Please note the definitions of some of these terms can vary, according to the context and source, and are used here only as a guide. It is also important to be aware that people may not choose to use a particular term to identify themselves, even if they fit within the definition. For example, some Trans people post-transition would not identity with the identity Trans.
Note on gender/sex: in this document, sex is used to refer to a person’s physical sexual characteristics, and gender to refer to their identity.
Asexual a person whose identity is non-sexually oriented. They may have ‘emotional orientations,’ or romantic feelings, towards same-sex or different sex others, or not. This is a contemporary and emerging self-identification. Asexual is not the same as celibate; an asexual person does not generally feel sexual attraction, while a celibate person may feel sexual attraction but not act upon it.
Biphobia a common stereotype of bisexuality is that it is ‘a phase’ on the way to a ‘mature’ lesbian, gay or heterosexual identity. Some recent research has even attempted to prove the non-existence of bisexuality, particularly male bisexuality, although these studies have been criticised as methodologically and theoretically flawed. Bisexual women are frequently regarded as ‘just being bi-curious’ another way of denying that bisexuality is ‘real’.
Bisexual a person who has an intimate (emotional / sexual) attraction toward more than one gender.
Cisgendered/Cisperson a person whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
Cisgenderism is a prejudice similar to racism and sexism. It denies, ignores, denigrates, or stigmatises non-cisgender, Transgender, forms of expression, behaviour, relationship, or community.
Coming out refers to the experiences of some, but not all, LGB and Trans people as they explore/ disclose their gender identity and / or sexual orientation.
Equalities Communities relates to the ‘protected characteristics’ defined in the Equality Act (2010).
Gay “Gay” most commonly refers to men who have an intimate (emotional/sexual) attraction to other men. However, some Lesbians identify as “Gay” or “Gay Woman” / “Gay Women”.
Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) is a specialist NHS service providing assessment for Trans people who are seeking hormone treatment and / or surgical gender reassignment procedures. They are usually run by consultant psychiatrists who may or may not have other types of NHS staff working with them.
Gender Queer a person who does not identify as either male or female (“the gender binary”), or may identify as different genders at different times. Gender Queer people do not usually want to transition physically to a different sex from the one they were assigned at birth.
Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) medical treatment to enable Trans people to alter their bodies to match their gender identity is highly successful and has been available through the NHS for several decades. The medical process is known as ‘Gender Reassignment Surgery’ or ‘GRS’.
Gender Variant (see also Trans) an umbrella term for those people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, whether that be transsexual, genderqueer etc.
Heterosexism the belief that heterosexuality is the only “natural” and “normal” expression of sexual orientation and that it is inherently superior (and healthier) to other types of sexual orientation. This often gives rise to the idea that services tailored for heterosexuals will be suitable for everyone (see Cultural Competence).
Heterosexual an individual who has an emotional and/or sexual attraction to persons of a different sex. Heterosexuals are sometimes referred to as “Straight.” Some people find this term offensive as it may imply the opposite of “Bent”.
Homophobia the response of other members of society that results in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people experiencing discrimination, harassment, hatred and / or victimisation.
Homosexual this is the term which was mostly used by authorities (e.g. doctors, police, the media) to refer to an individual who has an intimate (sexual/emotional) attraction towards persons of the same sex. This term is often now rejected by LGB people as being too clinical and the terms “Lesbian” or “Gay” are preferred.
Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types.
Lesbian a woman who has an intimate (emotional/sexual) attraction to other women.
LGBT/LGBTQ/LGBTQI (LGBT+) acronyms for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans. Increasingly including ‘Q’ for “Questioning” and / or “Queer”, “I” to include “Intersex”, “A” to include “Asexual” and “P” to include “Pansexual”.
Pansexual people are attracted to people regardless of their gender. Pansexual people can be attracted to anyone of any gender identity. The word pansexual comes from the Greek word ‘pan-’, meaning “all”. Pansexual people are part of the LGB and Trans community.
Queer a ‘reclaimed’ word used by some people to self-identify as part of a movement that may include LGB and Trans, A (Asexual) and I (Intersex). Queer tends to be defined by what it is not– i.e. not having a prescribed view of gender identity and / or sexual orientation. Queer is also sometimes used to indicate a commitment to ‘non-normative’ gender and sexual fluidity (rather than to fixed categories of person).
Questioning usually refers to young people who may be experiencing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and/ or Trans feelings but have not yet identified their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
Trans an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and / or gender expression diverges in some way from the sex they were assigned at birth, including those who identify as transsexual people, those who identify as non-binary gender people, and so on. As with any umbrella term, there is some disagreement as to who and what should be included. For example, some people from non-Western backgrounds such as Two Spirit people or Hijra may reject Trans as being a Western concept that does not fit with their culture.
Transition can have two elements, social and medical. Some Trans people transition through both, but others may only go through a social transition. Medical transition includes hormones, surgery, GPs – anything medical. Social transition involves social aspects, such as coming out, changing documents, names, clothing etc. Not everyone will do all the things in each category such as not having surgery or not having all surgeries available etc.
Transphobia a reaction of fear, loathing, and discriminatory treatment of people whose identity or gender presentation (or perceived gender or gender identity) does not “match,” in the societally accepted way, the sex they were assigned at birth. The response of other members of society that results in Trans people experiencing discrimination, harassment, hatred and victimisation.
Trans Man (FtM) a person who was assigned female at birth but has a male gender identity and therefore proposes to transition, is transitioning or has transitioned to live as a man, often with the assistance of hormone treatment and perhaps various surgical procedures. Trans Man is a subset of Man.
Trans Woman (MtF) a person who was assigned male at birth but has a female gender identity and therefore proposes to transition, is transitioning or has transitioned to live as a woman, often with the assistance of hormone treatment and perhaps various surgical procedures. Trans Woman is a subset of Woman.
Note. Pronouns of Choice If you are unsure how to identify a person in relation to their gender identity or sexual orientation, it is acceptable to ask which term they would prefer you to use to describe their identity.