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Glossary (old)

This is a glossary of terms used in LGBT equality in Scotland.  If there’s a word you’d like to see defined, please contact us.

Ableism, androgyneacquired genderblack, black and minority ethnic, biphobia, bisexualcoming outcisgender, cissexism, complex identities, crossdressingdisability, discrimination, FtMgaygenderqueergender dysphoria, gender expressiongender identitygender reassignment, GLBTheterosexismhomophobia, heterosexualimpairment, intersectionality, intersexislamophobia, lesbianlesbian-feministLGBT, minority ethnicMtF, race, racism, out/outingpolygenderprotected characteristics, queer, sexual orientationsexualitysexism, straighttransgendertransphobia, transsexualtransvestite.


Refers to the practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of disabled people. See disability, discrimination.

Androgyne / Polygender / Genderqueer

Refers to people who identify their gender as not conforming to the traditional western model of gender as binary. They may identify their non-binary gender as a combination of aspects of men and women or alternatively as being neither men nor women.

Acquired Gender

This is a term used in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to mean the gender role that a person has transitioned to live their life in and which matches their self-perceived gender identity. Therefore, the acquired gender of a Male-to-Female trans woman is female. The acquired gender of a Female-to-Male trans man is male.


Refers to the hatred or fear of bisexual people. Discrimination based on a person’s bisexual identity.


Refers to someone who is emotionally and sexually attracted to women and men. See sexual orientation.


In recent years “black” has been used less often in this all-encompassing sense, being replaced by such terms as “black and Asian”, “black and ethnic minority”, “black/minority ethnic”.
The term is still used in its broad ideological, inclusive sense but is increasingly used to refer to people of African and Caribbean origin.
The term “black” is acknowledged as a positive all-inclusive term for people who are not “white”.
People belonging to a racial group having brown to black skin, especially one of African origin.
People belonging to a racial group having dark skin especially of sub-Saharan African origin.
People having dark-coloured skin, especially of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry.

Black and Minority Ethnic

A term used to describe people from minority groups, particularly those who are viewed as having suffered racism or are in the minority because of their skin colour and/or ethnicity. This term has evolved over time becoming more common as the term “black” has become less all-inclusive of those experiencing racial discrimination. “BME” was/is an attempt at comprehensive coverage. The term is commonly used in the UK but can be unpopular with those who find it cumbersome or bureaucratic.
Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) populations are distinct groups with their own identity recognised by themselves and by others. The definition of an ethnic group is still disputed and has changed from referring to people of African, African-Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Indian, East African, Asian, Pakistani, Chinese, Vietnamese and South Asian descent to include the white populations form Eastern Europe, Turkey, the Middle East and Ireland. Everyone belongs to an ethnic group. Defining ethnicity is complex and ethnic groups have been defined on the basis of skin colour, self-defined identity, country of birth and name analysis.


(abbreviation: cis)
Refers to a whole range of people who find their gender identity or gender expression matches the gender assumptions made by others about them when they were born. The term was created to challenge the assumption that cisgender people (as opposed to transgender people) are always the standard in discussions about gender and sex. It is not a derogatory term. See also cissexism, gender identity.


The belief that cisgender people represents a standard of some kind, and that all other gender identities, if acknowledged at all, are merely a deviation from this. Cissexist statements are statements that assume all people are cisgender or that fail to recognise the variety of gender identities that exist. For example, assuming that all women have uterus and all men have testicles. See also cisgender, transgender.

Complex Identities

Refers to identities which include more than one protected characteristic, e.g. gay and disabled.

Crossdressing / Transvestite

Refers to people who dress, either occasionally or more regularly, in clothes associated with the opposite gender, as defined by socially accepted norms. Cross-dressing people are generally happy with the gender they were labelled at birth and usually do not want to permanently alter the physical characteristics of their bodies or change their legal gender.


Having a physical or mental impairment that as a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on a person’s ability to do normal daily activities.


Treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favour of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.


Refers to someone who is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of the same gender. Some women prefer to refer to themselves as gay women, but lesbian is the word more often preferred by women, and the word gay is sometimes used just to refer to men. See sexual orientation.

Gender dysphoria

This is a recognised medical issue for which gender reassignment treatment is available on the National Health Service in Scotland. Gender Dysphoria is distress, unhappiness and discomfort experienced by someone about their physical body not fully matching their gender identity.

Gender expression

This is an individual’s external gender-related appearance (including clothing) and behaviour (including interests and mannerisms). A person may have masculine, feminine, or androgynous aspects of their appearance or behaviour.

Gender identity

This is an individual’s internal self-perception of their own gender. A person may identify as female, male, or as androgynous/polygender.

Gender Reassignment

One of the protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010. Refers to the treatment for gender dysphoria and may include taking hormones and/or surgeries.


Acronym for GayLesbianBisexualTransgender. Used in the United States instead of LGBT.


The belief that heterosexuality represents a standard of some kind, and that all other sexual orientations, if acknowledged at all, are merely a deviation from this. Heterosexist statements are statements that assume all people are straight or that fail to recognise the variety of sexual orientations that exist. For example, referring to husbands and wives rather than partners can be heterosexist, depending on the context of the statement.


Refers to the hatred or fear of gay/lesbian people. Discrimination based on a person’s gay/lesbian identity.


One or more medical  conditions that negatively effect a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.


Identities, experiences or approaches to equality work that fall into more than one protected characteristic at the same time. For example: Muslim Lesbians. For more information please visit our Intersetional projects page.


This is a term used to describe people born with external genitals, internal reproductive systems or chromosomes that are in-between what is considered clearly male or female. There are many different intersex variations.


Refers to the hatred or fear of followers of Islam (Muslims). Discrimination based on a person’s identity as a Muslim.


Refers to a woman who is emotionally and sexually attracted to other women. See sexual orientation.


A woman whose sexual and political orientation, both, are to women. See lesbian.


Acronym for LesbianGayBisexualTransgender. This is the term most commonly used in Scotland to talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. LGBT or GLBT is recognised in many countries in Europe, and around the world, as the preferred term to use when speaking formally.

Minority Ethnic

The term minority ethnic is a general term used to refer to all groups of people that are not recorded under the white British ethnic group category.
An immigrant or racial group regarded by those claiming to speak for the cultural majority as distinct and unassimilated.
A group that has different national or cultural traditions from the majority of the population.
A group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions from the main population.
Any minority group who have a shared race, nationality or language and culture.
People who are in the minority within a defined population on the grounds of ‘race’, colour, culture, language or nationality.

Out/Coming out/Outing

Being out is being open about being lesbiangaybisexual, or transgenderComing out is telling other people that you are LGBT. Being outed is having someone else reveal you as lesbiangaybisexual, or transgender, usually against your will. Outing is telling other people, to whom a person is not out, that you know that person is LGBT.

Protected Characteristics

A set of characteristics that are protected from discrimination according to the Equality Act 2010. Those are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation.


Sometimes now used as an umbrella term that includes lesbiangaybisexual, and transgender people. If you do not identify as queer, a risky word to use, because of its long history as a disparaging word for gay men, lesbians, bisexual people, and trans people. If speaking formally, use LGBT: this is the preferred term.


Refers to a group of people defined by their colour, nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins.


Division of humankind into fixed, closed and unalterable groups or as systematic domination of some groups by others. It is broadly used to refer to the ideology of superiority of a particular race over another and may be based on colour and physical features or on culture, nationality and way of life.


Refers to discrimination based on a person’s gender or sex. In a society where cisgender males are the dominant group, sexism refers to all forms of discrimination against women and transgender people. Sexist attitudes and behaviours are found on a personal and institutional level and are always harmful. See cisgender, cissexism, heterosexism.

Sexual orientation

Refers to the gender or genders a person is attracted to. See lesbiangaybisexualstraightsexuality.


Can mean simply sexual orientation, but has a broader meaning besides gender attraction: whatever sexually excites a person, turns them on, may be part of their sexuality.

Straight / Heterosexual

Refers to someone who is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of a different gender: not a queer person. See sexual orientation.


(abbreviations: T, TG)
Refers to a whole range of people who find their gender identity or gender expression differs in some way from the gender assumptions made by others about them when they were born. The umbrella terms transgender people and trans people can include: androgyne/polygender/genderqueer peoplecrossdressing/transvestite peopleintersex people, and others. Trans* is used by some people to more clearly indicate that the word is not being used as an abbreviation of transsexual but to include a broad range of trans people.


Refers to the hatred or fear of transgender people. Discrimination based on a person’s transgender identity.


(abbreviations: T, TS, trans)
This is a term used to describe people who consistently self-identify as the opposite gender from the gender they were labelled at birth based on their physical body. Depending on the range of options and information available to them during their life, most transsexual people try to find a way to transition to live fully in the gender that they self-identify as. Transitioning is also known as gender reassignment. Many, but not all, transsexual people take hormones and some also have surgery to make their physical bodies match their gender identity better.

A female-to-male (FTM) transsexual man (trans man) is someone who was labelled female at birth but has a male gender identity and therefore is currently seeking to transition, or has already transitioned, to live permanently as a man.

male-to-female (MTF) transsexual woman (trans woman) is someone who was labelled male at birth but has a female gender identity and therefore is currently seeking to transition, or has already transitioned, to live permanently as a woman.