Helpful LGBT Jewish Terms


A person who actively supports and advocates for people who belong to marginalized group(s) without being a member of that group(s).

Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area, known as the “Bay Area,” is a metropolitan region that surrounds the San Francisco and San Pablo estuaries in Northern California. The region encompasses large cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, along with smaller urban and rural areas. Overall, the Bay Area consists of nine counties, 101 cities, and 7,000 square miles. The nine counties are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San MateUseo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.

Be’chol Lashon

Advocating for the diversity that has characterized the Jewish people throughout history, and through contemporary forces including intermarriage, conversion and adoption is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization called Be’chol Lashon meaning In Every Tongue in Hebrew. They are a research, outreach and community building initiative of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (EIN 94-3307253 NTEE T and T70) and they serve as a central clearinghouse for ideas, programs, and organizational collaboration that works to grow and strengthen the Jewish people through ethnic, cultural, and racial inclusiveness.


Intolerant prejudice which glorifies one’s own group, but, denigrates members of other groups.


An individual who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and sexually attracted to more than one gender and/or sex.

Chosen Family

A term used to refer to those friends in some people’s lives that they see as their family.  This term is used especially when the individual does not have the support of one’s given family.


An adjective used to refer to a class of gender identities formed by a match between an individual’s gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one’s sex. It can be thought of as a label for individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity. This label is intended to complement the label transgender. A similar adjective is gender-normative versus gender-diverse.There are many derivatives of the term in use including cisgendered, cis male, cis female, and cissexual.

Community Organizing

Communities and key community stakeholders organize to stimulate social change and to influence decision-makers.

Cultural competence

The integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services; thereby producing better outcomes.

Cultural Pluralism

Recognition of the contribution of each group to the common civilization. It encourages the maintenance and development of different life styles, languages and convictions. It is a commitment to deal cooperatively with common concerns.


A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors and styles of communication.


Refusal to acknowledge the societal privileges that are granted or denied based on an individual’s ethnicity or other grouping.


The unequal treatment of members of various groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion and other categories.


The wide range of national, ethnic, racial and other backgrounds of U.S. citizens and immigrants as social groupings, co-existing in American culture. The term is often used to include aspects of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class and much more.


A social construct which divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base.


Female to male

Foster Parents

An individual or couple who has temporary care of a child, but has no legal rights in determining many aspects of a child’s life. Sometimes foster parents become adoptive parents. The goal of foster care is to return a child to their birth home unless the courts decide this is no longer in the child’s best interest.

Gay or Lesbian

An individual who is emotionally, spiritually, physically, and sexually attracted to members of the same gender and/or sex.

Gender Identity

A person’s inner understanding of what gender(s) they belong to or identify with. This is each person’s unique knowing or feeling, and is separate from a person’s physical body or appearance (although often related).

Gender Expression

Regardless of one’s sex or gender identity a person’s presentation of gender is often articulated with style or mannerisms associated with gender.

Genderqueer & Gender nonconforming

A colloquial term used in the LGBTQIQQA vernacular for someone who transgresses set social standards of male and female in either or both sexual and gender identity or expression.

Institutional Racism

The network of institutional structures, policies and practices that create advantages and benefits for one group of people over another. The advantages created are often invisible to the majority, or are considered “rights” available to everyone as opposed to “privileges” awarded to only some individuals and groups.

Institutional Transference

The redirection of feelings and desires via a culturally similar organization, establishment, foundation, society, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program, especially one of a public, educational, or charitable character.

Institutional Discrimination

A form of discrimination that is either subtle or overt that is built into the everyday practices of an institution.


One whose sex parts or sexual development do not totally match the sex assigned at birth.


A social norm experienced in covert, overt, internal and external ways as well as that creates a feeling or understanding of invisibility to those outside of a majority or social norm experience.

Heteronormative Behavior

Presenting heterosexuality as the natural, normal sexual orientation is heteronormative behavior that presents disproportionate experiences of opportunity for those that are not within the majority or social norm experience of heterosexuality.

Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia

Presenting a fear or hatred towards LGBTQIQQ people and encouraging misinformation and perpetuation of stereotypes is biphobia, homophobia or transphobia. These terms and experiences exist in both the heterosexual and LGBTQIQQA communities. Unfortunately, little data exists regarding the prevalence of covert forms of heterosexism, transphobia and homophobia in the Jewish community. In a conversation with feminist & queer activists committed to fostering change within the Jewish community, Judith Plaskow, professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, stated[i], “Progress toward equality is stalled. It’s rare not to find lip service to the concept of equality, but there are often significant gaps between theory and reality. And that means that we are dealing with an aura of obfuscation around these issues that was not the case 30 years ago, when the opposition was more blatant and, in some ways, easier to deal with.”


A description of sexual or romantic behavior between members of the same gender or sex.

Independent Adoption

The legal transfer of all parental rights and obligations from one person or couple to another person or couple is adoption. An individual or couple who have chosen to adopt and have received court approval are the adoptive parent(s). An adoption that is not arranged by an agency is an independent adoption.

Keshet (Rainbow)

The word Keshet means rainbow in Hebrew but it is also the name of a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization based in three locations the Greater Boston Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Greater Denver Area. Founded in 2003 (EIN 481278664 NTEE R and R26) with a mission to ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews are fully included in all parts of the Jewish community. Keshet offers social and cultural events for GLBT families and individuals. Nationally, Keshet works for change by offering support, training, grassroots organizing, technical assistance and resources to create a Jewish community that welcomes, includes and affirms GLBT Jews.

International Adoption

An adopted child comes from another country. Travel by the adoptive parents may or may not be required. International adoption can be done with an agency or independently. Approval must be obtained from both domestic and foreign governments.

LGBT Movement

With a collective goal of achieving full social and political equality for LGBT people the movement encompasses community-based organizations and individuals that work to end discrimination, promote recognition of LGBT families, protect LGBT individuals from hate crimes, promote a safe and accepting school climate for LGBT youth and achieve societal acceptance of LGBT families and individuals.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. This acronym is one of the most commonly used terms for identifying the non-heterosexual or straight community. Occasionally the term will be expanded to read LGBTQ I QQA. In this case, people who identify as Intersex, Queer, Questioning, and Asexual and/or Allied have been included in the term. Nationally, according to a 2009 LGBT Movement Advancement Project (MAP) study, about 15 million American adults identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or are in some type of intimate relationship with a same-sex partner. The Williams Institute also suggests that perhaps 500,000 American adults identify as Trans.


Male to female


Men who have sex with men


A colloquial term used in the LGBTQIQQA vernacular to be open about one’s sexual orientation & gender identity


Refers in many communities to a person’s ability to be regarded as a member of the sex or gender with which they physically present. The term is also used in other cultural contexts as well. Typically, passing involves a mixture of physical cues and behavioral attributes that tend to be culturally associated with a particular identity. Some use the term, “being read” as the failure to pass as one presents versus the term “stealth” being used to refer to a person who passes at all times


A historically derogative slur that was used as to describe people that identify as or as are perceived as LGBTQIQQ, and has since been reclaimed in the LGBTQIQQ community as a description of identity. For many, the term Queer is now a recognized main-stream umbrella term for people that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary. In some communities it can be used to identify people apart from more assimilationist or mainstream LGBT communities. While some LGBT people disapprove of using queer as a catch-all term because they consider it self-deprecating others may associate it with political radicalism, or a slang term used by only a different generation then themselves.


A colloquial term referring to people who are uncertain as to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or both.

Racial and Ethnic Identity           

An individual’s awareness and experience of being a member of a racial and ethnic group; the racial and ethnic categories that an individual chooses to describe him or herself based on such factors as biological heritage, physical appearance, cultural affiliation, early socialization, and personal experience.


A resource or position that everyone has equal access or availability to regardless of their social group memberships.

Social Power

Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs or influencing others in order to lead a safe, productive, fulfilling life.

Special Needs

Refers to many categories of children, including those with physical, emotional, and medical abilities outside of the norm. In the case of foster care or adoption special needs children can refer to children over the ages of five, those in ongoing

Sexual Orientation/Sexual Identity

A person’s sexual and romantic attractions to others


A colloquial term used in the LGBTQIQQA vernacular for heterosexual.

Step adoption / step-parent adoption

Adoption of a child by the parent’s new spouse.

Transracial / Transcultural Adoption

Adoption of a child of one race by a family of a different race. In the converse, “same-race adoption”, child and parent are the same race. A related term is “transcultural adoption”, in which child and family differ in culture or ethnic group. Most transracial adoptions are also transcultural.

Transgender or Trans

A person whose gender identity does not match their born biological sex. Transgender is often used as an umbrella term. Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.[ii]


The period of time when a person begins to live as the gender that is in accordance with their internal gender identity. Transition may include some or all of the following: changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents, hormone therapy, and possibly some form of chest and/or genital alteration. This complicated, multi-step process may take years and many folks choose not to transition although they may identify or have identified in the past as Trans.


A person who feels that his or her gender identity does not match his or her assigned biological sex. Some transsexuals, though not all, have sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and/or take hormones to transition their bodies or make their bodies look and feel more traditionally male or female.

[i] Scholar and Feminist Online – Issue 5.1 – Jewish Women Changing America: Cross-Generational conversations ©2006
[ii] D’ror Chankin-Gould, Editor in Chief, Hillel LGBTQ Resource Guide, Senior JCSC Fellow, Columbia/Barnard Hillel, 2 August 2007, 18 Av 5767 Adapted from: 1. Blumenfeld, Warren. Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life and Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price 2. The Bisexual Resource Center: 3. 4. 5. or adapted directly from Dr. Andrea Jacobs, “Seven Jewish Values for Inclusive Jewish Community” in the 2009 Hineini Education Project Facilitator Training Manual, produced of Keshet, Inc.

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