Glossary - LGBTQ Terminology
LGBTQ: (Or variations of it) is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer. It is used to refer collectively to these communities, and all people with a diverse sexuality or diverse gender. The ‘LGB’ refers to sexuality/sexual identity; the ‘T’ refers to gender identity; the ‘Q’ can refer to gender or sexuality. Similar terms to refer to the overall population are:
- sexuality and gender diverse
- person of diverse sexuality and/or gender
- people of diverse sexualities and genders
- DSG (diverse sexuality and gender)
- DGSS (diverse genders, sexes, and sexualities)
Sex: A person’s sex is based upon their sex characteristics, such as their chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs. While typically based upon the sex characteristics observed and recorded at birth or infancy, a person’s reported sex can change over the course of their lifetime and may differ from their sex recorded at birth.
Sex Assigned at Birth / Sex Recorded at Birth: A person is assigned a legal sex when they are born, and this is recorded and may be listed on a birth certificate, etc.
Sex Characteristics: Sex characteristics consist of external genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes, hormones, and are used to characterise bodies into medical norms of ‘male’ and ‘female’.
Intersex / Intersex Variations: Intersex people are born with physical sex characteristics that do not fit medical norms for female or male bodies. They are a hugely diverse population, with at least 40 different underlying traits known to science. Intersex variations can become apparent at many different life stages, including prenatally through the use of genetic screening technologies, at birth and in early childhood, at puberty, and later in life – for example when trying to conceive a child.
Gender: Gender is a social and cultural concept. It is about social and cultural differences in identity, expression and experience as a man, woman or non-binary person. Gender includes the following concepts:
- Gender identity is about who a person feels themself to be
- Gender expression is the way a person expresses their gender. A person’s gender expression may also vary depending on the context, for instance expressing different genders at work and home
- Gender experience describes a person’s alignment with the sex recorded for them at birth i.e. a cis experience or a trans experience.
Gender Identity: Gender identity is about who a person feels themself to be. This which may be different to sex recorded at birth and may be different to what is indicated on legal documents. Man, woman, and non-binary are common gender identities.
Transgender / trans: An umbrella terms that describe people whose gender is different to the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gender Diverse: Gender diverse is an umbrella term that includes all the different ways gender can be experienced and perceived. It can include people questioning their gender, those who identify as trans/transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, gender non-conforming and many more.
Binary: Something that is binary consists of two things or can refer to one of a pair of things. When talking about genders, binary genders are man and woman.
Non-binary: Genders that sit outside of the man / woman binary are often called non-binary. This includes people whose gender is not exclusively female or male. A person might identify solely as non-binary, or relate to non-binary as an umbrella term and consider themselves genderfluid, genderqueer, trans masculine, trans feminine, agender, bigender, or something else.
Cisgender / cis: A term used to describe people whose gender is the same as the sex assigned to them at birth (male or female). ‘Cis’ is a Latin term meaning ‘on the same side as’.
Gender Experience: Transgender, gender diverse, and cisgender are all experiences of gender and are distinct from man, woman and nonbinary gender identities.
Gender Affirmation / Transition: The personal process or processes a trans or gender diverse person determines is right for them in order to live as their defined gender and so that society recognises this. Transition may involve social, medical/surgical and/or legal steps that affirm a person’s gender.
Gender Incongruence / Gender Dysphoria: The experience of distress or unease from being misgendered or not treated as the gender someone is.
Gender Euphoria: The experience of comfort, connection and celebration related to our internal sense of self and our gender. The pride of feeling and being affirmed as who we are.
Misgendering: Referring to someone by words or language that is not affirming for them, such as using a former name or pronoun, or making assumptions about their appearance.
AFAB / AMAB: Assigned female at birth/ Assigned male at birth
Masculine: Having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men.
Feminine: Having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women.
Androgynous: Combination of masculine and feminine characteristics into an ambiguous form.
Sexual Orientation: Sexual orientation is an umbrella concept that encapsulates:
- sexual identity (how a person thinks of their sexuality and the terms they identify with)
- attraction (romantic or sexual interest in another person)
- behaviour (sexual behaviour).
Straight (Heterosexual): Someone who is exclusively romantically and / or sexually attracted to people of a different gender to themselves.
Gay / Lesbian (Homosexual): Someone who is exclusively romantically and / or sexually attracted to people of the same gender to themselves. Lesbian is typically a word used to describe women who are attracted to other women whereas gay can be used to describe anyone.
Bisexual: Someone who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of the same gender and people of another gender. Bisexuality isn’t exclusive to binary genders.
Pansexual: Someone who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to people regardless of their gender identity. Often framed as attraction to all genders, or attraction to people based on specific traits.
Bi+: An umbrella term used to refer to people who experience attraction to more than one gender. This may encompass other terms such as bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, multi-gender attracted.
Asexual / ACE: Someone who has no strong sexual attraction to anyone. Asexual individuals may still experience attraction, but this attraction doesn’t need to be realized in any sexual manner. Some asexual people may still feel romantically towards others, and have a romantic attraction across the spectrum, e.g., heteroromantic, homoromatic, biromatic, panromantic, etc.
Demisexual: Someone who feels no sexual attraction towards other people unless a strong emotional bond has been established.
Aromantic / ARO: Someone who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others. Aromantic individuals may or may not identify as asexual.
Queer: Sometimes used as an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender. Queer came to be used pejoratively against those with same-sex desires or relationships in the late 19th century. During the 1980s activists started to reclaim the word, and it is now used widely by many within the LGBTQ community. That said, there are many people who dislike the term, mostly due to its history as a slur.
SOCIETAL ATTITIDES / ISSUES
Ally: An ally is someone who actively* (not passively) supports an inclusive culture for people of diverse sexuality and/or gender. Allies may be non-LGBTQ people or LGTBQ people who actively support other cohorts within the overall LGBTQ population that they are not part of, e.g. a cisgender gay man may actively support and be an ally for transgender people. *Non-active or passive supporters do not provide a visible and obvious sense of support or inclusion to LGBTQ people, regardless of intention.
Biphobia: Biphobia is abuse towards someone who is attracted to more than one gender, and even includes when that person’s identity is erased. This can be in the form of telling someone that their sexuality is “just a phase”, or even telling them to “pick a side.”
Cisgenderism / Cissexism: Where something is based on a discriminatory social or structural view that positions (intentionally or not) the trans experience as either not existing or as something to be pathologised. Cissexism believes that gender identity is determined at birth and is a fixed and innate identity that is based on the body and that only binary (male or female) identities are valid and real.
Heteronormativity: Heteronormativity is the concept that heterosexuality is the preferred or normal mode of sexual orientation. Heteronormativity describes how social institutions and policies reinforce the presumption that people are heterosexual and that gender and sex are natural binaries.
Homophobia: Homophobia refers to negative beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes that exist about people who are not heterosexual. Verbal homophobia is the most common form, like name-calling, rumours and use of abusive words (e.g. ‘fag’, ‘dyke’). Phrases like “that’s so gay” which compare sexuality to words like ‘crap’ can have a negative impact. Homophobia also include abusive threats or actual physical violence, sexual harassment and deliberately excluding someone because of their sexuality.
Misgendering: Misgendering is an occurrence where a person is referred to or addressed using language that is not affirming for them. This can include the incorrect use of a former name (deadname), pronouns (she/he/they), familial titles (father, sister, uncle), or making assumptions about their appearance.
Transphobia: Transphobia refers to negative beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes that exist about transgender people. Verbal transphobia includes name calling (e.g. ‘tr*nny’). Transphobia also includes imposing restrictions on the way that people are allowed to express their gender, such as which uniform you’re allowed to wear or toilets you can use. Transphobia can also include abusive threats or actual physical violence, sexual harassment and deliberately excluding someone because of their gender.
Deadname: A term used by some trans people to describe the name they were given and known by prior to affirming their gender and/or coming out. Deadnaming is the act of somebody incorrectly using that name to refer to someone.