Want to learn more? Explore connected resources related to conversion therapy* and the legislative ban.

Glossary of Common 2SLGBTQIA+ Terms

Ally - Someone who actively supports a marginalized community through their actions and commitment to learning. An ally is usually someone who is not part of the community (for example, a straight ally who supports 2SLGBTQIA+ rights) but sees the importance of making positive changes that benefit the oppressed group. 

Bisexual – A person who experiences sexual and/or romantic attraction to two or more genders.

Chosen family – A group of friends and community members that a 2SLGBTQIA+ has a close, family-like bond with. Chosen family can include other people who are 2SLGBTQIA+ and also allies who love and accept the person as they are. Chosen family can be especially important for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community whose family related by blood is not accepting or welcoming. 

Cisgender - Someone whose gender identity is the same as the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a cisgender woman is someone who was identified as female when she was born and still identifies with this gender. 

Conversion therapy* - A harmful practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through psychological, medical, or faith-based or religious methods and practices. Conversion therapy* is not actually therapy, which is why we have marked the term with an asterisk throughout this guide. Conversion therapy* is considered a pseudoscience and is not supported or endorsed by any reputable psychiatric, medical, or science-based organization.

Gay – A word used to describe a person who experiences same-gender attraction. Some members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community prefer the word “queer” (see below), so it’s always good to check in with a person about what term they use to name their own identity. 

Gender assigned at birth - This term refers to how someone is categorized at birth according to the gender binary. For example, a baby with a penis will usually be assigned male at birth and a baby with a vulva will usually be assigned female at birth. A person’s gender identity can be different from the gender they were assigned at birth. 

Gender expression - How someone expresses their gender (for example, whether they wear clothing or hair styles that are traditionally read as masculine or feminine; what pronouns they use; how they speak; the name they use).

Gender identity - How someone identifies and understands their own gender (for example, if they identify as a man, a woman, two-spirit, agender, genderqueer, more than one gender, or somewhere else within the gender spectrum). Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of self, while gender expression more often refers to how they outwardly express their gender.

Genderqueer - Someone whose gender identity cannot be categorized as exclusively male or female. Some genderqueer people identify with both ends of the gender spectrum, while others identify as outside of gender or have a fluid understanding of their gender. 

Lesbian – A woman (including cisgender and transgender women) who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to other women (including cisgender and transgender women). 

Non-binary - Someone who identifies outside the gender binary of male and female. Non-binary people are often grouped under the trans umbrella, but not all non-binary people identify as trans. Non-binary people sometimes use gender neutral pronouns such as they/them, but not all non-binary people do. Remember to ask about someone’s pronouns rather than assuming. 

Pansexual – A person who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to more than one gender.

Trans or Transgender - Someone whose gender identity is different than how they were identified at birth. Trans people may identify with the gender binary (for example, trans men and trans women) or outside the gender binary (for example, non-binary people). 

Transfeminine - A term to refer to trans and gender diverse people who are on the feminine end of the spectrum, for example trans women. 

Transmasculine - A term to refer to trans and gender diverse people who are on the masculine end of the spectrum, for example trans men. 

Two-spirit - A term used by Indigenous communities to describe someone who identifies as having both a masculine and feminine spirit. “Two-spirit” can refer to gender identity or sexual orientation or both of these. Being two-spirit may mean that someone experiences same-gender attraction, or it can mean that the person is gender diverse (i.e. not cisgender), or it can mean both of these things. “Two-spirit” should only be used to refer to people who are Indigenous.

Queer - A term used to refer to people who are not straight and/or not cisgender. If someone refers to themselves as queer, that person may fall anywhere in the 2SLGBTQIA+ umbrella. “Queer” doesn’t necessarily tell you a lot of information about someone, such as what kind of people they’re physically or romantically attracted to (if they experience attraction) or how they identify in terms of gender. “Queer” used to be a slur, but has been reclaimed by the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as empowering. 

2SLGBTQIA+ - An acronym used to refer to the following identities: two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and + for the many other identities that exist within the queer spectrum.

*A note on language: Throughout this guide, we have chosen to place an asterisk next to the phrase “conversion therapy.” We have done so because the term conversion therapy* is misleading, in the sense that it is not actually a therapeutic practice in any traditional or reasonable understanding of what therapy involves and what its purpose is. 

Conversion therapy* is also not recognized as a credible practice by any reputable or accredited medical or therapeutic organization or governing body. 

Therapy or counseling are, in a general sense, practices focused on the healing and wellbeing of the individuals seeking out these services. In contrast, conversion therapy* is an inherently harmful practice that seeks to suppress or alter an essential aspect of an individual’s identity and sense of self. 

Some organizations, such as Canada’s Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC), prefer to use the phrase "conversion practices" to avoid using the term therapy. One of CBRC's core projects focuses on “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression change efforts” (abbreviated as “SOGIECE”), which include any practice or effort, explicit or implicit, that pressures a person to change their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to heterosexual and/or cisgender. SOGIECE includes conversion practices but also encompasses other ways and situations in which 2SLGBTQIA+ people experience harmful pressure to suppress their authentic selves. 

We have chosen to retain the term conversion therapy* for the sake of clarity and simplicity, given that this is how the practice is most commonly known. We have also kept the term ‘conversion therapy’* because this is the term used in the Criminal Code itself. 

At the same time, however, we wanted to emphasize that conversion therapy* is far removed and fundamentally at odds with the ethical guidelines and client-centered, healing-focused practices of therapy or counseling.