There is a whole range of different terms and acronyms that you may find when looking to understand the experiences of diverse sexuality and/or gender identities. The most common is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender), but other acronyms seek to be more inclusive, such as LGBTQAI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, and Intersex), and a ‘+’ is often used to include other identities not explicitly named.
Generally speaking, terms such as LGBT+ are used to refer to all minority sexual and gender identities.
You may also come across the term ‘queer’, which began as an anti-LGBT slur but more recently has been reclaimed by LGBT+ people. Queer can be used to refer to:
- Diverse minority sexual and gender identities (in other words, as a more inclusive umbrella term than LGBT+, LGBTQAI+, and so on)
- (in academia:) as a verb to describe a process or action of calling attention to, and often subverting, gender norms
- (by a person:) as a label for their sexual and/or gender identity
Below we’ve included short accepted descriptions of different sexual identities.
In practice, you should always invite a person to disclose their preferred term(s) for their sexual identity rather than to make your own assumptions, but do ask yourself whether it’s important in the first place.
These terms are typically used to refer to an individual who is attracted to people of the same gender.
A bisexual person is a person who is attracted to two or more genders. Historically, bisexual has referred to people who are attracted to both men and women, but in more recent usage, it often refers to two or more genders in order to be inclusive of non-binary people.
Pansexual people feel attraction regardless of gender and are attracted to all genders.
Asexual people do not experience sexual attraction to people regardless of gender identity. Even within LGBT+ communities, asexual identities tend not to be openly discussed to the same extent as other sexual identities.
‘Cisgender’ (pronounced ‘siss gender’) describes a person whose gender corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth. This describes the majority of the population.
A transgender person is a person whose gender does not correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth:
- A trans man is a man who was assigned female at birth
- A trans woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth
No two transgender people have the same experience of forming their gender identity; some are aware from early childhood whereas others not until far later in life.
A non-binary person is a person whose gender cannot fully be described as either “male” or “female” and instead falls somewhere in between on the gender spectrum. Other individuals may describe this with terms such as genderless or genderqueer.