Looking for something?

Not sure where to start?

  Working out what to search if you’re not sure what you’re looking for can be a bit overwhelming. Some of the words and letters are confusing, so here is a glossary to help you identify what you might want to search for:

Glossary of terms

Sexual orientation

Sexual Orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people. Sexual orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation (5).

Gender identity

One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth (3).


A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external gender organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. Because usually subdivided into ‘male’ and ‘female’, this category does not recognize the existence of intersexed bodies. (1)


Female-identified person attracted romantically, erotically, and/or emotionally to other female-identified people. The term lesbian is derived from the name of the Greek island of Lesbos and is sometimes considered a Eurocentric category that does not necessarily represent the identities of African-Americans and other non-European ethnic groups (2). 


Term used in some cultural settings to represent males who are attracted to males in a romantic, erotic and/or emotional sense. Not all men who engage in “homosexual behavior” identify as gay, and as such this label should be used with caution. 2. Term used to refer to the LGBTQI community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual (1). 

N.b. Avoid identifying gay people as "homosexuals" - an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people (11).

Bisexual / Bi

Bisexuality is a diverse sexual orientation, because people within the bi+ community define it in various ways. Some identify as bisexual, while others use pansexual, queer, fluid, or no label at all to describe their attractions to more than one gender (9). 


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms - including transgender. Some of those terms are defined below. Use the descriptive term preferred by the person. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures (11).


Intersex people are born with physical sex characteristics that don’t fit medical and social norms for “female” or “male” bodies (7). Intersex people can be heterosexual or not, and cisgender (identify with sex assigned at birth) or not (6). Because their bodies are seen as different, intersex children and adults are often stigmatized and subjected to multiple human rights violations, including violations of their rights to health and physical integrity, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, and to equality and non- discrimination (7).


An umbrella term that includes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transpeople, intersex persons, and radical sex communities. This term is sometimes used instead of ‘bisexual’ as a way of acknowledging that there are more than two genders to be attracted to. For decades ‘queer’ was used solely as a slur for gays and lesbians, but was reclaimed by activists as a term of self-identification. However, some still hold ‘queer’ to have a negative connotation, and its use by heterosexuals is often considered offensive (1).

Asexual / Aromantic (ACE)

Asexuality is a lack of sexual desire or attraction, regardless of whether you have sex or not. Asexual people can have a range of attitudes towards sex. Some don’t want anything to do with sex and others might enjoy it or feel indifferent towards it (8). An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction – they are not drawn to people sexually and do not desire to act upon attraction to others in a sexual way (12).


Term used to describe people who have romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all/any genders and sexes (5).  

Brother Boy

Term used by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to describe transgender masculine people. Brotherboy typically refers to masculine spirit people who may be assigned female at birth (13). 


Term used by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to describe trangender feminine people. Sistergirl typically refers to feminine spirit people who may be assigned male at birth (13).


Someone who identifies with a version of femininity, or a gender identity related to their idea of what it means to be feminine or a woman. This is not necessarily based on popular notions of “femininity”.


Someone who identifies with a version of masculinity, or a gender identity related to their idea of what it means to be masculine or a man. This is not necessarily based on popular notions of “masculinity”.

Cis Gender

A person who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, if you were told you were “male” at birth (based on sex characteristics) and still identify that way, you would be cisgender (2).

Gender expression

How someone expresses their gender: as a woman, man, neither, or other. Gender expression is often based on what society tells us is “normal” or “right” for people of different genders to do, how they feel, how they act, what they wear. This is influenced by where we live, the era, cultural specificities, trends, politics.


Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person. Examples are they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his. In English and some other languages, pronouns have been tied to gender and are a common site of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect.) (5).


Ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities, including the expression of hate for people with disabilities, denial of accessibility, rejection of disabled applicants for housing and jobs, institutionalised discrimination in the form of benefits systems designed to keep people with disabilities in poverty, etc (14)


Bisexuals experience high rates of being ignored, discriminated against, demonized, or rendered invisible by both the heterosexual world and the lesbian and gay communities.3 Often, the entire sexual orientation is branded as invalid, immoral, or irrelevant. Despite years of activism and the largest population within the LGBT community, the needs of bisexuals still go unaddressed and their very existence is still called into question. This erasure has serious consequences on bisexuals’ health, economic well-being, and funding for bi organizations and programs (15).


This glossary was complied using information from the following sources. Please contact Rainbow Directory SA if you have any suggestions. 

(1) Amnesty International USA: https://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/toolkit_LGBTglossary.pdf

(2) The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/trvr_support_center/glossary/

(3) Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms

(4) Stonewall: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-advice/glossary-terms

(5) UC Davis - LGBTIQA Resource Centre: https://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/educated/glossary

(6) Intersex Human Rights Australia: https://ihra.org.au/18106/what-is-intersex/

(7) Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (Fact Sheet: Intersex): https://www.unfe.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/UNFE-Intersex.pdf

(8) Minus 18 (what does it mean to be asexual): https://www.minus18.org.au/index.php/articles/item/29-what-does-it-mean-to-be-asexual

(8) Minus 18 (What does it mean to be Queer): https://www.minus18.org.au/index.php/articles/item/31-what-does-queer-mean-anyway

(9) Bisexual Resource Centre: https://biresource.org/resources/youth/what-is-bisexuality/

(10) Reachout: https://au.reachout.com/articles/the-difference-between-gender-sex-and-sexuality

(11) GLAAD Media Reference Guide: https://www.glaad.org/reference/lgbtq

(12) The Asexual Visibility & Education Network: https://www.asexuality.org/?q=overview.html

(13)Minus18 (What is the difference between Gay & Queer): https://www.minus18.org.au/index.php/articles/item/40-the-queer-community-has-heaps-of-new-words-here-s-what-they-mean?

(14) What is Ableism? Five things about Ableism you should know: https://disabledfeminists.com/2010/11/19/what-is-ableism-five-things-about-ableism-you-should-know/

(15) Bisexual Invisibility


(16) Intersex Human Rights Australia: https://ihra.org.au/discrimination/