Each person’s identity within the Rainbow community is unique and personal. Therefore, each person is free to describe themselves as they wish, and to adjust their description as they learn to know themselves. The acronym 2SLGBTQIANB+ is an attempt to define some of the experiences of the Rainbow community, but it’s important to note that these terms may mean different things to different people, and that they are constantly evolving as we come to a better understanding of sexuality and gender.
An umbrella term that represents the many words used in Indigenous languages to refer to the interrelatedness of gender, sexuality, community, culture and spirituality. Some Indigenous people identify as Two Spirit rather than, or in addition to, identifying as LGBTQ.*
Describes a woman who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to other women. Someone who is a lesbian does not look, dress or act a certain way – they have diverse style and interests like any other woman. Also, a lesbian couple does not need to have a ‘masculine’ partner and a ‘feminine’ partner – they are simply two women who are in a romantic relationship.
This term is used in two ways:
Describes someone who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to members of their own gender and members of one or more other genders. For example, a bisexual man might be attracted to other men as well as to women and non-binary people. Someone who is bisexual might have a long-term monogamous relationship with one person but that does not mean they are not bisexual.
When babies are born, doctors ‘assign’ them a gender based on their external genitalia. Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity, or their innermost concept of self as a man, a woman, or non-binary is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. This can be based on many things, including cultural expectations of gender. Some transgender people choose to take hormones or undergo surgery to align their bodies with their inner sense of self. However, being transgender does not depend on medically transitioning.
Transgender is often shortened to “trans.” A trans man is a man who was assigned ‘female’ at birth (AFAB) and a trans woman is a woman who was assigned ‘male’ at birth (AMAB), and who have claimed their true gender. Non-binary people or people of other genders can also fall under the umbrella term of transgender since they do not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.
The term queer began as a slur, but has been reclaimed by some in the Rainbow community, and thus is an inherently political identity. The term queer describes a community as well as an identity. It is a broad term and can include anyone who is not straight (heterosexual) and/or cisgender (aligned to the gender they were assigned at birth). Some people continue to find this term offensive, so it is important that people only use this term as a way to describe themselves and not others.
Questioning refers to anybody who is exploring their sexuality or their gender identity, but hasn’t yet landed on a label.
An umbrella term for differences in sex traits or reproductive anatomy. Some babies are born with sex characteristics that are not clearly male or female, or develop these characteristics during childhood. These characteristics may be external, like genitalia, or internal, involving reproductive organs. There are also many possible differences in hormones or chromosomes, besides those that typically describe males and females. Some intersex traits are noticed at birth. Others don’t show up until puberty or later in life, and sometimes people never discover they are intersex. Intersex people often face shame – or are forced or coerced into changing their bodies, usually at a very young age. Most surgeries to change intersex traits happen in infancy. *** *****
Means different things to different people, but generally refers to someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction towards others. Asexuality is a sexual orientation. It is different from celibacy or abstinence, in that those are choices to refrain from engaging in sexual behaviors for specific reasons, whereas asexuality is something a person is born with. Someone who is asexual may still be interested in romantic relationships. They may also choose to engage in sexual behaviors for various reasons even while not experiencing sexual attraction. Asexuality is not a medical condition. ****
Describes someone whose inner concept of self is neither man nor woman, both man and woman, or a combination of man or woman. It is sometimes used interchangeably with terms like genderqueer, gender creative, gender nonconforming, gender diverse, gender expansive or gender fluid. People who are non-binary may see themselves as falling under the transgender umbrella, and may identify as transgender. Someone who is non-binary may prefer gender neutral terms and pronouns, such as they/them. It is important to ask them which pronouns you should use. Non-binary is sometimes abbreviated as NB or Enby. However, it’s important to note that NB can also stand for “non-Black people of color” so “non-binary” should be used when speaking outside of the full acronym. Additionally, not all non-binary people use the term enby to describe themselves so unless it’s a term an individual person uses to describe themself, “non-binary” should be used. Agender can also fall under non-binary, and describes a person who has no sense of gender.
When it comes to sexual orientation, gender, and relationships, there are many other ways that people describe themselves. Here are a few other terms that may be helpful:
*adapted from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission
** adapted from The Good Fruit Project
*** adapted from https://interactadvocates.org/faq/
**** adapted from What is Asexuality?
***** adapted from Rainbow Resource
****** adapted from Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association