I’m a cisgender, straight woman. This means that I still identify with the gender I was assigned at birth and that I find men attractive. Simple. 

But what do you call yourself if you don’t identify with a certain gender identity or sexual orientation? What do you call someone who doesn’t identify as cisgender or straight without hurting them? How do you learn all these new terms that you’re unfamiliar with? Well, it’s simple really – educate yourself. 

You can learn terms and descriptions and read all about how to treat those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ communities, but you also need to apply this knowledge in a practical sense and actually treat your family, friends and colleagues in a respectable manner and learn what is okay and what isn’t.

READ MORE: How do you treat a trans co-worker? Hint: just like any other co-worker

I’ve always thought of myself as woke and considerate of my LGBTQIA+ friends, but I’ve made mistakes in the past. Being woke doesn’t mean you immediately get a pass as being a good person or thinking that you’re immune from learning anything. It actually means constantly teaching yourself new ways of thinking and learning from the marginalised around you and how to better understand their circumstances and your own. 

I once misgendered a transgender friend to her face. It was a complete accident, but I felt incredibly awful afterwards and that just means that I still have some learning (and unlearning) to do and need to check myself and my privilege.

Dr Eli Rosen, sex educator and healthcare activist at Sexy Smarts, says "The easiest way to be considerate of a transgender person’s identity is to respectfully ask them which name and pronouns they’d like you to use for them. Some people want to be referred to as he or she while other people may use singular they. If you’re worried about messing up, try practicing when you’re alone, and if you do mess up just apologise and do better next time. 

"It’s normal to be curious about all the things that make LGBTIAQ+ people different from cishet (cisgender heterosexual) people, however it is never okay to ask a gay or lesbian couple how they have sex or “who’s the man and who’s the woman”. Please don’t ask invasive questions about transgender or intersex people’s bodies, genitals or surgeries, it’s none of your business." 

READ MORE: Are we looking at a future without men?

So, as a starting point, here’s a list of definitions you should know:

Questioning 

Used for a person who is unsure of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Sexual orientation

A combination of physical, romantic and emotional attractions that determine who people want to have relationships or engage in sexual activity with. 

Physical attraction

The desire to share sexual intimacy with a person

Emotional attraction

The desire to share emotional vulnerability with a person 

Romantic attraction

The desire to have a relationship with a person 

Straight (heterosexual)

A person who has other gender attractions. For example; men who are attracted to and want to form relationships with women, and women who are attracted to and want to form relationships with men. 

READ MORE: This transgender man wants you to stop being ashamed of your period


Lesbian

A woman who is physically, emotionally, and/or romantically attracted to and wants to have sex and/or form relationships with other women.

Gay

A man who is physically, emotionally, and/or romantically attracted to and wants to have sex and/or form relationships with other men.

Bisexual

A person who is physically, emotionally, and/or romantically attracted to and wants to have sex and/or form relationships with someone of the same gender or another gender. Bisexual people do not necessarily have equal levels of attraction to various genders. Bisexual people also do not necessarily want to have relationships with men, women, and/or other genders at the same time, nor are they more likely to cheat on their partners.  

Pansexual

People whose attractions to other people are not limited or influenced by the person’s gender or expression. This means that pansexual people can be attracted to people regardless of whether they are men or women, cisgender or transgender, or any other gender identity. 

Queer

A person whose sexual identity rejects heteronormative relationship models. People who use the word queer may have multiple identity descriptors that fall within the LGBTIAQ+ acronym. 

Please note: This term is most used by younger people and people can self-identify as queer, but it is a reclaimed slur and should not be used for people unless they have explicitly claimed it for themselves.  

Asexual

A person who does not experience physical attraction. 

Demisexual

A person who does not experience physical attraction to another person unless they form a strong emotional connection.

READ MORE: I am a transwoman and this ad makes me fume

Biology

The structure and function of the human body.

Sex assigned at birth

The assumptions made about an infant’s gender based on the observation of their external genitals at birth.

A penis results in an infant being assigned male at birth.

A vulva results in an infant being assigned female at birth.

#transrights #transrightsarehumanrights #transpride #transman #transwoman

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Intersex

Intersex refers to people who are born with genetic, hormonal or physical sex characteristics that do not fit the medical definitions of male or female. In South Africa there is no way to legally recognise people who are intersex and intersex infants are still assigned male or female at birth.  

Gender

A person’s personal understanding of what it means to be male, female, or something else, based on their understanding of their own identity, as well as the influence of all the gender messages they have experienced in their lifetimes.

Binary

A word meaning “two of” used to describe social understandings based on the two common genders; either male or female

Cisgender (cis)

A person whose gender aligns with gender characteristics associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Transgender (trans)

A person whose gender differs, in part or entirely, with gender characteristics associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Transgender is an umbrella term that describes many different gender identities. Some transgender people will take hormones or have surgeries to help align their bodies with their gender, but not all transgender people are able to or want to take these steps. Being transgender is not dependant on physical appearance or surgery. 

Nonbinary

An umbrella term for transgender people whose gender is something other than male or female. Some nonbinary gender terms include; agender, bigender, polygender, demigender, genderfluid  

Agender

A person who is without gender. 

Genderqueer

A term used to describe someone whose gender identity, political understanding or interaction with gender cannot be limited to male or female. Genderqueer people may or may not identify as transgender. 

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