A guide to understanding LGBTQIA language

January 30, 2017

The Transgender conversation is one that has gained necessary momentum over the last few years with public figures such as Caitlyn Jenner, (Olympic gold medalist and famous father to Kylie and Kendall Jenner), and Laverne Cox (OITNB's Sophia Burset) stepping into the public spotlight to both embrace their identities and educate their fans.




It's fantastic to see publicity and increased awareness around situations affecting a marginalised group, such as the LGBQTIA community; but sometimes a lack of education can lead to unintentional harm. Considering the seriously scary statistics surrounding hate violence, suicides and police brutality that affect the Transgender community, informed discussions are incredibly important.


While each individual's experience and situation can be varying from one another, it's always a good idea to understand the basics, so we've rounded up a few for you.



LGBTQIA -  an abbreviation used to refer to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and Ally community.


Cisgender often shortened to “cis” -  an adjective used to describe a gender identity that corresponds with the gender assigned at birth. (For example -  if your birth certificate stated that you were born as a female, and you have lived your life feeling like you are a female).


Transgender often shortened to “Trans” -  a term used to describe a person whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned by a doctor on their birth certificate. (“Transgendered” is not an acceptable term; it is not a verb. “A Transgender” is also not acceptable as it is not a noun).


Gender Identity -  an individual' internal sense of self in regards to whether they feel they are male or female, or somewhere in between.


Sexual Orientation -  a person’s physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. A Trans person’s sexual orientation and gender identity are separate in the same way that they are for a cis person.


 E.g: A person who transitions from male to female and is attracted to men might identify as a straight woman.


A person who transitions from female to male and is attracted solely to men might identify as a gay man.


Transsexual - refers specifically to transgender people who have permanently changed their bodies through the means of hormone replacement and/or surgery to reflect their true identity. It is suggested to avoid using this term as it assumes unnecessary and incredibly private information.


Intersex - individuals who are born with physical, hormonal or genetic differences that mean they do not conform to the usual male or female binary assigned at birth. There are many different types of ways to be born intersex and it does not necessarily mean that all those born with non-specific reproductive organs identify with being Transgender.


Non-Binary - individuals who do not identify as either male or female. They may feel their identity is both, or falls somewhere on the spectrum of gender. This is an umbrella term commonly used with “gender queer” that accounts for a whole range of identities.  


Once a trans individual has revealed their new name you should only refer to them with that name going forward. Calling someone their previous name is insinuating that you do not believe their current version of self to be authentic which may feel as though you deem their identify to be illegitimate. This term is called 'deadnaming' and you can read more about it here.


At the end of the day it is important to remember that gender is a construct of society. What one person perceives to be ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ can be entirely different to someone else’s idea of what it means to be a man or a woman.


We are told from birth that because someone is born a female they must like pink, play with dolls and enjoy wearing makeup, or that a male has to exhibit strong, emotionless behaviour. Being either a female or a male is an intensely personal experience and just because a person is born with specific body parts they shouldn't have to feel like they need to 'be' a certain type of person.


If you, or someone you know, is in need of support, you can contact Qlife on 1800 184 527 or visit their website to chat online or for more information.






When Penny was 8 she ran away from home, packing only cubed cheese. She is now 23, and still stands by that decision. She's passionate about Beyonce, Feminism and glitter. Also she really likes dogs. She's chronically ill, but also chronically optimistic.








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