There are many good resources and glossaries available on the internet. We have adapted the best along side our own local, practical experiences to create this glossary of terminology. It is intended only as a guide. Words and labels mean different things to different people in different contexts. Indeed identity, orientation and behaviour can vary significantly. It is always best to check with individuals about the words they prefer or how they want to be referred to.
A broad acronym which includes individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer. This may sometimes be written as GLBT, LGBT or LGBTI. Sometimes the “L” is placed first in recognition of the marginalisation of non-heterosexual women, e.g. in mainstream media where people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities are usually only referred to as “gay” implying men.
Sexual desire and feelings of love or romance felt primarily toward people who are of the same sex or gender.
An identity label used by some woman (including trans women) whose sexual desire and feelings of love and romance are primarily for women. Some prefer gay, queer, or same sex attracted.
People whose sexual desire and feelings of love or romance are primarily for people who are the same sex or gender. In Australia this can mean men or women, though the term tends to be used mainly for men (this can include trans men).
People whose sexual desire and feelings of love and romance are for both men and women.
This term can be used as both a political statement as well as sexual orientation which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing sexual orientation and gender identity as fluid. Queer can also be used as an umbrella term for people who do not identify as heterosexual or as the gender they were born with (eg genderqueer). This may include gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex people, however it also refers to people who do not strictly identify with those identities or labels. It can be used by people who prefer not to lock themselves into the rigid identity categories of gay or lesbian, but still identify as non-heterosexual. Some people disapprove of using queer as a catch-all because of its use as a form of hate speech and/or find it too generic.
People whose sexual desire and feelings of love and romance are primarily for people who are the same sex or gender. Historically this label has been used to define same-sex attraction as a psychological illness. This term is largely outdated and today few people identify as homosexual.
People whose sexual desire and feelings of love and romance are primarily for people of the opposite sex or gender.
This refers to diversity of gender identity and includes people who identify as agender (having no gender), as bigender (both a woman and a man) or as non-binary (neither woman nor man). Some non-binary people identify as genderqueer or as having shifting or fluid genders.
People who challenge the gender binary of male/masculine and female/feminine. They may identify as being both man and woman, neither, being all genders, or having no gender. Genderqueer refers to gender identity, while androgyny refers to someone’s appearance.
Someone who feels the gender expectations for their assigned sex at birth don’t fit and so are questioning how gender works for them. This includes people who see the binary categories of male and female or masculine and feminine are unhelpful or too restrictive, and those who feel that their gender does not align with the sex assigned to them at birth. Some may go on to identify as transgender or gender queer.
Transgender (or trans*) is an umbrella term (and for some an identity term), used to include any person who feels their assigned sex or gender at birth does not adequately reflect their internal gender. It can refer to all of the identities within the gender diverse spectrum other than man and woman.This can include but is not limited to transgender, transsexual, trans man, trans woman, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderless, androgynous etc.Trans (without the asterisk) is mainly applied to people who identify as transgender.
Transgender people may express or live this divergence in a number of ways, including (but not limited to) those who live as their internal gender and undergo hormone treatment and gender reassignment so that their physical body “matches” their internal gender. Transgender people however may or may not feel the need to access hormone therapy and/or surgery.
The term ‘trans’ means ‘across from’. In some societies, people choose their own gender when they come of age. The Bugis society of Sulawesi, Indonesia recognises five distinct genders. People may often use a variety of culturally and linguistically specific terms instead of ‘trans’. Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples use the term sistergirl (sometimes Yimpininni in the Tiwi Islands) to describe male-assigned people who live partly or fully as women. In some regions, sistergirls have unique societal roles. Brotherboy may also be used to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female-assigned people who live partly or fully as men.
Being transgender is not related to any specific form of sexuality. A transgender person may see themselves or identify as heterosexual, same-sex attracted or bisexual, or anywhere along the LGBIQ spectrum.
A medical term for a person who transitions from one sex to the other, but the term ‘Transgender’ is commonly preferred today (with some exceptions).
Cis is a Latin-derived prefix meaning “on the same side” (where “Trans” means “across”). Cisgender is a term used by some for people whose gender identity is “on the same side” as the sex they were assigned at birth and in the way our society expects.
People are born with many different kinds of bodies. Although intersex people are often confused with trans people, the term intersex refers specifically to a diversity of physical characteristics. Intersex is an umbrella term that describes people who have natural variations that differ from conventional ideas about ‘female’ or ‘male’ bodies.
Intersex refers to a person who has genetic, hormonal and physical features that may be thought to be typical of both male and female at once. They may be neither wholly female nor wholly male, or a combination of female and male.They may be thought of as being male with female features, female with male features, or have no clearly defined sexual features at all. Intersex is about physical sex differences, a natural variation in humans. These natural variations may include genital, chromosomal or a range of other physical characteristics.
Many forms of intersex exist and intersex difference is about as common as red hair. Intersex is a spectrum or umbrella term rather than a single category. Intersex people have a broad range of gender identities and sexual identities just like non-intersex people.
In Australia and abroad, intersex is the term most widely preferred by such people. Although intersex people may use a variety of terms to describe themselves, it is generally considered rude for others to describe intersex people as ‘hermaphrodites’ or as having ‘disorders of sex development’.
People who are sexually and/or romantically attracted to people across the spectrums of sex and gender, and where gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in the attraction. Pan means “all”, while poly meaning “many”, though not necessarily all.