Ever wonder what terms like Two-Spirit, queer, cisgender, 2S/LGBTQIA+ mean, or how to explain them to kids? 

Here is our handy vocabulary page:

Caveat: At Queer Humboldt, we use the following definitions generally, but we also do our best to use the words individual people use to describe themselves when possible. There aren't just single definitions for queer terminology and language around these topics is constantly evolving. If someone uses a word to describe themselves and you don't know what they mean by it, it might be helpful to respectfully ask rather than assuming what their definition is

What is Two-Spirit?

Two-Spirit is a place holder term, used for Indigenous community organizing. Unlike many of the words in the queer lexicon, Two-Spirit is less about an individual identity and more about the roles and responsibilities a Native person has within the context of Native communities. Indigenous people of Turtle Island with sexual orientations/gender identities other than heterosexual and/or cisgender may refer to themselves as Two-Spirit.


Learn more about Two-Spirit here and here 

What does Queer mean?

Everyone who isn't 100% heterosexual AND cisgender. While this word has been used as a putdown, it has also been reclaimed and used as a unifying term in movements towards social justice. 

What is cisgender?

When the gender you were assigned at birth matches who you know yourself to be (aka your gender identity) and how you express your gender in the world. For example, if you were assigned boy at birth, feel like a boy, and express your gender in ways our culture associates with boy.

What is 2S/LGBTQIA+ and why use this acronym?

Two-Spirit people were here first, so we put 2S first. Also, not all Two-Spirit people identify with the colonizer language/concepts of LGBTQIA+ so we use a slash between those. Additionally, a Two-Spirit person might also identify with LGBTQIA+ so having a slash between opens up multiple ways of belonging. 

Learn more about putting 2S first here.

L is for Lesbian: non-men who date/love/are attracted to non-men. 

G is for Gay: non-women who date/love/are attracted to non-women OR people who are attracted to people of their same gender. 

B is for Bisexual: to paraphrase a definition from the activist Robin Ochs, bisexuals are people who recognize in themselves the capacity to be attracted sexually and/or romantically to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily to the same degree, not necessarily in the same way. 

T is for Transgender (see below)

Q is for Queer (see above)

I is for Intersex (see below)

A is for Asexual or Aromantic (see below)

and + is for the rest of our queer community who uses a range of words or no words to describe who they are.

What does Transgender mean?

Anyone who's gender identity and/or gender expression is different than what they were assigned at birth.  In other words, anyone who radically transgresses rigid gender norms. 

Transgender is an umbrella term that includes many genders, such as genderqueer, agender, drag queen/king, a person who medically transitions, trans woman, trans man, bigender, gender-fluid, etc. We include drag performers in our definition of trans because they are impacted/targeted by transphobia, radically transgress rigid gender norms, are superstars of the gender diverse community, but please note that many drag performers do not think of themselves as part of the trans community. Over time, the denfintion of transgedner has gotten narrower and narrower. Many people are now just using it for people who medically transition, but we prefer to use the older definition that is more radically inclusive.

What is Non-Binary?

Non-Binary is an umbrella term for anyone who does not neatly fit into the "man/woman" gender binary system. This includes people who don't have a gender, people with more than one gender, people whose gender is fluid/ever-changing, and people whose gender is not exclusively man/woman. Non-binary is not one gender; it includes many genders outside the binary.

While Non-Binary is often used to describe a group of genders under the larger Transgender umbrella, some Non-Binary people define Transgender in ways that do not include themselves. Historically, Transgender has included Non-Binary genders (if you look at the Trans Flag, the white stripe in the middle is for Non-Binary genders), but language changes over time and this is an area where language is currently evolving. 

What is the IA+?

I is for Intersex, or DSD (Differences in Sex Development), as in people who biologically don't neatly fit in the female/male binary (approximately 2% of the population).

Learn more here

A is for Asexual/Aromantic, as in people who's orientation is defined by having little to no capacity for sexual or romantic feeling. This is a spectrum.

Learn more here

The + is for everyone who isn't already listed who isn't 100% heterosexual and cisgender. Examples include pansexual, non-binary, people who don't want to be labeled, etc.

What is TGI?

Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex. TGI is recently being used as an inclusive term for everyone who radically transgresses gender norms (like the way we have been using Transgender for a long time). Sometimes we just say Gender Diverse too.


An inclusive term for sexual orientation/gender identity/gender expression. It includes all of us, including people who are cishet (cisgender and heterosexual). 

Yeah, but how the heck do I talk about this with kids?!

Check out this wonderful resource from Welcoming Schools:

WS_LGBTQ_Definitions_for_Students (1).pdf

Below are even more vocabulary terms and definitions for people who want to go even deeper. We didn't make this list (if we did, we would have put the 2S  first because Two-Spirit people were here first). 

Please note these are incomplete lists. There are so many wonderful and descriptive words for describing ways of loving and genders!