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LGBTQUA+ Terminology

Terminology relating to LGBTQUA+ identities and experiences can change at a phenomenally fast pace. The use of specific terms becomes contested, and new best practice terminology emerges. The use of certain terms also depends on individual preference and the terminology they feel best represents their own identity and experience.

This resource sets out some key terminology in relation to LGBTQUA+ identities and experiences, including outdated terminology and sites of contest. It is not exhaustive, but additional terms can be requested via queeringuniversity at warwick dot ac dot uk.

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-phobia

(suffix) If a term ends in -phobia then it denotes a fear or disliking directed at people of a particular identity (i.e. transphobia relating to trans people, or biphobia relating to bi people). Also refers to action (and inaction) that harms, insults or erases people of a particular identity.

A

AFAB

(acronym) AFAB is an acronym for 'assigned female at birth'.

Variants include FAAB, and CAFAB (coercively assigned female at birth) which is more commonly used in reference to intersex people.

Agender

(adjective) A non-binary gender identity, denoting an absence of gender.

Allonormativity

(noun) The result of society's assumption that being allosexual, experiencing sexual attraction in a manner that is not consistent with being on the asexual spectrum, is the norm or ‘default’. This includes the tendency to assume that someone wants a sexual and/or romantic partner.

Alloromantic

(adjective) Denoting the experience of romantic attraction in a manner not consistent with an identity on the aromantic spectrum.

Allosexual

(adjective) Denoting the experience of sexual attraction in a manner not consistent with an identity on the asexual spectrum.

AMAB

(acronym) AMAB is an acronym for 'assigned male at birth'.

Variants include MAAB, and CAMAB (coercively assigned male at birth) which is more commonly used in reference to intersex people.

Aromantic

(adjective) Denoting the absence of experiencing romantic attraction, or as an umbrella term for the absence of experiencing romantic attraction, experiencing it weakly or rarely, or experiencing only under limited circumstances.

Note: the umbrella term 'aromantic spectrum' may be used also.

Asexual

(adjective) Denoting the absence of experiencing sexual attraction, or as an umbrella term for the absence of experiencing sexual attraction, experiencing it weakly or rarely, or experiencing only under limited circumstances.

Note: the umbrella term 'asexual spectrum' may be used also.

B

Bi

(adjective) Denoting sexual and/or romantic attraction to people of more than one different gender.

Note: The umbrella term 'bi+' or 'bi*' may sometimes be used.

Bigender

(adjective) A non-binary gender identity, denoting an identity characterised by a combination of two or more genders (such as male and female).

Binary

(adjective) Having exactly two parts. In the context of gender, it refers to the cultural gender binary of male and female.

Biromantic

(adjective) Denoting romantic attraction to people of more than one different gender.

Bisexual

(adjective) Denoting sexual attraction to people of more than one different gender.

C

Cis

(adjective) The prefix cis- means “on the same side as” and cis (or cisgender) people is therefore used to refer to individuals whose gender identity is the same as the gender they were assigned at birth.

Note: The term 'cis' is important in that it challenges the idea of trans as 'other' i.e. it challenges the use of the terms ‘woman’ and ‘man’ to implicitly refer only to cis women and men, or the use of inappropriate qualifiers like 'real' or 'normal' or 'biological' men or women to distinguish from trans people.

Cisgender

See cis

Cisnormativity

(noun) The result of society's assumption that being cis, identifying as the gender you were assigned at birth, is the norm or ‘default’.

This includes the tendency to assume someone's gender from their appearance, the lack of non-binary legal recognition in many countries (including the UK), and attaching gendered language to biological processes such as pregnancy.

Coming Out

(verb) The process by which one accepts and/or comes to identify one’s sexuality or gender identity. Also the process of sharing one’s sexuality or gender identity with others.

(verb) See also out, outing, the act of revealing a person's identity without their consent.

D

Deadname

(noun) A deadname is a name by which a trans person was formerly known, which may or may not still be their legal name.

(verb) To deadname a trans person is to use this former name in reference to them.

Demi

(adjective) Denoting sexual and/or romantic attraction to others only after a strong emotional connection has been formed.

(prefix) Denoting a gender identity characterised by a partial affiliation with another gender identity such as male, or female. See demigirl and demiboy.

Demiboy

(adjective) A non-binary gender identity, denoting a partial identification with the identity of boy or man.

Demigirl

(adjective) A non-binary gender identity, denoting a partial identification with the identity of girl or woman.

Demiromantic

(adjective) Denoting romantic attraction to others only after a strong emotional connection has been formed.

Demisexual

(adjective) Denoting sexual attraction to others only after a strong emotional connection has been formed.

Drag king

(noun) A drag king is a drag performer that often plays with visual representations of masculinity.

Drag queen

(noun) A drag queen is a drag performer that often plays with visual representations of femininity.

Dysphoria

(noun) The experience of anxiety, discomfort, or disgust relating to (perceived) gendered aspects of a person's own physical characteristics, or others' gendered perceptions of them.

E

Endosex

(adjective) An endosex person is someone whose innate anatomy and physiology are in alignment with contemporary cultural stereotypes of what constitutes typical male and female bodies.

F

Fluid, Fluidity

(noun) Generally used with another term attached, such as genderfluid. This term describes an identity that may change or shift over time. It may refer to a sexual orientation, romantic orientation, or gender identity. Fluidity should not be confused or conflated with confusion, or 'a phase'.

G

Gay

(adjective) Denoting sexual and/or romantic attraction to people of the same gender.

Gender assigned at birth

(noun) The gender that was recorded on an individual's first birth certificate. There are very limited circumstances where it is relevant or appropriate to refer to the gender a trans person was assigned at birth.

Phrases such as ‘born a man’, ‘became a woman’ etc. should be avoided, since these imply a change in gender rather than a change in how others perceive a person's gender.

See also AMAB and AFAB.

Gender expression

(noun) An external display of gender (or culturally gendered aspects of self), through a combination of dress, demeanour, social behaviour and other factors. This can determine how a person’s gender is perceived by others.

Genderfluid

(adjective) Denoting a gender identity which changes or shifts over time.

Gender, Gender identity

(noun) A sense of fit within a gender category e.g. female, non-binary, male.

For cis people there is a sense of congruence between the gender they were assigned at birth and their gender, whilst trans people experience an incongruence between the gender they were assigned at birth and their gender.

Gender Identity Clinic, GIC

(noun) Trans individuals who wish to access medical support to transition, for example via hormones or surgery, must generally seek a referral to a Gender Identity Clinic. Waiting times for a first appointment are often upwards of three years.

Gender Identity Disorder

(outdated) see Gender Incongruence

Gender Incongruence

(noun) Medical language (for use only within medical contexts) to refer to a condition characterised by a marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the gender they were assigned at birth.

Note: Previous categorisations included 'Transsexualism', 'Gender Identity Disorder', which were listed as 'mental and behavioural disorders' in the ICD. The most recent update recognises that being trans does not represent a mental or behavioural disorder, using the new term 'Gender Incongruence' and moving it into less stigmatising section.

Genderless

See agender

Gender presentation

See gender expression

Genderqueer

(adjective) Genderqueer is a non-binary gender identity, or sometimes an umbrella term for non-binary gender identities in general. It is sometimes used to refer specifically to individuals who resist gender norms without seeking to change their physical characteristics.

Gender reassignment

(noun) A term used in UK legislation to refer to trans people. One of the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. The term should be used only in the context of relevant legislation.

Gender Recognition Certificate, GRC

(noun) A trans person may seek to have their gender fully recognised under the law by applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate. However, it is an expensive, inaccessible and lengthy process and not all trans people choose to (or are able to) engage with it.

It is unlawful to request to see an individual's gender recognition certificate, or to ask whether they have one.

Gray

(adjective) Denoting sexual and/or romantic attraction to others which is weak, or rarely experienced.

Grayromantic

(adjective) Denoting romantic attraction to others which is weak, or rarely experienced.

Graysexual

(adjective) Denoting sexual attraction to others which is weak, or rarely experienced.

H

Heteronormativity

(noun) The result of society's assumption that heterosexuality and relationships between 'opposite' binary-gender individuals are the norm or ‘default’.

This includes the tendency to assume the gender of someone's partner, and the lack of representation of LGBTQUA+ people in TV, film and other media.

Heteroromantic

(adjective) Denoting romantic attraction to people of a different gender.

Heterosexual

(adjective) Denoting sexual attraction to people of a different gender.

Homoromantic

(adjective) Denoting romantic attraction to people of the same gender.

Homosexual

(adjective) Denoting sexual attraction to people of the same gender. Now considered outdated and potentially derogatory in most contexts.

I

Intersex

(adjective) An intersex person is someone whose innate anatomy or physiology differs from contemporary cultural stereotypes of what constitutes typical male and female bodies.

Intersex issues are distinct from trans issues but some intersex individuals may wish to transition later in life if they feel they do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

The terms hermaphrodite or hermaphroditic are considered outdated and derogatory.

L

(noun) The gender marker on your legal documents can be updated to reflect your gender if it differs from the gender you were assigned at birth. You can update most legal documents except your birth certificate with a letter from a health practitioner, but you must apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate to update your birth certificate.

Lesbian

(adjective) Denoting sexual and/or romantic attraction between women.

LGBT+

See LGBTQUA+

LGBTQ+

See LGBTQUA+

LGBTQUA+

(acronym) LGBTQUA+ is the acronym used at Warwick to refer to lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer and undefined people, people on the asexual or aromantic spectra, and others who experience similar forms of prejudice and/or discrimination (+).

Note: Whilst this variant is used by Warwick, there are many different acronyms used nationally and internally, including LGBT+, LGBTQ+, and LGBTQIA+.

M

Misgender

(verb) Referring to a person using incorrectly gendered language. For example, using male pronouns for a trans woman.

Monosexual

(adjective) Denoting sexual attraction solely to people of one specific gender.

MSM

(acronym) MSM is an acronym for 'men who have sex with men'. It is used in certain contexts, specifically medical ones, to refer to men who have sex with men without making an assumption about their sexual orientation.

N

Non-Binary

(adjective) A gender, or set of genders, characterised by their position outside of the binary of ‘male’ and ‘female’ genders.

There are many identities that fall under the umbrella of ‘non-binary’, including agender/genderless (no gender), bigender (some combinations of the binary genders of ‘male’ and ‘female’), genderfluid and so on. A similar, but less commonly used, umbrella term is ‘genderqueer’.

O

Out, Outing

(verb) The act of revealing a person's gender, trans identity, and/or sexual orientation to another without their consent.

(verb) See also coming out, the process by which one accepts and/or comes to identify one's sexuality or gender identity. Also the process of sharing or disclosing one's sexuality or gender identity with others.

P

Pan

(adjective) Denoting sexual and/or romantic attraction to people of all genders.

Panromantic

(adjective) Denoting romantic attraction to people of all genders.

Pansexual

(adjective) Denoting sexual attraction to people of all genders.

Passing

(verb) Refers to trans people whose gender is being correctly inferred by society / an individual.

Note: It is inappropriate for anyone else to pass comment on how well a trans person is passing.

Pronoun

(noun) Words that you use in place of a noun, like someone’s name. Instead of always having to use people’s names, we often use pronouns in their place. Examples include he/him, she/her, and they/them pronouns.

Gendered pronouns associate a gender with the person you’re referring to, whilst gender-neutral pronouns do not.

Q

Queer

(adjective, verb) Queer is often used as an umbrella term for LGBTQUA+ identities, but more recently it has also been used as a verb in academic discourses to mean 'troubling the norms'. Some individuals use queer as an individual identity also.

Note: The use of queer as an umbrella term for the LGBTQUA+ community should be done with caution, since the term is still perceived as derogatory by some LGBTQUA+ people.

Questioning

(noun) A term used by, or in relation to, individuals who are unsure about or exploring their sexual or romantic orientation or gender identity.

R

Real-life experience

(noun) A phase during supervised medical transition in which an individual is required to live, work and study in the gender they identify with before they can start hormone therapy and/or undergo surgery.

Romantic orientation

(noun) An individual's romantic orientation denotes the set of people that they may be romantically attracted to. Some common romantic orientations include homoromantic, biromantic, heteroromantic, and aromantic.

Being trans is not a romantic orientation, and does not dictate a person's romantic orientation.

S

Sexual orientation

(noun) An individual's sexual orientation denotes the set of people that they may be sexually attracted to. Some common sexual orientations include gay, lesbian, bi, heterosexual, and asexual.

Being trans is not a sexual orientation, and does not dictate a person's sexual orientation.

Stealth

(adjective) A trans person who has not (widely) disclosed to others that they are trans might refer to themselves as ‘stealth’.

T

Trans

(adjective) Someone whose gender identity or expression differs from the gender they were assigned at birth (and who self-defines using this term). This term is inclusive of non-binary people.

Note: This term should only be used as an adjective, and not a noun i.e. you should refer to 'a trans person' and not 'a trans'.

Trans*

(adjective) An older form of ‘trans’ that has been abandoned for the perception that it ‘others’ non-binary trans people, who were included within the term only by virtue of the *.

Transgender

(adjective) A mostly-outdated term for trans people, often specifically referring to binary (male or female) trans people. Commonly found in older policy and guidance, and though not specifically offensive or derogatory should be avoided where possible.

Transition, Transitioning

(noun) The process a trans person undergoes when changing their social role, forms of address (e.g. names, pronouns), appearance, and/or legal information to be more congruent with their gender identity. Transition might be undertaken with or without medical intervention, and there is no one necessary set of actions which must be taken.

Note: Some trans individuals may choose not to transition, because they are unable to financially, because they fear for their safety or lack support, or simply because they make the personal choice not to. If undertaken, the process of transitioning can take years.

Trans man

(noun) Someone who was assigned female at birth, but who identifies as male. Their gender identity/gender is therefore male.

'FtM' is sometimes used as a self-identifier within the trans community, but should not be used by others to refer to a trans man. Similarly, avoid transman (without the space).

Transsexual

(adjective) An outdated term that can be traced to Magnus Hirschfeld. Created to establish a difference between individuals that wished to adopt gender atypical clothing (see transvestite) and those that wished to change their physical characteristics. Should not be used except when quoting legislature.

Transvestite

(noun) An old word that was created in 1910 by the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. It is associated with those that wear gender-atypical clothing, for a variety of reasons. Generally identifying with the gender they were assigned at birth, transvestites should not be confused with trans people in general.

Trans woman

(noun) Someone who was assigned male at birth, but who identifies as female. Their gender identity/gender is therefore female.

'MtF' is sometimes used as a self-identifier within the trans community, but should not be used by others to refer to a trans woman. Similarly, avoid transwoman (without the space).

U

Undefined

(adjective) An individual may not label an aspect of their sexual or romantic orientation, or gender identity. This might be because they resist the use of labels, or cannot find one which adequately represents them.

W

WSW

(acronym) WSW is an acronym for 'women who have sex with women'. It is used in certain contexts, specifically medical ones, to refer to women who have sex with women without making an assumption about their sexual orientation.

This resource was created as part of the Queering University programme.