TABLE 38–1. Definitions of commonly used terms
Physical violence directed at people because they are
gay. Colloquially referred to as gay bashing, the
latter term is often used metaphorically to describe antigay verbal
abuse as well.
Attitudes such as heterosexism, homophobia, and moral
condemnations of homosexuality.
A broad term, applicable to men and women, used to
describe 1) sexual behavior, 2) sexual identity, or 3)
A colloquial term that describes individuals who are
hiding their homosexuality from others in their life. Being in the
closet involves a range of psychological and behavioral activities intended
to keep an individual's homosexuality a secret.
Admitting one's homosexuality to oneself or
revealing it to others. Also referred to as "coming out
of the closet."
Down low (DL)
A colloquial African American term describing men who
have sex with men (MSM). Men "on the down low" may
engage in homosexual or bisexual behavior without adopting a gay
or bisexual identity.
A sexual identity adopted by men (and some women) who
openly accept, to some degree, their own homosexual orientation.
Colloquially, gay is often used
as a synonym for homosexual.
The psychological and social aspects of one's
Discomfort with one's biological sex.
An individual's psychological sense of being
either a man or a woman; often erroneously confused with sexual
Gender identity disorder (GID)
Term referring to one of two DSM-IV-TR diagnoses: GID
in childhood or GID in adolescence or
adulthood (formerly transsexualism).
Both diagnoses are characterized by persistent gender dysphoria,
which in the case of adults may lead them to seek out sex reassignment surgery.
A belief system that naturalizes and idealizes heterosexuality
and either dismisses or ignores a gay subjectivity.
Term describing either sexual behaviors between individuals
of different sexes or their sexual orientation. When used as a noun,
it may describe a sexual identity (as in "I am
External homophobia describes the irrational fear and
hatred that heterosexual individuals may have toward gay people.
Internal or internalized homophobia is the self-hatred gay people
have toward themselves.
A term first adopted by 19th-century medicine that
when used as an adjective denotes either same-sex sexual behaviors
or a same-sex sexual orientation. Referring to someone as "a homosexual" is
considered offensive to many gay people.
A broad term encompassing same-sex behaviors, orientation,
attractions, and identities.
A sexual identity adopted by women who openly accept,
to some degree, their same-sex attractions.
Men who have sex with men (MSM)
A term used in epidemiology and public health to describe
men who have not necessarily accepted a gay identity but whose behavior
includes sex with other men. These men may be less likely to practice
safer sex (sex with a condom) and places them and their sexual partners at
greater risk for exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted
Moral condemnations of homosexuality
Beliefs that regard homosexual acts as intrinsically
harmful to the individual, to the individual's spirit,
and to the social fabric. Such beliefs are usually religious in
nature, although some are secular.
Colloquially, an unwanted revelation by a third party
of a closeted individual's homosexuality to others; often
intended to inflict harm on the person being "outed."
Historically, a denigrating term. In recent years, queer has
been used either as an inclusive term for all lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender (LGBT) individuals or as an alternative identity
in itself (as in LGBTQ).
The biological attributes of being male or female;
often used as a synonym for gender.
An individual's sexual activities (homosexual,
heterosexual, bisexual), irrespective of sexual orientation
or sexual identity.
An individual's subjective experience of his
or her own sexual orientation. Whereas sexual orientation is usually
innate, sexual identity develops over time and in a cultural context.
For example, calling oneself gay or lesbian is
a subjective affirmation of one's homosexual orientation.
An individual's innate attraction to members
of the same sex (homosexual), the
opposite sex (heterosexual), or
both sexes (bisexual). Recognition
of one's homosexual orientation does not necessarily or
automatically lead to acceptance of a gay or lesbian sexual identity.
Colloquial term that includes transsexuals, transvestites,
or any individual with a nonconventional or atypical gender presentation.
Hatred or lack of acceptance of transsexual or transgender
An individual who has undergone sex reassignment surgery,
either male to female (MTF) or female to male (FTM).