You can adopt any identity you want but you can’t sum up everything about your sexuality or gender identity in just one word, whatever word it is.
We don’t believe sexuality is a score from one to 10 or that everyone’s gender sits on a line between masculine or feminine.
All humans are different. There are as many different sexualities and gender identities as there are people in the world. Yours is as unique as your fingerprint.
But people are using more and more words to describe themselves and adopting a far greater range of identities than ever before.
We hope this glossary will help if your confused by what these ‘new’ words mean, know someone else who is confused, want to choose as many as apply to you, or are just intrigued.
If you are agender, you identify as having being without a gender. You may use the words genderless, genderfree, non-gendered or ungendered.
You don’t need to be lesbian, gay, bi or trans to be supportive of people who are or to be part of our community. You can be a friend, family member, colleague or just a good person.
Ambiphilia, androphilia and gynephilia
Many of the words we have around sexuality or gender have a bias from western culture – the assumption that you are either male or female and either gay, straight or bi. Not every culture has those rules so scientists use these more neutral terms. Androphilia is sexual attraction to men, gynephilia is attraction to women and ambiphilia is attraction to both. The words are not widely used as personal identities though.
Androgynous people combine what some people think of as male and female characteristics. You may have androgyny in your looks, fashion, gender identity, sexual identity, sexual lifestyle or even your speaking or signing voice. It can be biology, a choice, an identity or all of the above.
Attracted to men or masculinity.
People who aren’t romantically attracted to anyone. Lust and love are not the same – as an aromantic person, you may or may not have sexual attraction without falling in love romantically.
Asexual or ace
An estimated 1% of the population is asexual, people who are not sexually attracted to anyone. While some want romantic relationships with men or women, and some don’t, there is little or no need to have sex. Asexuals can have a high or low sex drive, and many of them still have sex for reasons such as pleasing a partner or having children. It’s different from celibacy, which is the choice to not have sex even though you want it. The word ‘ace’ is also used.
People who are gay, straight or another identity who are exploring their interest in men and women. People most commonly identify as bi-curious when they’ve had little sexual experience beyond one gender, or they are still exploring and discovering their sexuality.
Romantic and/or sexual attraction to both male and females. Though you obviously don’t have to be equally attracted to both. Bisexuals are arguably the most common sexual orientation in the world as new research indicates few people are 100% straight or gay. Despite this, bisexuals are often hidden and victims of myths and prejudice.
If you are bigender, you feel as if you are simultaneously both male and female. Or you may want to swap between those roles or take the best of both. Trigender people take the same view but believe there are at least three genders, not just two. Pangender, maxigender or polygender people want to identify with all genders at once.
People who have a gender identity (eg male or female) that matches the sex they were assigned at birth (eg: ‘it’s a boy’ or ‘it’s a girl’). Most of the world’s population is cisgender but few of them have ever heard of the word. If being transgender had an opposite, this would be it.
People who may form a romantic attraction but only after first developing a deep emotional bond with the other person.
Demisexuals aren’t totally asexual but may be sexually attracted to someone once they’ve fallen in love. It’s the capability, not guarantee, of sexual attraction where you have a close emotional bond with the other person.
A third gender – neither male or female – identity which originated in Samoa in the Pacific. In this culture, fa’afafine are identified as male at birth but behave in a way that ranges from mundanely male to extrovertly female. Up to 5% of Samoans may identify this way.
Female-to-male. A transgender person who was identified at birth as female but is really a man.
The world’s most commonly used term for someone who is homosexual – attracted to people of the same gender. Gay women as well as gay men use this term to describe their sexuality.
You don’t have to live as one gender all the time. Gender fluid people fluctuate between genders or express themselves as being more than one gender.
People who challenge, change or reject the idea of there being two genders, or express themselves in a way which is not fully masculine or feminine. Gender isn’t in your pants but in your mind and genderqueer people live it as they wish.
Graysexuals are people who feel they are somewhere between asexual (not interested in sex) and sexual (interested in sex). This is a deliberately vague term, for people who don’t want to be defined too narrowly. Gray-A, grace or gray-ace can also be used.
Attracted to women or feminity.
Romantic attraction towards a person with a different gender to yours.
The medical and technical term for men who are attracted to women and women who are attracted to men.
Homoromantics prefer romantic relationships with their own gender. For example, a homoromantic bisexual may fancy both men and women but prefer relationships with their own gender.
Across South Asia, hijra live together in small groups, guided by a guru. Hijras include trans women, intersex and other gender non-conforming people. They are recognized in Hindu and Muslim religions but are also ostracized and may turn to sex work for survival. India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh offer ‘third gender’ – neither male or female – passports to hijras.
The technical term for gay men and lesbian women. In practice, gay and lesbian are more popular words to describe yourself, as homosexual sounds a bit clinical.
If your sex characteristics aren’t entirely male or female, you are intersex. This may be in your chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones or genitals. The previously used word, hermaphrodite, is now considered misleading and stigmatizing. Doctors have long assigned a male or female gender at birth to intersex people – basically a medical judgment call. And they have even performed unnecessary surgery – genital mutilation – to make them more conforming. There are now calls for that to stop.
A woman who is romantically or sexually attracted to other women.
Not a sexuality as such, but a guy who invests a lot of time on his appearance and usually isn’t afraid of appearing to be gay or androgynous.
Male-to-female. A trans person who was labeled as male at birth but is actually female.
Neutrois people feel neither male nor female but may be genderless, transgender or some other genderqueer identity. Lots of neutrois suffer from gender dysphoria – the feeling you are in the wrong body. Some, but not all, feel the need to transition to being male or female.
A general term for genders which are neither male or female. Similar to genderqueer.
Another term for people who aren’t either male or female. Like other non-binary identities, non-gendered people may prefer pronouns like ze, one or they instead of he or she and the title Mx instead of Mr or Ms. They have called for gender X passports to avoid having to be legally identified as male or female.
If you can be attracted to people regardless of their gender, you are pansexual or omnisexual. You may think of yourself as gender-blind. Some pansexuals even describe it as the feeling they could be attracted to a humanoid alien but on a practical level, it’s not letting someone’s gender define who you fancy. You may prefer this term if you feel bisexuality does not include people who aren’t male or female. However, many bisexuals feel their sexuality includes attraction to other genders.
If you are polyamorous, you believe you can be in love with, and have sex with, more than one person. Polyamory is non-monogamy without the cheating as polyamorous people believe in being open with their partners and getting consent.
Another word for attraction to multiple genders, while accepting there are more genders than just male or female.
Originally used as an insult for LGBTI people, queer has been reclaimed by activists and the gay, bi and trans public. People who identify as queer typically reject traditional restrictions about gender and sexuality and claim the right to be ambiguous about their identity rather than to fit into just one tick box.
Not everyone understands their sexuality straight away and social pressure may make it hard for them to work out their identity even in their own head. If you are questioning you are figuring that all out for yourself. It’s a term mostly used by young people but this can happen at any stage of life. Gender questioning people are discovering their gender, rather than or as well as their sexuality.
If you are attracted to transgender, genderqueer, agender or other gender-non-conforming people, you are skoliosexual.
Sociosexuality is a measure of your willingness or eagerness to have sex outside a committed relationship. Therefore, people who identify a sociosexual want commitment and love before having sex.
Straight people are attracted to the ‘opposite’ gender. For most, it’s a simple as that. But identity and behavior aren’t always the same thing, as anyone who has ever hooked up with a straight person they met on a gay dating app will know.
Hijra, non-gendered, intersex people and others can all be described as third gender. But as an identity it goes beyond people who feel they fit somewhere between male and female to recognize you may be a different gender altogether or have the ability to swap between gender identities.
An umbrella term for people who don’t feel they are the gender they were assigned at birth. Trans people may suffer from gender dysphoria – the feeling they are living in the wrong body. Some choose to go through hormone treatment and surgery to ‘complete’ transition to female (trans women) or male (trans men).
Someone who dresses or acts as a woman (if they are male) or a man (if they are female). This is different from being transgender as transvestites don’t want to fully transition. You may restrict your cross-dressing to just a few items of clothing and it may or may not include a sexual fetish. Transvestite people don’t always live ‘in role’ all the time.
Another term for a transgender person. Typically you think of yourself as transsexual if you are seeking or using medical help to transition to your true gender.
The indigenous people of North America have long recognized gay, lesbian, bi, trans and other gender-variant people. They used many words across their many cultures but two-spirit has now been adopted as the term to include them all. Two-spirit people swapped between male and female and had important cultural and spiritual roles. Not all gay and bi Native Americans were two-spirit but two-spirit people could have relationships with either women or men.
This list of terms isn’t complete and the descriptions are not flawless. We hope to keep exploring all our identities with you, so send us your suggestions and changes.
And when you are speaking to people about their gender or sexuality, whatever it is, be respectful and recognize that they know who they really are deep inside better than you and are entitled to use the words they want.