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Know Your Language

Sex vs Gender

The term sex tends to refers to someone’s biological makeup, whereas gender tends to refers to someone’s personal identity.


Gender Identity

Gender identity is about how a person identifies within themselves and is not always related to the person’s sex. Gender can be described in a variety of ways:

  • The way someone identifies is how they can feel comfortable, and we should always try to respect this
  • It’s okay for people to experiment and question their gender. Do what makes you comfortable, even if it changes!
  • Someone who is intersex doesn’t fit into the binary sexes - this can be for many reasons including variation in our genetics. It’s just as common as being born with red hair! People who are intersex will identify as what’s most comfortable for themselves.




  • Cisgender Man - assigned male at birth and identifies as a man
  • Transgender Man - identifies as a man when this is not the gender he was assigned at birth.
  • Someone who was assigned male or female at birth, but feels as though they don’t fit into the gender binary. Multiple unique identities fit under this term.
  • Cisgender Woman - assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman
  • Transgender Woman - identifies as a woman when this is not the gender she was assigned at birth.


Pronouns are used when referring to someone. They are determined by how someone identifies – usually based on a person's gender.

Pronouns include (but are not limited to) she/her, they/them, and he/him!

  • You might come across someone who doesn't use any of these pronouns. Gender is a complex spectrum and pronouns reflect this. It's important to respect their preferences, keep an open mind
  • It’s okay to experiment and try out different pronouns no matter your identity! Do what makes you feel good and comfortable.
  • Anyone can use any pronouns that make them feel comfortable. You may meet gay men who use she/her, and you may meet non binary people who use he/him!

Asking About Pronouns

Here are a couple of ways to start a conversation around pronouns:

“Hi, I use they/them pronouns, what are your pronouns?”

“What pronouns would you like me to use for you?”

“My pronouns are he/him”

Be careful when asking about pronouns - context matters

Not every situation is safe to ask. When you’re around parents, in public, and in work spaces, it may out that person, or make them feel like they aren’t “passing”. If you feel unsure, using they/them as a baseline could be a safe option until it is okay to ask for confirmation.


Misgendering is when someone either accidentally or purposefully uses a pronoun to describe someone that doesn’t match the other person’s gender or just isn't the pronouns that person uses.

It may hurt the person by making them feel as if their identity doesn’t matter, potentially having harmful effects on their mental health.

If you accidentally misgender someone, apologise and check in about their pronouns for future use. Everybody makes mistakes, and it can take time to get used to different pronouns. Be respectful, and try your best to remember people’s pronouns!

As an ally, you can also correct people who have misgendered someone, whether on accident or on purpose. Maybe use the correct pronouns in a respectful, quick, and diffusing way to make their pronouns obvious. Do what you can to support people, making sure it’s a safe space for everyone.

What is transitioning?

Transitioning is when a person transitions from one gender to another in order to express their true selves. The transition process varies between individuals; some folks like to begin their personal transition journey by coming out to trusted friends, family, and loved ones, sharing their pronouns, or embracing a new look through fashion and makeup. Transitioning can also include hormone therapy and gender affirming surgeries.

What is Dead Naming? 

Dead naming is when someone uses the ‘birth’ name of a trans or gender diverse person. If someone comes out as trans or gender diverse, it’s very important that you respect the name that they have asked to be called.

Here are some ways people might introduce their new name:

I want to start going by Jack now and use he/him pronouns.”

“Can you please call me Sarah and use she/her pronouns?”

“Danny is my gender affirming name and I use they/them pronouns.”

What to do if you, or someone around you, calls someone by their dead name:

Dead naming can cause harm to a trans or gender diverse person. If it was an accident, apologise, or ask again to be reminded. Keep practicing until you have learnt their name. If someone uses a dead name to cause offence or harm, make sure to call them in on it in a safe environment. Most of all, make sure the person who was called their dead name is okay.

Sexual Orientation

Someone's sexual orientation or identity is about how they feel sexually/romantically about others.

  • Homosexuality refers to someone being attracted to the same gender.
  • Bisexuality is accepted as someone being attracted to two or more genders.
  • Pansexuality refers to someone being attracted to the person and not the sex or gender.
  • Asexuality refers to someone who feels little or no sexual attraction to anybody. It’s completely normal to feel this way. Sex and romance aren’t for everyone! Some people who identify as asexual may still want a romantic or sexual relationship and that’s okay too. Their lack of attraction doesn’t remove their choice to partake in what makes them happy in their relationships.
  • Heterosexuality refers to someone who is attracted to the opposite gender.

What does queer mean?

Today ‘queer’ is a term for a person who experiences same-sex attraction (such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and pansexual people), and/or is transgender or gender diverse. That might sounds pretty broad…which it is! Some people like ‘queer’ for how big and inclusive it is. Some people aren’t comfortable with it and prefer to use the acronym LGBTIQA+. It’s important to respect each individual’s experience with the word.


Queer also has a strong political history – many LGBTIQA+ activists reclaimed the term, and saw queer as meaning to live a proud existence outside of normative expectations.

Being Respectful of Language

It’s always best to respect the language that someone chooses for themselves – if someone tells you they’re queer, or if you identify as queer, then that’s a really great and appropriate use of the word. As with identity terms, it’s important to be respectful and to use the word in a positive way, and not as an insult or a negative thing. (That goes for ‘gay’ too!)

You Choose the Terms

You get to choose whatever language, identity and community feels best for you – sometimes that might feel amazing and powerful, and sometimes that might feel scary. The good news is there are folks who can help support and guide you in your journey, and there’s no wrong answer, and your answer is always allowed to change.


LGBTIAQ+ people can face discrimination for their identities for a range of reasons, and often advocate for acceptance in society. This can make employment, expressing themselves, and many types of relationships difficult for them. We encourage you to exercise respect, thoughtfulness, and an open mind when engaging with the LGBTIAQ+ community, regardless of your background.


Consent is important – it’s about freely choosing to say ‘yes’, and it’s no different if a person is queer or if they’re in a queer relationship. Consent isn’t given unless it is a clear yes, without pressure, bribery or intimidation. There are also laws (which are different from state to state) about what age you need to be to be able to give consent.


  • Asexuality: Someone who feels no or little sexual attraction to anybody.
  • Bisexual: Someone being attracted to two or more genders.
  • Confidentiality law: Professionals shouldn't share personal details about someone with others, unless that person has said they can or it's absolutely necessary.
  • Consent: Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something (eg. sexual activity)
  • Dead naming: When someone uses the ‘birth’ name of a trans or gender diverse person.
  • Discrimination: The unjust treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
  • Gay: A homosexual man.
  • Gender: How a person identifies within themselves and is not related to the persons sex.
  • Gender Nonconforming (GNC): Someone present in ways outside of the usual expectations of a masculine/feminine/andogynous binary.
  • Heterosexuality: Someone who is attracted to the opposite gender.
  • Homosexuality: Someone being attracted to the same gender.
  • Intersex: People are born with multiple sex characteristics.
  • Lesbian: A homosexual woman.
  • Misgendering: When someone either accidentally or purposefully uses a pronoun to describe someone that doesn’t match the other person’s preferences.
  • Non binary: An identity under the transgender umbrella where a person does not identify neatly with male or female.
  • Pansexuality: Someone attracted to the person and not the sex or gender.
  • Pronouns: They are determined by how someone identifies – usually based on a person's gender.
  • Queer: A person who experiences same-sex attraction.
  • Sex: Determined by chromosomes, reproductive organs and hormones characteristics. Males have XY and Females have XX chromosomes.
  • Sexual Orientation: How someone feels romantically about others.
  • Transgender(Trans): Someone who doesn’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Transition process: When one person transitions from one gender to another.