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Glossary of LGBT+ terminology

A to Z of words used in our LGBT+ pages. 



Biological sex

Biological sex is a term normally used as a term to describe biological differences and the classification of people as either male or female. This is typically assigned at birth based on the appearance of external anatomy.


BDSM (Bondage & Discipline/ Dominance & Submission/ Sado-Masochism) involves the erotic and sexual acts of dominating and relinquishing control.


Identifying with or experiencing a gender the same as one's biological sex or that is affirmed by society, e.g. being born anatomically female and happily identifying as female. 

Cross dresser

A Cross-dresser is a person who wears the clothes of another gender. The may relate to the person’s sense of gender identity or it may not. Peoples’ motivations for cross-dressing are many and varied. There may be pragmatic reasons e.g. women wearing trousers for carrying out work. It may be performative, either on stage or in daily life. It may be political and social, e.g. intended to challenge gender norms and roles. Or it may be sexual, e.g. a fetish. However, people most commonly relate that they cross-dress simply because they enjoy it or it is a release from their daily life and stresses.


Drag is the performance of one or multiple genders theatrically.


Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. WHO organisation definition: http://www.who.int/gender-equity-rights/understanding/gender-definition/en/


Genderqueer is a term that is growing in usage. It conveys a less rigid view of both gender identity and sexual orientation. It is often used with a political agenda to signal a desire to challenge the gender binary system or gender stereotypes more broadly. Genderqueer people embrace a fluid idea of gender. They may not identify as male or female, but as both, neither, or as a blend. Similarly, genderqueer is a more inclusive term with respect to sexual orientation. It does not limit a person to identifying strictly as heterosexual or homosexual.

Gender fluidity

Gender fluidity conveys a less rigid distinction between male and female and, where people are understood to have a combination of typically male and female characteristics, behaviours and interests. Some people specifically identify as being ‘gender fluid’. A person using this term may feel they are more female on some days and more male on others, or feel that neither term describes them accurately.

Gender identity

Gender identity refers to peoples’ own deeply felt sense of being male or female, or sometimes other gendered (both, neither, neutral, mixed or in-between). While it is most common for a person’s gender identity to align with their biological sex, this is not always the case. A person’s gender identity can be different from their biological sex.


LGBT+ is an acronym that summarises the main groups within the overall gay and transgender community and is inclusive of other identities. It includes lesbian women, gay men, bisexual people of all genders and trans people. The plus represents different gender identities and sexual orientations. Whilst there are many variations of the acronym we have chosen this one to be as inclusive as possible.


Polari is a form of secretive language most commonly associated with the gay community, based on slang words from a variety of different sources, including rhyming slang, and backslang (spelling words backwards).


'Queering' is a term that has recently been reclaimed by part of the LGBT community. It is used to describe the reinterpretation of a cultural work or a person’s life story in specific relation to sexual orientation or gender.


Trans is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.


Sadomasochism (often referred to by the abbreviation S&M) is the giving or receiving of pleasure from acts which involve the infliction of pain or suffering.