Understanding basic terminology is Step #1 in being effective and supportive allies with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the labor movement.


LGBTQ: Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning. GLBT is also used, but is considered outdate. At times, you may also see an A for Ally, an I for Intersex and/or a TS for Two- Spirit added to these letters. LGBT or LGBTQ are the most widely used.

LESBIAN – a woman whose primary romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions are to other women.

GAY – a man whose primary romantic, emotional, physical and sexual attractions are to other men. In some occasions the term may be used to refer to lesbians.

BISEXUAL – a person who has significant romantic, emotional, physical and/or sexual attractions to members of both sexes. The frequency, intensity, or quality of attraction is not necessarily directed toward both sexes equally.

TRANSGENDER – used both as an umbrella term and as an identity. Broadly it refers to anyone who does not identify with his or her assigned gender. As an identity the term refers to anyone who transgresses the traditional sex and gender characteristics and/or expectations. 

QUEER– this can be a confusing term for those who aren’t immersed in LGBTQ culture. Queer is seen as both an umbrella term that captures the full spectrum of sexual identities and orientations as well as a specific identity in and of itself. Sexuality is fluid and complicated and queer captures this concept in a non-specific way that many, especially younger LGBTQ people, find more appealing than a specific label, like gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Queer can be a loaded term as well – not everyone accepts its use and some find it offensive due to its history as a slur used against LGBTQ people. Bottom line: understand the appropriate use and nuance with this word before using it.

HOW MANY LESBIAN, GAY AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE ARE THERE IN THE U.S?  Estimates for the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United States range from 5% – 15% of the population.

The 2010 Census was the first to track married same-sex couples.

The United States Census previously has not recorded information about single people’s sexual orientation. The 2000 census did ask questions about same-sex couple and found some interesting results.

  • 96 percent of all U.S. counties have at least one same-sex couple with children under 18 in the household, Census 2000 reveals.

  • 97 percent of U.S. counties have a senior in a same-sex partnership. Nearly three in five U.S. counties (1,847) have more same-sex partnered seniors per capita than the national average of one in a thousand people.

An Ally is any heterosexual (“straight”) person who opposes heterosexism and homophobia and supports LGBT individuals and causes.

Gender Identity is how one thinks of one’s own gender.   A person may identify as male, female, transgender, or any number of other terms.  “Gender expression” is the outward means of expressing one’s gender identity.

Heterosexism is the assumption that everyone is or should be heterosexual, and the belief that heterosexuality is superior to other forms of sexual orientation and expression. Homophobia is negative feelings, attitudes, actions or behaviors towards anyone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or perceived to be any of the above. Internalized homophobia is a fear of same-sex tendencies within oneself and can lead to repression. Institutionalized homophobia refers to homophobic laws, policies, and positions taken by social and governmental institutions.