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Glossary of terms

Glossary of terms used in the guide and useful sexuality terms.

Asexual: An absence of sexual attraction or desire

Bisexual: A person who is sexually and emotionally attracted to both men and women.

Coming out: Refers to the process of acknowledging and accepting one’s own sexual orientation. It also encompasses the process of disclosing one’s sexual orientation to others. The term "closeted" refers to a state of secrecy or cautious privacy regarding one’s sexual orientation.

Fa’ afafine: This Samoan term literally means “like a woman”. Fa’ afafine is often used to refer to people born male who express feminine gender identities in a range of ways. It is sometimes used broadly across Pasifika peoples.

Female: Female can be defined by physical appearance, by chromosome constitution (XX), or by gender identification.

Gay: Gay can refer to homosexual/same-sex attracted women and men, but is more often used in relation to males.

Gender queer: Gender queer is a term some people use to describe themselves. It describes people who do not conform to traditional gender norms and who express a gender identity that is neither completely male nor female. Some people may identify as gender neutral or androgynous.

Gender expression: Refers to the way in which a person commmunicates gender within a given culture, for example, through clothing, communication patterns, or interests. A person’s gender expression may or may not be consistent with socially prescribed gender roles, and may or may not reflect their gender identity.

Gender identity: Refers to a person's identity as male, female, or transgender. When a person's gender identity and biological sex are not congruent, the individual may identify as transsexual or as another transgender category.

Gender: Refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviours that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behaviour that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative. Behaviours that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations are referred to as gender non-conformative.

Heteronormative: Heteronormativity is the cultural bias in favour of opposite-sex relationships of a sexual nature, and against same-sex relationships of a sexual nature. Because the former are viewed as normal and the latter are not, lesbian and gay relationships are subject to a heteronormative bias.

Homo/trans/bi-phobia: A fear of people who are homosexual, transgender, or bisexual that may manifest as discrimination or violence.

Heteronormativity: Refers to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation. 

Heterosexual/straight: A term used to refer to people who are sexually attracted to the other sex only.

Heterosexism: The predisposition to considering heterosexuality as "normal", which is biased against other forms of sexual orientation. This is not the same as homophobia, but is rather the discrimination against non-heterosexual people due to a cultural bias.

Homonegative: This term describes a negative attitude towards homosexuality.

Intersex: This term covers a range of people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t conform with typical definitions of "male" and "female".

Lesbian: A term that describes same-sex attracted women.

LGBTQ: An acronym for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer.

Male: Male can be defined by physical appearance, by chromosome constitution (XY), or by gender identification.

Non-heterosexual: This broad term refers to anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.

Rainbow: A generic term that incorporates all people who do not identify as heterosexual or asexual, or who do not fit standard gender identity norms, such as (but not limited to) gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, takataapui, fa afafine, queer, gender queer, fakaleiti (Tongan), Akava’ine (Cook Islands Maori), Fiafifine (Niuean), vakasalewalewa (Fijian).

Queer: A reclaimed word used in a positive sense to describe sexual orientation and/or gender identity or gender expression that does not conform to heteronormative expectations. Sometimes used as an umbrella term for same-sex attraction and gender diversity. It is more commonly used among youth and in academic contexts. It is sometimes used to reject or express rejection of traditional gender categories and distinct sexual identities such as gay, lesbian, trans, queer, bisexual, or takataapui.

Sexual health: A state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected, and fulfilled. (WHO, 2006a)

Sexual orientation: Refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation typically include attraction to members of one’s own sex (gay men or lesbians), attraction to members of the other sex (heterosexuals), and attraction to members of both sexes (bisexuals). While these categories continue to be widely used, research has suggested that sexual orientation does not always appear in such definable categories and instead occurs on a continuum. In addition, some research indicates that sexual orientation is fluid for some people.

Sexual rights: "The application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health constitute sexual rights. Sexual rights protect all people’s rights to fulfil and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due regard for the rights of others and within a framework of protection against discrimination.” (WHO, 2006a, updated 2010) 

Sexuality: "A central aspect of being human throughout life encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.” (WHO, 2006a)

Sexually transmissible infections: Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are infections that can result from unprotected sex. The most common STIs in New Zealand are: chlamydia, genital warts, genital herpes, and gonorrhea.

Te ira tangata: The physical and spiritual endowment of children and the importance of nurturing both in their education (see also Te Rūnanga Nui o ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori, 2000).

Takataapui: The traditional meaning is “intimate companion of the same sex”. Many Māori people have adopted this term as a cultural identity for being non-heterosexual or for having non-traditional gender identities.

Trans/Transgender: The term transgender is used by different groups in different ways. It is often used as an umbrella term for a variety of people who feel that the sex they were assigned at birth is a false or incomplete description of themselves. The adjective “trans” is an increasingly preferred general term. Trans can include a number of sub-categories including transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueer, and consciously androgynous people. Trans/transgender people may or may not use some form of medical intervention to better align their physical sex with their gender identity.

Transnegative: This term describes a negative attitude towards transgender people.

Whakawahine: Māori trans woman.