Language and Definitions: A Guide to the First Amendment for LGBTQ+ Youth in Delaware

Language and Definitions

When it comes to how we choose to identify ourselves or how we identify other people, the language we use is very important. Sometimes we may come across people who aren’t familiar with certain words, phrases, or ideas. It’s easy to assume that somebody who doesn’t use the right language doesn’t care about LGBTQ+ people or issues, but that person might actually care very much or even consider themselves an ally and just doesn’t have much experience or knowledge. 

Think about it this way: if you’ve used an iPhone your whole life, you are probably familiar with how to download apps, use photo filters, and how to text. Imagine an older relative who has never had an iPhone comes to you asking you to help them out because they’ve been having trouble using the iPhone, and you explain to them how to use it, you might find yourself a little frustrated when they don’t know what you’re talking about – after all, you’re just trying to help them out – but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their iPhone! 

In fact, they probably value their iPhone very much, but just don’t have the same knowledge that you have. They might even do things with their iPhone that aren’t really very good for it, like dropping it in water or scratching up the screen, but they would still be very sad if their iPhone wasn’t in their life anymore. If you gave them a little information on how to treat their iPhone better, chances are that they would appreciate the information and be a better iPhone owner in the future. You’d be surprised how much people can change their minds and their actions once they gain a little knowledge.

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better. — Maya Angelou

Don’t be afraid to speak up if you think that somebody is doing or saying things based on incorrect information or assumptions. You always have the right to explain, educate, and inform others about the things you understand, or about the things that are very important to you. If you are LGBTQ+ yourself or simply consider yourself an ally, people may consider you the “expert” on these issues, so it’s nice to have a good understanding of what certain terms mean. Here are a few that come up very often and will be used in this document: 




is associated with our physical anatomy and is typically assigned at birth. Sex can correlate to genitals, levels of hormones, chromosomes, and other physical aspects. Sex is often defined as unchangeable and binary, when it is neither of those things.



describes a variety of anatomical traits with which a person is born that don’t fit the typical categories of “female” or “male.” It is estimated that up to 1.7% of the U.S. population has an intersex trait. Some doctors perform surgeries on intersex babies’ and children’s reproductive or sexual anatomy to make their bodies fit binary categories of “male” or “female,” but these procedures are becoming increasingly controversial, as they usually have no medical benefit.



a personal identifier that best describes who you may be attracted to sexually, emotionally, intellectually, or romantically at that current period of time. Some common terms that are associated with sexuality are lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and many other different identities as well. 



a word that describes sex, sexuality, and gender other than straight and cisgender. 



refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is not confined to a binary (girl/woman, boy/man) nor is it static; it exists along a continuum and can change over time.



A term for people whose gender aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender Binary


A term which refers to the societal or cultural belief that there are only two categories of gender: men and women.



Non-binary is an identity embraced by some people who do not identify exclusively as a boy/man or a girl/woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between or as falling completely outside of these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do.



Describes a person whose gender is different from what is generally considered typical for their sex assigned at birth. Note: This term is an adjective. Using this term as a verb (i.e., transgendered) or noun (i.e., transgenders) is offensive and should be avoided.

Gender Diverse


Gender Diversity refers to the extent to which a person’s gender, role, or expression differs from the cultural norms prescribed for people of a particular sex. Includes non-binary people.

Gender Transition

(verb, noun)

The process through which transgender people begin to live as the gender with which they identify, rather than the one typically associated with their sex assigned at birth. Social transition may include things such as changing names, pronouns, hairstyle and clothing. Medical transition may include hormone therapy and gender affirming surgeries. Not all transgender individuals seek medical care as part of their transition or have access to it.



A GSA is a non-curricular student-led club for students with a shared interest in LGBTQ+ issues. These organizations provide a safe, supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth and their allies. If your public school permits other student clubs, then it should allow you to form and publicize a GSA.

Browse the Guide Below

Know Your Rights: A Guide to the First Amendment for LGBTQ+ Youth in Delaware, is packed with information related to students’ rights around LGBTQ+ expression in schools. Click through the links below to read our full guide!

What is the First Amendment?

⬆️ A digestible outline of the First Amendment and how it applies to LGBTQ+ students’ expression in schools.

Language and Definitions

⬆️ Language and definitions that are commonly used in conversations about LGBTQ+ communities and issues.

LGBTQ+ Students: Know Your Rights!

⬆️ A full list of rights that LGBTQ+ people are promised in schools - regardless of individual school policies.

How Can You Make a Difference?

⬆️ A list of ways that students can use the First Amendment to express themselves in schools.

The School Board’s Role in Your Rights

⬆️ Information about the role that school boards play in policy-making for schools, and how students can make their voices heard even if they can’t vote.

Who Can You Go To

⬆️ A list of resources for LGBTQ+ students in Delaware.