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  • Shane St Reynolds

Language and Symbols

Updated: Jan 9

LGBTI QA+ what does it all mean? The language of the LGBTI community is constantly evolving. Communities and sub-cultures are still being defined, and thus the language and labels associated with the LGBTI community also changes. Some have even adopted previous slurs to now proudly describe themselves. With this in mind the information below is the currently accepted language of the LGBTI communities.

LGB is about sexual orientation and who you are attracted to; Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual T is about understanding a different gender identity from the body you were born into; transgender I is about understanding bodily difference; Intersex QA+ These are not always added to the acronym. Q is about not fitting into a specific definition; Queer or Questioning, A is not having sexual attraction; Asexual + is "Plus everything else"


Sexual Orientation -Who you are attracted to romantically and/or physically

Lesbian


A woman whose primary emotional and physical attraction is towards other women. Another phrase is “women who have sex with women”


Gay


A term generally used to describe men whose primary emotional and physical attraction is towards other men. This term is also used by women as a generic term for homosexual. It can also be an umbrella term for the community as a whole, but it does then leave out a number of community groups.


Homosexual


A generic term to describe people whose primary emotional and physical attraction is towards people of the same sex as themselves. Another term that is used is “same sex attracted”


Bisexual


A term to describe someone whose primary emotional and physical attraction is for people, regardless of gender.


Asexual


A term to describe someone who is generally not emotionally or physically attracted to any people. Asexuality is not the same as celibacy.


Pansexual


A term used to describe someone who is attracted to all people regardless of their sexual identity, gender identity or intersex status. Similar to bisexual but includes all the other gender options.


Sexuality


The expression of a person’s desires attractions, sexual activity and personal expression through dress and personal interactions. This is not a conscious choice or decision. To assert


that sexuality is a choice will cause offence and is regarded as a lack of understanding of the basic definition of the term.


Heterosexual/Straight


A generic term to describe people whose primary emotional and physical attraction is towards people of the opposite sex as themselves.


Queer


An umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTIQ people to refer to the entire LGBT community. It is also used as an alternative word that some people use to "queer" the idea of the labels and categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc. It is important to note that the word queer is an in-group term, and a word that can be considered offensive to some people, depending on their generation, geographic location, and relationship with the word. 


Questioning


For some, the process of exploring and discovering one's own sexual orientation.

Gender – Body and Behaviour


Biological sex


Sex (sometimes called biological sex, anatomical sex, or physical sex) is comprised of things like genitals, chromosomes, hormones, body hair, and more. But one thing it’s not: gender.


Gender identity


A person’s sense of identity in relation to the categories of male and female. This is different from sexuality and should not be confused. Sexual diversity exists within the gender diverse community. Trans*people can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual. For some people, this internal identity may not match their external physical body.


Gender expression


Refers to how we express ourselves in terms of our gender. It includes things like our hair styles, the clothes we wear, the ‘look’ we have and the activities and hobbies we do. Terms like ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are often used to define these expressions. Sometimes people do not match what Australian society has defined as what men and women should look like or do.


Cisgender


Is a term used in the context of gender issues to refer to people whose gender identity and behaviour or role is considered appropriate for one’s sex. For example, someone who is female, and who dresses and behaves in a way that is traditionally associated with being female. This is your traditional "male" and "female".


Intersex


Intersex variation – a person who is born with bodily differences that can include a variance in reproductive organs (anatomy), hormones and/or sex chromosomes (DNA) that are not exclusively male or female. Many forms of intersex exist; it is a spectrum or umbrella term, rather than a single category. At least 30 or 40 different variations are known to science.


Transgender


This is an umbrella term for people whose sense of gender is outside of the traditional idea of male or female. It can also be used to define someone who has gender dysphoria, a condition where their biological body does not match with their internal own sense of gender. Some people transition so that they can live as their innate gender identity. Gender dysphoria is not a choice and to imply otherwise is highly offensive and shows a lack of understanding of gender identity issues. Trans* people are subject to high levels of discrimination, verbal and physical abuse from others and a lack of understanding from the general community. Not all Transgender people have had reaffirmation surgery.


Queer


An umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTIQ people to refer to the entire LGBT community. It is also used as an alternative word that some people use to "queer" the idea of the labels and categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual,


etc. Similar to the concept of genderqueer. It is important to note that the word queer is an in-group term, and a word that can be considered offensive to some people, depending on their generation, geographic location, and relationship with the word. 


Queer


An umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTIQ people to refer to the entire LGBT community. It is also used as an alternative word that some people use to "queer" the idea of the labels and categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual,


etc. Similar to the concept of genderqueer. It is important to note that the word queer is an in-group term, and a word that can be considered offensive to some people, depending on their generation, geographic location, and relationship with the word. 


Questioning


 For some, the process of exploring and discovering one's own sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression


 For some, the process of exploring and discovering one's own sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression


Genderqueer


A term used by people who possess identities which fall outside of the widely accepted sexual binary (i.e. "men" and “women").


Genderqueer may also refer to people who identify as both transgendered AND queer, i.e. individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected


Ally


Typically any non-LGBTI person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBTI people, though LGBTI people can be allies, such as a lesbian who is an ally to a transgender person.


Each of these concepts sit on a sliding scale, for more information see the Gender resource.


How to establish inclusive dialogue


(Adapted from Queensland Association for Healthy Communities –LGBTI Identities fact sheet)

• Use correct name and pronoun consistently

• Never assume someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity

• If you are unsure how to address someone, ask in a sensitive and respectful manner

• If you are really unsure, use gender- neutral pronouns and let the other person lead the way

• Employ best practice by using terms your client has conveyed to you

• If you don’t know – ask – there is no such thing as a stupid question


Language and how it changes:


The LGBTIQA+++……. acronym is growing, and this will continue to occur as smaller minorities are labelled and acknowledged publicly even within generations there is a shift in language and peoples comfort levels with using it. e.g. Queer is often seen as a derogatory term, yet the younger generation (predominantly) has embraced this former slur and made it their own. That being said some older LGBTI community members proudly stand up and announce themselves as queer.


As one of the fastest evolving cultures, the language used to describe the LGBTI community is also evolving fast. Each group and sub culture within communities including the LGBTI communities has its own language. Listen to the person you are talking to and take your language cues from them.