Terms and Definitions
The below information has been put together to provide a general overview, but some people may have a different understanding of certain words or choose to identify with a term in a different way. Terminology is diverse and continually evolving, with differences in terminology across generations and cultures. It is important to respect how people self-identify and reflect back to them with the terms they choose to use.
Sex, gender or sexuality can't be confirmed by appearance so it's important not to make assumptions. If you need to know, you can always ask.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between sex, gender, and sexuality?
Sex refers to physical and biological characteristics and anatomy. These include:
Intersex - an umbrella term for unique variations in chromosomes, hormones, reproductive or sex anatomy. An estimated 1 in 60 people have an intersex variation.
Gender refers to your sense of identity and its relationship to socially-constructed roles and behaviours. This includes:
Cisgender - identity aligns with sex assigned at birth e.g. a female who identifies as a woman
Transgender - gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth e.g. a transgender woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth
Non-binary / Gender fluid - doesn’t identify with a gender, or identifies with more than one
Sexuality refers to the physical or romantic attraction you experience and your relationships with others
Heterosexual (i.e. “straight”) - attracted to the opposite gender
Lesbian - woman attracted to other women
Gay - man attracted to other men (also sometimes used as a broader umbrella term for being attracted to someone of the same sex)
Bisexual - attracted to own gender and other/s gender/s
Pansexual - attracted to all genders or attracted to others regardless of gender
Asexual (ace) - little or no sexual attraction or interest in sexual behaviour
Queer / + - an umbrella term often used to mean “not straight” or any other part of the LGBTQIA+ communities
Note - ‘queer’ was historically used as a derogatory term, so while some people who are part of this community may use this term themselves, many other may still feel uncomfortable with this term.
What is the acronym?
You've probably seen plenty of variations used - GLBT / LGBT / LGBTIQ...
As an organisation, we try to use the acronym LGBTQIA+. This stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual/Aromantic. The + (plus symbol) is there to represent people of diverse sexuality or gender identify who prefer to identify with a different term as well as those still questioning.
Each acronym letter represents a diverse range of real people, living real lives. Over time the language used to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity changes, and the acronym used to describe these communities will also change.
It's important to note that the "full" acronym includes letters relating to both sexuality and gender identities, so if you are specifically discussing sexuality, or specifically discussing gender, it's usually better to just use the relevant terms.
What is homophobia?
Homophobia is any form of dislike or prejudice towards the LGBTQIA+ community. This can take the form of verbal or physical abuse, jokes, exclusion, or discrimination in how people are treated within social situations, education, employment, or healthcare system. It can be deliberate or it can be unintended.
Transphobia is a specific form of discrimination experienced by transgender people which can include intentionally misgendering, using their previous name (known as dead-naming), denying access to gender specific places or healthcare services.
Biphobia is a specific form of discrimination experienced by bisexual people, which can include denial that bisexuality is ‘real’ and dismissing it as attention seeking or a trend. Bisexual people are even less likely to be open about their sexuality than gay and lesbian people; over 3/4 of gay and lesbian people are now open about their sexuality to a majority of friends, family and colleagues, while less than 1/3 of bisexual people are.
What does "transitioning" mean?
The gender-affirming process that transgender people go through is often referred to as transition / transitioning. Transgender people may go through one or all of these processes - or none at all! Trans people are still trans, regardless of where they may be on their journey.
Social transition - refers to process of changing their gender expression to match their gender identity, and can include changes in appearance, name, and pronouns.
Medical transition - refers to hormone therapy, surgery, or both, to better align physical characteristic with their gender identity.
Legal transition - refers to the formal process of changing name and/or gender on legal documents such as birth certificates, drivers licences, bank accounts etc.
Note - Unfortunately the current laws in WA require trans people to undergo expensive, invasive and sometimes unwanted medical interventions before they can apply to the Gender Reassignment Board for legal recognition.
What are pronouns?
A personal pronoun is a word used as a simple substitute for the proper name of a person.
The most common pronouns are she/her, he/him, and they/them, although there are many more, and some people use a combination (especially transgender people who may need to for legal, financial, or social reasons).
We all use pronouns, and 'they' has been used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun for hundreds of years.