It’s National Coming Out Day on 11th October, which is an opportunity to celebrate the power of being honest about who you are. Young people in particular can find it really hard to come out to their family and friends, mainly because they’re scared of how the people closest to them will react.
Coming out was the top concern related to sexuality and gender identity in counselling sessions held by the NSPCC’s Childline service in 2019/20. One young person said:
“I identify as non-binary and I have been thinking about coming out to my parents, but I don’t feel ready yet. I feel like they’ve got too much on their plates and whenever they see something LGBTQ+ they sound disgusted. No one knows how I am feeling. I just wish I could tell my parents but I am afraid.” (Gender unknown, aged 10)
It doesn’t help that the words we use to discuss gender identity and sexuality can be so confusing, so we’ve put together a A-Z of LGBTQ+ terminology, to help make some of those difficult conversations a bit more comfortable.
This describes a straight and/or cisgender person, who supports members of the LGBTQ+ community.
This is when a person doesn’t feel sexually attracted to anyone.
A person who is emotionally, romantically, and sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity, but not necessarily in the same way or to the same degree.
This describes a person whose gender identity is the same as the sex assigned to them at birth. This doesn’t refer to their sexuality, only their gender. So both gay and straight people can be cisgender.
This means sharing with other people that you are lesbian, gay, bi and/or trans. It can take a long time before a person feels ready to come out, and it’s common to only come out in one area of your life, or to certain people.
This refers to a man who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to men. This can also be used as an umbrella term for lesbian and gay sexuality. Some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian, and some non-binary people also identify as gay.
This refers to a person who doesn’t identify with a single, fixed gender.
This refers to a person’s own understanding of themselves as male, female, a blend of both, or neither. A person’s gender identity can be the same or different to the sex assigned to them at birth.
This refers to a woman who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to women. Some non-binary people may also identify as lesbian.
This is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (or questioning). The ‘+’ refers to other identities, such as pansexual and asexual. It’s used to represent a diverse range of sexualities and gender identities.
This describes a person who doesn’t identify exclusively as a man or a woman. They may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or completely outside these categories. Some non-binary people also identify as transgender, but not all do.
A person who has the potential to have sexual relationships across many different gender identities, such as male, female, non-binary and trans. Panromantic describes people who have the potential to have romantic, rather than sexual, relationships. In both scenarios, gender identity isn’t a factor when choosing a partner.
This is the way we refer to people’s gender using words like he/she. Some people prefer gender neutral pronouns, such as they/their.
This can also be used to describe lots of different identities and orientations. It’s often used interchangeably with LGBTQ+. Originally this word was used as a slur, but it has been reclaimed by the community. As a result, not everyone is comfortable using this word.
This is used to describe people who are questioning or exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This describes people whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. This is totally separate from their sexual orientation, so a trans person can be straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual, etc.
This refers to the steps a trans person may take so that they can live in the gender with which they identify. This can include different things, including telling friends and family, dressing differently, changing official documents and medical intervention, such as hormone therapy and surgery.