experience sexual attraction, but still may experience romantic or emotional attraction to people of one or more genders.  “Sexual orientation,” in other words, is the sum of a person’s desires for intimacy – sexual, romantic, and/or emotional. This term should be used rather than “sexual preference,” because no one chooses their sexual orientation.


Top surgery: Often used to refer to chest-related surgeries that transfeminine and transmasculine people may choose to undergo as part of their gender transitions – either breast augmentation, breast reduction, or a double mastectomy.

Transfeminine: Refers to anyone who is transitioning to a female or feminine identity.  Someone who was assigned male at birth and is transitioning to a more feminine identity and/or presentation but does not fully identify as a woman may identify as transfeminine.

Transgender: Refers to people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.  Often, the term is shortened to “trans.”  Trans people may or may not identify within the gender binary.  Trans people may or may not seek surgical or hormonal intervention as part of their transition.

Transition: Refers to the period of time in which a trans person socially, medically, and/or legally takes steps to change from living as their assigned birth gender to the gender with which they actually identify.  Depending on a person’s individual preferences and needs, a transition may involve many steps.  Each person’s transition is unique, and for most people, it does not have an easily-defined beginning or end but is rather something that continues throughout a person’s lifetime.

Trans man: A trans man is someone who was assigned female at birth (AFAB) but identifies as a man/male.

Transmasculine: Refers to anyone who is transitioning to a male or masculine identity. Someone who was assigned female at birth and is transitioning to a more masculine identity and/or presentation but does not fully identify as a man may identify as transmasculine.

Transphobia: The often extreme and irrational fear of transgender people – a fear fed not by fact but by preconceptions and stereotypes that judge trans people as dangerous or harmful. This fear is often communicated through negative, violent, or hurtful attitudes, expressions, or actions against those perceived as transgender. Transphobia is also often directed at anyone whose gender expression pushes against established norms of femininity or masculinity.

Transsexual: This term has sometimes been used to differentiate trans people – usually binary-identified as men or women – who choose to undergo various forms of medical transition, as opposed to those who identify as trans but do not seek out medical intervention. “Transsexual” has somewhat fallen out of use among younger generations in the trans community, but some people still identify with it. Not everyone who seeks out medical transition identifies as transsexual. For this reason, it is advisable to avoid applying this word to someone unless they openly identify as transsexual.

Trans woman: A trans woman is someone who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) but identifies as a woman/female.

Two Spirit: This is a term that can refer to a broad range of identities held by members of Indigenous/Native American communities whose gender roles, identities, and expressions are outside the binary of male/female. Historically, Two Spirit identities have been violently suppressed during the colonization and genocide of Native American communities. LGBTQIA+ Native Americans have since undertaken the task of reclaiming and reviving Two Spirit expressions and identities.


Words Not to Use or to Use Only With Permission

There are some words that have historically been used to refer to members of the LGBTQIA+ community but are considered by some today to be outdated and/or offensive. These terms may still be used by some members of the community as self-identifiers – sometimes with pride – but it is advisable not to apply them to anyone without that person’s consent.

Homosexual: This is a term with connotations of medical pathology that has historically been used to refer to people who are sexually/romantically attracted to people of the same gender. Generally, “gay,” “lesbian,” “bi,” etc. are preferable terms.

“Transgendered”: This is an incorrect conjugation of the word “transgender.” “Transgender” is an adjective. Consequently, “transgender” is not a noun on its own, and so using it as such (e.g., “That guy is a transgender,” or, “She goes to a group for other transgenders”) is also incorrect. Likewise, “cisgender” is an adjective, and “cisgendered” or “cisgenders” is an incorrect usage.

Transvestite (or cross-dresser): This is a term that was historically used to refer to people who “cross-dress” – dressing as a gender with which the person does not normally identify, but without necessarily indicating that the person identifies as transgender. This word has largely fallen out of use within the trans community, although there may still be people who use it to describe themselves.

And other potential slurs: He-she, fag/faggot, dyke, bulldyke/bulldagger, fairy, tranny, ladyboy…

Additional Resources for LGBTQIA+ People of Faith and Allies

Disclaimer: Some of these resources/organizations support queer relationships only in the context of monogamous, lifelong marriage, and are not necessarily openly inclusive of nonbinary trans people, polyamorous people, same-gender couples who choose not to marry, queer people who engage in sexual activity outside marriage, or queer people who otherwise push against “traditional” relationship models and expressions of gender. Please approach any LGBTQIA+ resource with care and know that you are valid and worthy of love regardless of your gender identity, sexuality, or anything else related to how you present yourself to the world and how you love. This is also not an exhaustive list — there are many resources for LGBTQIA+ people of faith and their allies, and this is only a sampling of what’s out there.





Christian Church, Disciples of Christ (DOC):

Christian Science:

Community of Christ:





Jehovah’s Witnesses:




Metropolitan Community Church (MCC):

Mormon/Latter-Day Saints (LDS):





Quaker (Society of Friends):

 Reformed Church in America:


Seventh-Day Adventist:


Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA):

United Church of Christ (UCC):

United Methodist Church (UMC):

Unity Fellowship Church:


James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

Sources for Pride Flags:

Gay pride flag:

Trans pride flag:

Philly pride flag:

Pansexual pride flag:

Bi pride flag:

Ace pride flag:

Lipstick lesbian pride flag:

Labrys lesbian pride flag:

Leather/BDSM pride flag:,_Latex,_and_BDSM_pride.svg

Genderqueer pride flag:

Nonbinary pride flag:

Bear pride flag:

Intersex pride flag:

Genderfluid pride flag:

Black triangle:

Pink triangle:

This resource is a project of:

Pacific School of Religion | 1798 Scenic Avenue | Berkeley, CA 94709 | 13 September 2021 Version | Ed. Bernard Schlager, PhD | © 2020 | CLGS

If you have any suggested edits, please email them to: 

[1] This resource is from Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER). More information can be found at The descriptions of the axes on the graphic are our own.