LGBTQ+ Identities

When it comes to gender and sexual identity, there has been an explosion of labels that some find confusing. Terminology is changing to express a broad spectrum of identities beyond male/female, man/woman, and gay/straight.

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Hi! I’m here to help you explore the vast spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities. It’s a big world out there, and for a long time, we’ve tried to lump everyone into just a handful of categories: man or woman, gay or straight. We now know it’s more complex than that, factoring in all four core elements: biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and attraction. Let’s get started...

The infinite variety in human identity

For a long time, people have used pairs of opposites to make sense of the world—black or white, nature or nurture, gay or straight, boy or girl. Human beings and the world we inhabit just aren’t that simple.

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The "+" in LGBTQ+

Explore the history and meaning of the LGBTQ+ acronym.

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What’s in a name?

There has been an explosion of terms used to explain gender identity and sexual identity. Learn why some feel many terms are needed.

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What Is Intersectionality?

If you had just one word to describe yourself, what would it be? That's the challenge posed to Mengjue Jiang. Watch this video to learn her response.

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Intersectionality explained

Watch this video to learn more about intersectionality and how it helps us understand different experiences, including experiences of discrimination.

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Digging into intersectionality

Get the scoop on the history of intersectionality and why it's at the forefront of efforts to achieve LGBTQ+ equity today.

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Double jeopardy

Explore the experiences of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) adults who identify as LGBTQ+, including challenges around safety, security and well-being.

Beyond the binary

The term “non-binary” is used a lot these days. Learn more about identities beyond the categories of man/woman, gay/straight, and male/female.

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Gender beyond he and she

Non-binary gender identities have been around for a long time. They have recently begun to be recognized in the US and other western countries.

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We are all non-binary

This parent of young twin boys says gender stereotypes are too limiting.

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A spectrum of sexual orientations

Researchers have been measuring a spectrum of sexual orientations for over 70 years.

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Variety in our bodies

Our bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

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The script has flipped

If you ask Gen Z, the future is non-binary. 

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The "Q" in LGBTQ+

Dig into the many meanings of the word "queer."

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Who identifies as queer?

What was once an offensive term has been reclaimed by some Americans.

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A changing workplace

Explore changes occurring in today's workplace as more people identify as nonbinary.

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Conflicting opinions

People in the LGBTQ+ community have strong and conflicting opinions on the meaning and use of the term 'queer.'

Understanding the Community

Learn about the people who make up the LGBTQ+ community.

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Q is for questioning

Explore a meaning for the "Q" in LGBTQ+ that is often overlooked.

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It’s a learning process for everyone

Actor Asia Kate Dillon talks with Ellen DeGeneres about what it means to be female/gender non-binary.

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Why I do this

Nicole Perez recalls a time she didn't stand up for a friend. "I never want to miss an opportunity" again, she says.

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Celebrating the ordinary

Amy Schneider's historic run on 'Jeopardy!' won't be forgotten anytime soon, not the least because she made being LGBTQ+ seem so ordinary.

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Holding fast to love

Six longtime couples share how they weather the ups and downs of life together, finding great joy and opportunities for growth along the way.

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Family Ties

Who do we count on when times are rough--and who do we share our joys and triumphs with? Families are vital to the LGBTQ+ community.

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Making History

LGBTQ+ Black pioneers and trail blazers have helped shape our world.

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Love and Marriage

Learn how interracial marriage paved the way for same-sex matrimony.

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“It’s About Your Rights and Freedom”

Explore the history and meaning of LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations.

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Fighting back

Learn what happened when the patrons of the mafia-owned Stonewall Inn decided to fight back against violence and harassment.

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LGBTQ+ history through the ages

Think LGBTQ+ history starts with Stonewall? Think again!

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Understanding the Pride flag

Did you know that each of the colors in the rainbow flag has a special significance for the LGBTQ+ community?

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Who can play?

Explore the history behind current controversies surrounding LGBTQ+ athletes

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The first Gay Olympics

Learn how an early effort to expand outlets for gay athletes became a smashing success.

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LGBTQ+ millennials

Check out the findings from a 2018 survey of young millennials conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago. Some of the results might surprise you, including the fact that Latinos in this generation are the most to identify as LGBTQ+.

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Finding the words

It's not easy to affirm your identity when existing terms are non-existent, stereotypical or offensive. Learn about ongoing efforts to fill the gaps in LGBTQ+ terminology in many Asian languages.

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LGBT rights in the Americas

Curious about the status of LGBTQ+ persons in other countries? Check out this interactive timeline of LGBT rights in countries throughout the Americas created by researchers at Amherst College.

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Who identifies as Latinx?

Get the scoop on the meanings and origins of Latinx, a term added to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary in 2018.



(Adj.) Describes a person who does not identify with any gender. Learn More



An ally is someone who openly supports people in the LGBTQ+ community. Although it usually refers to people who do not identify as LGBTQ+, people within the LGBTQ+ community can be known as allies of other identities within the LGBTQ+ group. Learn More


(Adj.) Describes a person who does not experience any form of sexual attraction. People who identify as asexual may or may not experience emotional, physical, or romantic attraction. Learn More


(Adj.) Describes a person whose gender identity is a combination of two or more genders. A bigender person may consciously or unconsciously shift between traditionally masculine and feminine behavior and expression while identifying with both genders (and sometimes a third gender). Learn More


(Adj.) Refers to the sexual orientation of a person who experiences sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to persons of more than one gender, not necessarily equally or at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree. Also known as "bi". Learn More


(Adj.) Refers to a match between gender identity and sex characteristics observed at birth, i.e., a person born with female anatomy who identifies as a girl/woman. Learn More


(Adj.) Describes the sexual orientation of persons who are emotionally, sexually, and/or romantically attracted to persons of the same sex/gender. While the term is most often used to describe men, it can also be used more broadly to refer to both men and women (i.e., gay man, gay woman, gay people). Learn More


(Noun) A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity and ascribe qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and vary between cultures. Learn More

Gender binary

(Noun) A socially constructed system that defines gender as consisting solely of two categories--masculine/man and feminine/woman. Learn More

Gender expression

(Noun) The ways that a person communicates a gender identity to others such as dress, behavior, hairstyle, voice, and/or mannerisms. Learn More

Gender fluid

(Adj.) Describes a person who identifies their gender as shifting within a spectrum of gender identities and expressions. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of two (or more) genders, but may feel more one gender some days, and another gender other days. Gender-fluid people may or may not also identify as transgender. Learn More

Gender identity

(Noun) One’s deeply held, core sense of being a man, woman, or some other gender. A gender identity can be a combination of two or more genders (such as gender fluid), and some individuals don't identify with any gender at all--described as being agender. Learn More


(Adj.) An umbrella term for variations in biological sex traits such as genitalia, hormones, reproductive anatomy or chromosomes. Some of these variations are evident at birth while others manifest during puberty or later in life. Learn More


(Adj./Noun) Refers to the sexual orientation of women who are emotionally, sexually, and/or romantically attracted to women. Learn More


(Adj.) An identity that does not conform to traditional two-sided categories of sex, gender, and/or sexual orientation, such as male-female, man-woman, and gay-straight. Learn More


(Adj.) A person who is pansexual is capable of experiencing emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction to persons of all gender identities and gender expressions. Learn More


(Adj.) Describes a person who does not define their sexual orientation in terms of conventional labels or classifications (e.g., gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, etc.). Learn More


(Adj.) Alternative term to LGBTQ+. An umbrella term for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual. Historically a negative term and insult, queer is being reclaimed by many LGBTQ+ people—particularly youth—as a source of pride and political identity. The term is valued by some for its defiance, by some because it can be inclusive of the entire community, and by others who find it to be an appropriate term to describe their more fluid identities. “Queer” is still disliked by some people in the LGBTQ+ community and its use by straight people can be considered offensive. Due to its varying meanings, this word should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who self-identifies as queer (i.e. “My cousin identifies as queer.”) Learn More


(Adj.)Describes the process of discovery and exploration about sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof. Can be an aspect of adolescence as young people explore various facets of their identity.
Learn More

Sex / Sex assigned at birth / Biological sex

(Noun) A person's sex (male, female, or intersex) is often determined based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth. In reality, biological sex is more complicated, referring to a combination of anatomical, physiological, genetic, and physical attributes. These include genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, genes, and secondary sex characteristics. The phrase "sex assigned at birth" is used by some to emphasize that genitalia alone are not always a sufficient indication of a person's sex, as well as the fact that a person's gender identity is not always aligned with the sex characteristics observed at birth. Learn More


(Adj.) Another term for heterosexual. Refers to the sexual, emotional, and/or romantic attraction to a gender other than one's own. Typically this means a woman who is primarily attracted to men and vice versa. Learn More

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Citations & Sources

Adam, M. (2017, March 26). What is a non-binary gender identity? [Video]. YouTube.

Ainsworth, C. (2015). Sex redefined: The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that. Nature, 518, 288-291.!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/518288a.pdf

American Psychological Association. (2006). Answers to your questions about individuals with intersex conditions.

Dowd, R. (2017, December 13). 27% of California adolescents say they are viewed as gender nonconforming, study finds. UCLA Newsroom.

Freeman, H. (2017, September 16). Let’s drop the gender stereotypes-we are all non-binary. Guardian.

Goldberg, S.K., Rothblum, E.D., Russell, S.T., & Meyer, I.H. (2020, January 20). Exploring the Q in LGBTQ. Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.

Hammack, P. (2019, April 8). The future is non-binary, and teens are leading the way. Pacific Standard.

Khan, F. (2015, September 1). I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality. Independent.

Pugachevsky, J. (2017, April 26). What does it mean to be pansexual? Cosmopolitan.

Schindler, M. (2016, August 1). LGBT 101: An introduction to the queer community [Video]. YouTube.

The Advocate. (2018, January 25). What is intersectionality? [Video]. YouTube.

The Ellen Show. (March 20, 2017). Ellen meets trailblazing actor Asia Kate Dillon [Video]. YouTube.

The Kinsey Scale. (2019). Kinsey Institute.

Watson, R., Wheldon, C., & Puhl, R. (2019). Evidence of diverse identities in a large national sample of sexual and gender minority adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 30(52), 431-442.

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