Teaching LGBTIQ+ students
Deakin at Midsumma Pride March 2017 (Deakin Life 2017)
‘Deakin sees the diversity of its staff and students as a great strength and a much valued asset for our learning community. We support diversity in the higher education sector and we recognise the rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex students and employees to learn, live and work, free of prejudice and discrimination, with all the essential freedoms enjoyed by other members of our University community and the broader population.’
Prof. Jane den Hollander, AO Vice Chancellor (Deakin University 2018)
An LGBTIQ+ inclusive approach may be unfamiliar ground for many staff, who, consequently could lack confidence in this area. The following sections provide practical information around language use, curriculum design, teaching practices, and student engagement to build staff awareness and capacity that fosters safe and inclusive learning environments. To this end, we must ensure LGBTIQ+ students are wholly acknowledged, accepted and supported within university life, and that their concerns, experiences and narratives are sensitively and respectfully reflected in curriculum materials.
A note on terminology
At Deakin we have chosen the acronym LGBTIQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, intersex, queer, plus) as the most readily understood by the general community. ‘Plus’ refers to the expanding variants, which include allies and those who choose to identify otherwise. We are inclusive of all individuals within our community irrespective of how they choose to self-identify or self-describe. We acknowledge that defining people according to particular categories is a contested area as no single term or group of terms adequately captures the diversity of human sexuality and gender and how such diversity intersects with other socio-cultural categories (ethnicity, age, religion, demography etc.).
Indeed, it is important to be aware that the terms ‘gay’, lesbian’, ‘bisexual’, ‘trans’, ‘queer’ and ‘intersex’ can be seen as foreign to those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. It is good practice to consult with sex/sexuality/gender diverse people and communities about the use of terminology instead of imposing our understanding onto them. To learn more about the vocabulary of LGBTIQ+ please refer to the Glossary section.
How many LGBTIQ+ students at Deakin?
Unless students are comfortable disclosing their sexuality or gender-diverse status, the exact size of this group at Deakin is to a large extent hidden or unreported. As a guide, we can look to estimates in the general population. Although difficult to accurately determine the total LGBTIQ+ population in Australia due to challenges in obtaining comprehensive reliable data 1 up to 11% of Australians may be of diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity (AHRC 2014), with higher rates of LGB people reported in younger age groups (ABS 2015).
What this means is that in any seminar or class that there is the increasing likelihood you could be teaching numerous LGBTIQ+ students.
1 In 2014, the fourth General Social Survey in Australia found over half a million people or 3.0% of the adult population identified as gay, lesbian or 'other' (ABS 2015). However, self-identification is not necessarily an indicator of sexual attraction or experience. The Australian Survey of Health and Relationships, based on a representative sample of 19,307 people (Smith et al. 2003), found that although 97.5% identified as heterosexual and almost 2.5% identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, 11.8% reported same-sex attraction or experience. Similarly, while the 2016 Australian census data reported 5.4 people per 100,000 identified as other than 'male' or 'female', methodological challenges rendered this number (1260 of the total Australian population) as 'a minimum estimate and is expected to have been substantially under-reported' (ABS 2018). In this regard, international evidence suggests the number of trans* people is between 1:500 and 1:11,500 (cited in Rosenstreich 2013, p. 2). In addition, no reliable data exists for Australia’s intersex population, with estimates ranging from one in 2,000 births to four per cent of the population (AHRC 2014).
What challenges do LGBTIQ+ students encounter?
LGBTIQ+ university students are twice as likely as their heterosexual and cisgender peers to experience mental health problems (Aronin & Smith 2016).
- Discrimination as a stigmatised minority group can lead to negative treatment by peers and teachers and other university staff. This may be overt homophobia, biphobia, transphobia or more subtle types of discrimination (often unintentional due to lack of understanding of LGBTIQ+ issues), and forms of exclusion including self-exclusion. Such experiences may lead to psychological stress, isolation, low self-confidence and self-esteem, poor performance, mental health problems, missing classes, and discontinuation of study (Bachmann & Gooch 2018, Ward & Gale 2016; Valentine, Wood & Plummer 2009).
- Invisibility: As opposed to other equity groups whereby universities record statistical data, LGBTIQ+ students are largely invisible as they are not recognised as a target group in terms of access, success and retention. Such lack of acknowledgement compounds experiences of discrimination and homo/bi/trans-phobias.
- Mental Health: LGBTIQ+ people have a higher risk for mental health problems including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide/suicidal ideation than the Australian national population (Leonard, Lyons & Bariola 2015; Leonard & Metcalf 2014; Rosenstreich 2013).
- Lack of LGBTIQ+ role models at university particularly at senior level.
- Lack of curricular representation of LGBTQI+.
- Transmission of dominant norms, values and beliefs in the 'hidden curriculum' whereby unintended learning occurs through social interactions in teaching and learning spaces via implicit messages.
- Study/internship programs in organisations or countries where LGBTIQ+ people are not protected or respected.
- Challenging abusive behaviour/language in situations where they don’t feel safe or have a power imbalance.
What difficulties do some teaching staff face?
One of the key obstacles to inclusive and anti-discriminatory teaching is a lack of confidence, knowledge and deeper understanding about LGBTIQ+ people and their experiences rather than actual homo/bi/trans-phobia. Not wanting to 'get it wrong' leads to saying nothing, which may further exclude LGBTIQ+ students from teaching and learning environments. At a minimum staff have both university and legal obligations to provide equitable learning environments that are free from discrimination and exclusion (refer to Diversity and Inclusion Policy and LGBTIQ+ Plan 2017 – 2020 (PDF 317KB)).
Issues of concern
- Language: understanding LGBTIQ+ terminology and how to use pronouns effectively.
- Safety and comfort: how to make LGBTIQ+ students feel comfortable.
- Visibility: how to make gender and sexual diversity visible in the curriculum.
- Discrimination: how to effectively challenge exclusionary and homo/bi/trans-phobic language, behaviour and attitudes.
A model for LGBTIQ+ inclusivity in higher education
Download an alternative format Ward-Gale Model for LGBTQ-inclusivity in higher education (DOCX 13KB).
Levels of inclusivity
University staff, structures and systems demonstrate a basic awareness that gender and sexuality are not simply defined as binary (gay/straight, male/female, man/woman etc.) but are diverse and often exceed the category boundaries that are commonly used. These include:
- student management systems that allow for preferred names, genders and pronouns
- university discrimination and harassment policies
- LGBTIQ+ awareness training and professional development for staff
- directing students to relevant support services, resources and university clubs and societies.
Take a more active approach to ensuring gender and sexual diversity is visible within university culture and pedagogy. This could include:
- adding in a topic on diversity or minority issues without 'othering' these identities against the default assumption of the white, male, middle-class person as the norm
- identifying LGBTIQ+ role models and positive examples within the discipline
- avoiding cisnormative or heteronormative language in the classroom.
Proactive strategies and practices in which teaching and learning spaces provide safe forums to critically and sensitively engage with gender and sexual diversity and promote student engagement in social action. For example:
- critical discussion of gender and sexuality issues relevant to the discipline
- LGBTIQ+ staff and allies who act as role models and mentors to challenge abuse and support students to thrive
- avoid overt tokenism of including gender and sexuality discussions in teaching practice through ensuring that content is contextualised otherwise teaching will instinctively stay within the heteronormative frame that renders minority students as ‘other’.
(Adapted from Ward and Gale 2016 (PDF 10.8MB))
How to use inclusive language
'Language is inclusive when we use words in ways that demonstrate our respect for how people describe their own genders, bodies and relationships. It is important to show this respect even when we are describing people who are not present.'
Discriminatory language excludes or stereotypes LGBTIQ+ individuals and can cause unintentional harm. Respectful, inclusive language mitigates actual or feared prejudice, whereas thoughtless or disrespectful language intensifies it. For more information and examples, see How to use inclusive language (State Government of Victoria 2018).
- Clearly explain what constitutes discriminatory or abusive language: Include a statement in your unit guide on what constitutes discriminatory or abusive language, and that it won’t be tolerated. Discuss with your students.
- Refrain from using discriminatory language, and challenge its use by students and staff.
- Don’t assume the sexual or gender identity of your students.
- Avoid and challenge heteronormativity by identifying 'heteronormative' and 'cisnormative' language and practices and what these concepts mean within the context of your unit content and learning outcomes. Encourage students to explore their meanings and provide examples.
- Discuss preferred forms of address, names and pronouns with your students, and explain why it is good practice. Share your own pronouns to open up discussion as a safe space. Invite students to share how they wish to be addressed, but make clear that pronoun sharing is optional and not mandatory. Some students may be uncomfortable self-disclosing, particularly in group settings, especially if they are in the process of transitioning or questioning their own gender. For a considered discussion on this issue read this short essay by Oliver Haimson and Lee Airton (2019).
- Understand the meaning and implication of binary and non-binary terms and identities. Gender diversity includes those who do not identify with either masculine or feminine terms. In recent years, gender neutral terms are becoming more common in everyday discourse. The gender neutral term for Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms is Mx. Pronouns they, them and their are now grammatically acceptable to use in singular form. Other non-binary pronouns include ze or zie (pronounced zee) instead of 'she/he' and hir (pronounced like the word 'here') instead of 'her/his'. Refer to the Deakin University Gender Transition Guide (PDF 1.16MB) for more information.
Defining sex, gender and sexuality
LGBTIQ+ language is constantly evolving and expanding in ways that reflect how the identity categories of sex, gender and sexuality are interrelated and fluid i.e. cannot be simply constrained to binary categories such as male/female, masculine/feminine, gay/lesbian or straight/gay. Such categories are underpinned by dualistic models that position forms of sex and gender as being either/or i.e. mutually exclusive. This excludes those who sit outside such categorisation. Given the number of LGBTIQ+ students and staff and the significant disadvantages they may face, it is important for all staff to familiarise themselves with and gain understanding of these terms and the nuances of meaning.
Let's look at what we mean by the terms 'sex', 'gender' and 'sexuality'.
Sex and gender
- Sex refers to biological sex characteristics—hormones, chromosomes, gonads, external anatomy etc. - which are used to determine gender (boy or girl) at birth. Typically, sex difference is classified in binary terms as either male or female according to genitalia. However, this fails to capture numerous intersex conditions in which individuals are born with biological traits that are: neither male nor female, both male and female at once, somewhere between male and female, or something that escapes current ways of describing human sexual difference.
- Gender denotes the social categories and/or internal sense of being man/woman, boy/girl, masculine/feminine (which exist on a continuum rather than being mutually exclusive) and other gender-diverse or gender non-conformist ways of being. Gender expression is perceived externally through physical presentation such as hair, clothing, mannerisms, behaviour etc.
- Sex and gender alignment: A person's sense of their gender may or may not align with their biological sex characteristics.
- Sex and gender identities with which you should become familiar include: intersex, transgender, MTF (male-to-female), FTM (female-to-male), non-binary, fluid, genderqueer, gender diverse, androgynous, cisgender (Refer to the Glossary section).
- Sexuality is broadly considered in terms of:
- Identity: how a person conceives of their sexuality and what terms they use to denote it.
- Orientation: emotional, romantic and/or physical attractions to those of another sex/gender, the same sex/gender or all sexes/genders.
- Behaviour: specific sexual activities or ways of being.
Importantly, identity, orientation and behaviour may or may not align with each other. For example, a person may experience same-sex attraction but identify as straight.
- 'Sexual preference' is a pejorative term and no longer used as it suggests that sexuality is a choice of lifestyle or behaviour that can be changed, 'cured' or converted.
- Familiarise yourself with the lexicon of sexual identities, orientations and practices, which includes many terms such as: lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, queer, pansexual, MSM (men who have sex with men), WSW (women who have sex with women), polyamory (Refer to the Glossary section).
Gender pronoun usage
Please note these are not the only pronouns as new ones continually emerge in our language. Always ask someone for their pronouns.
She is speaking
The backpack is hers
I listened to her
He is speaking
The backpack is his
I listened to him
They are speaking
The backpack is theirs
I listened to them
Ze (or Zie)/Hir or Zir/Hirs or Zirs/Hirself or Zirself
Ze is speaking
The backpack is zirs
I listened to zir
(Trans Medical Research 2018)
Discussing sexual orientation and gender
An inclusive teaching approach is where conversations about sexual orientation and gender arise when relevant to the unit content and learning outcomes (avoid 'forcing' discussion or adding token mention on such issues when it is not required). However, open discussion about LGBTIQ+ can potentially present various challenges in classroom forums. LGBTIQ+ students may not be visible or wish to self-disclose. And it is often unfamiliar ground for many staff who fear 'getting it wrong' rather than being homo/bi/trans-phobic. There are also potential issues around causing offence to students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (Ward & Gale 2016, p. 12) whose cultures preclude discussion or acknowledgement of LGBTIQ+ or indeed take a punitive and oppressive stance towards such orientations and behaviours.
Tips and strategies
- Reflect and act if you experience discomfort in this arena as a teacher. Take some time to reflect on why this might be the case; examine your assumptions, biases and possible lack of knowledge. Discuss your concerns with a Diversity and Inclusion staff member experienced in this field who can offer advice or suggestions.
- Explicitly state that homophobia, biphobia, transphobia will not be tolerated.
- Challenge or call out instances of discriminatory, abusive or exclusionary behaviour or language.
- Engage positively with all types of difference and diversity: race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability, socioeconomic status, age (don’t ignore some types of diversity).
- Refer to inclusive language resources such as the Inclusive language guide for some suggestions about what to say in particular situations.
- Cultivate a safe and accepting learning environment that encourages all students participate positively—to always speak respectfully and be open to alternative views. Collaborate with your students to formulate a class contract in Week 1, which includes managing this expectation. See Plan to teach inclusively for further tips.
- Critique power—Who has it? Who doesn’t? Encourage students to critically examine relations of power, privilege and agency that arise in exploring LGBTIQ+ issues and how these intersect with other social dimensions and contexts.
- Direct to student support: Deakin's LGBTIQ+ support services and resources. Email Diversity and Inclusion for staff and student advice and support.
How to handle discriminatory comments
- Clarify the student’s point to avoid misinterpretation. Students may inadvertently or unintentionally say something that appears offensive or discriminatory because they don't have the relevant tools to understand or articulate complex issues. If you think this might be the case, offer the student a chance to explain the questions or confusions behind their statement:
"What do you mean by X?" Or
"I heard you saying Y; is that what you meant to say or are you trying to say something different such as …?"
Depersonalise insensitive or discriminatory statements
- Focus on the behaviour not the person: critically interrogate the statement not the speaker.
- Open up discussion to the whole class noting the potential of a statement to be offensive or ignore other points view:
- Rather than saying "X’s comment" reframe it as:
"The point made about Y … what other perspectives are not addressed here?” or "Let's look at the last comment, which could be seen as discriminatory, although this may not have been the intent. What do others think? Have you experienced any instances of this?"
- You could note the impact of a remark without attributing ownership to the speaker:
"When I hear Y spoken about in such terms, I respond by considering …"
- Point out when relevant, that a commonly-held view has been raised:
"Many people agree with this perspective. What grounds might they have to support this view?" And then: "Who might oppose this position and why?"
- Raise the issue as part of general feedback at the end of a session or in the next class/seminar noting you have reflected on it and wish to unpack it further.
- One-to-one discussion: If you feel it is more appropriate, you could discuss the discriminatory statement with the speaker one-to-one at the end of the teaching session. However, this approach does not allow the wider student group to critically engage with and challenge acceptance of the comment.
Validate the student’s contribution
- Open up, not 'shut down': As teachers, we need to encourage students to continue engaging in class discussion and offering their thoughts. So rather than 'shut down' a student, use their contribution to open up debate on the issue:
"Thank you for bringing up that point. It's commonly held and you have opened up the chance to consider the importance of other perspectives that challenge it." Or
"You've given this topic some careful thought. It raises a very important question about a complex issue that needs critical consideration".
(Adapted from University of Michigan n.d.; Ward & Gale 2016)
Make students aware of Deakin’s Gender and sexuality studies major. Students from any faculty may choose to undertake selective units or the complete major. The major comprises a structured interdisciplinary programme for studying sex, gender and sexuality, drawing on local knowledges and histories, while also situating these ideas in their global context. It emphasises the intersectional dimensions of gender and sexuality, addressing questions of class, citizenship, ethnicity, race, religion, ability and geographical location.
- Representation of LGBTIQ+ content in curriculum is important as it sends the message that LGBTIQ+ people and their lives are valued and not minimised. Simples strategies include using inclusive vocabulary in your teaching examples e.g. gender neutral names (Chris, Jay, Ashleigh), gender neutral pronouns (they, their, them) and gender neutral relationship terms (partner, spouse).
- Teach LGBTIQ+ issues where they are relevant to your discipline and curriculum content without tokenism or 'forcing' it. It is preferable to do this in an integrated way, throughout the assessments, activities and resources, but at a minimum it may be possible to include a week on 'diversity' issues.
- Don’t miss opportunities to include and discuss LGBTIQ+ issues, e.g. in survey design—such as including all genders, not just male or female; client service with diverse types of people—such as designing for different family and relationship formations; and managing disclosure and safety when on placements.
- LGBTIQ+ diversity intersects with diversity in other social dimensions/structures/systems—such as race/ethnicity, law, health, education, religion, class, age—offering creative avenues to generate discussion or incorporate LGBTIQ+ readings.
- Discuss power relations and structures when relevant to the curriculum to routinely examine how power, privilege, agency, culture and social constructions work to promote some interests and disadvantage others. Model a critical approach and encourage students to take action. Explain the concept of an ally as someone who is a member of the dominant group and speaks out against social injustice.
- Challenge and critically interrogate heteronormativity where it exists in the curriculum and content, particularly taken-for-granted assumptions that the social norm is 'white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied', which marginalises and constructs LGBTIQ+ and other minority peoples as 'other' and 'inferior'. For example, highlight stories of LGBTIQ+ heroes in the discipline while focusing on their work and achievements rather than their gender and/or sexual orientation.
- Set flexible assessments where unit design allows and is relevant to the discipline set. For example, provide options that enable students to explore topics of interest to them while still meeting requirements for assessment of learning outcomes.
- Use positive examples showcasing diversity and using appropriate vocabulary and images. Explore how these challenge conventional binary labels with notions of fluidity, intersectionality, complexity and ambiguity.
- Avoid content that is negative, pathologises, victimises or sensationalises LGBTIQ+ people and issues within a deficit model i.e. as being a problem or needing help.
- LGBTIQ+ and Study abroad/Work Integrated Learning: Actively seek feedback from students on placement or study abroad programs about potentially discriminatory or abusive situations and behaviour in the placement environment and support them through these. Refer to Deakin Abroad for safety and assistance guidelines.
Teaching sensitive topics
Please note: this section will be fully developed into a separate topic coming soon to this website. Please subscribe to our site if you haven't done so already and you will be notified when this content is available.
Curriculum content on sexuality and gender may necessarily broach topics that are of a sensitive, explicit or violent nature. This raises many issues of concern for both staff and students including:
- selection of appropriate and relevant material
- how to engender discussions and critical analysis in safe and respectful spaces
- how to teach topics that may trigger extreme discomfort for students with traumatic histories
- being aware of cultural sensitivities
- understanding the debate on trigger warnings and academic freedom (DOCX 789KB) that underlies these issues
- legal and university compliance (see Deakin's policies and procedures below).
For a discussion of these issues and how to address them in your teaching please refer to: Teaching sensitive material: a multidisciplinary perspective (Heath et al. 2017)
Deakin policy and procedures
- Visibility: Research underlines the importance of and need for LGBTIQ+ role models (including allies) - particularly at senior level– who are visible in the classroom and on campus as it gives students confidence and a knowledge of safe people to talk to if they have problems. Modelling inclusive language, attitudes and behaviour through open, supportive and respectful discussion paves the way for LGBTIQ+ students to feel comfortable in their university interactions. Wearing a rainbow lanyard is one way of signifying your approachability to students.
- Boundary maintenance: Be aware that being a role model in the learning environment may present boundary issues with or levels of discomfort from students. Seek advice from Deakin's Diversity and Inclusion staff if you encounter situations of which you are unsure.
- Mentoring Partnership Program (MPP) for Deakin staff includes the option for pairing LGBTIQ+ mentees and mentors. The six month program offers safe and supportive spaces for role models to mentor other teaching and professional staff.
- Deakin's Gender and Sexuality Studies Research Network fosters scholarly, collegial and community-connected explorations of questions linked to the significance of sex, gender and sexuality in contemporary and historical cultures. It offers as safe and supportive space for Deakin staff and HDR students to come together and share their LGBTIQ+ research interests and academic activities.
- External role models: While it is not always possible to have faculty or school staff available or comfortable acting as role models, it is generally possible to identify other LGBTIQ+ mentors, writers, theorists, or scientists within your disciplinary fields to students.
Deakin case study
HSH 313 Contemporary Health Issues
School of Health and Social Development, Faculty of Health
Ms Teresa Capetola and Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli
HSH313 Contemporary Health Issues is a core unit within the Bachelor of Health Sciences and Bachelor of Public Health and Health Promotion. When it was taught by the authors the aim was for students to explore a range of contemporary health topics within critical frameworks including media deconstruction and critical discourse analysis. Writers such as Foucault (1977, 1988), Lupton (1993, 1994), Dally (1995) and Bandura (2002) facilitated students to hone skills for critical engagement with contemporary health issues (such as experiences of LGBTIQ+ communities) especially as represented in multiple media platforms. Students were also encouraged to reflect on personal and societal values within a reflexive framework embedded in the 'sociological imagination' (Mills 2000).
Assessment tasks explored links between identity categories and their co-creation within social structures. Guest speakers with lived experiences (such as Dr Julie Peters, renowned transgender writer, activist and scholar) were invited to present to students and were assured of respectful and supportive teaching and learning environments. Pre-emptive readings, and in Julie’s case an introductory video she developed especially for HSH313 students, both introduced and contextualised the contemporary health issue within course learning outcomes and health profession standards. This was to both reinforce student code of conduct and in anticipation of possible student distress.
Students were also encouraged to share their experiences and reflections on the Unit Discussion Board, which was closely and regularly monitored by unit teaching team members. Students needed to agree to maintain collegial confidentiality and to take responsibility for not reproducing, or contributing to, the marginalisation, stereotyping, denigration or vilification of communities and individuals examined in Contemporary Health Issues content.
Discussion of youth suicide was facilitated by one of two experts in the youth and homelessness sectors and augmented with readings which deconstructed media representation of suicide reporting (Legge 2011).
Contemporary health issues, such as experiences of LGBTIQ+ communities and youth suicide, were presented in supportive learning environments with teaching team members dedicated to social justice and equity as well as student-centred learning. Critical tools for interrogating social construction, and media representations, empowered students to reflect on their own, and society’s contribution to the construction of contemporary health issues.
For a detailed discussion of the theories and teaching introduced above, as well further examples, we recommend reading the following available in Deakin library:
- Capetola, T & Pallotta-Chiarolli, M 2017, '"Let’s face it": tertiary students consuming, producing, and critically appraising media representations of contemporary health issues', in LM Nicolsia & RA Goldstein (eds.), Through a Distorted Lens: Media as Curricula and Pedagogy in the 21st Century, Sense Publishers, The Netherlands, pp. 129-150.
Affirmed gender: Self-identification of one's post-transition gender that aligns to a person's inner sense of gender rather than that which has been designated at birth. The term 'affirmed' is preferred to 'chosen' or 'acquired'.
Ally: A person who is heterosexual or cisgender and supports LGBTIQ+ communities and their causes. An ally speaks out against social injustice, whereas a bystander is someone who does not intervene when an injustice is being perpetrated.
Androgynous: Appearing as partly male and partly female, which effects an ambiguous or indeterminate gender presentation.
Agender: A person who identifies as or experiences not having a gender.
Asexual: An adjective to describe those who do not experience sexual attraction, asexual people may have affective or emotional relationships.
Biphobia: Negative beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes about people who are bisexual.
Bisexual, bi: The capacity for, or experience of, physical, romantic, emotional and/or psychological attraction to more than one sex or gender. Variations of this terminology may include fluid, omnisexual, pansexual, multi-sexual, polysexual.
Brotherboys and Sistergirls: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are transgender. Brotherboy denotes a female-born person who lives and presents as a male. Sistergirl denotes a male-born person who lives and presents as a female.
Cisgender: Describes men and women who have not experienced any discord between their birth sex designation and subsequent sense of being a girl/woman, boy/man.
Cisnormative: The assumption that all individuals are cisgender i.e. the norm that their sex designation at birth aligns with their gender identity as man/boy or woman/girl.
Cross-dresser: A person who intermittently wears clothes traditionally associated with those of the 'opposite' gender. The term is sometimes used synonymously or interchangeably with 'transvestite'. However, because of the association of 'transvestite' with sexological discourses of pathology (regarding fetishism and sexual arousal – which usually refers to men who cross-dress for sexual pleasure) – the term is avoided unless quoting someone who self-identifies in this manner.
Drag King: A woman who wears an exaggerated or stereotypical form of female clothing for entertainment purposes. Drag kings may identify as female when not in drag and as male when in drag. Some may choose other gender-diverse ways of identifying.
Drag Queen: A man who wears an exaggerated or stereotypical form of female clothing for entertainment purposes. Drag queens may identify as male when not in drag and as female when in drag. Some may choose other gender-diverse ways of identifying.
Fluid/fluidity: The concept or identity category that indicates sexual orientation, sexuality and gender are dynamic and may shift or change over time.
Gay: An adjective that predominantly refers to men—but is also used to indicate women as well—who are physically, romantically and/or sexually attracted to the same sex. Avoid using the term 'homosexual', which is outdated and considered offensive.
Gender: Denotes the social categories and/or internal sense of being man/woman, boy/girl, masculine/feminine (which exist on a continuum rather than being mutually exclusive) and other gender-diverse or gender non-conformist ways of being. Gender expression is perceived externally through physical presentation such as hair, clothing, mannerisms, behaviour etc. A person's sense of their gender may or may not align with their biological sex characteristics.
Genderqueer: Describes those who may see themselves as being both man and woman, as being neither man nor woman, or as falling completely outside the gender binary and, therefore, not captured by current nomenclature.
Gender normative: The assumption that gender is expressed in socially acceptable ways i.e. behaving/acting/appearing appropriately as man or woman. This serves to exclude and disempower those who do not conform to behaviours/acts that are considered by dominant society as 'normal' i.e. socio-culturally acceptable.
Heteronormative: The dominant system of societal norms, discourses, and practices that constructs heterosexuality as 'natural', acceptable and superior to all other forms of sexuality.
Heterosexism: The set of beliefs that privilege heterosexuality, heterosexual relationships and cisgendered identities over non-heterosexual relationships and gende-diverse identities.
Homonormative: Although not equivalent to heteronormativity in terms of hierarchical relations of dominance and oppression, homonormativity upholds the socio-cultural legitimation of exclusive homosexual identities (gay and lesbian) over and above sexualities that are more diversely or fluidly conceived, such as bisexuality. It further inculcates ‘mainstream gay acceptability’ that is grounded upon neoliberal social norms of white, middle-class, monogamous coupling (Duggan 2002; Pallotta-Chiarolli 2010).
Homophobia: Negative beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes about people who are not heterosexual.
Intersex: An umbrella term that describes those who are physically diverse in terms of what we think of as biological sex characteristics – such as hormones, chromosomes, gonads, and external anatomy. There are at least 40 known intersex variations (Carpenter 2019). Intersex people may be 'neither wholly female nor wholly male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male' (Sex Discrimination Amendment Act (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) 2013 Cth), or something that escapes current paradigms for describing human sexual difference. Intersex persons identify across the sex/gender and sexuality spectrum: as male, female, men, women, transgender, twin-spirited, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or in ways that do not fit current codification possibilities. Importantly, the term is not synonymous with transgender nor does it indicate sexuality.
Lesbian: A woman who is physically, romantically and/or sexually attracted to other women. Avoid using the term 'homosexual', which is outdated and considered offensive.
LGBTIQ+: Acronym for 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer' and others who choose varying ways of identifying. Also commonly denoted as LGBT, GLBT, LGB etc. Predominantly used to signify diversity of sex/gender/sexuality communities. Variations may include additional initials such as Q (questioning), A (allies), A (asexual).
Misgendering: An instance where a person is referred or spoken to in terms that do not correspond to their gender identity. For example, using incorrect pronouns (he, she, they etc.), kinship terminology (father, mother, brother, aunt). If unsure, always ask what language is preferred by the person at an appropriate moment.
MSM and WSW: Respectively denotes 'men-who-have-sex-with-men' and 'women-who-have-sex with-women'. This terminology is commonly used in health literature.
MTF and FTM: Respectively denotes 'male-to-female' and 'female-to-male' persons who now live full-time in their affirmed sex/genders. Ways of self-identifying vary and may include: trans man, trans woman, bi-gendered, while others may identify only as their affirmed gender i.e. man or woman.
Non-binary: Refers to gender identities or expressions—such as genderqueer, agender, gender-diverse, gender fluid, androgynous—that are not simply ‘man’ or ‘woman’ but may comprise both, neither, something in-between, or fluid expressions that vacillate over time.
Non-monogamy: Non-exclusive partnerships, the meaning and parameters of which are specific to individual circumstances and contexts.
Pansexual: The capacity for, or experience of, physical, romantic, emotional and/or psychological attraction to persons irrespective of their gender. Variations of this terminology may include bisexual, fluid, omnisexual, multi-sexual or polysexual.
Polyamory: Indicates relationships in which individuals have multiple romantic, sexual, and/or affective partners. Polyamory emphasises long-term emotionally intimate relationships that are premised on an ethics of full disclosure and honesty. Guidelines and parameters for the organisation and logistics of each polyamorous situation are negotiated between partners and vary according to context. Also referred to a poly or poly lifestyle.
Queer: Reclaimed from its pejorative history as a form of abuse (deriding homosexuality), queer is used variously, though not universally, to indicate LGBTIQ+ communities or people who contest the binaries of sex, gender and sexuality. The emergence of queer identities (or anti-identities) and queer politics has been integral in developing queer theoretical perspectives in academic scholarship across cultural studies, social sciences and humanities.
Sex: Refers to biological sex characteristics—hormones, chromosomes, gonads, external anatomy etc.—which are used to determine gender (boy or girl) at birth. Typically, sex difference is classified in binary terms as either male or female according to genitalia. However, this fails to capture numerous intersex conditions in which individuals are born with biological traits that are: neither male nor female, both male and female at once, somewhere between male and female, or something that escapes current ways of describing human sexual difference.
Sexual behaviour: Refers to specific sexual activities or ways of being.
Sexual identity: Refers to how a person conceives of their sexuality and what terms they use to denote.
Sexual orientation: Comprises emotional, romantic and/or physical attractions to those of another sex/gender, the same sex/gender or all sexes/genders.
Transgender: Often shortened to trans or trans*, this is an umbrella term embracing all those whose gender identity is not congruent with their designated sex at birth. Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically. It includes but is not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers, and genderqueer.
Transphobia: Negative beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes that exist about trans* and gender diverse people.
Transsexual: Originating from medical and psychological discourse, transsexual is sometimes employed to indicate physical alteration of the body via hormonal and/or surgical intervention. It is not an umbrella term and many prefer to use 'transgender' to self-identify.
- Deakin University Gender Transition Guide (PDF 1.16KB) (Deakin University 2018)
- GLAAD Media Reference Guide, 10th Edition (GLAAD 2016)
- Inclusive language guide (State Government of Victoria 2018)
- Inclusive Language Guide: Respecting People of Intersex, Trans and Gender Diverse Experience (PDF 380KB) (Ansara 2013)
- LGBTIQ+ communities: glossary of common terms (Australian Institute of Family Studies 2017)
- Re-visioning bisexuality: rhizomatic cartographies of sex, gender and sexuality (PDF 4.3MB) (Watson 2012)
- Sistergirls/Brotherboys: The status of Indigenous transgender Australians (Kerry 2014)
Further information, resources and support services
Diversity and Inclusion at Deakin offers LGBTIQ+ advice and support to staff and students.
Deakin LGBTIQ+ provides a wealth of information and resources for staff and students including: the University's strategic LGBTIQ+ Plan, support services, training, working at Deakin, international students, gender transition, and Deakin's LGBTIQ+ Community and Allies networks.
Gender Transition Procedure at Deakin for students and staff who identify as trans* or gender diverse and who are undergoing or considering a transition. The procedure outlines the University processes for supporting gender transition.
Deakin University Gender Transition Guide provides information and links to the services that Deakin University provides in support to transgender staff and students.
Being Seen and Heard is a video featuring Deakin student Hannah and her mother Meghan as they explore their relationship with regard to gender transition and show how mutual understanding helped them to be stronger. Their story is a lesson of resilience and acceptance, a lesson to fight for what we want and who we are.
Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC) is a peak body for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer individuals and community groups of multicultural and multifaith backgrounds.
Ananda Training and Consultancy deliver bespoke training programs on:
- Intersectionality: Exploring intersectionality as a framework to enhance workplace diversity and inclusion strategies. Specialising in LGBTI and intersectionality.
- Sexuality, Sex and Gender Diversity (LGBTI 101): An express training to understand sexuality, sex, and gender diversity and inclusive practice.
Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA) promotes human rights and bodily autonomy. IHRA's goals are to help create a society where intersex bodies are not stigmatised, and where intersex rights as people are recognised. IRHA builds community, evidence, capacity, and education and information resources.
Transgender Victoria (TGV) is Victoria’s leading body for trans* and gender diverse advocacy. TGV works to achieve justice, equity and inclusive service provision, training and resources for trans* and gender diverse people, their partners, families and friends, and the media.
Bi Alliance Victoria is a non-profit volunteer-run organisation dedicated to promoting the acceptance of bisexuals in LGBTIQ+ and mainstream society. It provides a welcoming, relaxed safe space where bisexuals can meet, make friends, and talk about their experiences, and informs the bisexual community about relevant news and opportunities for activism.
Rainbow Network provides safe inclusive services for young same sex attracted, intersex, trans* and gender diverse Victorians. It offers opportunities for:
- information exchange
- community-led discussion
- guest speakers from research, government or community backgrounds
- partnership building
- developing activities and initiatives
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) works towards equality, social justice and human rights for members of the LGBTIQ+ community. The VGLRL a non-politically aligned community based lobby group that achieves its goals through representation, advocacy and working with the media.
LGBTIQ Intersect has been developed by Victorian Transcultural Mental Health (VTMH) in collaboration with [email protected], La Trobe University (GLHV). LGBTIQ Intersect is an online resource created to support culturally diverse LGBTIQ-inclusive services within an intersectional approach. This resource aims to support the visibility, safety, mental health and wellbeing, social inclusion and sense of belonging amongst LGBTIQ people from multicultural, spiritual and faith based communities.
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