Language & Terminology
Bodies, gender and gender identities
Trans and gender diverse communities are disproportionately affected by prejudice-motivated discrimination and violence.
The health and wellbeing outcomes of people with trans and gender diverse experience are directly related to transphobic stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse, including when incorrect language is used, often unknowingly.
The guide explains key terms and offers examples of language that can help us build safer, more inclusive environments for trans and gender diverse communities.
Gender identity is defined in the Act as ‘the gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of a person (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the person’s designated sex at birth’.9
For example, a person’s birth certificate may include a marker which indicates that the person’s designated sex is female when that person identifies as a man (in other words, their gender identity is that of a man).
‘Gender diverse’ is an umbrella term that includes all the different ways gender can be experienced and perceived. It can include people questioning their gender, those who identify as trans/transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, gender non-conforming and many more.10
A term used to describe people who identify their gender as the same as what was assigned to them at birth (male or female). ‘Cis’ is a Latin term meaning ‘on the same side as’.
‘Intersex status’ is a protected attribute under the Act. Under the Act ‘intersex status’ means the status of having physical, hormonal or genetic features that are:
- neither wholly female nor wholly male
- a combination of female and male, or
- neither female or male.11
These Guidelines do not specifically address intersex variations.
The term ‘intersex’ does not describe a person’s gender identity (man, woman, neither or both). A person with an intersex variation may identify as a man, woman, neither or both.
‘LGBTQI’ (or variations of it) is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and intersex. It is used to refer collectively to these communities. The ‘LGB’ refers to sexuality/sexual identity; the ‘T’ refers to gender identity; and the ‘I’ refers to people who have an intersex variation. ‘Q’ can refer to either gender identity or sexuality.
Non-binary is a term used to describe a person who does not identify exclusively as either a man or a woman.
Pronouns are a grammatical means of referring to a person or persons. Conventional pronouns are ‘she/her/hers’ and ‘he/him/his’. Some people prefer to use gender neutral pronouns, such as ‘they/them/their’. The pronoun a person uses to describe themselves generally reflects their gender identity.
‘Sex’ refers to a person’s biological sex or sex characteristics. These may be genetic, hormonal, or anatomical.12
Unlike ‘gender identity’, ‘sex’ is not defined in the Act.
Transgender / Trans
Transgender (commonly abbreviated to ‘trans’) is a general term used to describe a person whose gender identity is different to the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender is about how an individual describes their own gender. It is not necessarily about their biological characteristics.
A person whose birth certificate originally described them as female, who now identifies as a man, may use the label ‘trans’, ‘trans man’ or ‘man’. Similarly, a person originally described on their birth certificate as male, who now identifies as a woman, may use the label ‘trans’, ‘trans woman’ or ‘woman’.13
Transition or affirmation refers to the social, medical or legal steps that a transgender person takes to affirm their gender identity.
A transition or affirmation may or may not involve medical treatment, including surgeries or hormone therapy. People can transition as children or as adults. Each transition is different.
Social transition is the process by which a person changes their gender expression to better match their gender identity. This may include changing their name, pronouns, and appearance.
Medical transition is the process by which a person changes their physical sex characteristics to align with their gender identity. This may include hormone therapy, surgery or both.
Legal transition is the process by which a person changes their identity documents, name, or both, to reflect their gender identity. This may include changing their gender marker on a passport or birth certificate, or changing their name on a driver’s licence or bank card.
AFAB/DFAB: Assigned female at birth/Designated female at birth
AMAB/DMAB: Assigned male at birth/Designated male at birth
Sexual orientation refers to an individual’s sexual and romantic attraction to another person. This can include, but is not limited to, heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and asexual. It is important to note, however, that these are just a handful of sexual identifications – the reality is that there are an infinite number of ways in which someone might define their sexuality. Further, people can identify with a sexuality or sexual orientation regardless of their sexual or romantic experiences. Some people may identify as sexually fluid; that is, their sexuality is not fixed to any one identity.
Aromantic/aro: refers to individuals who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic individuals may or may not identify as asexual.
Asexual/ace: a sexual orientation that reflects little to no sexual attraction, either within or outside relationships. People who identify as asexual can still experience romantic attraction across the sexuality continuum. While asexual people do not experience sexual attraction, this does not necessarily imply a lack of libido or sex drive.
Bisexual: an individual who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to people of the same gender and people of another gender. Bisexuality does not necessarily assume there are only two genders (Flanders, LeBreton, Robinson, Bian, & Caravaca-Morera, 2017).
Gay: an individual who identifies as a man and is sexually and/or romantically attracted to other people who identify as men. The term gay can also be used in relation to women who are sexually and romantically attracted to other women.
Heterosexual: an individual who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to the opposite gender.
Lesbian: an individual who identifies as a woman and is sexually and/or romantically attracted to other people who identify as women.
Pansexual: an individual whose sexual and/or romantic attraction to others is not restricted by gender. A pansexual may be sexually and/or romantically attracted to any person, regardless of their gender identity.
Queer: a term used to describe a range of sexual orientations and gender identities. Although once used as a derogatory term, the term queer now encapsulates political ideas of resistance to heteronormativity and homonormativity and is often used as an umbrella term to describe the full range of LGBTIQA+ identities.
Heteronormativity: the view that heterosexual relationships are the only natural, normal and legitimate expressions of sexuality and relationships, and that other sexualities or gender identities are unnatural and a threat to society (GLHV, 2016).
Homophobia and biphobia: refer to negative beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes that exist about people who are not heterosexual.
Misgendering: an occurrence where a person is described or addressed using language that does not match their gender identity (GLHV, 2016). This can include the incorrect use of pronouns (she/he/they), familial titles (father, sister, uncle) and, at times, other words that traditionally have gendered applications (pretty, handsome, etc.). It is best to ask a person, at a relevant moment, what words they like to use.
Transphobia: refers to negative beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes that exist about transgender/trans and gender diverse people