The LGBTQ world can get a bit confusing – there’s lots of acronyms and labels and identities that people refer to, but you may not know exactly what they mean.
To help you navigate the queer universe, we’ve started building a glossary of useful terms.
Here’s a couple of handy definitions to get you started.
If you describe yourself as Heterosexual, you’re indicating that you’re into having sex with people of a different gender to yourself. For example, if you’re a hetero guy then you’re into girls, and if you’re a hetero girl then you’re into guys.
This is generally referred to as being Straight. If you’re a Straight guy or girl then you’re describing yourself as Heterosexual.
Attracted mostly to people of the same sex or gender.
The term ‘gay’ can be used by gay guys or gay girls, but it’s most commonly used to describe guys that are into other guys.
If you describe yourself as Lesbian, you’re indicating that you’re a woman who’s into other women.
If you describe yourself as Bisexual, you’re indicating that you’re into having sex with multiple genders – you’re into both men and women.
You might also use the term Bicurious. If you describe yourself as Bicurious, you’re indicating that you are questioning whether or not you’re straight or heterosexual, and open to exploring sexual encounters with people of the same gender as you.
Attracted to romantic and sexual partners of any gender, sex or sexual identity. (‘Pan’ means ‘all’)
Attracted to romantic and sexual partners of many but not all genders, sexes or sexual identities. (‘Poly’ means ‘many’)
If you describe yourself as Asexual, you’re indicating that you don’t experience sexual attraction to other people – whatever their gender. You can be Asexual and still feel emotions and fall in love with people, but you just don’t want to have sex with them.
You could use Fluid to describe either your sexuality or gender.
To describe yourself as sexually fluid would be another way of saying that you’re Polysexual – your romantic and sexual partners don’t fit a binary description.
To describe yourself as gender fluid would be another way of saying that you’re non-binary – that you don’t ever or don’t always fit within a binary definition of gender.
Queer used to be a common homophobic insult directed at LGBTQ people. Many LGBTQ people have now reclaimed that word and use it to describe themselves. It’s a handy catch-all description that confirms that you fit somewhere within the broad LGBTQ umbrella, but you don’t want to put specific labels on anything. It’s another way of saying that you’re ‘not straight – that you’re not heterosexual.
Two Spirit is a word that has been adopted by the indigenous people of North America – it is a way of describing someone within the tribe or community who can display the traits of both men and women. The role of Two Spirit people varies significantly across different communities. Generally, they occupy a distinct, alternative gender status. They often have specific ceremonial roles to play.
What does non-binary mean?
Non-binary can mean different things to different people.
UK charity Stonewall describes non-binary as an “umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’”.
A binary view of gender sees people as being either man or woman – only two options. Being non-binary means that you don’t fit neatly into either of those two boxes.
While some non-binary individuals identify as either having a gender which is in-between the two categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’, others can fluctuate between them, or have no gender, either permanently or some of the time.
A non-binary person can identify with aspects of either gender, they can also have an identity outside the binary, which can also change and evolve over time.
Other terms that are similar to non-binary and may be used to mean something similar include genderqueer, neutrosis, agender, gender fluid, bigender, and third gender.
What pronouns should be used for non-binary people?
Pronouns are the words that take place of a person’s name and some people feel more comfortable using certain pronouns than others.
Non-binary people can use a range of pronouns, including ‘he’ and ‘she’. However, they may also prefer to use gender neutral pronouns such as ‘they’ and ‘them’ to reflect that they don’t identify as either male or female.
There are also various new pronouns, including xie and xir, zie and zir, and sie and hir.
If a person is non-binary, it is totally acceptable – and generally a good idea – to ask them what pronouns they would like you to use, so that you avoid using the incorrect terms.
A guide to gay guys
Guys come in all shapes and sizes, and we don’t necessarily fit neatly into boxes or labels. But as you’re navigating your dating life, or just trying to figure out which guys you fancy a quick hook-up with, it’s useful to have some basic reference points for the types of guys that you might encounter on your adventures.
To help you on your travels, here’s a quick guide to some of the men that you’ll meet.
They’re masculine, muscular, and hairy. One man’s bear is another man’s overweight uncle.
The big muscles and masculine persona traditionally associated with bears can often be a way of acting-out against all of those insecurities that many gay men have had to grapple with when growing up or at school. However, if you’re of a slimmer build, or a bit more androgynous in your sexuality, then this can be intimidating.
Muscle Bears are probably the ultimate fantasy in this category. Polar Bears are older guys who are bears. Cubs are younger guys who are bears. There’s also otters, who are pretty much hairy guys who are skinny.
The twink is the epitome of young and fresh - if you take your references from Tom of Finland and Physique Pictorial then you’d probably refer to these guys as chicken.
These guys are into some sort of fetish, they probably describe themselves as pigs. It could be leather, it could be lycra, it could be puppy play. There’s probably going to be fisting involved.
These are the sporty gays. Jocks are gay guys who play sports, and they won’t hesitate to let you know about it.
The Muscle Marys go to the gym. They go to the gym a lot. They eat a lot of meat and drink a lot of protein shakes. Their farts smell terrible.
You could also describe Muscle Marys as Circuit Queens – they love a big gay party, and won’t hesitate to travel to party.
It’s impossible not to love a Sexy Nerd – that elusive combination of intellect, intelligence, and geeky hotness. You might see them referred to as a Sexy Geek.
These are guys who can make wearing glasses look attractive. They’re bookish guys who aren’t over-confident, they’re Techy guys who know how to code and build apps just for fun. Sexy Nerds are boys who can look good wearing a cardigan and glasses, and impress you with obscure facts about Star Trek and Doctor Who.
The appeal of the Sexy Nerd is hard to define - whether it’s the sense that they’re more intelligent than you, or likely to earn more money, or perhaps it goes back to that maths teacher from high school that was a total dork but somehow sort of cute if you looked at him with one eye closed.
Why fight it? At the very least, a Sexy Nerd might be able to help you sort out your wifi and show you how to clean the viruses off your lap-top.
These guys are generally business gays. They love to network, they love going to events, they love wearing sharp suits, they love showing off about how much money they’re making.
The interests of these guys aren’t necessarily limited to theatre, but they’re the show-biz guys. They love musicals, they know the words to show-tunes, they can dazzle you with references to old movies that no one else has heard of. They idolise actresses who are long-dead. They watch the Tony Awards. Drag queens tend to emerge from this category.
These are the alternative, grungy guys. They’re a bit punk-ruck, a bit edgy. They’re artists, creative guys - tattoos and piercings. A bit dirty, in a good way.
These are guys that are a bit older, but still totally up for a bit of action. Sometimes described as Xaddy, or Daddy-as-fuck. Not all guys that you might label as a Daddy are necessarily looking for a younger guy, but that Daddy/Son role-play is fairly popular – something to do with the power dynamic at play that really works for everyone involved.