An introductory list of terms relating to sexuality and gender
Gender and sexuality can be confusing at first. Never fear, however – Fumble is here.
Below is a list of some of the key terms you might come across.
Agender: literally translates as “without gender”. It can mean not having a binary gender, or not having any gender identity at all.
Biological sex: a label given at birth based on medical factors (including chromosomes, genitals and hormones).
Cisgender: a person whose biological sex and gender identity align.
Gender: social structures (e.g. rights, social roles) largely based on cultural norms, and assumed from biological sex. Gender can be considered different from sex, which is assigned and based on primary sex characteristics (e.g. genitalia).
Gender binary: the splitting of gender into two distinct sets – male (masculine) and female (feminine).
Gender expression: how someone chooses expresses their gender identity (e.g. through clothing).
Gender identity: an individual’s personal experience of their own gender.
Gender pronouns: the word(s) a person uses to refer to themselves based on their gender e.g. ‘she/her’, ‘he/him’, ‘they/them’. Different people are comfortable with different words.
Gender variant: (can include terms such as genderfluid, agender, genderqueer)- a person who doesn’t always define themselves within the gender binary of male/female.
Intersex: a person who has sex characteristics that don’t match the binary definition of female/male. Intersex people may identify as male, female, or non-binary.
Non-binary: a broad term for people who don’t fit within the gender binary. For example, people may not identify as either male or female, or may identify as both.
Transgender (trans): a broad term to describe people whose gender identity doesn’t align with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Transgender man: someone who has been assigned female at birth but identifies as a male. Sometimes this can be shortened to trans man or FTM (“female-to-male”).
Transgender woman: someone who was assigned male at birth, but identifies as a woman. Sometimes this can be shortened to trans woman or MTF (“male-to-female”).
Transitioning: the process a trans person undertakes to live in the gender they identify as. Each person’s process is unique, and can comprise a combination of different steps. Some trans people have medical intervention to change their gender, and some don’t.
Transsexual: an older term for people who have transitioned from their assigned gender to their preferred gender identity. Some people still identify as transsexual, whilst others do not.
Asexual: someone who experiences no – or little – sexual attraction.
Bisexual: someone who is attracted to two genders (often male/female or their own gender/other genders).
Demisexual: someone who is only sexually attracted to people with whom they have an emotional bond.
Heterosexual: someone who is attracted to those of the opposite gender.
Homosexual: someone who is attracted to people of the same gender. ‘Lesbian’ refers to homosexual women. ‘Gay’ refers to homosexual men, but can also be an umbrella term applied to homosexual women as well.
LGBTQ+: stands for ‘lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer +’. Often used as an inclusive term for anyone who identifies as non-heterosexual or non-cisgender.
Pansexual: someone who is attracted to people of any gender.
Sexuality/Sexual orientation: who a person is sexually attracted to based on their gender.
Queer: an inclusive term for people who are part of a sexuality or gender minority. In the past, ‘queer’ was used as a slur and isn’t an identifier everyone feels comfortable with.
It’s important for all of us to be recognise that gender and sexuality are deeply personal. No one has the right to determine whether how someone else identifies is valid. And if you haven’t found a term on the list that you think fits, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Sexuality and gender exist on a spectrum – you might just take a little longer to find where exactly you sit on that spectrum!