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Learn about LGBTQ identities and terms

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Learn about LGBTQ identities and terms.

Key messages

LGBTQ is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (or Questioning). In general, the LGBTQ community is highly inclusive of a broad range of differences. In this article we’ll refer only to sex and sexual orientation, both very different concepts, both are protected characteristics in many Equality Laws. (Germany also includes gender identity as a protected characteristic)

When learning about LGBTQ identities and terms, first, we need to differentiate the words sex and gender.

Sex: In the UK and Ireland there are only two sexes from both a biological and legal standpoint: male and female. Intersex individuals are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones or genitals that do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies. Sometimes intersex characteristics are apparent at birth (doctors still allocate the baby as either male or female). Some societies (e.g. India) have a third biological and legal sex categorisation for intersex people. Approximately 1.7% of individuals are born intersex. Purely for comparison, 1 to 2% of people have ginger hair.

Gender is a social and cultural construct with expectations and norms around behaviours, clothing types and likely interests. Many people do not subscribe to the binary nature of gender as male = masculine (masc/butch) and female = feminine (effeminate/femme) and consider gender to be spectrum of personal expression. A person’s gender identity is their personal sense of their own gender, to avoid causing offence simply ask for their preferred pronouns: he/his, she/hers, they/theirs (non-binary).

Gender Dysphoria is the distress a person feels due to a mismatch between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth. Some people undertake gender confirmation surgery or take hormones so that their body aligns with their gender identity, medical notes may refer to such people as transexual (these days individuals tend to prefer the umbrella term transgender). Other people may take non-medical action (clothing, behaviours etc) to express their gender identity.

Transgender (shortened to trans) is an umbrella term for people who have a gender identity that differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth, and people who believe that gender is a spectrum rather than a binary male/female option. Transgender includes terms such as androgynous, non-binary, genderfluid, mixed gender and no gender. The opposite of transgender is cisgender, which describes individuals whose gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth. A trans man is a man who was assigned female at birth, a trans woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth.

Learn about LGBTQ identities and terms

Secondly, when learning about LGBTQ we must consider Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is an entirely separate subject from your sex or gender identity, it refers to who you are sexually attracted to. Here are a few of the most frequently occurring terms.

Lesbian – a woman/non-binary who is sexually attracted only to other women (some lesbians also refer to themselves as ‘gay’ using it as a generic term for same-sex attraction)
Gay – a man/non-binary who is sexually attracted only to other men
Bisexual – a man or woman who is sexually attracted to both men and women
Pansexual – a man or woman whose sexual attraction is not limited by sex or gender
Ace – someone who does not (or rarely) feels sexual attraction
Straight – a man who is sexually attracted only to women, or a woman who is sexually attracted only to men
Questioning – someone who is unsure what their sexual orientation is
Queer – umbrella term for any non-normative gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual anatomy. Historically a slur the word has been reclaimed by many in the LGBTQ community.

How much did you understand?

Can you unravel these identities? Gender Expression + Sex + Sexual orientation. How do you identify?

A femme cis woman who is a lesbian
A butch trans woman who is gay
A masculine trans man who is straight
A femme trans woman who is pansexual
A non-binary cis male who is bisexual
A masculine cis male who is ace bisexual
A feminine cis female who is straight
An androgynous cis male who is queer
A femme cis woman who is pansexual

For further insights into how to be a better LGBT Ally – a person (typically straight) who supports the LGBTQ community and discuss practical steps to create a more inclusive workplace please contact your MPI Learning representative.

Learn about LGBTQ identities and terms, written by Dr. Angela Armstrong

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