Understanding and using correct language and terminology associated with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and other sexually or gender diverse (LGBTIQ+) people helps to ensure that engagement is inclusive and respectful.

This glossary is not exhaustive and should be used as a guide. Terminology is organised into categories listed in alphabetical order. This list is primarily based on the Australian Government’s glossary of terms and, as such, may not be comprehensive from an international perspective.

Have suggestions? Let us know.


· Bodies and variations in sex characteristics
· Gender
· Sexual orientation
· Societal attitudes / issues

Bodies and variations in sex characteristics

· Endosex: a term used to describe people whose innate sex characteristics meet medical and conventional understandings of male and female bodies (Intersex Human Rights Australia, 2021).

· Intersex: an umbrella term that refers to individuals who have anatomical, chromosomal and hormonal characteristics that differ from medical and conventional understandings of male and female bodies. There are at least 40 different variations that may be apparent at different life stages or may remain unknown to the individual and their medical practitioners. Some people with an intersex variation are LGBTQ, many are heterosexual and most are cisgender.

· Sex: a classification that is often made at birth as either male or female based on a person’s external anatomical characteristics. However, sex is not always straightforward, as some people may be born with an intersex variation, and anatomical and hormonal characteristics can change over a life span.

· Sex characteristics: a term used to refer to physical parts of the body that are related to body development, regulation and reproductive systems. Primary sex characteristics are gonads, chromosomes, genitals and hormones. Secondary sex characteristics emerge at puberty and can include the development of breast tissue, voice pitch, facial and pubic hair, etc.


· Two-Spirit: a term used within some North American Indigenous communities, encompassing cultural, spiritual, sexual and gender identity. The term reflects complex Indigenous understandings of gender roles, spirituality, and the long history of sexual and gender diversity in Indigenous cultures.

· Cisgender/cis: a term used to describe people whose gender corresponds to what they were assigned at birth. Dead name: an informal way to describe the former name a person no longer uses because it does not align with their current experience in the world or their gender. Some people may experience distress when this name is used.

· Dysphoria: the distress or unease sometimes experienced from being misgendered and/or when someone’s gender and body personally don’t feel connected or congruent. Many trans people do not experience gender dysphoria at all and, if they do, they may cease with access to gender affirming healthcare and/or peer support. With or without the presence of gender dysphoria, being trans is not a mental illness. Gender dysphoria does not equal being trans (Transhub, 2021).

· Gender/gender identity: one’s sense of whether they are a man, woman, non-binary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, or a combination of one or more of these definitions. Gender can be binary (either a man or a woman), or non-binary (including people who have no binary gender at all and people who have some relationship to binary gender/s).

· Gender affirmation: the personal process or processes a trans person determines is right for them in order to live as their defined gender and so society recognises this. This may involve social, medical and/or legal steps that affirm a person’s gender. A trans person who hasn’t medically or legally affirmed their gender is no less the man, woman or non-binary person they’ve always been. A person’s circumstances may inhibit their access to steps they want to take to affirm their gender (TransHub, 2021).

· Gender 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 male and female, and non-binary genders are any genders that are not just male or female, or aren’t male or female at all (TransHub, 2021).

· Gender euphoria: the experience of comfort, connection and celebration related to a trans person with their internal sense of self and gender. The pride of feeling and being affirmed as who they are.

· Gender expression: refers to how a person chooses to publicly express or present their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance, including clothing, hair, make-up, body language and voice. Western expectations of gender expression are based on a binary of men as masculine and women as feminine but many people do not fit into binary gender expressions. Failing to adhere to the norms associated with one’s gender can result in ridicule, intimidation and violence (Hill et al., 2020; Robinson, Bansel, Denson, Ovenden, & Davies, 2014).

· Gender fluid: a term used to describe a person with shifting or changing gender.Gender pronouns: refer to how a person publicly expresses their gender identity through the use of a pronoun. Pronouns can be gender-specific or gender-neutral (Rainbow Health Australia (formerly GLHV), 2016). This can include the traditional he or she, as well as gender-neutral pronouns such as they, their, ze and hir (see Transgender/Trans).

· Genderqueer: a gender identity that does not conform to traditional gender norms and may be expressed as other than woman or man or both man and woman, including gender neutral and androgynous.

· Gender questioning: not necessarily an identity but sometimes used in reference to a person who is unsure which gender, if any, they identify with.Non-binary: an umbrella term for gender identities that sit within, outside of, across or between the spectrum of the male and female binary. A non-binary person might identify as gender fluid, trans masculine, trans feminine or could be agender (without a feeling of having any gender or having neutral feelings about gender) (TransHub, 2021).

· Sistergirl/Brotherboy: terms used for trans people within some Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities. How the words Sistergirl and Brotherboy are used can differ between locations, countries and nations. Sistergirls and Brotherboys have distinct cultural identities and roles. Sistergirls are Indigenous people assigned male at birth but who live their lives as women, including taking on traditional cultural female practices (Rainbow Health Australia, 2016). Brotherboys are Indigenous people assigned female at birth but are a man or have a male spirit (Rainbow Health Australia, 2016).

· Transgender/Trans: umbrella terms used to refer to people whose assigned sex at birth does not match their gender identity. Trans people may choose to live their lives with or without modifying their body, dress or legal status, and with or without medical treatment and surgery. Trans people may use a variety of terms to describe themselves including but not limited to: man, woman, trans woman, trans man, non-binary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, trans guy, trans masculine/masc, trans feminine/femme.

· Trans people have the same range of sexual orientations as the rest of the population. Trans people’s sexual orientation is referred to in reference to their gender identity, rather than their sex. For example, a woman may identify as lesbian whether she was assigned female or male at birth. Trans people may also use a variety of different pronouns (see Gender pronouns). Using incorrect pronouns to refer to or describe trans people is disrespectful and can be harmful (see Misgendering under ‘Societal attitudes/ issues’ below).

Sexual orientation

· AFAB/AMAB: an acronym for Assigned or presumed Female/Male at Birth.Aromantic/aro: refers to individuals who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic individuals may or may not identify as asexual.Asexual/ace: a sexual orientation that reflects little to no sexual attraction, either within or outside relationships. People who identify as asexual can still experience romantic attraction across the sexuality continuum. While asexual people do not experience sexual attraction, this does not necessarily imply a lack of libido or sex drive.

· Bisexual/bi: an individual who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to people of the same gender and people of another gender. Bisexuality does not necessarily assume there are only two genders (Flanders, LeBreton, Robinson, Bian, & Caravaca-Morera, 2017).

· Gay: an individual who identifies as a man and is sexually and/or romantically attracted to other people who identify as men. The term gay can also be used in relation to women who are sexually and romantically attracted to other women.

· Heterosexual: an individual who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to the opposite gender.

· Lesbian: an individual who identifies as a woman and is sexually and/or romantically attracted to other people who identify as women.

· Pansexual: an individual whose sexual and/or romantic attraction to others is not restricted by gender. Pansexuality can include being sexually and/or romantically attracted to any person, regardless of their gender identity.

· Queer: a term used to describe a range of sexual orientations and gender identities. Although once used as a derogatory term and still considered derogatory by many older LGBTIQA+ people, the term queer now encapsulates political ideas of resistance to heteronormativity and homonormativity and is often used as an umbrella term to describe the full range of LGBTIQA+ identities.

· QTPOC: an acronym for Queer and Trans People of Colour.

· Sexual orientation: refers to an individual’s sexual and romantic attraction to another person. This can include, but is not limited to, heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and asexual. It is important to note, however, that these are just a handful of sexual orientations – the reality is that there are an infinite number of ways in which someone might define their sexuality. Further, people can identify with a sexuality or sexual orientation regardless of their sexual or romantic experiences. Some people may identify as sexually fluid; that is, their sexuality is not fixed to any one identity.

Societal attitudes / issues

· Biphobia: refers to negative beliefs, prejudice and/or discrimination against bisexual people. This can include a dismissal of bisexuality, questioning whether bisexual identities are authentic or a focus on the sexual desires and practices of bisexual people (Ross et al., 2018).

· Cisgenderism: where something is based on a discriminatory social or structural view that positions (either intentionally or otherwise) the trans experience as either not existing or as something to be pathologised. Cisgenderism believes that gender identity is determined at birth and is a fixed and innate identity that is based on sex characteristics (or ‘biology’) and that only binary (male or female) identities are valid and real (TransHub, 2021).

· Cisnormativity: assumes that everyone is cisgender and that all people will continue to identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Cisnormativity erases the existence of trans people.Heteronormativity: the view that heterosexual relationships are the natural and normal expression of sexual orientation and relationships. This is an extension of cisgenderism, which is a discriminatory social structure that positions cis and binary genders as the only real or valid experiences of gender.

· Heterosexism: describes a social system that privileges heteronormative beliefs, values and practice. Heterosexism provides the social backdrop for homophobic and transphobic prejudices, violence and discrimination against people with non-heteronormative sexualities, gender identities and intersex varieties (McKay, Lindquist, & Misra, 2019).

· Homonormativity: a term that describes the privileging of certain people or relationships within the queer community (usually cisgender, white, gay men). This term also refers to the assumption that LGBTIQA+ people will conform to mainstream, heterosexual culture; for example, by adopting the idea that monogamy, marriage and having children is a natural and normal relationship progression.

· Homophobia: refers to negative beliefs, prejudices, stereotypes and fears that exist towards same-sex attracted people. It can range from the use of offensive language to bullying, abuse and physical violence; and can include systemic barriers, such as being denied housing or being fired due to a person’s sexual orientation.

· Misgendering: an occurrence where a person is described or addressed using language that does not match their gender identity (Rainbow Health Australia, 2016). This can include the incorrect use of pronouns (she/he/they), familial titles (dad, sister, uncle, niece) and, at times, other words that traditionally have gendered applications (pretty, handsome, etc.).

· Transphobia: refers to negative beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes that exist about trans people.