Common Terms and Vocabulary

Here are the most common terms we use at St. Lawrence University. For more terms and information, check out out "Other Resources" page! 

Please note that each person who uses any or all of these terms does so in a unique way (especially terms that are used in the context of an identity label). If you do not understand the context in which a person is using one of these terms, it is best to ask the individual. 

Agender: A person who does not identify with any gender, or intentionally does not follow expectations of gender.

Ally: A person who is not LGBTQIA+ but shows support for LGBTQIA+ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways. 

Androgynous: Identifying and/or presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine. 

Asexual (ACE):  A sexual orientation where someone does not feel sexual attraction or a desire for sex. Asexuality differs from celibacy, which is a deliberate abstention from sexual activity. There are many diverse ways of being asexual.

Aromantic: An individual who does not feel romantic attraction or have a desire for romance. Someone who identifies as aromantic can be satisfied by friendships and other non-romantic relationships. 

Bisexual: Individuals who are attracted to two genders. These are typically their own gender and a gender differing from their own. However, this is unique to each individual. 

Cisgender: Term for individuals whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Demisexual: A sexual orientation where someone feels sexual attraction only to people they share an emotional bond with.

Gay: A sexual and/or affectional attraction toward people of the same gender. This is often viewed as an umbrella term. 

Gender: Cultural meanings attached to being masculine and feminine, which influence personal identities. Gender is a social construct that varies among societies and can be used to classify a person's identity. Gender is fundamentally different from biological sex. 

Gender expression: External manifestations of gender, expressed through a person's name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, body characteristics, etc. Society identifies these cues as masculine and feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture. 

Gender fluid: A person whose gender identification and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations. Being fluid in motion between two or more genders.

Gender identity: A person's internal, deeply held sense of their gender. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others.

Gender non-conforming: A term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.

Gender transition: The process by which some people strive to more closely align their internal knowledge of gender with its outward appearance. Some people socially transition, whereby they might begin dressing, using names and pronouns and/or be socially recognized as another gender. Others undergo physical transitions in which they modify their bodies through medical interventions. 

Intersex: An umbrella term describing people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that cannot be classified as typically male or female.

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.

Non-binary/Genderqueer: Terms used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms. Non-binary is sometimes shortened to enby or NB.

Pansexual: A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions to any person, regardless of gender identity.

Pronouns: Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person.  Examples are, but not limited to, they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his. It is always appropriate to ask for someone's pronouns. 

Queer: An adjective, often used as an umbrella term, used by some people, whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual (e.g. queer person, queer woman). Typically, for those who only identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel don't apply to them. But many people identify as both queer and another sexual orientation (e.g. queer and a lesbian). Once considered a pejorative term, queer has been reclaimed by some LGBT people to describe themselves; however, it is not a universally accepted term, even within the LGBT community.

Questioning: The process of exploring one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some people may also use this term to name their identity within the LGBTQIA community.

Sex: A medically constructed categorization. Sex is often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth. A person's sex is a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics.

Sexuality/Sexual orientation: Describes a person's enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person.

Trans(gender): An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms — including transgender.