Terms related to Sex and Sexuality

  • Bicurious: A curiosity about having sexual relations with a same gender/sex person.
  • Biphobia: fear or hatred of bisexual individuals displayed by heterosexuals, gay men, and lesbians.
  • Bisexual: persons who are capable of feeling attracted to and engaging in relationships with others regardless of biological sex; this attraction does not have to be equally split between genders and there may be a preference for one gender over others.
  • Dyke: predominantly used to refer negatively to lesbians or to stereotype them as masculine;  some lesbians have reclaimed the term as a symbol of pride in their strength and independence
  • Faggot/Fag: predominantly used to refer to gay men in a derogatory fashion, implying weakness and lack of masculinity; derived from the Latin word meaning a “bundle of sticks” which was used to burn witches at the stake; some gay men have reclaimed this term for use within their own community
  • Gay: used to refer to homosexual men, although some homosexual women use it also; often used as a shorthand reference to all homosexuals
  • Heteronormative: The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and the practices, on the personal, social, or institutional levels, based on that assumption; i.e. the reinforcement of heterosexuality as the norm and therefore as normal
  • Heterosexism: system of oppression, based in homophobia, of persons who display non-heterosexual behaviors or identities
  • Heterosexual Privilege: actual or promised societal benefits accorded to individuals who identify as heterosexual
  • Homophobia: an intense, irrational fear of homosexuals and homosexuality, and the hatred, disgust, and prejudice fostered by that fear; commonly used to describe any belief or behavior which indicates fear, disapproval, or hatred of homosexuals or homosexuality.
  • Homosexual: A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex; generally disliked by lesbian, gay, bisexual persons because of it is perceived as having a medical connotation and/or because it reduces identity to a sexual dimension only
  • Lesbian: used to describe female-identified people attracted romantically, physically, and/or emotionally to other female-identified people.; derived from the name of the Greek Island of Lesbos, where the poet Sappho ran a school for women in 400 B.C.
  • Lesbian Baiting: the practice of relying on the social stigma attached to homosexuality to imply that a woman is a lesbian in order to create a negative impression or discredit someone and to invoke fear or disapproval in others; often used to target women involved in all-female activities (such as sports), women who are perceived to be intruding into traditionally male spheres, women who have achieved positions of power and influence, or women who do not have a male partner
  • Pansexual:  A person who is sexually attracted to all or many gender expressions.
  • Polyamory: Refers to having honest, usually non-possessive, relationships with multiple partners and can include: open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to those), and subrelationships (which denote distinguishing between a ‘primary" relationship or relationships and various "secondary" relationships).
  • Same Gender Loving: sometimes used by members of the African-American/Black community to express a non-heterosexual sexual orientation without relying on terms and symbols associated with the dominant white/Euro-centric culture. The term emerged in the early 1990's with the intention of offering Black women who love women and Black men who love men a voice, a way of identifying and being that resonated with the uniqueness of Black culture in life. (Sometimes abbreviated as ‘SGL’.)
  • Sex: refers to one’s biological/physical sex, usually determined at birth simply by the appearance of external genitalia, but actually also encompasses chromosomes, hormones, and internal reproductive organs; usually subdivided into ‘male’ and ‘female’, which does not recognize the existence of intersexed bodies.
  • Sexuality: the complex range of components which make us sexual beings; includes emotional, physical, and sexual aspects, as well as self-identification (including sexual orientation and gender), behavioral preferences and practices, fantasies, and feelings of affection and emotional affinity.
  • Sexual Behavior: an individual’s sexual activities or actions (what a person does), which may or may not be congruent with an individual’s sexual identity (how they identify their sexual orientation);  sexual identity (who we are) is distinct from sexual behavior (what we do)
  • Sexual Identity: 1) alternative term for sexual orientation, used to describe an individual’s identity as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual; or 2) a person’s identity as male, female, in-between, beyond, or neither
  • Sexual Orientation: the direction of an individual’s emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction to others, which may be toward people of the same gender/sex, another gender/sex, or multiple genders/sexes; research has shown that sexual orientation exists on a continuum, rather than as a set of distinct categories.
  • Straight: used to refer to people whose sexual orientation is heterosexual
Portions of this terminology sheet came from the LGBT Resource Center at University of California at Riverside and www.trans-academics.org