"How we use language shapes how we think"
The definitions of the words given below are not standardized and are used differently by different individuals and in different parts of the world. The meanings of words also change over time. Concepts and attitudes toward gender identity and sexual identity are changing in the society as a whole, as well as within the sexual minority communities. Therefore, the meanings of these words will continue to change as well. (Most of the 'definitions' are modified/adapted from the websites - www.siecus.org, www.biresource.org andwww.gendertalk.com)
Male: An individual's biological status as male or female. A label used to signify a "human sex," the biological designation based on genitalia. Can also be a socio-political term, used by an individual to label their gender identity. (Note: In this paper, the term 'male' used to denote individuals who are born with male genitalia, irrespective of the gender identity)
Man: A term referring to someone who identifies as such, who may often exhibit masculine or male characteristics (see masculine and male). Popularly understood within a binary gender system to refer to someone who is male-bodied. (Note: In this paper, the term 'man' is used to denote the gender and 'male' to denote individual's biological status)
Masculine: An often ambiguous term that refers to self-expression, performance, actions, behaviors, dress, grooming, adornment, and speech popularly associated with someone who is male-bodied within a binary gender system. People of all genders can self-identify as masculine or as having masculine characteristics.
Feminine: An often ambiguous term that refers to self-expression, performance, actions, behaviors, dress, grooming, adornment and speech popularly associated with someone who is female-bodied within a binary gender system. People of all genders can self-identify as feminine or as having feminine characteristics.
Men who have Sex with Men (MSM): This term is used to denote all those men who have sex with other men regardless of their sexual identity. This is because a man may have sex with other men but still consider himself to be a heterosexual or may not have any specific sexual identity at all. This means one has to concentrate on behavior, in addition to the sexual categories, in the area of HIV/STD prevention.
Males who have sex with Males (MSM): This is used as an umbrella term under which all biological males who have sex with other males are included, regardless of their sexual/gender identity. Thus literally it also includes transgender/transsexual (male to female) persons since they are actually biological males.
[Note: Some transgendered/transsexual persons (male to female) don't want themselves to be included under this term, even though this term mainly serves as a working definition. To denote such persons, recently, the term "Transgender persons who have Sex with Men" (TSM) has been introduced.]
Men who have sex with Men and Women (MSMW): This denotes those men who have sex with men as well as women regardless of their sexual identity. This too, denotes just their behavior.
Gay: One who has significant (to oneself) sexual or romantic attractions primarily to members of the same gender or sex, or who identifies as a member of the gay community. One may identify as gay without identifying as a member of the gay community and vice versa. Though 'gay' is a common term for male and female homosexual persons, these days it is mainly used to denote homosexual man. Self-identified gay men do not necessarily have sex only with men, but occasionally may engage in sex with women.
(Note: In this paper, 'gay' refers to "any person (man) who is conscious of his erotic attractions/sexual behavior towards persons of same gender/sex (i.e., other men)". Thus, the term 'gay' need not necessarily indicates 'gay identity' in this paper).
Lesbian/Lesbian woman: A girl or woman who has significant (to oneself) sexual or romantic attractions primarily to members of the same gender or sex, or who identifies as a member of the lesbian community. In India, this term is used to indicate bisexual women also.
Heterosexual (n., adj.): 1. Sexual or romantic behavior between a member of one sex and a member of another gender or sex. 2. One whose significant (to oneself) sexual or romantic attractions are primarily to members of another gender or sex.
(Note: Heterosexual persons are sometimes referred to as "straight". In this paper, most often the term 'heterosexual' is used as an adjective rather than as a noun).
Homosexual (n., adj.): Individual with a primary sexual and affectional orientation or emotional attraction toward persons of the same sex. Male homosexuals are often referred to as 'gay', where as female homosexuals are referred to as 'lesbians'. A term often viewed as negative, overly clinical, or disempowering by members of GLBT/Sexual minority community.
(Note: The word 'homosexual' is most often used as a label and it may not be an identity. Also, this term is sometimes considered derogatory and not preferred by persons with same-sex behavior. In this website, mostly it is used as an adjective rather than as a noun).
Bisexual adj., n.: One who has significant (to oneself) sexual or romantic attractions to members of both the same gender and/or sex and another gender and/or sex, or who identifies as a member of the bisexual community. People who are attracted to members of both genders or sexes may be monogamous, polyfidelitous or nonmonogamous. (Note: In this website, mostly the term 'bisexual' is used as an adjective rather than as a noun)
Gay community: The group of people who are conscious of their erotic attractions/sexual behavior towards persons of same gender/sex or who identify as members of the gay community. One may identify as gay without identifying as a member of the gay community and vice versa. Lesbians and bisexual men and women often do not feel included by this term.
These days, the terms 'Gay communities' or 'Gay populations' are used to stress that, like the people they comprise, these communities or populations are diverse.
Bi(sexual) community n.: The group of people who are conscious of their erotic attractions/sexual behavior towards persons of either gender/sex or who identify as members of the bisexual community. One may identify as bisexual without identifying with the bisexual community or vice versa.
These days, the terms 'Bisexual communities' or 'Bisexual populations' are used to stress that, like the people they comprise, these communities or populations are diverse.
LesBiGay: Short form for Lesbians, Bisexuals and Gay people.
MSM community/population: This term is used to denote the population of men who have sex with men who may or may not have 'gay, bisexual or any other identity'. Though they are fragmented and isolated in the general population because of their commonalties they form a 'community'.
These days, the terms 'MSM communities' or 'MSM populations' are used to stress that, like the people they comprise, these communities or populations are diverse.
GLBT community: This represents the community of Gays, Lesbians,Bisexuals and Transgendered/transsexual persons. These groups often jointly fight against discrimination and stigmatization based on one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity and thus identify as a common community. Also used as a term to denote the entire community of sexual minorities irrespective of identities (Note: In this paper, the term 'GLBT community' is used interchangeably with the term 'sexual minorities' or 'sexual minority community').
These days, the terms 'GLBT communities' or 'GLBT populations' are used to stress that, like the people they comprise, these communities or populations are diverse.
Sex: 1. A term used historically and within the medical field to identify genetic/biological/hormonal/physical characteristics, including genitalia, which are used to classify an individual as female, male, or intersexed person. 2. A person's biological or anatomical identity as male, female or intersexed person. 3. Activity engaged in by oneself, with another, or others to express attractions and/or arousal. (also see sexuality, sexual behavior)
Sexuality: Human sexuality encompasses the sexual knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors of individuals. Its dimensions include the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of the sexual response system; identity, orientation, roles and personality; thoughts, feelings, and relationships. The expression of sexuality is influenced by ethical, spiritual, cultural, and moral concerns.
Same-sex sexuality: Currently, this term is being used as an alternative to the term 'homosexuality' (though some would like to use only this term instead of the term 'homosexuality'). Similarly, the term 'homosexual behavior' is being replaced by the terms - same-sex behavior, same-sex sexual behavior, same-gender sexual behavior. (Note: In this document the terms 'homosexuality' and 'homosexual behavior' are used because of their 'familiarity' and without any negative connotations).
Sexual Orientation. One's erotic, romantic, and affectional attraction. It could be to people of the same sex, to the opposite sex, or to both sexes.
- Heterosexuality. Erotic, romantic, and affectional attraction to people of the opposite sex.
- Bisexuality. Erotic, romantic, and affectional attraction to people of both sexes.
- Homosexuality. Erotic, romantic, and affectional attraction to people of the same sex.
[Neither the term heterosexuality nor the term homosexuality existed before 1890. The terms 'homosexual' and 'homosexuality' may have the connotation that same gender attractions are a mental disorder (medical term: homophilia), and are therefore distasteful to some people. Also see - Same-sex sexuality]