LGBTQUA+ Terminology Guide
At Warwick we use the acronym LGBTQUA+, but you might have seen others such as LGBT+ or LGBTQIA+ to refer to the community elsewhere. LGBTQUA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bi+, trans, undefined, asexual or aromantic, and others who experience similar forms of prejudice and discrimination (+). Whilst identities such as queer may not be explicitly in the acronym we use, they are very much included in our campaigns & community support.
A person’s romantic orientation is the set of gender identities they experience romantic attraction to. A person’s romantic orientation does not have to mirror their sexual orientation e.g. a person might be biromantic (romantically attracted to people of more than one gender identity) but gay/‘homosexual’ (experiences sexual attraction only to people of the same gender).
Associated terms for the most common identities are heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic and aromantic.
A person’s sexual orientation is the set of gender identities they experience sexual attraction to. A person’s sexual orientation does not have to mirror their romantic orientation e.g. a person might be biromantic (romantically attracted to people of more than one gender identity) but gay (homosexual) (experiences sexual attraction only to people of the same gender).
A person’s gender identity, or simply gender or sex, is how they identify their gender. This should always be entirely self-determined.
Gender assigned at birth
A person’s assigned-at-birth gender is the gender which was recorded on their first birth certificate. This terminology should be used if you absolutely must refer to how a trans person was perceived before their transition. Do not use phrases such as ‘born a man’, ‘became a woman’, ‘was a man before’ and so on.
Linked to the above, AMAB/AFAB is shortened terminology for ‘assigned male at birth’ and ‘assigned female at birth’. Variants include MAAB/FAAB, and CAMAB/CAFAB (coercively assigned male/female at birth).
A person’s gender expression is the external display of their gender, through a combination of dress, demeanour, social behaviour and other factors.
This term is generally used with another term attached, like genderfluid or fluid sexuality. Fluid(ity) describes an identity that may change or shift over time. That time frame may be days or years – this does not mean the person is ‘confused’, but that their identity naturally shifts.
A lesbian is generally a woman who experiences sexual and/or romantic attraction only to other women.
A gay person is someone who experiences sexual and/or romantic attraction only to people of the same gender. It should not be used as a standalone term e.g. ‘a gay’, but as ‘a gay person’, ‘a gay man’ etc.
A mostly-defunct form of ‘gay’, often avoided due to its historical medicalised and criminalised connotations and use as a slur. The shortened form ‘homo’ should not be used under any circumstance.
A bi+ person is someone who experiences sexual or romantic attraction to people of more than one gender identity, and/or regardless of gender. In spoken language, the ‘+’ is not pronounced, but is included in written form as explicit inclusion of people who feel the bi label implies attraction only to the two binary genders of male and female.
A ‘bisexual’ person is someone who experiences sexual attraction to people of more than one gender identity, and/or regardless of gender. It does not encompass the entire bi+ community and as such ‘bi+’ (or “bi” in spoken language) should be used as the umbrella term not ‘bisexual’.
A trans person is someone whose gender identity or expression differs from the gender they were assigned at birth i.e. what was written on their first birth certificate. This includes non-binary people, who define outside of the man/woman binary.
An older form of ‘trans’, abandoned for the perception that it ‘others’ non-binary trans people.
A mostly-defunct form of ‘trans’, now most commonly used to denote binary (male or female) trans people.
A now-defunct form of ‘trans’, used almost exclusively by the slow-moving legislature. Should not be used except when quoting legislature.
Trans man (& FtM)
A trans man is someone who was assigned female at birth, but who identifies as male. Their gender identity/gender is male. The mostly-defunct abbreviation ‘FtM’ is sometimes used within the community, but should not be used to refer to a trans man. Similarly, avoid transman (without the space).
Trans woman (& MtF)
A trans woman is someone who was assigned male at birth, but who identifies as a woman. Their gender identity/gender is female. The mostly-defunct abbreviation ‘MtF’ is sometimes used within the community, but should not be used to refer to a trans woman. Similarly, avoid transwoman (without the space).
A non-binary person is someone who defines their gender outside of the binary of ‘male’ and ‘female’ genders. There are many identities under the umbrella of ‘non-binary’, including agender/genderless (no gender), bigender (some combination of the binary genders of ‘male’ and ‘female’), genderfluid and so on. Another less commonly used umbrella term is ‘genderqueer’.
An undefined person is someone who does 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.
An asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction, or who does so weakly or rarely. Being asexual does not imply that someone is aromantic (see below).
An aromatic person is someone who does not experience romantic attraction, or who does so weakly or rarely. Being aromantic does not imply that someone is asexual (see above).
A questioning individual is someone who is unsure about or is exploring their own sexual or romantic orientation or gender identity.
Used as an identity label by some LGBTQUA+ people. Sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe individuals who don’t identify as straight. Due to its historical use as a derogatory term, it is not embraced by all LGBTQ people. This term should only be used in reference to people who are explicitly happy to be referred to as queer.
A pansexual person is someone who experiences sexual or romantic attraction for people of all gender identities and expressions. This does not mean they experience attraction for every person, only that they have the capacity to.
MSM stands for ‘men who have sex with men’, and WSW stands for ‘women who have sex with women’. This terminology is often used by services like GUM clinics to refer to people without labelling them, since many MSM/WSW are not comfortable enough to (or outright do not) define as part of the LGBT+ community.
Many other forms of the “LGBT+” acronym are used by the wider community. These include:
- LGBTQ: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer and/or questioning (sometimes with a “+” at the end in an effort to be more inclusive)
- GSM: gender and sexual minorities
- DSG: diverse genders and sexualities
- QUILTBAG: queer (or questioning), undecided, intersex, lesbian, trans, bisexual, asexual and gay (or genderqueer)
(1) The process by which one accepts and/or comes to identify one’s own sexuality or gender identity (to “come out” to oneself).
(2) The process by which one shares one’s sexuality or gender identity with others (to “come out” to friends, etc.).
This term is primarily used to refer to the process a trans person undergoes when changing their social role, forms of address (e.g. name, pronouns) appearance, and legal information to be more congruent with their gender identity.
In reference to trans people, the word ‘passing’ is sometimes used to denote that society is correctly inferring their gender, using assumptions about their appearance and expression. It is usually only be passing that a trans person experiences the correct pronouns and gendered language outside of LGBT+ spaces. It is inappropriate for anyone else to pass comment on how well a trans person is passing.
A trans person who has chosen not to widely disclose that they are trans might refer to themselves as ‘stealth’.
A person who dresses as the binary “opposite” gender expression (“cross-dresses”) for any one of many reasons. Should not be confused with trans people in general.
A drag king or queen is someone who performs the male or female gender theatrically, often on stage at an LGBT+ venue or a Pride march.
A cis person (or cisgender person) is someone whose gender identity is the same as the gender they were assigned at birth (what was written on their first birth certificate).
Someone whose combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, and genitals differs from the two most common patterns of ‘male’ and ‘female’. Now-defunct terms hermaphrodite or hermaphroditic are considered outdated and derogatory.
Heteronormativity is the result of society’s assumption that heterosexuality and relationships between opposite binary-gender individuals are the norm or ‘default’. As a result many processes or interactions become more difficult to navigate as an LGBTQUA+ person.
Cisnormativity is the result of society’s assumption that being cis and identifying as the same gender you were assigned at birth is the norm or ‘default’. As a result many processes or interactions become more difficult to navigate as a trans person.
The set of terms ending in –phobia denote fear of or dislike directed towards people of a particular identity. It is also used to refer to actions (or inaction) which harms, insults, or erases people of a particular identity. Common forms include transphobia (relating to trans people), biphobia (relating to bi people), homophobia (relating to gay people, and more generally LGBTQUA+ people), and LGBTphobia (relating to the wider LGBT+ community).