​​Language and terminology are important to LGBTIQ+ people, as they support recognition, trust and safety. Terminology to describe bodies, gender and sexualities also changes over time.

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Sex characteristics: are physical features relating to sex including chromosomes, genitals, gonads, hormones and other reproductive anatomy and secondary features that emerge at puberty.

Intersex / People with innate variations of sex characteristics: people who are born with anatomical, chromosomal and hormonal characteristics that are different from medical and conventional expectations of female and male bodies. There are at least 40 known variations. Intersex is not a sexual orientation or a gender identity.

Endosex: a word used to describe people who are not intersex.


Gender: one’s sense of whether they are a man, woman, non-binary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, or a combination of one or more of these definitions.

Gender experience: describes the relationship between a person’s gender, and the gender they were presumed at birth.

Binary: binary genders are male and female, and non-binary genders are any genders that are not just male or female or aren’t male or female at all.

Non-binary: an umbrella term for any number of gender identities that sit within, outside of, across or between the spectrum of the male and female binary. A non-binary person might identify as gender fluid, trans masculine, trans feminine, agender, bigender.

Transgender and gender diverse: these are inclusive umbrella terms that describe people whose gender is different to what was presumed for them at birth. Transgender people may position ‘being trans’ as a history or experience, rather than an identity, and consider their gender identity as simply being female, male or a non-binary identity.

Cisgender/Cis: a term used to describe people who identify their gender as the same as what was presumed for them at birth (male or female). ‘Cis’ is a Latin term meaning ‘on the same side as’.

Sistergirl/Brotherboy: terms may be used to refer to Aboriginal people who identify as gender diverse within some Aboriginal communities.

Affirmation: the process of socially, medically, legally or otherwise affirming a person’s gender when it does not align to their sex assigned at birth.


Sexuality: describes a person’s sexual and romantic attraction to other people.

Lesbian: a woman who is attracted to women.

Gay: a man who is attracted to men.

Bisexual: a person who is attracted to people of their own and other genders.

Pansexual: a person who is attracted to any person.

Queer: a range of non-normative genders and sexualities. Although once used as a derogatory term, queer now also encapsulates political ideas of resistance to heteronormativity and homonormativity and is sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe the full range of LGBTIQ+ identities.

Heterosexual: a person who is only attracted to people with a different gender to their own.

Asexual/Ace: a person with a lack or rarity of sexual attraction.

Societal attitudes and stressors

Homophobia: negative attitudes, beliefs, prejudice, discrimination and actions towards people of diverse sexualities.

Internalised homophobia: a LGBTIQ+ person’s direction of negative social attitudes toward themselves.

Transphobia: negative attitudes, beliefs, prejudice, discrimination and actions towards transgender and gender diverse people.

Biphobia: negative attitudes, beliefs, prejudice, discrimination and actions towards bisexual people.

Bi-erasure: the questioning or denial of the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality.

Heteronormative/ity: a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexuality.

Cisnormative/ity: a world view that promotes cisgender people as the norm.

Cisgenderism: the belief that gender identity is determined at birth and is a fixed and innate identity that is based on sex characteristics (or ‘biology’) and that only binary (male or female) identities are valid and real.

Othered/marginalised: the experience of being treated as insignificant or ‘on the outer’ in society based on belonging to a particular group.

Minority stress: the experience of stress, because of direct or perceived stigma and discrimination, based on being a minority within society.

Compounded stigma: the additive and cumulative impact of belonging to more than one marginalised group.

Misgendering: referring to a person’s gender by incorrectly assuming their gender or using incorrect pronouns, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Pathologisation: the experience of being treated as psychologically unwell based on one’s sexuality, gender or intersex variations.

Ableism: discrimination in favour of able-bodied people.

Endosexism: treating particular bodies as valid, and others as disordered or in need of ‘fixing’.

Serophobia: HIV-related stigma manifestation of fear and aversion, towards people living with HIV.

Other terminology

Intersectionality: an approach that recognises that health is shaped by multi-dimensional and overlapping factors such as class, sexuality, gender, race, immigration status, ethnicity, age, ability, disease status, drug use, occupation, language, religion or culture.

Peer workforce: are workers who provide expertise drawn from their own experience, give hope and act as role models for recovery for others overcoming adversities in their own journeys. Peer workers can inspire empowerment and self-determination.

Pronouns: are words used to refer to a person when not using their name including he/him, she/her, they/ them or other pronouns. Given it is not always possible to know someone’s gender from looking at them, providing one’s own pronouns as part of introductions is a valuable approach. Using a person’s correct pronouns is an important part of respecting them and supports safety.

Trauma-informed care: is a systems-level initiative where organisations are oriented towards understanding, recognising and responding to trauma. It is a framework for human services delivery based on knowledge and understanding of how trauma affects people’s lives and their service needs.


NSW Health acknowledges that this is not a comprehensive list of all terminology. Some definitions presented have been sourced from Australian Institute of Family Studies and TransHub. Further information and definitions can be found at those websites.

Further information

For guidance on the collection and dissemination of LGBTIQ+ data refer to Australian Bureau of Statistics – Standards for Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables.


Current as at: Friday 15 December 2023
Contact page owner: Health and Social Policy