As queer terms are not always understood intuitively, we’ve come up with this FAQ section. We’ve tried to keep it as short and simple as possible, but have provided some great links to use for any further reading about queer terms.
Please feel free to e-mail us with any feedback/concerns about any wording or phrasing. We are always aiming to improve and are aware that terminology, and the queer world, are continuously evolving, and we want to evolve with it!
The word queer can have different connotations. One is the umbrella term for LGBTQIA+, and another one is the defiance of heteronormativity and the gender binary. Some people use the term queer when they don’t feel any real connection to other terms or find other terms too restrictive. The word “queer” showed up many decades ago in the English language and has ”always meant something not normal, something peculiar, something odd” (read this Columbia Journalism Review article for more). Later is was used to describe “homosexuals”. In the late 1980s the term “queer” started to be reowned by queer people to use it as an affirmative, positive way to call themselves.
These acronyms mean “assigned male at birth” and “assigned female at birth”. After a very quick assessment, almost always exclusively based on the appearance of external sexual organs, most newborns are assigned to one of two genders: male or female. The terms AMAB and AFAB are terms some people use to express which gender was assigned to them in relation to who they are. Not everybody is comfortable with using these acronyms because they tend to reaffirm a binary that is still part of our society but has no scientific substance whatsoever and that should be deconstructed. Not only gender is a social construct but so is biological sex. There is no essential binary in this world.
A person who has no gender.
Born in the wrong body:
A popular image of transgender people is that of a “woman trapped in a man’s body” and vice versa. However, this isn’t entirely accurate for all trans people. A more accurate description for a lot of people is that transgender people are born into bodies which society does not associate with their gender, or were assigned a sex that does not match their gender.
To be cis means you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth. But, like most dyadic systems, gender is in fact more of a spectrum between and beyond the dominant categories. Some people, for different reasons, can’t be assigned a gender at birth (see “intersex”).
Cishet / Allocishet:
“Cishet” is a term meaning cisgender and heterosexual, often used as a term to mean “not queer”. However, it’s important to be careful when using this term as this can exclude some people who are ace and/or aro. An alternative to this is “allocishet”, which ensures ace/aro people are not being included in a sense that means “not queer”.
Female-to-male is a term that is often seen as outdated and inappropriate by many people. However, there are people who still like to use this term and identify with it. It is a term used by people who are changing, or are seeking to change, their “female” physical selves, via surgery/hormones/other medical interventions into “male”.
Gender is a convoluted linking between your sex and your understanding of yourself as male, female, both, or neither, and how you express this. Sex and gender are both social constructs, which means they exist only because of humans’ historical and cultural developments. Queer theorists like Judith Butler even reject dividing sex and gender because of their constructiveness and tight correlation between both. Gender is performative, which means we reproduce gender by “doing gender” every day.
A construct that divides people into two genders: male or female. Using this binary model excludes all grey areas and is a rigid idea, one that is seen as absolute. You are either male or female, there is no inbetween. This is clearly a destructive and divisive idea. The gender binary is the root of all evil regarding many forms of inequality and hatred towards anything “queer”.
Refers to gender which can vary over time, or at random, or in response to different circumstances. A genderfluid person may at any given time be non-binary, a man, a woman, any combination of these, or agender. For some people this “switch” between genders may happen a few times a day or every few weeks or months – every person’s experience is unique and valid.
Gender nonconformity (gnc) means that someone does not follow the ideas society has about binary gender roles and everything that comes with how someone was assigned at birth. This can be in regards to their appearance, their behaviour, or anything else connected to gender.
A genderqueer person is someone who does not live by traditional ideas of gender. Rather, they can have an overlap between several genders (for example, woman and non-binary; man and woman; man, woman and non-binary), having more than one gender, having no gender, and/or being genderfluid (see above).
Intersex people are people who are born with bodies that are not typically or exclusively “male” or “female”. While someone can be intersex due to an hormone and/or chromosome variety (some people have i.e. a xxy chromosome setup, instead of a xx or xy one, see also “sex”), this usually (at first) only applies to external sex organs, as nothing else is typically examined at birth. Variety in the hormone or chromosome setup often becomes noticeable during puberty, though. In some countries, parents have recently been given the opportunity to leave the gender assignment blank when their child is intersex. However, a lot of social pressure still exists for those parents, as being either “female” or “male” is of fundamental importance for human beings within many societies. A lot of intersex people have been, and still are, put through gender reassignment surgery after birth, against their will (as infants cannot consent), and very often parents are misinformed about the decisions they are making. Intersex people are men or women, cis or trans, intersex, non-binary, genderqueer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, etc.
Male-to-Female is a term that is often seen as outdated and inappropriate by many people. However, there are people who still like to use this term and identify with it. It is a term used by people who are changing, or are seeking to change, their “male” physical selves, via surgery/hormones/other medical interventions into “female”.
Is a term used by people who do not fit within the gender binary. It is also called “enby”. The term “NB” is also used by some but has been criticized as NB stands for “non black” people. Non-binary is often used as an umbrella term for other identities like “agender” or “bigender”. A couple of years ago the term “genderqueer” was used more often, but has now been mostly replaced by “non-binary”.
The way people refer to themselves and prefer others refer to them. Pronouns can include: they/them, she/her, he/him, ze/zer, zie/zim. Always use the pronouns someone asks you to and never assume a person’s pronouns.
Sex and Gender are both social constructs, which means they exist only because of cultural developments throughout history. However, sex is most often used to describe biological and anatomical differences. This can be defined by using: hormones, chromosomes, enzymes, and internal and external sex organs. However, this is not as simple as “masculine” and “feminine”. Modern biology speaks of at least 6 different sexes, if only looking at chromosomes. Add enzymes, sex organs, and hormones to that – well, you can do the math. Sex is not the simple “masculine” and “feminine” thought by many.
Trans / transgender:
People who are transgender often have a different gender identity than that of which they were assigned at birth. A couple of years ago the term “transsexual” was used for this, but that term is largely seen as outdated in the queer community today–there are still people who use this term for themselves, however. Like most dyadic systems, gender is in fact more of a spectrum between and beyond the dominant categories, a lot of transgender people see themselves as non-binary too (see non-binary and agender). Some people, for different reasons, can’t be assigned a gender at birth (see “intersex”).
Transmasculine or transmasc:
Used for people who were assigned female at birth, but tend to relate with masculinity more than with femininity. This can include a variety of identities, not limited to: trans men, demiguys, multi gender people who relate more with their masculine gender, genderfluid people who also tend to relate with masculinity more often and any other non-binary person who relates more significantly to masculinity. Transmasc can also be used as its own gender identity. Being transmasc, of course, does not mean the person presents or feels stereotypically masculine or undertakes stereotypically masculine roles.
Transfeminine or transfem:
This is used for people who were assigned male at birth, but tend to relate with femininity more than with masculinity. This can include a variety of identities, not limited to: trans women, demigirls, multi gender people who relate more with their feminine gender, genderfluid people who also tend to relate with femininity more often and any other non-binary person who relates more significantly to femininity. Transfem can also be used as its own gender identity. Being transfem, of course, does not mean the person presents or feels stereotypically feminine or undertakes stereotypically feminine roles.
Attraction and Romance
A person’s sexual attraction does not necessarily have any bearing on their romantic attraction. A person’s romantic attraction does not necessarily have any bearing on their sexual attraction. Many people identify with more than one of the below terms.
An aromantic person is someone who doesn’t experience romantic attraction to any gender. This does not mean aromantic people do not feel love: love is a complex emotion, and exists on many levels: between parent and child, friends, cousins, siblings. Like most things, many see this as a spectrum.
Also known as “Ace”. Traditionally, asexuality was considered to mean people who do not experience sexual attraction towards any gender. However, it is now understood to be a spectrum. Some asexual people never have sex. Some asexual people fall in love. Some asexual people are disgusted by sex. Some are not fussed, and will participate to keep their partner happy or to reproduce. Also see: Grey-A.
A person who experiences sexual attraction.
A person who experiences romantic attraction.
A person who is romantically attracted to two or more different genders.
A person who is attracted to/falls in love with two or more genders. It does not just mean two, and those two genders can be any! There’s a misconception that it must be “your gender” plus the “opposite” gender. However, you could be a woman attracted to men and non-binary people. Or a non-binary person attracted to other non-binary people and women. Or a man attracted to women, men, and genderfluid people.
A person who is demiromantic only develops romantic attraction after a deep, emotional connection has developed.
A person who is demisexual only develops sexual attraction after a deep, emotional connection has developed.
The term Gay is often described as men who are attracted to and/or fall in love with other men. Some nonbinary people also use the term gay to describe themselves, and some people who use gay don’t call themselves men at all. All these terms can be fragmented descriptions of identities too.
This word has, at times, been used in the same way as queer, meaning anyone who exists within the LGBTAI+ spectrum. At Queer Pack, however, we only use gay for men and, if they wish for it, nonbinary people who love/are attracted to men due to the strong connotations this word has for the above definition. We feel it cannot be inclusive enough.
Gray-asexual / Gray-ace / Grey-A:
A person who sits in the greyer area between sexual and asexual.
A person who is romantically attracted to people of the same gender.
A person who is romantically attracted to people of a gender different to their own.
The term Lesbian is often described as women attracted to and/or fall in love with other women. Some nonbinary people also use the term lesbian to describe themselves, and some lesbians don’t call themselves women at all. All these terms can be fragmented descriptions of identities too.
A person who is romantically attracted to a person irrespective of gender.
Pansexual people are attracted to a person regardless of gender.
When people see each other as family without being related by blood or state standards. Chosen families can be large or small of number, they can include children or not, they can also include animals or not. Chosen family is always voluntary.
The partner of one’s partner in a poly family.
Monoamory / Monogamy:
A person who only wants one romantic and/or sexual relationship at a time.
Loving/liking/being affectionate with a person without it being sexual.
Poly family / Polycule
Poly family means the individuals in a poly construct who consider each other a joint family. This is one example of a chosen family. Polycule is the name for an “extended” poly family including all partners and the partners of partners. The sexual and romantic relationships within the polycule can be very different. The polycule can see themselves as family or not.
Polyamory / relationship anarchy:
Not monogamous. Having more than one romantic and/or sexual relationship at a time, in which all people involved are aware and consent. The term “Relationship anarchy” has a special focus on not wanting hierarchies in your relationships and is heavily ralated with every individual in a poly family finding their own paths. That can also be a focus of polyamory in general but doesn’t have to be.
Kitchen Table Polyamory (KTP)
This describes poly relationships where all of the different partners would be content and comfortable sitting together at one kitchen table having a meal together. It draws a picture of the polycule (see below) being fine with sharing a personal moment any day.
Having a close relationship with someone that is more intense emotionally, and more intimate, than is considered common for a friendship. The level of commitment involved is sometimes thought to be similar to a typical romantic relationship. Some people in a queerplatonic relationship will use the terms partners/life-partner etc.
This word is a combination of “three” and “couple, meaning everything a couple is but it’s not with two but three people.
Suggested Links to Learn More About Queer Terms
Here you can find a small selection of links to explore more about queer terms. If you have any more to suggest, we’d love to hear from you.
Last updated: May 8th 2022