Some LGBTQI terms and expressions explained.


Aromantic people feel little or no romantic attraction, and are generally not interested in having romantic relationships. Aromanticism is a spectrum, meaning that the amount of romantic attraction aromantic people experience varies – some feel no romantic attraction, others occasionally or under certain circumstances. People who are aromantic can also be asexual (see below), but they don’t have to be.


A person who may not experience sexual attraction or sexual lust or, during a period of their life, does not wish to engage sexually with other people. Asexual can be used as an umbrella term for people who identify with the term in different ways, such as demisexual – when a person only feels sexual attraction to another person after having established a deep emotional connection, or autosexual – when a person only wishes to have sex with themselves. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community with many people identifying with and using the term differently.


Abbreviation of Bondage & Discipline (BD), Dominance & Submission (DS), and Sadism & Masochism (SM). BDSM is a way of practicing one’s sexuality, identity and/or preferences, where a mutual erotic exchange of power is involved, often expressed as dominance and submission. Sometimes engaging in consensual pain is part of the sexual interaction. For some people, BDSM is a sexual orientation, though it is not defined as such in Swedish law.


A person who has a romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person regardless of their sex or gender, or to more than one gender.

Cis person

A person who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. Cis is latin for “on the same side”.


The assumption that all people identify with the legal sex assigned to them at birth, and that people are expected to live according to the social codes that are associated with that sex. There is also the assertion that cisgender is the norm and being transgender is therefore abnormal or unnatural.

Compulsory ableism

A social structure whereby status and privilege is conferred upon a person based on their physical and mental ability, where people with different disabilities are excluded and made invisible. Compulsory ableism categorizes certain bodies and disabilities as deviant, as the ideal norm is a fully able body. In reality, all bodies have a variety of different abilities and this also changes throughout a lifetime.

The term accessibility is used as a way of shifting focus from the person who is breaking the norm to criticizing the excluding structure. Talking about accessibility makes it easier to highlight the problems in a certain environment that prevent a person from accessing it or actively participating, rather than talking about it as a problem related to the individual.


When a person wears items of clothing or accessories that have traditionally and socially been associated with a different sex.


Limitations of a person’s ability in relation to what is considered to be the norm. There are psychological, cognitive and physical disabilities. A person has a disability; a person is not disabled.

Drag King/Drag Queen

A person who uses gender roles, social attributes and symbols to challenge the boundaries between male and female. Often an exaggerated performance with the purpose of entertaining an audience, or in a playful way to express part of their identity.


A person who commonly identifies as a woman and has a romantic and/or sexual attraction to other women. Dyke is often used synonymously with the word lesbian.

Gay Man

A person who identifies as a man, and has a romantic and/or sexual attraction to other men.

Gender Binary

The dominant social system and classification of all people based on their sex and gender into two distinct, oppositional and disconnected forms of male (masculine) and female (feminine).

The gender binary classifies people into one of only two groups and assumes that the differences between the groups are greater than the differences between individuals within the groups. The gender binary permeates all of our social interactions and structures within society. (See also Queer)

Gender Confirming/Affirming Treatment

Earlier referred to as “sex change” but this term is no longer considered appropriate. The range of medical and/or surgical treatments offered to transgender and gender-diverse people, including counseling, speech and language therapy, hair removal, hormone therapy, and surgeries. To access publicly funded gender affirming treatment in Sweden, a person must first be assessed at one of the gender clinics. Within the healthcare system, the term gender reassignment treatment is commonly used. (See also Transsexual Person)

Gender Dysphoria

A strong and persistent feeling of having been assigned the wrong gender. This feeling is often associated with a mental illhealth and can  lead to a reduced ability to function in everyday life. Hence, persons with gender dysphoria can seek gender affirming health care.


In most contexts, the terms gender and sex are used interchangeably to systematically separate people into the different groups of men and women, however, gender/sex is much more complex.


Is defined by internal and external genitalia, chromosomes and hormones, but there is a huge diversity of bodies among female, male, and intersex people.

Legal Gender/Sex

The sex/gender as stated in the Population Register, passports and identity documentation. In Sweden, the legal gender marker is recorded in the second last digit of a person’s identity number and all people are given one of two legal genders, based on their biological sex.

Gender Identity

A person’s self-defined gender – the gender one identifies with (for example, woman, intergender, genderqueer, non-binary, man). A persons bofy and/or legal gender do not necessarily reflect a person’s gender identity.

Gender Expression

The way in which a person expresses their gender identity through presentation, accessories or behaviour that are socially associated with gender, such as clothes, body language, and hairstyle.

Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Gender-neutral pronouns, such as zie and they, are used primarily when a person does not identify as a man or woman, but rather as intergender, genderqueer or non-binary, for example. Zie or they can also be used when referring to a person whose gender identity is unknown. (Zir, hir, hirs and they, their, theirs)

GenderQueer (GQ)

A person who self-identifies as between or beyond the gender categories of man/male and woman/female. Genderqueer can be used synonymously with intergender or non-binary.


The system of norms that affect our understanding of gender and sexuality. According to heteronormativity, people are either a man/boy or woman/girl and nothing else. Women and girls are expected to be feminine, and boys and men are expected to be masculine, with everyone expected to be heterosexual.

We are all impacted by these norms, whether we conform to them or not. If we do conform or “pass”, we are entitled to certain financial, political, and social privileges. To resist and take a stand against heteronormativity, not conforming or not “passing”, may result in different levels of punishment, from invisibility to violence. (See also Gender Binary)


A person who has a romantic and/or sexual attraction to people of another sex than their own.


An ideology or attitude that is rooted in a strongly negative view of homosexuality or homosexual and bisexual people. Homophobia and transphobia usually overlap.


A person who has a romantic and/or sexual attraction to other people of the same sex. This term is frequently used in Sweden to refer to gay and lesbian people.


A person who self-identifies as between or beyond the gender categories of man/male and woman/female. Intergender is often used synonymously with non-binary and genderqueer.


A perspective that is used to study how different power structures in society are interconnected, and how different identities emerge as a result of class, religion, gender, sexuality and age, depending on the individual person, community, and context.


Intersex is an umbrella term used for a variety of experiences in which a person is born with, or develops, a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male. An intersex person may identify as female, male, or neither, and this has nothing to do with how they define their sexuality. Inter is Latin for between, and so intersex means between the sexes. A person who is not intersex is referred to as dyadic.


A person who commonly identifies as a woman and has a romantic and/or sexual attraction to other women.


An umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. The L, G, and B refer to sexual orientation, who a person feels romantically or sexually attracted to, and the T refers to gender identity and expression. Q refers to queer in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or relationships and sexual practice, but it also represents a critical view of existing norms (see Queer). The first time that the acronym, LGBT (hbt), was used in print in Sweden was in 2000 in RFSL’s member magazine, KomUt – the purpose was to broaden terms such as gay and homosexual.


A person who has sexual and/or romantic relationships exclusively with one person at a time.


A person who self-identifies as between, beyond, with both, or neither of the gender categories of woman/man. Sometimes non-binary is used as an umbrella term for different gender identities that do not fit within the gender binary, such as intergender or genderqueer.

Non-binary does not mean the same thing for everyone who identifies with it. For some, it means feeling both male and female; for others, they are between the two categories, while many non-binary people do not identify with any gender at all. Some people may wish to change their bodies with hormonal treatment and/or surgeries.

Norm Critique

A pedagogical method with the purpose of contributing to increased social equality. The aim is to shift focus from individuals, who are seen as different, to analyzing social structures and questioning what is considered to be “normal”. When working with a norm-critical perspective, there are three steps to take into consideration:

  • Highlighting and questioning norms
  • Highlighting the privileges conferred on those who conform to the norm
  • Reviewing one’s own position


A person who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to persons of all gender, or regardless of their gender.


A person who has sexual and/or emotional relationships with more than one person at a time.


Polygamy is the practice of marrying several spouses. Sometimes polygamy is used synonymous with polyamorous, but is a term used specifically about having multiple spouses.


She, he, zie, they – how a person wants to be referred to when talked about by other people (for example, Zie is kind, I like hir). A person’s pronoun may or may not reflect their gender identity. If you are uncertain about a person’s pronoun, you can ask them in a respectful way. (“What is your pronoun?/What pronoun would you like me to use when I talk about you?”) Some people prefer to be referred to by their name, rather than a pronoun. They is often used when a person’s gender is unknown.


A term based upon a critical view of ideas about what is considered normal or not regarding gender and sexuality, and how everyone is placed in specific categories resulting from a heterosexual and gender binarist perspective. In other words, a way of questioning dominant social ideas about how people should experience sexual, as well as other, relationships, how we should form families, express our gender, and so on.

There are also queer activists who organize to challenge existing norms and structures, and people who call themselves queer. For some, being queer is a way of defining their gender identity and/or sexual orientation, while for others it offers an identity where one does not have to define one’s sexual orientation and/or gender.


A process that legitimizes people from a privileged position to ascribe to others certain personal traits, experiences, opinions, cultural attributes, based on assumptions about their colour, ethnicity and/or religion, which leads to exclusion and inequality.

Rainbow family

Among LGBTQI people, a family can be so much more than the people you grew up with or live with. A rainbow family is a family were one or multiple people are LGBTQI persons. The term includes families with children, extended families and chosen families. All LGBTQI people with children do not necessarily use this word about their own family, but the term is being used increasingly. RFSL uses rainbow family as a collective generic description.

Relationship anarchy

Relationship anarchy can be practised in many different ways, but is generally about challenging norms and expectations regarding relationships. For example the expectation that people should prioritise romantic relationships over friendships, or that one should only have romantic and sexual relationships with one partner at the time.

Sexual Orientation

A term that describes a person’s identity regarding the focus of their romantic and/or sexual attraction. According to Swedish anti-discrimination legislation, there are three distinct sexual orientations – heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual. In reality, many people identify with other terms when it comes to sexual orientation.

Transgender/Trans Person

A person who does not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth. Transgender is an umbrella term with several different identities, as there are many different ways of being transgender. The term specifically refers to gender identity and gender expression, and has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation.


An ideology or attitude that is rooted in a strongly negative view of transgender or gender-diverse people. Transphobia and homophobia usually overlap.

Transsexual Person

Transsexual people have a gender identity that is inconsistent with their assigned sex and desire to permanently transition to the gender with which they identify, usually seeking medical treatment to align their body with their identified gender. Transsexualism/gender dysphoria is a medical diagnosis by which a person is assessed to undergo gender confirming/affirming treatment within the Swedish healthcare system. This process is usually referred to as transition and entails hormone treatment and surgery to change the body to become more “masculine” or “feminine”.

Gender identity is separate and distinct from a person’s sexual orientation – a transsexual person can be heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual or homosexual.

Whiteness/White Privilege

The social construction of whiteness as an ideology tied to social, financial and political status. Whiteness has historically been constructed as the norm and the embodiment of dominant culture and ideologies. White privilege goes hand in hand with racism and racialisation. It is a global phenomenon, stemming from colonialism and means that light skin is a symbol of status, also in countries where whites as an ethnic group are a small minority.