LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and along with heterosexual they describe people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These terms are explained in more detail here.
A lesbian woman is one who is romantically, sexually and/or emotionally attracted to women. Many lesbians prefer to be called lesbian rather than gay.
A gay man is one who is romantically, sexually and/or emotionally attracted to men. The word gay can be used to refer generally to lesbian, gay and bisexual people but many women prefer to be called lesbian. Most gay people don’t like to be referred to as homosexual because of the negative historical associations with the word and because the word gay better reflects their identity.
A bisexual person is someone who is romantically, sexually and/or emotionally attracted to people of both sexes.
Transgender or Trans
Is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity (internal feeling of being male, female or transgender) and/or gender expression, differs from that usually associated with their birth sex. Not everyone whose appearance or behaviour is gender-atypical will identify as a transgender person. Many transgender people live part-time or full-time in another gender. Transgender people can identify as transsexual, transvestite or another gender identity.
One’s gender identity refers to whether one feels male, female or transgender (regardless of one’s biological sex). Gender expression refers to outwardly expressing one’s gender identity.
Transsexual people live or wish to live full time as members of the gender other than that assigned at birth. Transsexual people can seek medical interventions, such as hormones and surgery, to make their bodies fit as much as possible with their preferred gender. The process of transitioning from one gender to another is called gender reassignment. Biological females who wish to live and be recognised as men are called female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals or trans men. Biological males who wish to live and be recognised as women are called male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals or trans women.
Transvestite or cross-dressing individuals are thought to comprise the largest transgender sub-group. Cross-dressers sometimes wear clothes considered appropriate to a different gender. They vary in how completely they dress (from one article of clothing to fully cross-dressing) as well as in their motives for doing so. A small number can go on to identify as transsexual.
Gender Reassignment also called transitioning, is the process of changing the way someone’s gender is lived publicly and can be a complex process. People who wish to transition often start by expressing their gender identity in situations where they feel safe. They typically work up to living full-time in a different gender, by making gradual changes to their gender expression. Connecting with other transgender people through peer support groups and transgender community organisations is also very helpful for people when they are going through the transition process. Transitioning typically involves changes in clothing and grooming, a name change, change of gender on identity documents, hormonal treatment, and surgery.
Coming Out is the term used by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to describe their experience of discovery, self-acceptance, openness and honesty about their LGBT identity and their decision to disclose, i.e. to share this with others when and how they choose.
Sexual Orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviours, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Three sexual orientations are commonly recognised – heterosexual, homosexual (gay and lesbian) and bisexual.
Homophobia refers to fear of or prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It is also the dislike of same-sex attraction and love or the hatred of people who have those feelings. The term was first used in the 1970s and is more associated with ignorance, prejudice and stereotyping than with the physiological reactions usually attributed to a ‘phobia’. While homophobic comments or attitudes are often unintentional, they can cause hurt and offence to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Transphobia refers to fear of or prejudice and discrimination against people who are transgender or who are perceived to transgress norms of gender, gender identity or gender expression. While transphobic comments or attitudes are often unintentional, they can cause hurt and offence to transgender people.
Definitions adapted from More Than a Phase (Pobal, 2006), For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation (APA, 2008) and Answers to Your Questions About Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity (APA, 2006)