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LGBTIQ+: The Ultimate Dictionary

A list of important words you’ll hear used in LGBTIQ+ communities

LGBTIQ+ Rainbow flag with hands

This page was written and reviewed by people in LGBTIQ+ communities.

Some of these terms may be familiar while others are not. You may even know of some words not on this list!

Ally (al-i) is a word that means a person who is part of a privileged group (e.g. heterosexual, cisgender, endosex) that is a friend, advocate or supporter for LGBTIQA+ people and their rights. An ally usually helps challenge heterosexism, cissexism and stigma towards intersex people by educating people in their lives. We can all be allies for each other.


Androgynous (an-dro-jen-ness) refers to someone’s gender expression in terms of the way they look, dress or act. Being androgynous means drawing on both ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ forms of expression. For some people this might be how they want to express themselves daily, for others it might be only sometimes. Try looking up Asia Kate Dillon, Boy George and Jaden Smith for real life examples of famous people who have been described as androgynous!


Asexual/Aromantic (a-sek-shoo-al, a-row-man-tik) are terms that describe the sexuality of someone who doesn’t feel sexual or romantic attraction, or may only feel it rarely (e.g. gray-asexual) or in some situations - like after developing a strong emotional bond (e.g. demisexual).


Assigned Sex (ah-sined seks) means the sex and gender you are given by a doctor when you are born, usually based on the sex characteristics they can see – like your genitals. In a small number of cases, a baby may be born with a visible intersex trait.


Attraction (a-trak-shen) is a word that means how emotionally, romantically, physically or sexually pleasing someone is to you. Attraction can be made up of someone’s physical (e.g. body type, skin colour, the way they dress), personal (e.g. intelligence, skills), and cultural and social (e.g. cultural background, popularity) traits or qualities.

Biphobia (bye-fow-bee-ya) is a word that describes any intentional forms of violence, threats and/or hurtful comments, thoughts or beliefs toward people who identify as bisexual or pansexual.


Bisexual (bye-sek-shoo-al) A bisexual person is a person of any gender who has romantic and/or sexual relationships with and/or is attracted to people from more than one gender. Some people who fit this description prefer the terms 'queer' or 'pansexual', in recognition of more than two genders. Although 'bi-'technically refers to two, it is often used by people who have relationships with and/or attractions for people of more genders than just women or men.


Brotherboy (bra-tha-boy) is a word that describes an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander gender diverse man who was assigned female at birth. Brotherboys have a male spirit and a distinct cultural identity. Brotherboys’ cultural, spiritual and religious beliefs are pivotal to their lives and identities.

Cisgender (sis-jen-der) is a word that describes the gender experiences of people whose gender identity is similar to the sex assigned to them at birth.


Cisnormativity (sis-norm-a-tiv-i-tee) is a word that describes the assumption that people are cisgender and talk about the world from a cisgender viewpoint. This means there is an expectation that being cisgender is “normal”. Cisnormative attitudes and beliefs include believing that people’s gender identity should always match their assigned sex at birth.


Cissexism (sis-seks-izm) is a term that means viewing cisgender as the norm and superior to other identities outside of this norm, usually through prejudice or discrimination.


Coming out is a term used by a lot of people to describe when they tell others about their sexuality and/or gender. This phrase is a shortened version of ‘coming out of the closet’ and has been around for over 30 years! Coming out means different things to different people. For some it’s about coming out to the world. To others it’s about coming out to people like friends or family. Lots of people talk about coming out more than once, because as you meet new people, they might not know how you identify.

Disclosing (dis-klo-zing) is a term some people use to describe letting others know about their gender and/or sexuality. People use this term differently depending on the situation and person they are talking to. For instance, non-binary and trans people might use this term as a way to share their gender identity, since they are letting others know their gender is different to the assigned sex. Others might talk about ‘coming out’ to their friends but ‘disclosing’ their identity to a doctor. 


Endosex (en-doe-seks) is a new word that means the opposite of intersex. It means that a person has innate physical sex characteristics that match what is expected for female or male bodies. Innate means that the person is born with these characteristics, including chromosomes, hormones, genitals and other anatomy.

Feminine/Femininity (fem-in-in/fem-in-in-e-tee) is a word used to describe the qualities, behaviours and roles that girls and women may be expected to take in their community. In Western culture, this can include traits like: sensitivity, empathy, and being agreeable; activities like domestic work and childcare; and forms of expression like wearing dresses and showing emotion. Femininity has nothing to do with biology and changes depending on the society or culture you are raised in. For this reason, men and boys can show feminine traits and behaviours. 

Gay is a label used to describe people whose emotional, romantic, physical, and sexual attraction is to people of the same gender.


Gender binary (jen-der bye-ner-ree) is a term that describes the common assumption that there are only two genders people identify with: either male or female. The gender binary is one of the most difficult-to-change ideas in society, even though it excludes many people’s life experiences and histories.


Gender diverse (jen-der dye-ver-s) is a term that describes a person who feels that their gender identity doesn’t fit the categories associated with their assigned sex. For example, someone raised as a girl may feel as though the categories of female/feminine are restrictive or don’t apply to them. Questioning how gender stereotypes affect you is normal - and some people identify as genders other than male or female.


Gender dysphoria (jen-der diss-fore-ee-ya) is a medical term used to describe the distress or discomfort that people may feel when their assigned sex and gender identity don’t match. It’s common for people feeling gender dysphoria to be uncomfortable with their body (e.g. during puberty) and the roles of their assigned gender. Some people prefer the term body dysphoria instead, because it refers specifically to their discomfort being with their body and reproductive organs.


Gender expectation (jen-der ex-pek-tay-shun) is a term that describes the expectations others have about our assigned sex at birth that affects how we are told to behave. For those whose gender identity or expression is different to their assigned sex at birth, it can be more difficult to explore their identity because of these expectations, and the misunderstanding and discrimination of others.


Gender expression (jen-der ex-pre-shun) is a term that means the way we show our gender identity to the people around us - usually with the clothing we wear, the hairstyles we adopt, the mannerisms we use, or the activities we do.


Gender history (jen-der hiss-tree) is a term that describes the personal experiences someone has with their gender identity over time, which may be different to their assigned sex at birth. It refers to all their gender experiences as a whole. While some people may choose to reveal their gender history to others, some may choose to reveal only parts of it or none at all.


Gender/Gender identity (jen-der eye-den-ti-tee) is a term that describes our own understanding and experience of gender, despite what society expects. Our gender can be understood, experienced and shown through our identity (e.g. labels, pronouns), body (e.g. appearance) and expression (e.g. how you act, how you dress).


Gender norm (jen-der norr-ms) is a term to describe a range of standards and expectations that apply to a specific gender in a particular society, culture and/or community. These can change throughout time. For example, in Australia, it is common for newborn baby girls to be dressed in pink and boys in blue. However, a long time ago it was the opposite way around.

Hetero-cissexism (het-e-row-sis-seks-izm) is a word that describes a form of discrimination that views heterosexuality and cisnormativity as the norm and superior to other gender, sexual, and romantic identities. 


Heteronormativity (het-e-row-norma-tiv-a-tee) is a word that describes the way that people generally assume that others are heterosexual and think about the world from a heterosexual viewpoint or perspective. This means there is an expectation that being straight is “normal”. Heteronormative attitudes and beliefs include believing that people should always be straight and only date the opposite gender to them.


Heterosexism (het-e-row-sex-ism) is a word form of discrimination that views heterosexuality as the norm and superior to other sexual/romantic identities. 


Heterosexual (het-e-row-sek-syu-al) is a formal label used to describe people whose emotional, romantic, physical and sexual attraction is to people of the opposite sex and gender. Heterosexual people may also be described as ‘straight’.


Homophobia (hoe-moe-foe-bee-ya) is a word that describes any intentional forms of violence, threats and/or hurtful comments, thoughts or beliefs about people who identify as gay, lesbian or homoromantic asexual.

Internalised homophobia/biphobia/transphobia are words that describe when someone believes negative attitudes and beliefs about themselves, because they are sexually and/or gender diverse. The person may feel uncomfortable or disapproving of their own sexuality or gender identity. People can express these thoughts and feelings in both internal and external ways.


Intersex person or person with an intersex variation (in-ter-seks) means a person is born with chromosomes, reproductive organs or genitals that don't fit the narrow medical or social expectations for what it means to have a male or female body. There are many different intersex variations. For example, a person may appear to have a male body but have mixed or mostly female reproductive organs inside or genitals that seem to be in between what is expected for a male or female body. Intersex people are assigned a sex like everyone else. In some cases, an intersex variation may be visible at birth. At other times, it may be discovered at puberty or later. Other terms that intersex people, their families and doctors use include having innate “variations of sex characteristics”, “differences of sex development”, or specific medical terms associated with a particular intersex trait or variation.


Inviting other in is a phrase that means telling people about one’s sexuality and/or gender, similar to ‘coming out’. Some people think that this word is more culturally appropriate for people who see their sexuality and/or gender as only one part of their identity that doesn’t need to be shared with everyone. Some people might choose who to tell and ‘invite them in’ to a private part about their identity. For example, someone might choose to only ‘invite in’ their immediate family but not other relatives.

Lesbian (lez-bee-yen) is a label used to describe people who identify as female and are attracted to other females in a romantic, emotional, physical and/or sexual way.


LGBTIQA+ (communities or populations aka Queer Community) stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans/transgender, Intersex, Queer/questioning, and Asexual – and is one of many acronyms that represent common sexual and gender identities and bodies in the community. The + symbol is used to show that there are many more ways to be gender, sexually or body diverse. There are many variations of this acronym. The term ‘queer’ community is common these days and used to describe sexual and gender identities because it is often seen as the most inclusive term of the many ways people can identify and express their identity (see queer definition). Remember that intersex is about bodies and not identities, and intersex people can be any age. Also bear in mind that not everyone who is LGBTQ or I is connected to a community.

Masculine/Masculinity (mass-kew-lyn / mass-kew-lyn-e-tee) is a word used to describe the qualities, behaviours and roles that men and boys may be expected to take in their community. In Western culture, this can include traits like independence, power, and being in control of situations; activities like sports and manual labour; and forms of expression like dressing in plain clothes and showing little emotion. Masculinity has nothing to do with biology and changes depending on the society or culture you are raised in. For this reason, girls and women can show masculine traits and behaviours.


Microaggression (my-crow-a-gresh-en) is a term that describes unintentional forms of discrimination towards people who are considered a minority or ‘different’. It can be written, said or expressed in other nonverbal ways (e.g. only letting heterosexual couples to go to a dance together). A micro-aggression can happen ‘casually’ or without other people noticing. At first they might be able to be ‘shrugged off’, but over time they can build up and start to affect someone’s mental health.


Misgendering (miss-jen-der-ing) is a word that means when a person intentionally or unintentionally uses language to talk to a person, or describe a person, that doesn’t match their gender identity.

Non-binary (non-bye-ner-ee) is a label that describes someone’s understanding and experience of their gender as being outside of the common belief that there are only two genders, either male or female. Some people also have a legal non-binary sex.


Non-heterosexual (non-het-e-row-sek-syu-al) is a formal label that describes people who do not identify as straight, but also do not feel comfortable with labels, find them too limiting, or haven’t found a sexual identity that makes sense for them.

Outed (ow-ted) is a word that describes when someone (other than the person who is gender or sexually diverse) tells others either accidentally or purposely about someone’s sexuality and/or gender. It is not ok to ‘out’ people because they might not want or be ready to share this information and it can make them a target for discrimination or dangerous prejudice from others. Some people use this language to describe disclosure of an intersex variation, but others don’t. Intersex people typically find out they have an intersex trait from their parents or doctors. Like LGBTIQA+ people, they may choose to tell others about it, or they may not.

Pansexual (pan-sek-shoo-al) means attracted to (or having the potential to be attracted to) people of any or all genders. Simply put, it means that someone’s sex or gender doesn’t factor into whether you find someone attractive or not – it might be whether they’re intelligent, from a particular culture, or are good at sports.


Pronouns (pro-now-nz) are words that describe someone’s gender. There are many different pronouns that can be used. The most common are female (she/her/hers), male (he/him/his) and gender neutral pronouns (they/them/theirs). It is our personal choice what pronouns fit us best, no one else’s.

Queer (kw-eer) is a word that originally meant ‘strange’ or ‘peculiar’ and became an insult against non-heterosexual people in the late 19th century. More recently, the word has been reclaimed by some people in the LGBTIQA+ community and may be used as an umbrella term for people who identify as sexually or gender diverse (see LGBTIQA+). Because 'queer' is an ambiguous word and can mean different things for different people, it is important to explore its meaning with someone before using it.


Questioning (qw-es-chon-ing) is a word that describes the way we naturally question our sexual or gender identity at some point throughout our lives. It can be confusing stuff, but it’s also pretty normal.

Roles (aka Gender Roles) is a word that describes the expectations that a culture, country and some religions have about how people should behave and express themselves (see Masculinity and Femininity). As the world changes, some of these ideas have as well. For instance, it was very common historically for a lot of cultures to believe girls and women should stay at home and only do housework, while boys and men should go to work to earn money. These days, this idea has changed a lot.

Sex (aka Assigned Sex/Gender at Birth) can mean many different things. It can refer to biological sex or sex characteristics. It can refer to assigned sex, and it can refer to a legal status on identification documents. For many people, the distinctions between these different ideas about sex don’t matter. For intersex people, biological sex characteristics are more variable than typical for sex assigned at birth. For transgender people there is a difference between sex assigned at birth and gender identity.


Sexual Fluidity (sek-shoo-al floo-i-di-tee) is a word that describes the way that our sexual behaviour, attraction, or identity can change over time and in different situations.

One example of sexual fluidity is the way that some people may feel attracted to people of certain genders at one time in their lives – and people of other genders at another point in their lives. This is different to someone who identifies as bi- or pansexual and feels attracted to people of both-or-all genders, at all times, in their lives.

Another example of sexual fluidity is the way some people might have sex with people of a gender that aligns with their sexual identity in some situations (e.g. when in committed relationship), but not in others (e.g. outside a committed relationship). Labels like heteroflexible and homoflexible are sometimes used to capture this idea too.    

Although many people experience sexual fluidity, it is important to keep in mind that some don’t experience much or any sexual fluidity at all. 


Sexual identity/Sexuality (sek-shoo-al i-den-ti-tee) is a term that means how you experience and express yourself sexually – including who you’re attracted to and want to have emotional, romantic, physical and/or sexual relationships with. Sexuality is another word for sexual behaviour or someone’s capacity to have sexual feelings.


Sistergirl/sistagirl (sis-tah-girl) is a word that describes an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander gender diverse woman who was assigned male at birth. Sistergirls have a distinct cultural identity and often take on women’s roles within the community, including looking after children and family. Sistergirls’ cultural, spiritual and religious beliefs are pivotal to their lives and identities.


Straight is a more casual label used to describe people whose emotional, romantic, physical and sexual attraction is to people of the opposite sex and gender (also see Heterosexual).


Stereotypes (ste-ree-o-ty-pz) are oversimplified and overgeneralised views about individuals or a group of people, which are assumed to be true and mistaken for reality, and are usually negative in some way. They usually start as a way for people to make quick decisions, like the stereotype that women are more caring than men to talk to about personal problems. Stereotypes can lead to prejudice when they are believed to be true for every single person in a particular group, and result in people changing their behaviour toward that group in a negative way. 

Trans/Transgender (tranz-jen-der) is a label that describes people whose gender identity is different to their assigned sex/gender at birth. A transgender person may use different words to describe their identity, like trans/transman/transwoman, or may prefer to use male, female or other non-binary labels. There are also culture-specific words that some people may use because they are more appropriate or make more sense to them (e.g. Brotherboy and Sistergirl). 'Transsexual' is a medical label that was used in the past but is now less commonly used by people in this community.


Transition (aka Gender Affirmation) is a term for the process that someone may go through to align their gender expression with their gender identity to make them feel more comfortable in their skin. This can be done in a few different ways. Social transitioning means changing things like names, pronouns, identification and gender expression. Medical transitioning means accessing different type of options through the health care system such as hormones, hormone blockers, surgery and therapies.


Transphobia (tranz-fow-bee-yah) is a word that describes any intentional forms of violence, threats, hurtful comments, thoughts and/or beliefs about people who identify as transgender, genderqueer or don’t follow traditional gender norms.

Sexual identity is personal and can be complicated sometimes!

If you are unsure, curious or have questions, get in touch! We’re always here for you.

You may have your own gender or sexuality questions, or you may be supporting a friend with these questions.

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This content was last reviewed 08/10/2019

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