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Artist: Effy Marie Smith, Sydney

Language Guide

LGBTQ+ communities are incredibly diverse. Many terms that we use to describe people of diverse genders and sexualities are simplified and inadequate. On this site, we use terms that are recognisable and used in the common vernacular. We pledge to regularly update the content and language used on this site to be current and reflective of our communities, responding to feedback and cultural changes.

Pronouns

Pronouns are words that we use to refer to people when we’re not using their name. Pronouns are generally grouped by whether they’re ‘gendered’ or ‘gender neutral’.

Gendered pronouns include: he/him/his and she/her/hers. The most common gender neutral pronouns in Australia are: they/them/their. However there are other gender neutral pronouns such as fae/fem and ze/hir.

For many trans and gender diverse people, having people know and use their correct pronouns is an important and validating part of their gender affirmation. Gender neutral pronouns are also a polite and easy way to refer to someone whose gender you’re unsure of.

If you’re in doubt about someone’s pronouns, just use their name.

Minus18 is Australia’s organisation for LGBTQ+ youth, addressing homophobia and transphobia through events, support, training and campaigns. Watch their video on what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use new ones and support your trans friends!

Downloadable Language Guide

You can download ACON’s Trans and Gender Diverse Inclusion Language Guide [PDF] here.

This printable PDF was developed by ACON’s Trans & Gender Diverse health team. You can find more information on the TransHub website.

The Acronym LGBTQ+

Lesbian

Someone who identifies as a female who predominantly has romantic, sexual or intimate relationships with other women.

Gay

Someone who identifies as a male who predominantly has romantic, sexual or intimate relationships with other men.

Note that many same-sex attracted women and gender-diverse people also use the term “gay” to identify themselves and/or their sexuality.

Bisexual

Someone who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to more than one gender. 

You might have seen this term defined as being attracted to men and women, but many bi+ people do not identify with this definition as it does not acknowledge that many people’s gender sits outside of the male/female binary.

Trans and Gender Diverse

These are inclusive umbrella terms that describe people whose gender is different to what was presumed for them at birth. Trans people may position “being trans” as a part of their history or an experience, rather than an identity. They often consider their gender identity as simply being female, male or a non-binary identity. Some trans people connect strongly with their trans experience, whereas others do not.

Queer

The identity and term “queer” can be used in different ways and by different people. For some it is a reclaimed derogatory term and a political movement that celebrates difference.

The term “queer” is a politicised term and often used as a reaction against pressures to be cisgender and heterosexual. It can also be used against non-heterosexuals, intersex and non-cisgender people, based on the belief that they should express themselves only in ways acceptable to the heterosexual mainstream.

For others, or in other circumstances, it is used as an umbrella term to be inclusive of anyone whose gender and/or sexual identity does not fit within the norm.

+

So why is there a plus at the end of the LGBTQ+ acronym?

The ‘plus’ represents a range of other identities, which might include pansexual, asexual, aromantic, omnisexual and anyone else who does not identify as straight or cisgender.

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Other Useful Terms and Language

  • Brotherboy

    A term used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to describe gender diverse people who have a male spirit and take on male roles within the community. Brotherboys have a strong sense of their cultural identity.

  • Cisgender (“cis”)

    A term used to describe people who identify their gender as the same as what was assigned to them at birth (male or female). “Cis” is a Latin term meaning “on the same side as”.

  • Cisnormativity

    The assumption that everyone is cis. This may result in misgendering, including using the wrong pronouns or designing services, products, or campaigns that assume everyone is cis.

  • Cissexism

    Where something is based on a discriminatory social or structural view that positions the trans experience as either not existing or as something to be pathologised (either intentionally or otherwise).

    Cissexism believes 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.

  • Domestic Violence

    Referring to intimate relationships (close romantic, though not necessarily sexual) with partners or ex-partners. This includes marriage, de facto partnership, boyfriend/girlfriend, lover(s) and “friends with benefits”.

    Learn more on our Intimate Partner Violence page.

     

  • Family Violence

    A broader term which extends the types of relationships to include parents and children, extended family (uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, mob), carer, housemates and “chosen family”.

    Many people in our communities have a “chosen family”, especially if they split with their family over their sexuality, gender, identity or lifestyle. Learn more on our Family Violence page.

     

  • Heterosexism

    A system of attitudes and bias which favours heterosexuality (opposite-sex desire and relationships). It can include the presumption that other people are heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the norm and therefore superior.

  • Intersex

    Intersex people are born with physical sex characteristics that don’t fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies.

    For more information visit Intersex Human Rights Australia’s website here.

  • Non-binary

    This is 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, etc.

  • Pansexual

    Not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity. Someone who identifies as ‘pansexual’ is sexually and/or romantically attracted to all genders, or to a person/people regardless of gender.

  • Perpetrator/Person Who Uses Abuse

    The term perpetrator is used to describe the individual who uses violence. “Perpetrator” is used rarely on this site, as this defining label can make it harder to recognise people who use abuse in our communities and limits an individual’s self-agency to stop using violence.

    “Person Who Uses Abuse” or “Abuser” are terms used on this site to replace “perpetrator” in many instances. The purpose of this is to reflect the fact that abuse and violence is a choice, and also to place responsibility for these actions with those who use violence.

  • Sexual Assault

    Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual behaviour that makes a person feel uncomfortable, threatened or scared. For more information on language to use when referring to sexual assault see our Sexual Assault page.

  • Sistergirl

    A term used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to describe gender diverse people that have a female spirit and take on female roles within the community, including looking after children and family. Sistergirls have a strong sense of their cultural identity.

  • Victim/Survivor

    We use the terms “victim” and “survivor” interchangeably. Victim is used because many acts of violence are crimes that can have serious impacts, and using the term victim explains that it is not the fault of the person who was abused.

    Survivor is more the language of therapists, though some individuals use it as well. It reflects the place a victim of crime has reached in their journey where they feel they have regained choice and power back in their life.

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