Even at the best of times, talking about gender or sexual orientation can be challenging. Fear of rejection or saying the wrong thing can stop these conversations before they even start. At ViacomCBS, we want to help make initiating those talks a little easier to further our mission of inclusion. Let’s all be teachable and correctable. Let’s be proud of who we are and love.

To that end, here’s a glossary of terms for any LGTBIQ+ discussion.

What Is Gender?

Gender refers to society’s expectations of how men and women should look, think, and act. “Gender” and “sex” are often used interchangeably, but they’re quite different in reality. Here are a few terms to know about gender:

  • Sex assigned at birth: “Sex” refers to the biological differences between males and females. Most people are assigned a sex at birth based on their external anatomy, which corresponds to the gender binary—the classification of genders as male and female.
  • Gender identity: Gender identity, on the other hand, refers to your internal and psychological sense of self as male, female, both, in between, or neither. In other words, it’s what you call yourself. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from the sex they were assigned at birth. No one can determine your gender identity but you.
  • Transgender: “Transgender” is a term for individuals whose gender identity and/or expression differ from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender person may identify as a man despite having been born with female genitalia. It’s important to note that the term “transgender” does not imply any specific sexual orientation.
  • Intersex: This term refers to anyone born with biological traits that fall outside the strict male/female gender binary.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation describes romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction—or a lack thereof—to others, and how this informs our identity. Sexual orientation is not the same thing as gender identity.

Here are just a few of the many terms used to describe sexual orientation.

  • Gay: “Gay” describes a person who is primarily attracted to members of the same gender. This term typically refers to men, though it can include women, too.
  • Lesbian: A lesbian is a woman who is primarily attracted to other women.
  • Bisexual: Someone who identifies as bisexual is attracted to more than one sex, gender, or gender identity. This attraction is not necessarily equal or at the same time.
  • Queer: Queer is an umbrella word used to describe fluid identities and orientations. It’s often the short phrase for LGTBIQ+ and can be used by anyone who identifies with this spectrum. In addition to sexual orientation, you may also hear it used to describe this community of individuals.

Keep in Mind

You may not always understand how others use these terms or hear words that you’re unfamiliar with. The best way to get more information? Ask respectfully! Here at ViacomCBS, we encourage our employees to be open to learning and commit to listening. In our opinion, these are the best ways to have meaningful conversations about the LGTBIQ+ community.


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