Glossary

Language is constantly evolving, and new terms emerge all the time. Some of the terminology can be confusing.

Our glossary is here to help.

ace

A short-hand term used as an alternative to asexual.

AFAB

This acronym stands for assigned female at birth and is sometimes used by trans people to describe the sex they were assigned at birth. It is important to see people as their gender rather than focussing on the sex they were assigned at birth. If you wish to refer to people who were assigned female at birth you could say “women, trans men and some non-binary people“.

ally

A trans ally is a cis person that supports members of the trans community.

AMAB

This acronym stands for assigned male at birth and is sometimes used by trans people to describe the sex they were assigned at birth. It is important to see people as their gender rather than focussing on the sex they were assigned at birth. If you wish to refer to people who were assigned male at birth you could say “men, trans women and some non-binary people“.

aromantic

Someone who experiences little to no romantic attraction.

asexual

Someone who does not experience sexual attraction or an intrinsic desire to have sexual relationships. Some asexual people use “ace” as an abbreviation of the term.

bi / bisexual

Bi is an umbrella term used to describe a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bi people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including, but not limited to, bisexual, pan, queer, and some other non-monosexual and non-monoromantic identities.

biphobia

The fear or dislike of someone who identifies as bi based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about bi people. Biphobic bullying may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, bi.

butch

Butch is a term used in LGBT culture to describe someone who expresses themselves in a typically masculine way. There are other identities within the scope of butch, such as ‘soft butch’ and ‘stone butch’.

You shouldn’t use these terms about someone unless you know they identify with them.

cisgender / cis

Someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people.

coming out

When a person first tells someone/others about their orientation and/or gender identity.

LGBT people come out many times in their lives, including when they meet new people and choose to disclose information about their gender identity and sexual orientation.

deadnaming

Calling someone by their birth name after they have changed their name. This term is often associated with trans people who have changed their name as part of their transition.

demiromantic

Someone who only experiences romantic attraction after developing an emotional connection.

demisexual

Someone who only experiences sexual attraction or desire after an emotional bond has been formed.

femme

Femme is a term used in LGBT culture to describe someone who expresses themselves in a typically feminine way. There are other identities within the scope of femme, such as ‘low femme’, ‘high femme’, and ‘hard femme’.

You shouldn’t use these terms about someone unless you know they identify with them.

FtM

Shorthand for “female to male” – an alternative (and outdated) way of referring to a trans man.

gay

Refers to a man who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. Also a generic term for lesbian and gay sexuality – some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term.

gender

Gender is a person’s actual, internal sense of whether they are a man, a woman, non-binary, agender or something else. Assumptions about a person’s gender are often made on the basis of a person’s primary sex characteristics.

Gender is often used interchangeably with Sex in UK law.

gender dysphoria

Used to describe when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth, although medics are moving away from using this diagnosis.

gender expression

How a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender. A person who does not conform to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans.

gender identity

A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female, non-binary, agender or something else. Gender identity may or may not correspond to the sex someone was assigned at birth.

gender reassignment

Another way of describing a person’s transition. To undergo gender reassignment usually means to undergo some sort of medical intervention, but it can also mean changing names, pronouns, dressing differently and living in their self-identified gender. Gender reassignment is a characteristic that is protected by the Equality Act 2010, and it is further interpreted in the Equality Act 2010 approved code of practice. The term is controversial and some trans people feel it is outdated and should be reviewed.

Gender Recognition Certificate

A certificate issued under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 which enables trans people to be legally recognised in their affirmed gender and to be issued with a new birth certificate. Not all trans people will apply for a GRC and you currently have to be over 18 to apply for one in the UK. You do not need a GRC to change your gender markers at work or to legally change your gender on other documents such as your passport.

Gillick competence

A term used in medical law to decide whether a child (under 16 years of age) is able to consent to their own medical treatment, without the need for parental permission or knowledge. Another term used is Fraser competence.

grey-asexual

Someone who identifies within the area between asexuality and sexuality.

grey-romantic

Someone who feels romantic attraction very rarely, weakly or unreliably.

hate crime

A hate crime is a criminal offence which is motivated by prejudice towards a person’s actual or perceived race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or transgender identity. For example, if someone was physically assaulted for being trans, it would be a hate crime. You’ll find more information about hate crime here.

heterosexual / hetero / straight

Refers to a man who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women or to a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men.

homosexual

This might be considered a more medical term used to describe someone who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender. The term ‘gay’ is now more generally used.

homophobia

The fear or dislike of someone, based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about lesbian, gay or bi people. Homophobic bullying may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, lesbian, gay or bi. Trans people, including heterosexual trans people, often experience homophobia as well as transphobia.

intersex

A term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female. Intersex people may be male, female, non-binary or may identify in another way.

Intersex is considered by some to be a controversial term, and some may use Differences in Sex Development (DSD) to describe their condition and experience.

lesbian

Refers to a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term.

lesbophobia

The fear or dislike of someone because they are or are perceived to be a lesbian.

LGBT

The acronym for lesbian, gay, bi and trans, often used to describe the LGBT community.

Other acronyms are used such as LGBTI (to specifically include intersex), LGBTQ (to specifically include queer) and LGBT+ (indicating there are many different ways people describe themselves).

MtF

Short for “male to female” – an alternative (and outdated) way of referring to a trans woman.

neurodiverse / neurodivergent

A concept where neurological differences are recognised and respected in the same way as any other human difference.

non-binary

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely. Some non-binary people consider themselves to be trans, while others do not.

orientation

Orientation is an umbrella term describing a person’s attraction to other people. This attraction may be sexual (sexual orientation) and/or romantic (romantic orientation). These terms refers to a person’s sense of identity based on their attractions, or lack thereof. Orientations include, but are not limited to, lesbian, gay, bi, ace and straight.

outed

When a lesbian, gay, bi or trans person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed to someone else without their consent.

It is important not to share the fact that someone is LGBT without their consent – in some circumstances, being outed can put an LGBT person in danger.

pan / pansexual

Refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.

passing

If someone is regarded, at a glance, to be a cisgender man or cisgender woman. Cisgender refers to someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were ‘assigned’ at birth. This might include physical gender cues (hair or clothing) and/or behaviour which is historically or culturally associated with a particular gender.

person with a trans history

Someone who is male or female or a man or woman, but who was assigned a different sex at birth. This is increasingly used by people to acknowledge a trans past. Trans women may use “woman with a trans history“, and trans men may use “man with a trans history“.

pronoun

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Pronouns are used to avoid having to repeatedly use someone’s name.

Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir.

queer

Queer is a term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBT community (racism, sizeism, ableism etc).

Although some LGBT people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 1980s by the queer community who have embraced it.

questioning

The process of exploring your own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

romantic orientation

A person’s romantic attraction to other people, or lack thereof. Along with sexual orientation, this forms a person’s orientation identity.

sex

Assigned to a person on the basis of a mixture of primary sex characteristics (genitalia, hormonal makeup and chromosomes) and reproductive functions. Sometimes the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are interchanged to mean ‘male’ or ‘female’.

Many trans people’s sex and gender align with each other but differ to the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a trans man might have been assigned female at birth and raised as if he was a girl but then later come out as a trans man and seek recognition as male on his medical records and identity documents.

Sex is often used interchangeably with Gender in UK law.

sexual orientation

A person’s sexual attraction to other people, or lack thereof. Along with romantic orientation, this forms a person’s orientation identity.

trans

An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms including transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.

transgender man / trans man

A term used to describe someone who is assigned female at birth but identifies and lives as a man. This is sometimes shortened to trans man, or FTM, an abbreviation for female-to-male. The use of the space between trans and man demonstrates an acknowledgement that trans men are men, and that “trans” is an adjective.

transgender woman / trans woman

A term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman. This is sometimes shortened to trans woman, or MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female. The use of the space between trans and man demonstrates an acknowledgement that trans women are women, and that “trans” is an adjective.

transitioning

The steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition will involve different things. For some this involves medical intervention, such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning also might involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently and changing official documents.

transphobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including denying their gender identity or refusing to accept it. Transphobia may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, trans. For a more extended definition, visit our What is Transphobia? page.

transsexual

This was used in the past as a more medical term (similarly to homosexual) to refer to someone whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. This term is still used by some, and is also used in UK law, although many people prefer the term trans or transgender.