There are lots of ways to describe sexuality and gender. The language around LGBTIQA+ (explained in the following paragraphs) has changed over time and will continue to evolve, which is why the ‘+’ is important when discussing this topic.
Anyone may be unsure of their sexuality or experience fluid sexuality. Many people exploring their sexual orientation prefer to identify as ‘queer’, as it’s a broader term and does not place someone into a category—when they have so many categories already.
It’s important to remember a person’s sexual orientation is theirs, and the way they want to describe it and who they share that with is completely up to them. We should never force a person to share information with us that they are not comfortable sharing.
When considering sexual and gender diversity in care arrangements, children and young people in care, parents and carers may identify as sexually and gender diverse. This may influence placement decisions, placement changes and how we work with family-based carers. By being aware of the sexual and gender preferences of all people we work with, we can use respectful language and partner with them.
The term LGBTIQA+ is broken down as:
- L—lesbian (a female who is attracted to females)
- G—gay (someone who is attracted to people of the same gender)
- B—bisexual (someone who is attracted to people of more than one gender)
- T—transgender or trans people (someone whose personal and gender identity is different from the one they were assigned at birth)
- I—intersex (someone who is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that falls outside the typical definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’)
- Q—queer (this term has many different meanings, but it has been reclaimed by many as a proud term to describe sexuality or gender that is anything other than cisgender (a person whose sense of gender corresponds with their birth sex) and/or heterosexual)
- A—asexual (someone who has low or no sexual attraction to any gender, but may have a romantic attraction towards another person)
- +—(this acknowledges there are many other diverse sexual orientations and gender identities).
The physical features we are born with, the sex assigned at birth, doesn’t necessarily define our gender. Although gender has traditionally been divided into male and female, it’s now widely recognised that gender is not that simple and there is a diverse range of gender identities.
Discrimination and transphobia—along with a lack of understanding or acceptance—may contribute to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide, compounding the trauma experience they may have experienced prior to and while in care.
Common experiences that may affect people’s wellbeing and increase their vulnerability to developing mental health difficulties on top of their trauma background include:
- feeling different from other people around them
- transphobic bullying about their gender identity, whether verbal or physical
- feeling pressure to define or deny their feelings regarding their gender identity
- feeling unsupported or worried that their gender identity will not be accepted by friends and family members, along with the possibility of being rejected or isolated
- feeling stressed and anxious in relation to the pressure to conform with the sex assigned at birth
Sex: A person’s sex includes genetic, hormonal and physical characteristics.
Gender identity: a person's perception of having a particular gender, which may or may not correspond with their birth sex.
Gender diversity: is equitable or fair representation of people of different genders. It most commonly refers to an equitable ratio of men and women, but may also include people of non-binary genders.
Transgender: a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.
Non-binary: A non-binary person’s gender sits outside of the man or woman binary. They may identify as neither, both, or something else entirely.
Transman: This is a transgender person who was assigned female at birth, but who is a man (uses he/him pronouns).
Transwoman: This is a transgender person who was assigned male at birth, but who is a woman (uses she/her pronouns).
Brotherboy: This is a term used by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were assigned female at birth but who are a boy/man in spirit.
Sistergirl: This is a term used by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were assigned male at birth but who are a girl/woman in spirit.
Sexuality: This is who a person is attracted to, who they have/do not have sex with, and who they wish to be in a relationship with.
Gender expression: This term covers how a person presents their femininity and/or masculinity using socially recognised markers, for example, clothes, make-up and jewellery, hair.
Cis (cis-gender): This is a term for a person whose gender identity is aligned with that which they were assigned at birth.
Cissexism: This is a belief or attitude that being cis-gender is more natural, healthy or superior to transgender or non-binary ways of being.
(Cooper and Dunphy, 2019)
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