Técha Noble, sketch for 'Key to Hyperborea' digital print on silk, 2015

Queer is an umbrella term and a reclaimed pejorative word to refer to all LGBTIQA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer, asexual, and more) people. A politised self-defined sexual orientation that advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as fluid and interconnected experiences. Can also be a simple label to explain a complex set of minority sexual behaviours and desires that are not heterosexual. For example, a person who is attracted to multiple genders may identify as queer. Queer may not be an appropriate term to use when organising events or working with elders within the community as it is historically a derogatory word, consultation on this is important.

The term gender refers to a very personal sense of who we are, and how we see ourselves in terms of a girl, a boy, a combination of these or maybe neither. “Gender norms” are how our society expects men and women to behave and look in particular ways – most societies have pretty rigid ideas of what it means to be a man, woman, masculine, feminine. Some girls are masculine, some boys are more feminine, some feel both at the same time, while others experience themselves as being outside  gender norms altogether. It is important to remember that gender is different from physical sex.

Trans is a term that covers a range of self-defined identities that transgress socially defined and expected gender norms, based on perceived sex at birth. It may mean someone who mentally and emotionally identifies as a different gender to the one they were assigned by society, often living their lives as that gender, and who may choose to undergo gender affirming surgeries. Or it could be a person who transcends the binary gender system altogether, so that they identify as neither ‘male’ nor ‘female’, ‘man’ nor ‘woman’. The ‘trans’ in transgender comes from a Latin word meaning ‘on the other side of’.

The ‘cis’ in cisgender comes from a Latin word meaning ‘on this side of’ and is a term used for a person whose physical sex, gender identity and gender expression all align. For example, someone who has been gendered as female from birth, goes by the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’ and feels comfortable and aligned with that identity.

Intersex is the term used to refer to people born with physical, hormonal or genetic features that are neither wholly female nor wholly male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male. It is important to remember that Intersex people also have gender identities and sexualities.