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15 Things Straight People Really Should Know About Queer People

Want to impress your queer friends? Read this handy guide to queer terminology.

Queer terminology, lingo and slang seem to change as often as the ever-expanding LGBTQQI acronym (or as some humorously refer to it, QUILTBAG). Whether you’re simply curious, want to be a more knowledgeable ally, or want to impress your new queer friends that you met at the orgy mixer or Vagina Monologues, here’s your word starter kit, with a few nonessentials thrown in for fun.

1. Scissoring

Ok, it’s not so much that we desperately want you to know this, it’s more that we want you to stop asking us about it. Scissoring, while not as popular as your precious lesbian porn would have you believe, is nonetheless a real thing. It involves two ladies, one of whom is rubbing her clit on her partner. If the laws of physics are on your side, then both parties’ clits will touch, but in reality you’re more likely to hit a thigh, stomach, or Albuquerque. Scissoring can also go by tribadism, which is Greek for “Stop rubbing your junk on the good china, Sandra!” and can involve a multitude of positions, like legs intertwined, good ol’ missionary, and the new “Blue Is the Warmest Color” favorite, Reverse Anxious Crabwalk.

2. Queer

Queer used to be an insult leveraged at homos (or anyone who seemed “peculiar”). In fact, the Google definition still claims its meaning is “informal, derogatory.” But nowadays queer is more likely used as an umbrella term to mean anyone who identifies outside of mainstream sexual or gender norms. According to PFLAG, queer can even apply to “the straight ally who marches during Pride, the Republican lesbian, the person who highly values queer theory concepts and would rather not identify with any particular label, the gender fluid bisexual, the gender fluid heterosexual, the questioning GLBT person, and the person who just doesn’t feel like they quite fit into societal norms and wants to bond with a community over that.”  

3. Cis

Cis applies to people whose gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth, the opposite of trans (see below). For instance, cis women don’t often get asked what their genitals look like, unlike trans women.

4. Butch/Femme

Butch: A masculine-appearing queer gal. Stereotypical identifying traits may include chain wallets, Vans, polo shirts with multiple popped collars, cargo pants, carabiners, motorcycle or sports attire. Often found by the pool table or dart board at bars, drinking Miller High Life, and looking hot, yet aloof. Butches are easy to spot since there is often about one butch per 20 femmes in any given lez bar. There’s even a song about it!

Femme: A feminine-appearing queer lady. Often found in line for the bathroom with four of her closest friends, drinking whiskey, wearing tapered pants, skirts, heeled footwear, tight-fitting shirts, and sporting large earrings, asymmetrical haircuts/undercuts, and bright lipstick, so as to counteract femme invisibility, i.e. people assuming you’re straight because you once got a manicure and/or don’t rock a buzz cut.

As we’ve mentioned before, don’t ever ask “ Who’s the man/woman in your relationship?”

5. No

As in, “No, we don’t want to have a threesome with you. And please stop doing that thing with your tongue.” You most likely have heard this term before and know its meaning, yet it bears repeating.

6. Top/Bottom/Switch

Denotes sexual role preferences, often in kinky or queer circles, but not always. A top is the more dominant sexual partner, whether that’s physically, psychologically, or penetratively. A bottom tends to be more submissive and receptive. And a switch is happy in either role.

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