This page is a work in progress and is by no means complete! Please bear with us as we expand on it.

We have taken the liberty of simplifying the subject so that it may be best understood.

Note: the labels and terms on this page are person-specific. Just because we know the definition of a particular term doesn’t mean that someone necessarily identifies with it. Many of us make unconscious assumptions based on the perceived meanings of identity labels, and being aware of this is an important part of learning. 

Whether or not you’re familiar with the labels someone uses, rather than ask “what does it mean?'” ask “what does it mean to you?”  That’s what we do in the podcast 🙂

The LGBTIQA+ alphabet soup

Beyond the +

You have probably come across the term ‘LGBT‘, which is commonly used right now.

The term evolved from LGB into LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, LGBTIQ… you get the idea. Every time the term is ready to expand, there seems to be a debate about whether or not the letter should be included.

The ‘+’ is an easy way of saying ‘there’s more’, but really, unless we type out the entire alphabet, we’re always leaving terms out.

We like to use LGBTQIA+; it’s more inclusive, but by no means perfect.

The concept of LGBTQIA+ is intended to be an umbrella term for all the varieties of gender, sex and sexuality out there, which is ever expanding. Here’s what the letters stand for in this particular abbreviation:

L = Lesbian

G = Gay

B = Bisexual

T = Transgender or Trans

Q = Queer

I = Intersex

A = Asexual, Agender

Note: Although the word ‘gay’ is widely used for both men and women to mean same sex attraction, in this term ‘gay’ specifically refers to men being attracted to men, and ‘lesbian’ specifically refers to women being attracted to women.

But wait…where’s non-binary?? That’s where the + comes in. (Pretty soon, we’ll be using LGBTIQAN+.)

Here are some additional terms to contemplate – in alphabetical order:

A = Aromantic, Androgyne, Autosexual, Allosexual, Amalgagender

B = Bigender, Bicurious

D = Demisexual, Demigender, Demigirl, Demiboy

G = Genderfluid, Genderqueer, Greysexual/Graysexual, Gender non-conforming

M = Metagender

N = Non-binary, Neutrois, Neuroqueer

O = Omnisexual

P = Pansexual, Pangender, Panromantic, Pansensual, Polysexual, Polygender

Q = Questioning

S = Sapiosexual

T = Trans-masculine, Trans-feminine, Transsexual, Transvestite

And that’s just the tip of the alphabet soup iceberg!

We are working on a glossary of terms – please bear with us. In the mean time, you can find out the meanings of many of these terms on or on the LGBTA Wiki.

Gender vs. Sex vs. Sexuality

So, back to LGBTQIA+. You may be wondering, which of these terms have to do with gender, which are related to sex, and which cover sexuality?

In simplified terms, this may give you an idea:

The L (Lesbian), G (Gay) and B (Bisexual) refer to sexual orientation/attraction (but are rooted in gender identity).

The T (Transgender) is about gender identity and expression.

The Q (Queer) can be used for any or all of these.

The I (Intersex) is about physical/biological sex.

The A (Asexual/Agender) refers to ‘not that’.

Confused? That’s ok. You don’t have to remember them all.

The most important thing to know is that these terms mean different things to different people. So if you’re speaking to someone, as well as asking their name, you can ask how they identify, and what their pronouns are. Not their *preferred* pronouns. Their pronouns. Like this: “what pronouns do you use?” or “how do I refer to you?” Simple 🙂

Gender vs. Sexuality

Gender and Sexuality are probably the easiest to distinguish out of the three.

Gender (identity and expression) is about who you are.

Sexuality is about who you are attracted to.

It has been described in very simple terms as ‘gender identity is about who you go to bed as, whereas sexual orientation is about who you go to bed with‘ – but like all simplifications, this is neither complete nor 100% accurate.

Gender vs. Sex

Then there’s gender and sex. Most people are not aware that there’s a difference between the two. So, what is it?

Gender is about who you are (gender identity), and how you express that (gender expression).

Sex has to do with biology, which includes sexual and reproductive organs (internal and external), chromosomes and hormones.


Sex vs gender venn diagram: complete overlap
Sex vs gender venn diagram: mostly overlapping

The majority of the population could be considered cisgender. Someone is cisgender when their gender identity matches their birth sex; completely or for the most part.

Cisgender people may have never given this difference any thought – and why would they? Their gender identity matches the “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” their parents were told when they were born.


Then there are people who are experiencing this very differently.

It could be that they’ve always felt like one of the girls, even though physically they were a boy – or vice versa.

It could be that they’ve always felt different but didn’t know why, and only later in life started to realise that this was to do with gender.

It could be that they’ve never been able to identify with gender at all. The whole concept of gender may have felt uncomfortable, alien, or downright distressing.

It could be any amount of experiences or feelings. This is unique to everyone, and they are all valid. In that case, the term transgender may resonate more than cisgender.

For these people, the graphs could look more like this:

Sex vs gender venn diagram: overlapping somewhat
Sex vs gender venn diagram: complete separation

And in a time when there was little or no language for this, imagine how confusing this must have been.

Thankfully, there is language to express this now. More and more people are feeling safe enough to come out of the closet – or they have no choice but to come out because they simply can’t bear to live an inauthentic life any longer (and they shouldn’t have to).

After all, a closet is no place to live.


Sometimes it’s not as simple as “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!”.

For a variety of reasons, a person’s biology may not be simply male or female – there may be variations in sex characteristics. The external organs may be ambiguous, internal organs may be missing or atypical, there could be chromosomal varieties, a different response to hormones – or a combination of any or all of these. This is called Intersex.

Some of the Intersex variations are easier to spot than others – like the external organs. When a baby is born, that’s what the doctors look at first.

But even if these are appearing to be ‘one of the two’, that doesn’t mean there may not be other things going on that are not immediately visible, like variations in internal organs, chromosomes, or hormones.

That means that some people may only find out they are intersex during adolescence, when puberty doesn’t happen like it’s “supposed to”.

Or when they have difficulties starting a family and have a fertility test.

Others may never even know.


In humans and other mammals:

  • Males usually have XY chromosomes.
  • Females usually have XX chromosomes.

But there are many variations, including for example:

  • A ‘male‘ may have XX, XXY, XYY, XXXY, XXYY or even XXXXY chromosomes.
  • A ‘female‘ may have XY, X or XXX chromosomes.

(Note: not all of these variations are considered intersex variations.)

Visual representation of chromosomal varieties in males and females

This suggests that sex is far from binary. For one, it depends on where you draw the line when it comes to chromosomes (and hormones, and other markers). The example below shows a more accurate representation of sex.

When you realise that it’s not simply a matter of two separate bar graphs, but more like a gradient of varieties (this is called ‘bimodal distribution’) you start seeing how ‘fuzzy’ the subject really is.

Example of bimodal distribution. On the left, a bar graph with 2 bars, representing female and male. On the right, a wavy chart with 2 peaks left and right and a valley in the middle, which represents intersex variations.

Although it’s close to impossible to determine an exact number, it has been estimated that 1.7% of the population may be/have been born with some form of intersex variation. Out of 7 billion people, that’s 119 million!

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