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LGBTQ+ Terminology Guide

Words matter.

This is a freely available, regularly updated and community-led resource. This guide is ideal for editorial professionals and writers who work with LGBTQ+ texts.

To get involved, click here.

I would like to thank the following for their contributions:
David Ledain, Maya Berger, Andrew Hodges and Joe Haining

Language updates all the time. As professionals, we need to be aware of the latest language in order to not cause harm. This guide is that, a guide. Ask questions, refer to multiple guides and be led by the LGBTQ+ community.

Some sexual content below. You have been warned!


acronyms

LGBTQ+, LGBT, LGBTQIA+

There are a number of different acronyms available. You should choose the one most inclusive for your organisation or context and keep this consistent across all texts.

acting, appearing, presenting

Often used when someone is hiding their true identity. Avoid constructions such as “straight-acting” as this can imply that someone is being deceitful. Suggest constructions such as “closeted”, “not out to xxx yet”, etc.

AFAB, AMAB

Acronyms for “assigned female at birth” and “assigned male at birth”. Not used widely among the trans community any longer, some still may self-identify using these terms.

agender

Someone who does not define themselves as one particular gender. The term “genderless” is less commonly used. See also, Gender, non-binary.

ally

Someone who is supportive of LGBTQ+ people and their fight for equal rights.

androgynous

Partly male and partly female in appearance, where gender might be purposely indeterminate.

aromantic

[Definition to come]

asexual

A person who has little to no sexual attraction to others. They can still have sex but it has little interest for them.

assignment

[Definition to come] More commonly ‘re-assignment’, referring to medical intervention to align  someone’s gender with their deep intuitive sense of themselves.

associating gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people with paedophilia, child abuse, sexual abuse, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, adultery and/or incest

Offensive. Avoid and highlight any constructions that could make this association to writers.


bareback

The act of anal sex without the protection of a condom and usually to ejaculate inside the anal passage.

basket shopping

When cruising, in a bar or out and about, checking another guy’s bulge to see if it’s a) aesthetically pleasing, or b) sexually arousing.

batty boy

A derogatory West Indian slur for a gay man, from the Jamaican slang word ‘batty’ for buttocks.

bear

A hairy chested and bearded, heavy-set and often muscular man who projects a rugged ‘cliched’ image of masculinity. A dominant male often dressing in biker gear or lumberjack style clothing. Sub-cultures include: Muscle Bears, whose size comes from heavy working out and not body fat; Polar Bears, older bears with grey beards and body hair; Sugar Bears, effeminate bears.

bi-curious, bi curious, hyphen optional

People who show some interest or curiosity for sexual activity with a person of the same sex. It implies the person has no or limited homosexual experience and until they do, remain ‘curious’.

bi-erasure, hyphen

Meaning to ignore the existence or legitimacy of people who identify as bisexual.

bisexual, bi No hyphen

A person who is sexually attracted to two or more genders. Historically, this has been applied to those who are “attracted to both male and female”, however, this can be seen as outdated.

biphobia No hyphen

[Definition to come]

BJ

‘Blow Job’, stimulating the erect penis usually to ejaculation.

boi

A young man who prefers older male partners and usually fulfils a submissive role. It enables young men to differentiate themselves from ‘boy’, who might be seen as someone underage.

Also used in reference to a boyish lesbian.

bottom

The one being penetrated. Previously thought of as the passive or submissive partner but increasingly viewed now as equal. See Power Bottom

breeder

Someone who ejaculates inside another’s anal passage. To ‘breed’ is the verb.

Bubble butt

Refers to rounded, well-defined buttocks; smooth with underlying good muscle tone.


Cock ring 

The purpose of the cock ring is to maintain the rigidity of an erection by closing off the blood flow back from the penis. It does not stop ejaculation. Cock rings should not be worn for prolonged periods.

Chemsex

Drugs such as GHB, Ketamine, Mephedrone etc. that are taken to enhance sex, usually at sex parties.

Chubby-chaser

Someone who is sexually attracted to bigger/heavier guys.

cisgender, cisgendered, cis, cis man (cisman), cis woman (ciswoman) No hyphen

Someone who identifies with the same sex they were assigned at birth, i.e. not trans. Not to be confused with sexuality, this applies to gender. Cishet refers to someone who is cisgender heterosexual.

civil partnership

[Definition to come] A legally recognised union between two people usually of the same sex which provides certain rights similar to marriage.

closet, closeted, in the closet

This can be used to explain people who  do not express their sexuality publically for many reasons. Someone being ‘in the closet’ implies them being a situation they would rather not be in. People can be closeted at different points within their life and can be closeted to different groups (e.g. at work). See also, coming out.

coming out

To come out (of the closet) is the phrase used to. Coming out is often inferred as being a one-off event, but in reality many LGBTQ+ people spend their entire lives ‘coming out’ to different groups, work colleagues, family and friends.

conversion therapy (sometimes called reparative therapy)

A practice that believes it is possible to change somebody’s sexual orientation because sexuality is a choice. In text, place within quotation marks, or similar, to identify this as an offensive term. See also, ex-gay. It is discredited and considered abusive practice rooted in false and often pseudoscientific religious beliefs. It is banned in the UK.

Cottage/cottaging

Originally English park toilets resembled little cottages hidden amongst the trees and bushes. Prior to this ‘vaults’ or public latrines were often places used by men looking for casual sex with other men. The term is now widely used for any public toilet where cottaging occurs.

couple

Do not assume a cisgendered, heterosexual couple is the default position.

Cream pie

In porn, when ejaculation happens inside the anus or vagina, the camera will zoom in to show the penis being withdrawn and semen seeping or being pushed out. This is known as a cream pie.

cross-dresser Hyphen

Traditionally men who wore female clothes were called transvestites. This is now seen as a derogatory term since it is sometimes misused to describe someone who is trans or transexual. Cross-dresser is therefore a better term today.

cruising

Hanging out in public places, i.e. toilets, saunas, woods or anywhere frequented by other men looking for casual, anonymous sex. These places might be well known among the LGBTQ+ community but often the general public can be completely unaware of what is going on.

Cub

A youthful version of a bear. Usually smaller framed and often the submissive partner in a bear relationship. A cub’s beard would usually be clipped short and his image more tailored and less rugged.

Cum-dump

In group sex scenarios, a ‘cum-dump’ or ‘cum-slut’ is the one taking multiple ejaculations from numerous other guys in his anus and bare-back. 


Daddy

The older man who is in a sexual relationship with a (usually) much younger man, or someone who is interested in younger men who prefer older men themselves. The relationship mimics that of the father-son dynamic, but it does not mean the daddy is a paedophile.

Daisy-chain

A sex act involving several men either masturbating or sucking their closest partner’s penis and arranged in a circle involving any number of others.

deadnaming One word, no hyphen

The practise of using a name associated with someone prior to transition. Do not deadname unless you have been given explicit permission by the individual to do so. Do not allude to a “new name” or “now goes by”, or similar constructions.

deviant, disordered, dysfunctional, diseased, perverted, destructive and similar descriptions

[Definition to come]

Dildo

A sex toy usually in the shape of an erect penis used by men to insert into the anus. They come in different sizes, colours and can vibrate or not.

DL

[Definition to come]

Dogging

Engaging in public sex, usually at remote beauty spot car parks. People can watch others having sex solo or in couples in their cars. There is an etiquette of various signals using sidelights and interior lights to indicate what the occupants are up to. Dogging is generally the preserve of heterosexuals and a version of gay cruising. 

drag

[Definition to come]


enby One word

See, non-binary

ex-gay Hyphen

See, conversion therapy


Facial

Ejaculating into the face and/or mouth of another.

fag, faggot, dyke, homo, sodomite and similar

Offensive terms. Do not use.

Felching

The sexual act of sucking one’s own semen out of the anus of a partner, or in a group situation, anyone else’s semen. The semen can then be passed to the mouth of the partner.

Fisting

The sex act involving inserting a hand into the rectum and thought to be the only sexual activity ‘invented’ in the twentieth century through its useage in porn. Fisting can be done solo or with a partner.

Fleshlight

Is the number one selling brand of sex toy for men as an aid to masturbation. First patented in 1998, the interior sleeve is not made from latex or silicone and the exact formulation is a closely guarded secret.

Freeballing

Like going ‘commando’, freeballing is going without underwear, but more often in a public and exhibitionist manner.

Friend of Dorothy

Quite an old fashioned term nowadays and derives from the ever popular Judy Garland film The Wizard of Oz. The film and Judy Garland are still huge icons of gay culture.

Frottage or Frot

Frottage is a non-penetrative sex act by rubbing the penis against another and very often fully clothed. It is often carried out in public on crowded transport and can involve unsuspecting members of the public. Frotteurism is particularly prevalent in Japan where it is known as ‘chikan’. Frot is the male-to-male rubbing of penises to ejaculate.


gay

A person who is sexually attracted to someone of the same gender. Although typically associated with male same-sex attraction, the word can be used to show any same-sex attraction. Do not use in constructions with negative connotations, e.g. “that’s so gay”, etc.

gay agenda

[definition to come] The political activism of promoting gay values, but can be viewed as a negative, self-promoting attitude where all the cards are not fully revealed.

gender

Commonly confused with ‘sex’ or sexuality. Gender is the representation of someone’s identity. Frequently associated with masculine and feminine but there are more expressions of gender.

gender confirmation

[Definition to come]

gender dysphoria

[Definition to come] A diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the innate discomfort and alienation from one’s birth assigned gender, is normally required prior to access to any medical transition.

gender expression

[Definition to come]

gender fluid

[definition to come]

gender identity

[Definition to come]

Gender neutral

As an example, non-specific gendered public toilets are ‘gender neutral’.

gender nonconforming

[Definition to come]

gender non-conforming

[Definition to come]

gender transition, transition

[Definition to come]

gender-bender

[Definition to come] A derogatory term from the ‘70’s for a homosexual man, but can be aligned to someone who is actively distorting what it means to be either one gender or the other for political gains.

genderqueer

[Definition to come]

Glory hole

A hole in a dividing wall purposefully created for the act of sexual encounters, most popularly fashioned between public toilet cubicles. Glory holes or understall sex are perhaps the ultimate in anonymous sex. Gay saunas often mimic this with ready made glory holes.


hermaphrodite

Someone born with both female and male sexual organs. 

Heteroflexible

Someone who considers themselves mostly straight, not bi, but who has and does have homosexual activity. See MSM, men who have sex with other men. 

Heteronormative

Is the societal and cultural bias that considers heterosexuality to be the ‘norm’. For the majority of people it is, but it shouldn’t be to the exclusion of other gender and sexual minorities.

heterosexual

Someone who is dominantly attracted to the opposite sex. 

HIV/AIDS, also Aids

[Definition to come]

Hookup

A date usually arranged online with less emphasis or expectation associated with a proper ‘date’.

Homoerotic

This is the aesthetic pleasure of admiring the same sex in art and usually refers to the male form. Female homoeroticism in art is much less prevalent. In terms of the difference between homoeroticism and homosexuality, homoeroticism denotes the desire itself, whatever the object might be and can be a temporary emotion or feeling. Homosexuality is an identity and implies a much deeper and permanent origin. 

homophobia

[Definition to come]

Homoromantic

Someone who is attracted to someone of the same sex but not sexually attracted to them. For guys, this might be considered a ‘bromance’.

homosexual

If possible, avoid. Because of its connection to medical and psychological contexts (often when being gay was thought of as a ‘condition’), this is now seen as an outdated term by some.


intersex

Somebody born with biology that does not fit within the binary male or female.


Jock

More usually an American expression which refers to a sports loving young man who thrives on keeping fit and healthy, looking good and preening.


lesbian

A woman who experiences attraction to another woman. Some use and prefer ‘gay woman’.

Lingam

Is the abstract representation of the Hindu God Shiva and a symbol of the phallus. In Tantra, the Lingam massage centres on and celebrates the pure energy of the phallus and orgasm.

Lube

Short for lubricant. Water based gels are the most widely used in aiding smoother sex.


marriage

[Definition to come]

Metrosexual

A heterosexual man-about-town, in touch with his ‘feminine’ side. He looks after himself, uses skincare products, enjoys shopping, home design and caring for his children. 

microagressions

Actions that appear meaningless but which have a negative impact on the community and its members. Language can contain microagressions (e.g. using “he/she”) so watch for this in texts.

MLM

Acronym for men who love men.

MSM

Acronym for men who have sex with men. They might identify as heterosexual, but have no qualms about enjoying sex with other men. 

Mx (point as required by style)

Pronounced ‘mix’ and is a gender-neutral title.

Muscle Mary

Or gym bunny. Guys who spend inordinate amounts of time in the gym or working out to get their bodies to look a certain aesthetic way. They do this not for health reasons but to improve their kudos. Muscle Mary’s are often more flamboyant.


neopronouns

A set of gender-neutral pronouns (singular, third-person) other than “they”/“their”, commonly used by people who identify as non-binary or gender nonconforming. Can be based around existing words, or can be newly created terms that are otherwise not used in standard language, such as “ze”/“zir”.

Nonbinary, no hyphen

Someone who does not identify as being gendered male or female.

NSA

Acronym for ‘no strings attached’, i.e. casual non-obligatory sex.

NSF

On dating apps, NSF or non-scene fun, indicates someone who doesn’t hang out on the gay scene, often married, can be bisexual or in a relationship and is just looking for someone to ‘play’ with.

NFSW

Acronym for ‘not suitable for work’, used as a warning when sending (usually) pornographic material so that people do not open it at work or in other sensitive situations where other people might see and be offended.


openly gay/lesbian

preferred term over homosexual. see also, homosexual.

opposite sex

Avoid using this term as it implies only two sexes. Instead, use a specific gender term or group.

Otter

A man described as an ‘otter’ is generally slim, less hairy than a bear and perceived to be more playful. His beard would be trimmed. He would be lean and naturally healthy and athletic.

Out

Abbreviation for ‘out of the closet’.

outing

the practice of exposing someone’s sexuality or gender identity without their consent.


pan, pansexual

[Definition to come]

Regardless of gender. See also, bisexual.

parents

Use parents over ‘mother and father’, or similar constructions. Remember, family units are diverse and your language around family should reflect this. See also, couple.

Passing

When a transgender person is at a glance considered to be either a cis man or cis woman, whichever is appropriate.

PEP

Post-exposure prophylaxis. A medication taken after suspected exposure to HIV/AIDS.

pink triangle

Used by the Nazi party to denote LGBTQ+ people in concentration camps.

Poliari

[Definition to come]

polysexual, poly, polyamorous

A person who has open sexual and romantic relationships with more than one person at a time.

[Definition to come]

Power Bottom

Where traditionally the ‘bottom’ in any sexual encounter or relationship was seen as the passive or submissive partner (the one penetrated), the Power Bottom is in charge of how they enjoy their sex and will take the lead.

POZ

Someone identifying as HIV positive.

PrEP

Pre-exposure prophylaxis. A medication taken prior to exposure to HIV/AIDS.

pride (l.c.)

[Definition to come]

Pride (u.c.)

With capital. Pride Parades, Pride month, Pride celebrations: organised events to highlight the LGBTQ+ community. It is important to note that Pride Parades were political marches before the more celebratory tone found today.

progress flag

[Definition to come]

pronouns

Use the pronouns that people choose to use. Do not make jokes in reference to this (“I identify as …”, etc.).

Singular “they/them” is perfectly acceptable.


QTIPOC

Acronym for ‘queer, trans and intersex people of colour’.

queer

This term has been re-owned by many in the LGBTQ+ community in a positive and empowering stance to define themselves and the diversity of the human experience, but it still triggers memories for many who have suffered bullying as a result of this word being used in aggressive and dangerous attacks. Originally it was used to describe any abnormality of the mind perceived as a weakness or odd, or worse, to be ‘less than human’. 


rainbow flag

Common rainbow flag, representing Pride, has six colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. Other flags exist for other

rights

[Definition to come]

Rimming

The sexual act of licking, kissing, sucking and inserting the tongue into a partner’s anus.


safe sex

[Definition to come]

Scat

Or coprophilia, also called scatophilia, is the sexual arousal and pleasure gained from the feel, sight and even smell of faeces. While rare, it is a fetish that is not exclusive to either homosexuals or heterosexuals.

sex

A person’s sex is assigned at birth and relates to the genitalia.

sex change

[Definition to come] 

Sex positive

Someone whose attitude is that of free sexual expression and pleasure, as long as it’s healthy and consensual.

Sexual Offences Act (1967)

Following the Wolfenden Report (1957), the Act that brought about the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consinting adult men over the age of 21 and in the privacy of their own homes.

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act (2000)

After the Criminal and Justice Public Order Act (1994) which saw the legal age of consent for male homosexuality lowered to 18, in 2000 in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, the age of consent was lowered to 16 in line with that of females.

Sexual Offences Act (2003)

Changes to the Act made sexual offences unlawful regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. 

sexual orientation

Preferred term over sexual preference.

sexual preference

Do not use. Use “sexual orientation” instead. This term can perpetuate the understanding that sexual orientation is a choice.

Shooting ropes

Excessive ejaculation that literally looks like ropes of semen. This is not the norm and only reached by few men, often after long periods of abstinence.

Side

A gay man who does not partake in anal intercourse either as a top or bottom.

Smooth

A man who removes all his body hair (not head).

Snowballing

Is the sexual act of taking someone’s semen into the mouth and passing it back to their mouth or to someone else’s. 

sodomy, sodomite

From the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah and later used in laws prohibiting homosexual (in particular, male) sex acts. Avoid use of this word.

Spit-roast

The sexual position involving three, where the one in the middle gives oral sex while at the same time is penetrated from behind.

SSA

Acronym for ‘same sex attraction’.

Stonewall

Can refer to the 1969 protests in New York or the LGBTQ+ advocacy charity. Ensure that this is clear in texts.

straight

Someone who identifies as heterosexual. Do not use “normal” to describe someone in a heterosexual relationship.

Sub

Referring to a submissive partner. 


TERF

Acronym for ‘trans exclusionary radical feminism’. Meaning feminists who are transphobic.

Thicc

Slang for someone who has a full figure, especially thick thighs and large bottom.

Top

Refers to the one who penetrates, but can also infer dominance in the relationship, but this need not be the case.

trans

Short for Transsexual. A transsexual is someone who expereinces profoundly that thier gender identity is inconsistent with their assigned gender, i.e. they feel they are in the wrong the body. They desire unequivocally to permanently transition to the gender they truly identify with. This will require reassignment therapy, hormone treatment and possibly surgery, although not all transsexuals opt for surgery. The word ‘transsexual’ is becoming less widely used as it is seen as having connotations around sex, as in homosexual or bisexual and so more commonly the abbreviated term ‘trans’ is used instead.  

transgender man/boy

Someone who identifies with an alternative sex or gender to the one society has defined for them. For example a man might feel the gender he was born with as male is appropriate to him. Another man could feel the opposite, that their gender is more appropriate as female. It is not that they are in the wrong body but that they don’t identify with the gender assigned to them. Wearing feminine clothing and assuming more feminine traits and characteristics, they would feel more aligned to their chosen gender.

transgender woman/girl

[Definition to come]

transgendered

[Definition to come]

transphobia

[Definition to come]

transvestite

[Definition to come] A transvestite is someone who enjoys wearing clothes usually associated with the opposite sex. It may be something they do permanently or only occasionally and/or in private. Transvestites are very often heterosexual men. The word cross-dresser is more commonly used these days in favour of transvestite which was originally seen in medical as a disorder.

Tucking

This is a way of concealing the penis and testes by pushing and taping them back, a method used by drag queens. Another alternative is extremely tight underwear known as tucking panties that press and push everything down and away. For a totally smooth look, after pushing the testes back inside the body cavity, medical tape is then used to stick the penis and scrotum back between the legs.

Twink

A term used to describe gay young men in their late teens or early twenties. They have little or no body hair, are slim and are often attributed with having ‘beautiful packaging but little on the inside.’


Vampire

A gay man who goes out cruising late at night.

Vanilla

Is plain and conventional sex and generally applies to anyone who is not willing or interested in exploring or experimenting in any sexual practise other than ‘the norm’. Applies to both heterosexual and homosexual sex.

Vegetarian

A gay man who does not like giving oral.


WLW

Acronym for women who love women.

Wolf

A slimmer version of a bear combining sexual assertiveness with a hunter instinct. They would be semi-hairy, lean, muscular, attractive and have facial hair. Older ‘wolves’ would be coined ‘silver’ or ‘grey’ wolves, with connotations that they are free-spirited, wild and slightly dangerous.  

WSW

Acronym for women who have sex with women.


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