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Understanding 2SLGBTQ+ Terminology

June 23, 2022


A pronoun is used to identify a person without using their name. It is a way for people to express their gender identity and let others know how they want to be addressed. Changing pronouns is often one of the first things a transgender, non-binary person, or gender non-conforming person will change and tell their friends, family, and others to start referring to them as their preferred pronouns.

If their request is not respected, it can cause gender dysphoria and resentment of themselves or the person who refuses to use the preferred pronouns. It can also cause them to feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, or alienated. Often, all of these do lead to that. Choosing to ignore or disrespect someone’s pronouns is an act of oppression and can also be considered an act of violence.

Professional psychologists and psychiatrist organizations recognize that inclusive language for 2SLGBTQ+ drastically decreases expressions of depression, social anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and other negative mental health factors.

So you see, respecting and using peoples’ preferred pronouns is important!


Become familiar with all the terminology in the acronym. 2SLGBTQ+ stands for 2-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and any additional sexual orientations and gender identities. Learn what they mean and always ask people what terminology they would like to use or identify with. Remember that people are not only what they identify with; they are much more.

Terminology allows people to take back words used to marginalize or harm. For example, “queer” is among the most common and widely used terms today. However, it was to be an antigay slur used during the trials of Oscar Wilde. The term was rebranded during the 1990s AIDS crisis with the phrase “We’re here, we’re queer.” Now, it’s used as an umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender. It’s important to remember that some people still find certain ‘accepted’ terms offensive, so be careful where and when you use them.

Other terms the 2SLGBTQ+ community has reclaimed include the limp-wrist, sod (dated), twink, fairy (thanks largely to the Faerie Movement), poof (still offensive in the UK), light in the loafers (outdated), queen/king, pillow biter, and more.

Why are some terms more well-known than others?

It is a simple question with a complicated answer, mainly because there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Much like when you ask it with other topics, there are multiple reasons for every answer. The main reason is simply a lack of knowledge or understanding about them; you can’t identify with a term you don’t know exists.

Another reason is due to negative connotations or experiences associated with certain terms. For example, internal homophobia is when someone is homophobic to people labelled by certain terms (i.e. homosexual) and later discovered to be that very same thing. Or a person is in denial about being a certain way or that a term like that could even exist in the first place.

Finally, some individuals will choose to use umbrella terms (e.g., queer, LGBT, etc.) rather than explore further for more specifics. This could be because they have objections to it, don’t feel it’s necessary, or simply because they don’t want to.

These are just a few reasons. There are many more and depend on the individual. It is crucial, as an ally, to respect their decisions but equally important, as a 2SLGBTQ+ member, to be willing to explore yourself further when you feel comfortable enough to do so.

Terms you might not know

Abrosexual: describes people who have a fluid sexual and/or romantic orientation which changes over time, or the course of their life.

Asexual/Aromatic: a person who experiences little to no sexual/romantic attraction to others and or a lack of interest in sex/forming romantic relationships. Aro-ace is often used when a person is aromantic and asexual. These terms are separated and identifying as one doesn't automatically mean you are the other.

Androgyny/Androgynous: a gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity. See also, intersex.

Bigender: a self-imposed gender identity term which reflects feeling like both a man and a woman. Bigender people identify with both genders (and sometimes a third).

Butch/Femme: a person who identifies themselves as masculine/feminine, whether it be physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Cisgender: a person whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth (e.g., male and male-assigned). Think of it like being “not transgender”.

Constellation: a way to describe the arrangement or structure of a polyamorous relationship.

Demiguy/Demigirl: a gender identity for someone who was assigned male/female at birth but does not fully identify with being a man/woman, socially or mentally. In other words, while male/female is the sex designation and the person identifies somewhat with that gender identity, the person does not consider themselves as only in those binaries.

Demisexual: a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with another, often within a romantic relationship.

Down Low: typically referring to men who identify as straight but who secretly have sex with men. Also referred to as DL.

Epicene: an old and outdated term that indicates a lack of distinction with regard to gender expression. Also, see Androgyny.

FtM/F2M; MtF/M2F: abbreviation for a female-to-male/male-to-female transgender or transsexual person. Some transgender individuals will not use this term because it reminds them they were born in the wrong body.

Femboy: a cisgender male who presents himself in a more traditionally feminine manner through his behaviour and physical appearance.

Gender Dysphoria/Gender Identity Disorder: used to describe when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

Gender Fluid: a gender identity which describes a dynamic mix of boy and girl. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders but may feel more ‘man’ some days, and more ‘female’ other days.

Gender Non-Conforming: a gender expression that indicates a non-traditional gender presentation (masculine woman or feminine man). Can also be a gender label that indicates a person identifies outside of the gender binary.

Gender Outlaw: a person who refuses to be defined by conventional definitions of male and female.

Gray/Grey: an umbrella term which describes people who experience sexual and/or romantical attraction occasionally, rarely, or under certain conditions. People may also use terms such as gay, bi, lesbian, straight, and queer in conjunction with gray to explain the direction of romantic or sexual attraction as they experience it. For example, graysexual heteroromantics are rarely sexually attracted to others and gray-pansexual aromantics are rarely attracted to people sexually of all genders, but never are romantically attracted to anyone.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): the process of taking hormones to achieve the secondary sex characteristics of a particular sex. For example, taking testosterone in order to achieve more male-identified features and taking estrogen in order to achieve more female-identified features.

Intersex: someone whose combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, and/or genitals differ from the two expected patterns of male or female. It is a biological medical condition, the cause of which is unknown and differs from person to person.

Mx.: a title (e.g. Mr., Ms., etc.) that is gender-neutral. It is often the option of choice for folks who do not identify within the cisgender binary.

Polyamory/Polyamorous: the practice of, desire for, or orientation towards having ethical, honest, and consensual non-monogamous relationships. This can include open relationships, multiple people dating each other at the same time (i.e. a thruple) or what is known as a “hierarchy” in which people have “primary” relationship(s) and “secondary” relationship(s) that come after the primary. The structure is ultimately up to all consenting and honest parties.

QPOC/QTPOC: initials that stand for queer people of color and queer and/or trans people of color.

Questioning: the process of exploring your own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Sex Affirmation/Reassignment Surgery (Gender Confirmation Surgery): a medical and surgical process that one undergoes for the purpose of having hir body be more consistent with hir gender identity.

Skoliosexual: a person who is attracted to genderqueer, transgender, transsexual, and/or non-binary people.

Stealth: a term to describe a trans person who is not “out” as trans, and is perceived by others as cisgender.

Third Gender: a term for a person who does not identify with either man or woman, but identifies with another gender. This gender category is used by societies that recognize three or more genders, both contemporary and historic, and is also a conceptual term meaning different things to different people who use it as a way to move beyond the gender binary.

Transsexual: a person who identifies psychologically as a gender/sex other than one to which they were assigned at birth. Transsexuals often wish to transform their bodies hormonally and surgically to match their inner sense of gender/sex.

Transfag: a transman who is attracted to other self-identified men.

Tryke: a transwoman who is attracted to other self-identified women.

Two-Spirited: an umbrella term traditionally used by First Nations People to recognize individuals who possess qualities or fulfill roles of both male and female. Traditionally, two-spirited individuals are respected and celebrated.

Ze/Hir: alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some trans people. Pronounced zee and here, they replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “her” respectively.

For more terms and definitions, visit the following websites:


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By Marianna Correia