LGBTQIA+ Terms You Need to Know

By Kristie Overstreet on August 21, 2018


Even after 12 years of clinical work with the LGBTQIA+ community I learn new terms and phrases almost on a weekly basis. With more visibility, awareness, and advocacy, people are expanding their understanding of their identities. As a clinician, it is vital that you receive training and education to work with the LGBTQIA+ community.

If you know that LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual, then you have taken the first step. Along with other people I use LGBTQIA+ versus LGBTQIA to be more inclusive of all other identities. Adding the + sign is showing that I want to include all identities, not just LGBTQIA.

Your Human Sexuality class only scratched the surface of what you need to know. Here are a few terms and definitions to increase your knowledge so that you can provide the best clinical care.


An individual whose ‘sense’ of themselves in relation to their gender identity doesn’t match their sex assigned at birth. The term transgender is an umbrella term that encompasses many different identities.

For example, a person who is assigned female at birth due to genitalia who explores and realizes that they are male. They may identify as a transgender male. Their sense of self and identity is male; therefore, they are male.


An individual whose ‘sense’ of themselves in relation to their gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. Their gender identity is on the same side of their sex assigned at birth.

For example, I am a cisgender female. I was assigned female at birth based on my genitalia, and I identify as female. My sense of self and gender identity is female; therefore, I am female.


An individual who is born with a mix of anatomical sex traits (chromosomes, genitals, reproductive organs) that do not fit the binary definition of male and female. Some individuals do not know they are intersex until puberty and some may never find out they are intersex. Others have undergone genital mutilation as babies and children due being born intersex.

Intersex individuals are often left out of the LGBT community due to a lack of awareness and understanding. Often intersex individuals are inaccurately labeled as transgender due to a lack of awareness. It is crucial that clinicians educate themselves on intersex issues so they can best serve these clients and not further harm them.

Gender Non-binary

An individual whose gender identity does not fall within the male and female binary system. Gender non-binary is an umbrella term that encompasses many different identities such as gender queer, agender, bigender, just to name a few.

Many clinicians struggle with understanding gender non-binary due to their assumption of a binary system of gender. Science shows us that gender identity is non-binary and along a spectrum.


An individual who has no, rarely, or very little sexual attraction. This is an orientation or identity, as well as it is based on what someone feels not the action someone takes.

Asexual individuals do have relationships just like other people. There are many inaccurate myths about people who are asexual.


An individual who is physically and/or emotionally attracted to a person regardless of their gender. A common phrase is attraction to “hearts not parts”.

This is someone who connects with a person, and it isn’t dependent on their gender identity. With an increase in visibility and awareness, more people are coming out as pansexual.

A few important things to be aware of is that there is not a clinician, therapist, doctor, nurse, or person that can tell another person what their identity is. There isn’t an assessment, medical, or psychological test that can tell a person their identity. Each person is responsible for exploring and determining their identity.

LGBTQIA+ terminology is ever changing, and it’s crucial that clinicians stay up to date with the evolving language to provide the best support. Attend trainings, workshops, or read as much relevant information as you can so that you can continue to provide the best clinical care.


Dr. Kristie Overstreet is a clinical sexologist, certified sex therapist, licensed professional clinical counselor, author, speaker, and consultant. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology, Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She is a licensed counselor in California, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. She is also a Certified Sex Therapist and Certified Addiction Professional. She has over 12 years of clinical experience specializing in sex therapy, transgender healthcare, relationships, and helping counselors build their private practice. She is president of Therapy Department, a private practice that provides counseling, training, speaking, and consulting services across the United States.  For more information about Dr. Kristie's work visit


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