Want to learn more, be supportive, or just get all your terminology correct? This section is a great place to start. It also contains resources that can help you learn how to be more supportive and informed about LGBTQ people in your life.

What does “LGBTQ+” stand for?

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning/Queer. The “+” stands in for a number of other valid identities whose ‘letters’ are not represented in the acronym. Sometimes you may see this acronym include more letters, which represent additional identities. This photo can help you understand what each identity means:

Sexual Orientation Terms

Sexual Orientation is a term frequently used to describe a person’s innate romantic, emotional, or sexual attraction to another person.  Use the term sexual orientation instead of “sexual preference,” “lifestyle,” or other misleading terms.

Lesbian refers to a female who is romantically/sexually attracted to other females.

Gay man refers to a man who is romantically/sexually attracted to other men.

Bisexual refers to a person who is romantically/sexually attracted to both sexes.

Pansexual refers to a person who is romantically/sexually interested in other people regardless of gender, but do not wish to identify as bisexual because it implies that there are only two binary genders or sexes.

Queer  includes individuals who transcend labels of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Can also be an umbrella term that refers to the entire LGBTQ community. 

MSM stands for men who have sex with men (may not identify as gay)

WSW stands for women who have sex with women (may not identify as a lesbian)

Gender Identity Terms

Gender Identity  is a person’s deeply felt sense of being male, female, something other, or, in between.  Everyone has a gender identity.

Birth Gender  is the gender assigned at birth based on appearance of genitalia and chromosomes

Gender Expression  is an individuals characteristics and behaviors, such as appearance, dress, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interaction.

Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe all kinds of people who sit outside the gender binary or who’s gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth.  (Note that the term is not transgendered…it’s intentionally in the present tense, not the past tense.  It’s a state of being.)

Transsexual is an individual who considers them self a member of the opposite sex and who, by surgery or therapy, acquire the physical characteristics of the opposite sex. 

Transvestite is a derogatory term for an individual who dresses in clothing most often associated with the opposite sex for fetish or arousal purposes (this is not synonymous with drag queens).

Transphobia is the dislike, hatred, or fear of gender variance or persons who identify as gender variant (can be internal and external)

Drag  refers to theatrical performances of gender, Includes drag kings and drag queens.

Cross Dresser refers to a person who has an emotional need to express their alternative gender identity and be accepted in that role on a less permanent basis.

Transition or Transitioning consists of a change in style of dress, selection of new name, and a request that people use the correct pronoun.  This may or may not include necessary medical care like hormone therapy, counseling, and/or surgery.

F to M / FTM  refers to a “Trans Man”- a Biological female who is or has transitioned to male.

M to F / MTF  refers to a “Trans Woman”- a Biological male who is or has transitioned to female.

SRS stands for Sexual Reassignment Surgery. 

Intersex refers to a person who has ambiguous genitalia or born with both male and female genitalia  or DNA (although historically used, the term hermaphrodite is no longer considered an appropriate term and is derogatory).

Cisgender refers to someone who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth (this term is more appropriate than “normal” or “typical”).

Genderqueer refers to people who do not identify or express themselves as completely male or female.  Genderqueer people may or may not identify as transgender.

What is the best, most respectful way to address someone I believe might be transgender? 

You should address a person who is transgender like you would treat anyone else: with respect, dignity, and kindness. But here are a few things to remember:

  • It is derogatory to use the terms “He-She,” “She-Male,” or “It”
  • It is derogatory to use the term “transgendered” (past tense); this is who they are, not what “happened” to them

Unless you are a medical professional or in an extremely close relationship with the individual, it is rude to ask:

  • what reassignment surgeries they’ve had or plan to have
  • what genitalia they have currently
  • about their former first name

If you are unsure of a person’s gender, nicely and sincerely ask them how they identify or what pronoun they’d prefer. Then, respect what they tell you. 

**This information was pulled from–lgbtq101

Are there resources online that can help me understand LGBTQ identities better–even my own?

Indiana Youth Group (IYG) is a group based in Indianapolis that has provided a safe space for LGBTQ youth and their allies since 1987. They have been supportive of OUTreach since the beginning and we could not thank them enough. Their site has some great resources for parents and kids. Indiana Youth Group provides these resources to help youth who are questioning their identities: connects you to other teens from around the country and to problem-solving resources just for you. Hear from peers who respond with support, encouragement and direction.

The Gender Series, created by Addison Smith, is an online educational video series that speaks about many topics on gender identity and sexual orientation. To view the entire series, visit Addison’s website

My child is questioning their sexuality. How can I help them support their search?

The most important thing you can do is love and accept your child exactly as they are. Studies have shown that LGBTQ youth benefit greatly from having a supporting home environment. The Human Rights Campaign has a great guide on how to become a supporter of someone who is LGBTQ: Supporting Your Youth