Being an LGBT individual can often be a challenging experience. And, in today’s world, labels and explanations are rampant, even if one does not like being categorized by any number of them.

The process of getting down to the core of who one is can take decades to figure out, and that is the same with fixing in on one’s true identity. In the LGBT world it even goes deeper. The mode of dress, the way one handles one’s persona (be it public or private), as well as how a person feels inside is a real enigma. What someone looks like on the outside may or may not match what is felt or expressed on the inside. Yet, those pieces of the puzzle can be easier to assemble if one understands the “inner workings” of how the human LGBT machine works.

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Here are a good measure of terms that should make it easier to ascertain. They come, in part, from the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California at Riverside, and from other sources. So, let’s dive in:

Bear —  A man who has facial/body hair and a cuddly body. However, the word bear means many things to different people, even within the bear movement. Many men who do not have one or all of these characteristics define themselves as bears, making the term a very loose one. Bear is often defined as more of an attitude and a sense of comfort with natural masculinity and bodies.

Butch —  A person who identifies as masculine, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. Butch is sometimes used as a derogatory term for lesbians, but it can also be claimed as an affirmative identity label.

Circuit Boys —  Men with tattoos that are more tribal in nature and possess man-scaped, muscular and well-groomed bodies.

Chubs —  Overweight men.

Cub —  Younger bears who may or may not have facial/body hair and are on the husky side.

Drag King —  A person who performs masculinity theatrically.

Drag Queen —  A person who performs femininity theatrically.

Dyke —  Derogatory term referring to a masculine lesbian. Sometimes adopted affirmatively by lesbians (not necessarily masculine ones) to refer to themselves.

Fag —  Derogatory term referring to someone perceived as non-heteronormative.

Fag Hag —  A term primarily used to describe women who prefer the social company of gay men. While this term is claimed in an affirmative manner by some, it is largely regarded as derogatory.

Femme —  Feminine identified person of any gender/sex.

Lipstick Lesbian —  Usually refers to a lesbian with a feminine gender expression. Can be used in a positive or a derogatory way, depending on who is using it.

Otter —  Skinnier, athletic version of bears.

Twink —  Young gay males who are generally on the skinny side and are thin or void of body hair.

Twunk —  Twinks who have a bit of muscle mass.

Wolves —  Lean, muscular semi-hairy bears.

Stud —  An African-American and/or Latina masculine lesbian.

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Here are some terms that explain things that sectors of the LGBT community might do to accommodate the creation of their true self:

Binding —  The process of flattening one’s breasts to have a more masculine or flat appearing chest. Female to male trans individuals may do this during transition prior to having breast reduction surgery. Or, drag kings might use a binding to get into the persona of being male.

Bottom Surgery —  Surgery on the genitals designed to create a body in harmony with a person’s preferred gender expression.

Packing —  Wearing a phallic device on the groin and under clothing for any purposes including —  (for someone without a biological penis) the validation or confirmation of one’s masculine gender identity; seduction; and/or sexual readiness (for one who likes to penetrate another during sexual intercourse).

Taping — Using a binding of some sort of material to tuck male genitalia when either performing in drag or to help make someone who is transgender feel more feminine in nature.

Top Surgery —  This term usually refers to surgery for the construction of a male-type chest, but may also refer to breast augmentation.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen is QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director. She can be reached at and 704-531-9988,...