Exploring the Power of Language: Definitions of Key Terms Related to Pride

In our blog article on the history and meaning of the Pride flag, we explained the first terms of the queer community. In this article, we would like to add more explanations. If you would like to know more about the origins and the different Pride flags, please have a look at the article “Many bright colors – the short portrait of the Pride Flags“.
Since language is constantly changing, there is a multitude of terms for the most diverse things, people, emotions or situations. Old terms are discarded, and new ones are appropriated. Therefore, we can only reflect on the current discussion in this article and are curious about your opinion on the different terms.

1. * and:

The asterisk is used as a form of gender-inclusive language to achieve linguistic and thus social equality. It is spoken as a short pause, and written down as follows: Readers. This is intended to address people of all identities. This symbol is used to symbolize the multitude of possible sexual and gender identities that can be hidden behind a designation (inter*, trans*, woman*, man*, …). The gender colon is the most recent form of gender-equitable language and is considered more inclusive. Language programs for blind people, for example, can best reproduce the colon, as this makes the pause in speech, similar to spoken gendering.

2. § Section 175 StGB / Homosexual Persecution

In terms of content, § 175 StGB means, among other things, the punishment of sexual acts among persons of the male* sex. It existed until 1994 and was passed in the German Reich. Under National Socialism, the persecution of homosexual men* under § 175 culminated in their being killed in concentration camps. Until 1978, castration was still presented and carried out as a mitigating measure on the basis of § 175. Since 2017, persons can apply for rehabilitation, i.e. compensation.

3. AGG (General Equal Treatment Act)

The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) stipulates that people may not be discriminated against on the basis of ethnic origin, gender, religious affiliation, ideology, disability, age or sexual identity. This has been in force since 2006, but the General Equal Treatment Act is only limited to certain areas of life. It does not protect against discrimination within a living space. The areas of application of the legal regulation include, among others, employment and professions as well as services or civil law.

4. Ally, Advocate, Activist

Ally is translated as “supporter:in” and is primarily used for people who belong to a majority (white, heterosexual, …) and support an oppressed group (queer community, BIPoC, …). Queer allies are people who do not belong to the community themselves but actively advocate for it.
Advocate means “advocate:in” in German. Being an advocate means speaking for a particular group and informing about issues that affect the group. In the LGBTQIA+ community, this can be queer people as well as allies who speak out publicly for the community.
Activist means “activist:in” in German and includes all people who are politically active and stand up for the rights of people who are discriminated against. It is important that there is action, for example demonstrating, talking alone is not enough for the term activist.

5. Androgynous

Androgynous as a term can mean different things. On the one hand, as a way of presenting gender that has both masculine* and feminine* elements or is on a spectrum in between. On the other hand, androgynous can refer to a person’s outer appearance. However, the term can also refer to gender identity, which is located between male* and female*.

6. Movement (LQBTQIA+ Movement)

The LGBTQIA+ movement refers to current and historical attempts to improve the rights and living conditions of queer people. The interests of individuals are as colorful as the community itself. This diversity gives rise to many different social movements with their own struggles. What unites them, however, is the legal and social recognition and visibility they stand for. However, the rights of trans* and inter* people are still severely limited. Although initial improvements have been achieved through activism, for example, the abolition of forced sterilization in order to change marital status, psychiatric reports and high court costs are still unavoidable due to the “Transsexual Act”.

7. Bias

The English term bias is translated as “bias” or “distortion”. The consequence of bias can be unequal treatment. For example, bias takes hold in many recruitment processes and structurally disadvantages certain social groups, such as women* or BIPoC.

8. Binary gender system

The binary gender system is based on the assumption that there are only two genders: male* and female*. This thinking is carried over into every area of social interaction, for example gender roles, physical sex, diet or clothing purchases. All other genders are seen as deviations and are suppressed accordingly. The binary gender system is produced and cemented through behaviour, norms and rules in everyday life (Doing Gender). With binarity comes heteronormativity and cisnormativity, which will be explained in more detail elsewhere.

9. BIPoC

BIPoC is an abbreviation for “Black, Indigenous and People of Color” and means “Schwarz, Indigen” in German and the term “People of Color” is not translated. In this context, there is also the self-designation QT*I*BIPoC, which refers to the multiple discrimination of queer people. For example, QT*I*BIPoC can feel unseen with their queer identity in BIPoC spaces and experience racism in queer spaces.

10. Butch/Femme

Butch describes a gender representation/identity that tends to be masculine*, especially among lesbian and queer women* and is used as a self-designation. Butches can also be non-binary and non-lesbian. The term femme is juxtaposed with butch and describes feminine* presentation and gender roles. Butch and femme are often used as role ascriptions in lesbian couple relationships. The criticism here is the reproduction of heterosexual and patriarchal attributions. The opposite side argues that the existing role models are rather questioned and thus patriarchal structures are challenged.


AFAB stands for “Assigned Female* At Birth” and translates as “assigned female* after birth”. This gender assignment is only determined by looking at the external genitalia and is then registered on the birth certificate. This is an external attribution by doctors and the person concerned has no possibility to provide information.
CAFAB stands for “Coercively Assigned Female* At Birth” and the addition of “Coercively” is meant to underline the forced/forcible assignment of gender after birth. In this context, mainly inter* persons refer to the genital forcibly assigned surgery after birth to a male* or female* genital. However, the phrase can also be used by trans* people to express that they have been assigned a gender to which they do not belong because of their genitalia.
The abbreviation (C)AMAB stands for “(Coercively) Assigned Male* At birth”, i.e. “(forcibly) assigned to the male* gender at birth”.
DFAB/DMAB stands for “Designated Female* At Birth”/”Designated Male* At Birth” and means something like “designated as female*/male* at birth”. Inter*, trans* and non-binary people who were assigned female* or male* gender at birth use this designation to express that they cannot identify with it or can only partially identify with it.

12. Cis and cis-normativity

Cis is a prefix and is used to express that a person identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. A cis woman* is, therefore, a person who was assigned female* at birth and also identifies as a woman*.
If you are interested in the detailed explanation of cisnormativity, we will soon have the following blog article for you: “Our Bodies, our Lives, our Rights – 17.05 International Day against Homophobia, Bisexuality, Inter- and Transphobia”.

13. Coming-Out

Coming out describes a personal and self-determined process in which people become aware of and accept their own romantic, sexual desire, and/or gender identity and communicate this to the outside world. A distinction is made between internal coming-out, i.e. the process of becoming aware of oneself, and external coming-out, i.e. communicating publicly to one’s environment. In Germany, there is also the third, legal coming-out. This refers to the assessment process within the framework of the trans* sexual law when trans* people want to change their first name and/or marital status.
Hetero-cis people usually do not have a coming-out because they conform to social norms. Each person should decide for themselves when and with whom they want to come out. If someone is outed against their will, it is called “coming out” and can be a very traumatic experience with long-term consequences for the outed person.

14. Community

Community in German means “Gemeinde” or “Gemeinschaft”. In the context of queer, either all queer individuals, groups/organizations and institutes in a spatially limited space are meant, or the totality of all. Similar and shared experiences lead to a strong sense of community and shape the community.

15. CSD/Christopher-Street-Day

CSD is an umbrella term for demonstrations, street festivals and parades organized by the LGBTQIA* community. The events focus on visibility, recognition and equal rights. CSD is also used synonymously for Pride Month in June, but this is not correct.
If you want to know more about the origin and history of Pride Month and in the course of this about the CSD, take a look at the article “Pride Month – A short journey through time and why the past is highly topical”.

16. Divers/Third Option/Third Sex

Since 2018, a third option to indicate gender has been available in addition to male* and female*, following a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court. However, this entry can only be made after an assessment by a medical professional and is thus an external assignment. The third option is therefore only a minimal solution that urgently needs to be worked on. Non-binary people should also be given access to this option and inter* people should be given self-determination. The third option is NOT a third gender, but an umbrella term for many identities.

17. Drag King/Queen/"Travesty"

Drag kings are usually people with a gender assigned to females* who portray or parody masculinity* in the context of an artistic performance. In the process, gender signs (beard, muscles, …) are often used more intensively to draw attention to the gender construction or one’s own identity. It is important to distinguish drag kings from trans* men!
Drag queens perform femininity* in a pointed way in the context of shows, performances and the like. In doing so, drag queens are often cis men*. Here, too, a clear demarcation from trans* women must take place.
“Travesty” is the umbrella term for this art form, in which an exaggeration of stereotypes and gender clichés are parodied in a kind of performance. In contrast to travesty, drag not only plays with gender clichés but goes beyond them and can break with the concept of gender itself.

18. Dysphoria

Dysphoria describes a physical, social or psychological discomfort caused by self-perception and perception of others in many trans* and non-binary people. This feeling can be triggered by various things such as pronouns, clothing, names or physical features. For example, people are dysphoric when their environment perceives them to be the wrong gender.
Generally, a distinction is made between body dysphoria and gender dysphoria. The latter describes the burden that arises when the socially expected gender role does not match one’s own gender awareness. For example, a person who was assigned the female gender at birth, but who self-identifies as male*, is expected to behave, dress and use appropriate pronouns in a female* manner. Body dysphoria can arise when physical characteristics and gender consciousness do not match. Because of the pressure to perform, many sufferers undergo body reassignment surgery. It is important to emphasize that it is not necessary to feel dysphoria to call oneself trans* or non-binary!

19. Own designation vs. foreign designation

Other-descriptive terms are words applied by a dominant majority society to define groups apart from the socially produced norm. Descriptive terms are only used by the majority society for the “others”, so it does not refer to itself as hetero, cis or white. Thus a divisive process takes place, categorized into “normal” and “abnormal” and connoted as positive and negative.
Self-labels can either be appropriated terms that are re-positives by a marginalized group, or new words to describe themselves or something in relation to that group. These positive and empowering self-designations or re-appropriation of the foreign designation are, for example, the terms queer, ace (abbreviation of a_sexual), aro (abbreviation for a_romantic) or dyke (originally a slur for lesbian woman*). This reclaiming or reclaiming for oneself is also called reclaiming. Insults are used within the community to “disarm” the term. Reclaiming as a self-designation serves to provoke, confront, empower and make visible discrimination and marginalization. There is a difference between affected people using a reclaimed term to describe themselves and outsiders using them. The latter can be offensive even though reclaiming has taken place. Sometimes, however, these self-descriptions are ignored and racist/sexist terms remain.

20. Registered civil partnership/ marriage

Only since 2017 have same-sex loving couples been able to marry. Since 2001, it has been legally possible for two people of the same sex to enter into a registered partnership. However, this is not equal to heterosexual marriage, especially with regard to inheritance rights or adoption. Despite the achievement of “marriage for all”, it is critical to note that from a legal point of view, the partners in a same-sex marriage do not have equal rights compared to opposite-sex partners. Likewise, not all persons with their own relationships and family models are included. For example, polyamorous persons cannot marry both partners.

21. Empowerment

The term empowerment is used in different contexts. However, it always aims to create self-determination, self-empowerment and a greater capacity to act. Empowerment is the development of resistance strategies in an alienated everyday life with a rejecting society that claims that specific groups have no right to exist. What can be empowering is highly individual. Empowering can be acquiring knowledge and skills through an exchange, strengthening oneself from within and without, and much more.

22. Supplementary identity card

The supplementary identity card is a legally valid document that trans* and non-binary persons can have issued to them before the judicial change of civil status. This document states the correct name and gender. If you are interested in this topic, you can find more information here.


FLINTA* stands for women*, lesbians, inter*, non-binary, trans* and a_gender persons – for those who are affected by discrimination because of their gender identity in the face of patriarchy. The gender asterisk is meant to address those people who do not find themselves in any of the letters, but who are also marginalized because of their gender identity in a patriarchal heteronormative majority society. That is, all those who are not cis men* – including gay or bisexual cis men*, therefore do not belong to this group. The term is mainly used to make it clear at events or in public spaces who is welcome and what is not tolerated.

24. Fluid

Fluid means “liquid” and is usually used as a suffix. This is to express that sexuality (sexually-fluid) or gender (gender-fluid) is not fixed but can change.

25. Gender

Gender often refers to physical characteristics and usually deals exclusively with the binary description of male* and female*. Gender is an important social category in Western society and thus a principle of order. In an extension of the term and in order to move away from binarity, the term “gender” was introduced. Gender is used synonymously with gender identities. From a sociological point of view, a distinction can be made between three socially produced gender components: Physical sex (sex, the biological gender in terms of genitalia and hormones), social gender (gender, the individual’s ability to act in such a way that one’s actions/appearances conform to the social gender ascription made) and the sex category (the social ascription to gender, through the application of gender stereotypes).
Gender is thus a social construct that is socially shared. Ideas such as social status, gender presentation, role in society, life planning, sexuality and many more can be categorized as male* and female* in our society.

26. Gender identity

This synonym of gender refers to one’s own ideas of one’s own gender and the gender role associated with it. No one else can define your gender identity. This part of one’s identity can change throughout life. Similarly, gender identity does not have to be the same as the sex assigned at birth. Gender identity manifests itself, among other things, in the perception of one’s own body and its representation to the outside world.

27. Gender presentation

As the name suggests, gender presentation is about presenting one’s gender to the outside world. It is also called doing-gender and manifests itself in gendered behavior through clothing, gestures, manner of speaking, consumer behavior, etc. In Western society, only the two representations female* and male* are accepted. An androgynous gender presentation, for example, is often received as negative or confusing.

28. Gatekeeper:in

Gatekeeping is the exclusion of people from spaces and/or communities, but also the determination of the self-designation of marginalized groups/people. Gatekeeping is a negative term that stands for foreign determination and oppression. The term is not only used for individuals but also for organizations and institutions. One example of gatekeeping is the court that decides on the name and gender of trans* people. Another is the people of the LGBTQIA+ community who exclude trans* and inter* people if they do not suffer from dysphoria.

29. Heteronormativity

Heteronormative means that heterosexuality is seen as a social norm and a “natural” order. The term and the concept behind it want to critically question bisexuality and the power asymmetry that goes along with it. If you want to know more about heteronormativity, check out our blog post “Our Bodies, our Lives, our Rights – 17.05 International Day Against Homophobia, Bisexuality, Inter- and Transphobia”, which will be published on 17 May.


The International Day against Homophobia, Bisexuality, Interracialism and Transphobia has taken place annually on 17 May 2005. Visibility and the fight for equal rights of the LGBTQIA+ community are the focus of various actions and events. For more detailed information on this holiday, see our blog article published on 17.05 “Our Bodies, our Lives, our Rights – 17.05 International Day against Homophobia, Bi-, Inter- and Transphobia”.

31. Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a term that was invented by Black feminists in the USA and describes the interaction of different forms of discrimination. When different forms of discrimination act simultaneously, i.e. “intersect”, this is called intersectional discrimination. This is a special form of multiple discrimination. For example, a Black woman* experiences different discrimination than a Black man* or a White woman*. Therefore, public spaces in particular need to consider the concept and the consequences of intersectionality. This is the only way to create safe spaces for people who are affected by multiple discrimination.

32. Conversion therapy

Conversion therapy or reorientation therapy are attempts at “healing” in the area of identity and/or sexuality. In this process, hetero- and cisnormativity are enforced, and any other identity is considered abnormal and in need of treatment. A person’s sexual orientation or identity is deliberately changed or suppressed in this “therapy”. Many of those affected report enormously stressful long-term psychological consequences. The course of treatment is described as violent. Organizations such as the church, but also certain doctors or psychotherapists offer this kind of treatment. Homosexuality is not a disease that requires treatment, and this “therapy” is also harmful to people and should therefore not be called that, and in our opinion should even be banned. Only since 12 June 2020 has there been a ban on advertising for conversion therapies. The law on the protection against conversion treatments continues to prohibit its use on minors under the age of 18.

33. LGBTIQ*- hostility

LGBTIQ* or queer hostility refers to discrimination against queer people. This manifests itself, for example, through rejection, anger, intolerance, prejudice, discomfort, or physical or psychological violence towards queer people. Discrimination is the devaluation and disadvantage of a person or a group because of ascribed characteristics that usually do not fit into the white hetero-cis norm. The 17.05 wants to make queer hostility visible.


LGBTTIQQAAP* stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, trans*, inter*, queer, questioning and pansexual. Often there is a + or an * to include all people who are not represented by the letters. However, as the letters and the constant expansion of the abbreviation have made the term very unwieldy, it is often referred to as queer community, rainbow community or rainbow community.

35. Privilege

Privileges are privileges or advantages granted to certain groups of people. Privileges can be physical (gender, skin color, health, …) and/or social (education, finances, family, …) in origin. How these are expressed varies. Privilege can be the absence of discrimination, social recognition or even better pay. Most people are often not aware of their own privileges, which leads to people who do not have them continue to be oppressed. It is important to realize that people usually use their privileges at the expense of marginalized groups. However, people can use their own privileges by fighting for equal rights for all and by using the reach that comes from one or more privileges. One of the biggest privileges is the patriarchal structure. Men are granted a conscious and unconscious privilege over other genders. However, the statement “all men are privileged” is controversial, as not every:r is equal, and many different factors add to privilege.

36. Queer

The term queer comes from English and used to be used as a swear word until the community reclaimed the word. The self-designation is mainly used by people who see their identity outside the social white hetero-cis norm. As an umbrella term, queer encompasses all subgroups of the LGBTQIA+ community without singling out, excluding or labeling any individual. Likewise, the term is used to refer to a school of theory and a branch of scholarship. This interdisciplinary cultural studies research direction is called Queer Studies or Queer Theory. It deals with different forms of oppression, links them with each other and emphasizes sexuality and gender as primary objects of research. In doing so, the pigeonholing of research is to be broken down in principle.

37. Questioning

Questioning is an English term that can be translated as “asking”. In the LGBTQIA+ community, this is how people characterise themselves when they have not (yet) found a label that appropriately describes their sexual/romantic orientation and/or gender identity. People who are questioning belong as an integral part of the queer community.

38. Rainbow family

Rainbow families usually consist of parents who belong to the queer community. There are many different constellations, so it can be a same-sex loving couple with child(ren), co-parenting, one parent can be a trans* person, etc. In principle, it is about creating visibility that the classic nuclear family – mother, father, child – is not the norm. There are many family designs that deviate from this classic model. Unfortunately, rainbow families have significantly fewer rights, for example in adoption and inheritance law.

39. Shelter / Safe Space

Safe spaces are places or events that aim to be as non-discriminatory as possible. The organizers are usually affected by discrimination themselves and are therefore familiar with it. Protective spaces are there so that people who are affected by discrimination can express themselves freely without being devalued. Especially people who are confronted with multiple discrimination can move freely in such spaces. One concept of shelter is e.g. FLINTA*. There is a lot of criticism regarding shelters and especially at universities the topic is discussed controversially. Some points of criticism should be mentioned here, but we do NOT share them. For example, safe spaces are supposed to reinforce the victim attitude of students and protect them from “controversial ideas and thoughts”, therefore they are no longer capable of conflict or discussion. Critics see the danger that safe spaces are a precursor to censorship, as there is no freedom of expression in these places.

40. Sexism

Sexism is a specific form of discrimination based on ascribed gender and associated with the hierarchizing binary and heteronormative ideology. Sexism is deeply rooted in our society and linked to power structures based on assumptions and prejudices about how people should live out their gender. Patriarchy is a historically determined power imbalance that places men* above all genders. It should be noted that sexism affects everyone. Men*, women*, and non-binary persons – all are forced into stereotypical gender roles. The consequences of sexism for men* are expressed in toxic masculinity*, which describes destructive stereotypical expectations of men*’s behavior.

41. Sexual identity/ Sexual orientation

Sexual identity/orientation expresses which gender or gender a person is emotionally, romantically, physically, and/or sexually attracted to. This does not include sexual practices or preferences and is independent of the sexual identity in question. Sexual identities can be, for example, A_sexuality, A_romanticity, pansexuality, homosexuality or heterosexuality. In our article “Many bright colors – the short portrait of Pride Flags” some sexual identities are presented with the corresponding flag.

42. Structural handicap

When discrimination and disadvantages are no longer individual cases, but can be traced back to fundamental norms, values and legal regulations of a society/system, one speaks of structural disadvantage. Often, individual forms of discrimination go hand in hand with structural discrimination. Rainbow families, for example, are verbally insulted on the street (individually). Legally, these families are not equal to hetero norm families (structural).

43. Transition/Gender Reassignment/Trans*Way

Transition is the process of a trans* person making changes to express their gender identity socially, physically and/or legally. Transition can occur, for example, through hormone therapy and surgeries, name and marital status changes or clothing. The term ‘gender reassignment’ is incorrect as there is no transition but an alignment with the gender the person identifies as. The term is rejected by the trans* community and should not be used. Transition is also referred to as gender reassignment or trans* journey, which usually takes many years and is time-consuming and costly. When or whether this path is completed can only be judged by the person themselves and varies from person to person.

45. Toxic masculinity

The term does not refer to all men*, but to the harmful behaviour of society as a whole and the attitudes associated with it. These are based on a traditional, stereotypical and patriarchal image of men*. Assumptions that arise from this are, for example, feelings (except anger/aggression) are suppressed and not shown to the outside world, violence is seen as a solution to problems, legitimisation of aggressive and dominant behaviour, “right” to sexual aggression/aggressiveness/border-crossing, excessive competitive thinking, self-claim to control everything and to be able to do it alone, rejection of femininity* and interpretation as weakness. These assumptions and underlying behaviours have a negative impact on society as a whole through queer hostility and misogyny. In our article “Our Bodies, our Lives, our Rights – 17.05 International Day Against Homophobia, Bisexuality, Inter- and Transphobia” we explain in more detail how hostile behaviour occurs and what it has to do with femininity*.
Sentences like “boys don’t cry” or “beating up is part of being a man” shape these ideas from an early age. Toxic masculinity is passed on in our society (trauma inheritance). Fathers or male role models pass on their image of masculinity and their experiences of violence to the next generation. As a result, the fear of losing privileges or not being a “real man” can arise. By excluding femininity*, men* are limited in their individuality. However, the stereotypical image of masculinity* can convey a feeling of security, since a life plan is offered, a “guideline” so to speak. Self-harming behaviour, avoiding visits to the doctor, talking down illnesses (especially mental ones) or keeping quiet are further effects of toxic masculinity.

44. Trigger

Trigger as a term comes from psychology. Emotional triggers are patterns that awaken past experiences and influence behavior and the evaluation of new situations. These memories are usually sudden and occur in the form of flashbacks. The feelings of that time are experienced again so that the current situation can often no longer be perceived by those affected and they behave as if they were in the old remembered situation or in a déjà vu. Triggers are often talked about in connection with traumatic experiences. There are triggers that serve as a kind of protective or repressive mechanism. Outsiders sometimes find it difficult to understand the reactions to a trigger. It should be noted that those affected often do not have access to the triggers or reactions themselves. Trigger Warning (TW) or Content Note (CN) notices are often placed before posts with topics that could potentially trigger people. A CN helps these people to better deal with the content shown. It allows them to decide for themselves whether they feel able to engage with the topic. Often it also helps people to watch it in the presence of another person (“emotional support”).

We hope that this article has helped you to expand or refresh your knowledge. It is important to us to fill the gaps in our knowledge and to follow the exciting discourse around language. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write a comment.