Terms related to Identity and Social Dynamics

  • Ally: a person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group; typically a member of a dominant group standing beside member(s) of a group being discriminated against or treated unjustly
  • Closeted or In the Closet: to hide one’s sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Come Out or Coming Out: short version of the phrase “coming out of the closet,” which is a metaphor for acknowledging one’s sexual orientation or gender identity to oneself and/or disclosing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity to others
  • Discrimination: the use of societal or institutional power and privilege to act on prejudiced beliefs or attitudes to deny members of a less powerful social group access to societal resources; can include both individual acts of hatred or injustice and institutional denials of privileges normally accorded to other groups. Ongoing discrimination creates a climate of oppression for the affected group.
  • Down Low or On the Down Low (D/L): See ‘Closeted;’ often refers to married men, or men professing to be heterosexual, having sex with other men, but who identify themselves as neither homosexual nor bisexual due to being in the closet. Men on the down-low may engage in regular, secret sexual interactions with other men while continuing sexual and romantic relationships with women. Most commonly used to refer to African-American males, although the practice is not unique to them
  • Identity/Identify as: How one thinks of oneself.  One’s internal self, as opposed to what others observe or think about one.
  • Internalized Oppression: The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.
  • LGBT Ally: an individual who is accepting and supportive of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender, and who works to reflect their support in their personal beliefs, language, and behaviors; allies also take action to combat homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexism, and gender-based discrimination within themselves, others, and in societal institutions.
  • LGBTQI: A common abbreviation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersexed community; additional letters sometimes included are another “Q” for questioning, “A” for ally, “SA” for straight ally, “S” for same-gender loving, “TS” for two-spirit, or “S” for supportive
  • Metrosexual: First used in 1994 by British journalist Mark Simpson, who coined the term to refer to an urban, heterosexual male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. This term can be perceived as derogatory because it reinforces stereotypes that all gay men are fashion-conscious and materialistic.
  • Oppression: The systematic subjugation of a group of people by another group with access to social power, the result of which benefits one group over the other and is maintained by social beliefs and practices.
  • Outing: the act of revealing another individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, usually without permission
  • Passing: Describes a person's ability to present themselves as and be accepted as  heterosexual or as their preferred gender/sex or race/ethnic identity
  • Prejudice: A conscious or unconscious negative belief about a whole group of people and its individual members.
  • Queer: historically a derogatory term used to refer to individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender, implying that they are unnatural, unusual, or freakish; some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender individuals have reclaimed this term as a source of empowerment and pride in being different from the norm; sometimes used as a sexual orientation label as a way of acknowledging that there are more than two genders to be attracted to
  • Reclaimed language: terms that originated as derogatory or negative terms used to denigrate a group of people that have been adopted by those groups to de-stigmatize the language and forge new, more positive meanings and connotations for those words (i.e. queer, dyke, faggot).  However, the reclaiming of such negative language is not universally accepted among people to whom the terms might apply; some will still find the terms offensive.  Generally the use of such terms is usually offensive to the in-group when used by outsiders, so extreme caution must be taken concerning their use when one is not a member of the group.
  • Stereotype: A preconceived or oversimplified generalization about an entire group of people without regard for their individual differences. Though often negative, can also be complimentary. Even positive stereotypes can have a negative impact, however, simply because they involve broad generalizations that ignore individual realities.
  • Straight-Acting: usually applied to gay men who readily pass as heterosexual. The term implies that there is a certain way that gay men should act that is significantly different from heterosexual men. Straight-acting gay men are often looked down upon in the LGBTQ community for seemingly accessing heterosexual privilege.
Portions of this terminology sheet came from the LGBT Resource Center at University of California at Riverside and www.trans-academics.org