Intersexion - film on Youtube

We discussed the meaning of ‘Intersex’ and mentioned this film

Over the years, SAND has delivered sessions on terminology countless times. We have found that the most important outcome is for people to feel less threatened by language and less fearful of getting things ‘wrong’. We emphasis that language evolves and changes all the time, that different words mean different things to different people at different times – and maybe in different geographical locations. We are very unlikely to know all of the ‘right’ terms at the ‘right’ time.

What is very important, is to be willing and able to engage with others – and also to apologise when we get things ‘wrong’.

This Module highlights some of the key factors to consider about language, terminology & labels.

Language is important, but for any community which has been marginalised, pathologised and discriminated against historically, it takes on even greater import. Remember, much of the terminology associated with the LGBT+ community developed long before there were any legal rights afforded, and at a time when homosexuality was illegal.

Language is powerful. It can be used to include or exclude, to affirm or deny, to support or reject. Language is creative. This is certainly true when we talk about the LGBT+ community. Words like queer or dyke, once seen only as terms of abuse, have been reclaimed by the community.

The Glossary covers some of the terminology in use today, although a few words of caution: Use of words like queer or dyke, while acceptable to some (but by no means all) people within the LGBT+ community, take on an entirely different meaning when used by people who are not part of the community.

Language changes over time. It is fluid rather than fixed, and of course debates continue about the use of language. The glossary provides information on language currently in use, but language changes. Respect for self-definition is a key principle – for anyone serious about acknowledging and addressing LGBT inequalities. Familiarising yourself with the glossary may well raise awareness of commonly used terms, but only by listening to (or asking) people will you know how they choose to define and describe themselves.

One of the things that many of are concerned about is how to keep up with the current language and terminology. SAND uses the acronym LGBT+ as an umbrella term that essentially includes people who do not identify wholly as heterosexual or cis-gender. Others use the terms LGBTQ, LGBTQI, LGBTQIA.

The Glossary offers a series of terms and concepts that might help in our understanding. However, language is constantly changing and you may well come across words that are not included there or which have evolved in their meaning.

What’s important is to recognize that the words we use can have powerful impact on our conversations, sometimes opening hearts and minds and at other times creating distance, alienation or even fear.

Some People

  • Always knew – from a very young age….that maybe they were a bit ‘different’
  • Knew but hid from self as well as others…..maybe some sense of shame, guilt, disbelief
  • Came out later in life – might have been finally acknowledging feelings or may even have been a complete shock – out of the blue
  • Know but have chosen to ignore – sometimes successfully and sometimes not
  • Are with an opposite sex partner but have secret lovers
  • Are bisexual and may be in a same sex or opposite sex relationship
  • Are just in love with X
  • Look back and can see the signs when they were younger
  • Had an epiphanal moment
  • …it crept up on them gradually
  • Chose to ignore successfully
  • Chose to ignore less successfully
  • Are out and proud
  • Are quietly getting on with their lives in complete privacy

Language is important

Language is powerful

Language is creative

Language changes over time


The SAND Resource bank includes a tab for ‘Language’


SAND delivers a simple, yet consistently effective, group exercise around terminology where we give out a series of cards with one term on each. If there is more than one group they all have an identical set of cards. We ask each group to discuss the terms on each card and set aside the ones they feel less sure about. We then pull the whole group back together again and explore the meanings of the ‘less sure’ cards. We always use a Glossary at this point – it helps to illustrate how complex the changing world of terminology can be if we are also seen to refer to written material. It also removes a lot of stress as we try to remember!

It’s complicated!

What anyone does about their feelings/thoughts will depend on a whole host of factors

  • Own sense of self
  • Confidence – self-esteem
  • Family upbringing/messages
  • Peer group – pressures
  • Religious background
  • Country born in
  • Legal, moral and social context
  • Town live in
  • Access to others similar to you