LBGTI Key Terms

B

Bisexual
Refers to an emotional, affective and sexual attraction to persons of both the same or a different sex/gender.

C

Criminalization is the inclusion of same-sex relationships or related activities in the criminal legal code.

Cross Dresser
Persons who, to different extents and with different regularity, dress in clothes traditionally ascribed to persons of the different sex. Transvestites may have a homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual orientation. Transvestites are sometimes called cross-dressers. See also transgender below.

D

Decriminalization is the removal of same-sex relationships and related activities from the criminal legal code.

G

Gay
Can refer to either male or female-identified persons with homosexual orientations. In some cultural contexts the term gay only refers to male homosexuals.

Gender expression
A broader term than gender identity, referring to masculine or feminine expressions such as dress, mannerisms, role-playing in private or social groups, or speech patterns. Gender expression is not always associated with a fixed gender identity and often changes.

Gender identity
A personal identity each person creates from a deeply felt sense of being a man, a woman, or an identity spanning both or aspects of each, which may not correspond to the body. Gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation.

H

Heterosexual
Refers to an emotional, affective and sexual attraction to persons of a different sex/gender.

Homophobia
Typically used in a disapproving sense to refer to policies and individuals who display fear, avoidance, prejudice, or condemnation of same-sex sexual practices or homosexuality in general.

Homosexual
Refers to an emotional, affective and sexual attraction to a person of the same sex/gender.

I

Intersex
Refers to a variety of conditions in which an individual is born with aspects of reproductive/sexual anatomy or physiology that do not fit the conventional assignment of having only a male or only female body.

L

Lesbian
While the term gay can refer to either male or female-identified persons with homosexual orientations, many prefer the term lesbian for homosexual women, in part to ensure women’s visibility in LGBTI rights advocacy.

LGBTI
An acronym that groups together sexual orientation-based identities (lesbian, gay, bisexual) with a non-sexual orientation created category (transgender or transsexual and intersex). In some contexts and policy documents a broader acronym LGBTIQ or LGBTIQQ is used (intersex and queer and/or questioning).

M

MSM (Men who have sex with men)
A public health term describing any man who has sex with another man, whether occasionally, regularly, or as an expression of a gay identity. The term is meant to be descriptive without attaching an identity or meaning to the behaviour, so that health interventions—especially HIV/AIDS education and services—can be directed to persons on the basis of need. While useful, it can also be used to avoid or deny a right to an identity. Some men have begun to refer to themselves as “MSM,” suggesting the term is developing as an identity.

Q

Queer
A term often used to refer to LGBTI persons. Depending on the use, the term may be perceived as derisive or offensive, or as self-empowering.

Questioning
Refers to a person who is questioning their sexuality, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

S

Sex
Refers to the biological characteristics that are used to define humans as female or male. Some individuals possess both female and male biological characteristics.

Sexual health
A state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. Like health generally, it is not merely the absence of disease, but encompasses positive and complex experiences of sexuality as well as freedom to determine sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

Sexual minorities
A catch-all phrase referring to any group that adopts a sexual identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual behaviour that differs from a defined “majority.” Thus, in various cultural contexts, it may refer to homosexual or trans persons, or even persons who sell sex or practice sado-masochistic sex. It is always important to clarify which kind of people or practices are included in the “sexual minority” being referred to.

Sexual orientation
One of the components of sexuality distinguished by an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction to individuals of a particular gender. Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors. The main terms used to describe sexual orientation are homosexual, gay, lesbian, straight, and bisexual.

Sexual rights
Human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus statements. Important sexual rights include the right to sexual and reproductive health services, sexuality education, respect for bodily integrity, rights of privacy and non-discrimination and expression that encompass the choice of sexual partner, consensual sexual relations, and consensual marriage without discrimination and the means to effect these decisions. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.

Sexuality
Consists of thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles, and relationships related to sex, erotic desire. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.

T

Transgender
Most commonly used as the umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include, but is not limited to: transsexuals, intersex people, cross-dressers, and other gender variant people. Transgender (or “trans”) persons are those who move across genders, meaning their gender identity may span identities associated with men or women, or change between the two. Transgender persons are sometimes but not always transsexual (see above): they may transition by medical means (altering their physiology or hormones), or by way of dress, roles, or behaviour. Trans people can have any sexual orientation.

Transsexual (or “trans”)
Individuals who identify with a different sex than that associated with the biological sex that was ascribed to them at birth. A transsexual person can be male-to-female or female-to-male. Transsexual persons can have a homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual orientation.