SEXUAL AND GENDER IDENTITIES AND TERMINOLOGY
Asexual: It is a term used to describe persons who do not experience sexual attraction or who do not have an interest or a desire in sex. Asexuality is viewed as being a spectrum – where asexual persons have varying levels and identities around one’s emotional, spiritual and/or romantic attraction.
Bisexual: A term to describe someone who is attracted to both men and women.
Cisgender: A term utilized to describe a person who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. For instance, if a person has ‘male’ on his birth-certificate and affirms oneself as such, this person is said to be cisgender.
Cross Dressers/Transvestites: Someone who has an inescapable emotional need to identify as a member of the opposite gender, on a temporary or permanent basis. This is a separate category from transsexual. Cross dressers and Transvestites generally do not have the profound feelings that they have been born into the wrong body in relation to how they psychologically relate to their gender (gender dysphoria) that transsexual’s experience.
Female–Male (F-M) Transsexual: A biological female whose core gender identity is male. Whether F-M is pre-operative or post-operative their identity is that of a male. Many female to male transsexuals/transgender men choose not to undertake the genital reconstruction of plasticity (construction of the penis) as the procedure is not highly successful.
Gay: Gay is a term traditionally used to describe men attracted to men. Nowadays, it is a term used for anyone who is attracted to someone of their same sex or gender.
Gender: Gender is a social construct, that is, an idea or notion created by society, and which normally tells us the behaviours, expectations and characteristics of certain genders based on emotional, behavioural and cultural characteristics; e.g. how a person dresses or women role is at home.
Gender Binary: A binary is regarded as a system consisting of two opposite parts, such as north and south, east and west. Likewise gender binary is defined as gender consisting solely of man/woman or male/female.
Gender Dysphoria: This is a medical term that refers to a person’s physical discomfort with their body, caused by their strong gender identification which is opposite to their biological sex. This can result in an individual suffering unusual anxiety, depression or unease. This is also known as Gender Identity Disorder. Gender Dysphoria or being transgender/transsexual is not a choice: No one chooses to be gender dysphoric, transgender or transsexual. Being Gender Dysphoric or transgender/transsexual is subject to high levels of discrimination, social isolation and very little understanding from the general community. To assert or imply that an individual has chosen to be transgender/transsexual will generally cause offence and represents a lack of understanding of gender identity issues.
Gender Expression: It is an external and visible expression of our gender identity.
Gender Identity: It is an internal self-definition of our gender. Everyone has a gender identity. Gender Identity and Sexuality: It is important to recognise the distinction between Gender Identity and Sexuality. The terms are not synonymous nor are they necessarily inter-related. Many people who are confronting or have confronted gender identity issues take offence at the unnecessary enquiries about, or association of, an individual’s sexuality or sexual practices in reference to their gender identity. Sexual diversity exists within the transgender/ transsexual community. Transgender/transsexuals may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual, however this does not necessarily relate to an individual’s gender identity concerns.
Gender Non-Conforming: Other terms used are “gender variant” or “gender diverse”. It describes a person whose gender expression is different from their assigned gender.
Genderqueer: It is a term for a person whose gender identity is not just binary and can mean different things to different people.
Heterosexism: It is the belief that everyone is or should be heterosexual, and other types of sexual behaviours are unhealthy, unnatural or a threat to society. Heterosexism also assumes that sex and gender (and the relationship between the two) are fixed and not open to change.
Heterosexual: It is a term used to describe people attracted to others of the opposite or different sex as to them.
Homophobia: It is the fear and hatred of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and of their sexual desires and practices.
Internalised Homophobia: The term Internal Homophobia is associated with the internalised negative attitudes and feelings towards same sex attraction and sexuality held by gay men, men who are having sex with men, lesbians and women who are having sex with women. These values and opinions of same sex attraction are often formed before people realise they are attracted to members of the same sex. Such beliefs are reinforced by social and cultural beliefs, values and representations that consider homosexuality as unacceptable, not ‘normal’ and wrong.
Internalised Transphobia: Internalised transphobia is associated with the internalised negative attitudes and feelings towards transsexualism/transgenderism, held by transgender/transsexual people. These values and opinions of transgender people and gender identity are often formed before people realise they identify as transgender or have gender dysphoria. Such beliefs are reinforced by social and cultural beliefs, values and representations that consider transgender people as unacceptable, not ‘normal’ and wrong.
Intersex: It is a medical condition where a person is born with a sex that does not exclusively identify to that of a male or a female due to genetic, hormonal or anatomical differences.
Lesbian: A term used for a woman who is attracted to other women.
Male–Female (M-F) Transsexual: A biological male whose core gender identity is female. Whether M-F is pre-operative or post-operative their identity is that of a female Men who have sex with Men (MSM): Men who engage in sexual activity with other men, but do not necessarily self-identify as gay.
Pansexual: It is a term used for people who are not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.
Post-operative transsexual: A transsexual/transgender person who has undertaken reassignment surgery.
Pre-operative transsexual: A transsexual/transgender person who has not under taken reassignment surgery.
Queer: It is a broad term that in as much as possible tries to be inclusive of people who are not straight and/or cisgender. While in the past, this word has been used as a derogatory term for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals, today, the word has been reclaimed and is used as a positive way for LGBTQI and allies to self-identify themselves. Some people, especially those of the older generation, still feel that this word has a negative connotation. Anyways, we are all “queer” in our own ways.
Questioning: It is a term or a phase and/or process that a person goes through where they are still questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Reassignment Surgery: This is a medical procedure that aligns a transsexual/transgender biological body to the gender they identify with. Reassignment surgery is not always an option for all transsexual/transgender people, usually for medical reasons.
Sexual Orientation: It is a person’s physical, romantic, emotional, and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Everyone has a sexual orientation.
Sexuality: Sexuality is the expression of a person’s desires, sexual activities, behaviours, characteristics and interpersonal relationships.
Sexuality is not a choice: Identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual is not a choice. Few people would chose to adopt a sexual identity that is subject to such high levels of discrimination, stigma and social isolation. People attracted to members of the same sex do not consider this a choice. Rather same sex attraction is a sexual, psychological and emotional desire and need. To assert sexuality is a choice will generally cause offence and represents a lack of understanding and knowledge regarding sexuality.
Sistergirls: This term is often used in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to describe biological males who are effeminate, or who live as women and see themselves as akin to women. Sistergirls perform many of the roles of women in the community. Their sexual partners are mainly straight men and they take a usually passive role in sexual activities. Most Sistergirls are respected within their home communities. Not all Sistergirls dress as women. Those Sistergirls who live and dress as women and/or are post-operative are considered to be women by their community. Not all Sistergirls undergo sex-reassignment surgery.
Transgender (Trans*): It is an umbrella term used for people whose gender identity does not match their at-birth sex or gender. It includes many identities such as transsexual, transvestite, etc. However, not all genderqueer or non-binary people identify as transgender. Also, some people who have transitioned to their desired gender choose to self-identify as “man” or “woman” instead of transgender. Always use the preferred identity, name and pronouns that a transgender person wishes to self-identify with.
Transsexual: This term refers to a person who is born as a biological male or female but has a profound identification with the opposite gender to their biological sex. Transsexuals intend to make or have made the transition to live as the gender that they identify with.
Transitioning: It is a combination or the process that a trans* person goes through from a social, legal and/or medical perspective to make their gender identity (internal) fit their gender expression (external) or sex. Different trans* persons chose different means to transition and the means need not be common to all so as to identify their identity as their true gender.
Transphobia: This is the common term for the fear and hatred of people who are transsexual/transgender. Women who have sex with Women (WSW): Women who engage in sexual activity with other women but do not necessarily self-identify as lesbian.
©Young Queer Alliance, 2017