42 Degrees Glossary and Lexicon
Terms and concepts to enable diverse SOGIESC inclusion work
We strive to be radically inclusive in its terminology and conceptual frameworks. To that end, we have done our utmost to provide a lexicon that can and should be used by development and humanitarian practitioners in their work. This is by no means a complete lexicon: the majority of the terms and concepts included in this lexicon are rooted in western understandings of sexual and gender diversity. We recognise that the terms and definitions included are not comprehensive and may not resonate with all people who identify as part of the diverse SOGIESC community. While this list is by no means static, it is not meant to be a complete list of terminology. It is rather meant to be an entry point for practitioners: how can expanding your understanding of sexual and gender diversity expand your inclusion practice? Are the lived realities of your community, or the communities for whom you work, reflected in this list? If not, how might you learn more about these realities? Which civil society organisations or local groups can you work with to ensure inclusion moves beyond the binary?
Terminology can be tricky. It seems ‘the acronym’ is always growing: LGBT to LGBTQ to LGBTIQA+. The acronym is increasingly considered problematic because it requires individuals to identify with a static label—and for many people, the labels available in the acronym do not align with their experience of sexual orientation or gender. The below terminology list has been provided as a guide and an explanation of why we use the terms we use. The best (and most respectful!) strategy is to follow the self-identification of the people or organisations with which you are engaging. It may be appropriate and necessary to ask for guidance when in private. If in doubt, reach out to a local civil society organisation.
Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity/Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC/Diverse SOGIESC)
SOGIESC stands for sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. All people have SOGIESC. Edge Effect uses the terminology diverse SOGIESC to refer to non-cisgendered, non-heterosexual, and intersex people (aka the LGBTIQA+ community) in our work. We use diverse SOGIESC rather than LGBTIQA+ because we understand that the human experience of sexuality and of gender cannot always be neatly labelled. Diverse SOGIESC is more inclusive of specific third-gender groups such as the waria of Indonesia. The LGBTIQA+ acronym is rooted in certain understandings and assumptions of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and does not hold space for specific cultural third-gender groups such as the waria of Indonesia.
Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity/Expression (SOGIE)
Edge Effect uses SOGIE when referencing specific legislation, experiences, studies or other materials that do not reference sex characteristics, but that do reference sexual and gender diversity. Unless intersex people and/or sex characteristics are explicitly mentioned or discussed, the term SOGIE should be used.
Sexual and gender diversity
The term ‘sexual and gender diversity’ is used in recognition of the galaxy of human sexuality and gender identity and expression but does not include intersex people. This is a broad term.
Sexual and Gender Minorities (SGM)
Edge Effect sometimes uses the phrase ‘sexual and gender minority/SGM’ because it is relatively simple, descriptive and broad. In this framing, minority does not refer to a numerical minority, but denotes the power imbalance that renders sexual and gender minorities invisible or left excluded. This phrase draws upon traditions of minority politics that emphasise agency, creativity and resistance of the oppressed.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, and others (LGBTIQ+)
LGBTIQ+ is the most frequently used acronym to refer to the diverse SOGIESC community. Edge Effect prefers diverse SOGIESC to LGBTIQ+ because diverse SOGIESC is a more inclusive term that recognises the sexual orientation and gender identity and expression cannot always be neatly labelled. We do, however, use LGBTIQ+ when it is appropriate for our audience: we take our cues from the people we work with, and work to meet our colleagues where they are at. We recommend our partners and the people we work with use diverse SOGIESC wherever possible and appropriate.
The idea that gender is not a binary, nor a spectrum, but a space of infinite and fluid possibilities for gender identity and expression. There are many interpretations and imaginations of the gender galaxy, but all are based on the idea that gender identity and expression may not be fixed, nor are they ‘somewhere’ between two poles (as conceptualised on the gender spectrum).
Markers of Identity
The socially and culturally constructed and reinforced ideas of what it means to be a certain gender (third gender, male, or female) in a specific context. Gender is often assumed to be along binary lines (i.e. man/woman), but is in fact a galaxy. Gender is rooted in social norms rather than in biology. Gender is constructed and reinforced through norms and expectations whereby an individual is expected to act in a certain way based on their perceived gender, regardless of whether those actions align with an individual’s interests, wants, or needs. Gender is a relational concept that cannot be understood in a vacuum: it is best understood when examining interactions and relationships between individuals and between or within social groups and institutions.
Sex characteristics are the genetic, hormonal and anatomical characteristics used to classify physical sex at birth. Determination of sex is usually based on pre-determined anatomy of external genitalia, but also informed by internal reproductive organs and hormones. The medical community’s understanding of the diversity of human sex characteristics is expanding.
A person who does not identify with any gender. Agender is not synonymous with non-binary: agender literally means ‘without gender,’ while non-binary people identify as having a gender other than exclusively masculine or feminine.
A person born with physical sex characteristics (including genitalia, hormones or chromosomes) that do not align with medical definitions or societal expectations of female or male bodies. Intersex characteristics may be apparent at birth, may not be detected until later in life, such as when a person begins puberty or becomes pregnant, or may never be detected at all.
Each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experiences of gender, which may or may not correspond with the gender assumed or sex assigned at birth, including their personal sense of their body and self. Gender identity is not fixed nor is it along binary lines and a person’s gender identity can change, shift, or alter over time.
Usually, but not always, the external presentation of someone’s gender identity, usually expressed in many ways including through clothing, haircut, voice, bodily movements they ways one interacts with others, and how they one identifies. Gender expression can differ from that which is stereotypically associated with a person’s sex assigned at birth and often changes over time.
An umbrella term used to refer to people and/or communities who identify as genders beyond the binary. Gender diverse can include people who are gender non-conforming, gender queer, gender neutral, third gender (such as hijra), or whose gender identity and or expression does not otherwise conform to binary norms.
A term to describe someone who moves between gender constructions and whose identity and expressions vary over time. A gender fluid person may move between binary genders or other genders (i.e. ‘woman’ and ‘non-binary’).
A person or people and/or communities who identify or express themselves as masculine or feminine genders; gender queer people identify within a galaxy of genders. Gender queer is a western-term that may or may not apply to specific third-gender groups. Gender queer is often used interchangeably with non-binary, although non-binary is more common.
A person who identifies with their gender assumed or sex assigned at birth. Someone who does not identify as trans or as non-binary.
An umbrella term for people whose gender does not match the assumed gender or sex they were assigned at birth. Trans usually references people who were assigned a binary sex at birth, but who identify with a different gender (i.e. assigned female at birth, identify as male or identify as non-binary). Trans does not necessarily encompass culturally-specific genders.
Can be used to describe people or communities who identify outside of the gender binary, but is more often used to refer to a person or group of people who have a specific gender identity that may or may not be legally recognised. Third gender groups include the metis of Nepal and the hijra of Bangladesh, both of whom have legal third gender recognition as well as specific social, cultural and economic roles that they play in their respective societies. Third gender is not interchangeable with non-binary, gender queer or gender-fluid.
A person, people or community who do not identify with exclusively masculine or feminine genders; non-binary people identify within a spectrum of genders. Non-binary is a term that may or may not apply to unique third gender groups.
A person’s capacity for profound emotional, romantic and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with individuals or people of a different gender, the same gender, or more than one gender. Sexual orientation can change overtime.
People and/or communities who are/identify as any gender who are not sexually attracted to any person of any gender, but who may experience romantic attraction.
People and/or communities who are/identify as sexually and/or romantically attracted to people of more than one gender.
People and/or communities who are/identify (primarily) as men, who are sexually and romantically attracted (primarily) to other people who also identify as men. Gay can also be used as an umbrella term to refer to same-sex attracted people who do not identify as male.
People and/or communities who are/identify as any gender, who are sexually and romantically attracted (primarily) to people of the opposite gender identity as themselves, not necessarily within the binary gender model (i.e. a cisgender woman and cisgender man; a cisgender woman and trans man; trans woman and trans man).
People and/or communities who are/identify as any gender, who are sexually and romantically attracted (primarily) to people of the same gender as them. This term is less commonly used and has some clinical connotations. We do not use the term homosexual and it is included here only for clarification, as it does appear in some resources.
People and/or communities who are/identify as (primarily) women, who are sexually and romantically attracted (primarily) to other people who also identify as women; people and/or communities who identify as non-binary may also identify as lesbian.
MSM (men who have sex with men)
A term that was developed and became popularised during the HIV/AIDS epidemic to describe men who may not necessarily identify as gay or bisexual, but who have sex with men. MSM describes a behaviour, not an identity. MSM remains common in medical literature including global and public health.
People and/or communities who are/identify as any gender who may be sexually and romantically attracted to people of all genders.
A person and/or communities who are/identify as any gender who may be sexually and romantically attracted to people of multiple, but not all, genders.
WSW (women who have sex with women)
A term that has been more recently developed and popularised in research and health programming for diverse SOGIESC people. WSW describes a behaviour, not an identity. WSW is most often used in health and public policy settings, and is less widely used and less known than MSM.
An umbrella term for people or communities who are/identify as non-cisgendered or non-heterosexual. Queer was previously, and by some continues to be, considered a deeply derogatory slur towards gay men. It is, however, being reclaimed within the diverse SOGIESC community, especially amongst younger people. The term ‘queer’ conveys a sense of politicality, community and connectedness that other terms do not convey; it covers sexual orientation, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics in a way that other terms do not. Individual people may refer to themselves as queer or as being members of the queer community while others may not; some agender and asexual people may identify as queer.
AREAS OF ANALYSIS
The organisation of social structures, relationships, and societal institutions based on the assumption that all people identify as either men or women; that there are only two genders. Making this assumption excludes non-binary people and people who identify as culturally as third-gender, for example Hijra (Bangladesh), Waria (Indonesia), and Leitis (Tonga). Gender binarism has negative consequences for gender non-conforming, gender queer, agender, third-gender, trans or otherwise non-binary folk in the humanitarian and development systems: for instance, assuming that all unaccompanied refugees can be safely housed in ‘male’ or ‘female’ housing puts trans and other non-binary people at risk. A trans man’s identity document may say that he is ‘female,’ but assigning him to a female barrack may put his safety and security at risk. Gender binarism is a central characteristic of cisnormativity.
The organisation of social structures, relationships, and societal institutions based on the assumption that all people are heterosexual. Heternormativity is a way of seeing and organising societies which includes passing judgement on what constitutes ‘normal’ family units and behaviours for men and women. Making this assumption excludes gay, lesbian, bi and other people who are not heterosexual. For instance, the vast majority of housing for refugees is based on heteronormative understandings of relationships whereby a ‘family unit’ contains a husband, a wife, children and extended family. This does not account for same-sex couples or rainbow families.
The assumption that all people have genitalia, hormones and chromosomes that conform to social and medical definitions of female and male bodies. Making this assumption excludes intersex people. The exclusion of intersex people through dyadism or through dyadic assumptions poses significant challenges for the intersex community: health care, public showers and toilets, and even amateur and professional sporting regulations are developed with a dyadic framework.
The organisation of social structures, relationships, and societal institutions based on the assumption that all people’s gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Making this assumption excludes trans and other gender diverse peoples. For instance, women’s rights organisations and movements can struggle to move beyond unifying calls rooted in cisnormativity: assuming that all people who identify as women have a shared experiences rooted in biology (such as menstruation, childbirth, or even experiences with hormonal birth control) exclude trans women and intersex people. See cis/cisgender.
Intersectionality is a framework that acknowledges and critically considers how different characteristics—such as gender, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability, age, rurality, geographic location, nationality and/or religion—interact to shape an individual person or group’s experience of the world. In this way, intersectionality does not consider one characteristic to be a person’s primary ‘source’ or marginalisation, but seeks to understand how multiple characteristics can compound and shape marginalisation or, equally, create opportunities for empowerment and resilience. An intersectional analysis of refugee food distribution would, for instance, consider how a person’s gender identity and expression; sexual orientation; age; marital status; whether or not a person cares for children; whether the person is in a romantic partnership or is single; religion; ethnicity and physical and mental dis/abilities might change their ability to access food.