Different cultures have different understandings of what being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered means.
We have come up with some definitions which may be useful for you.
Western terminology which describes sexual orientation and gender identity include:
- Straight (heterosexual) - attraction to someone of the opposite sex
- Gay - attraction to someone of the same sex, such as a man to another man, or a woman to another woman. This term can be used by both men and women
- Lesbian - attraction of a woman to another woman
- Bisexual - attraction of a person to both men and women
- Transed - 'Trans' can be used by and to describe people who are transgendered, transsexual or cross-dressers (transvestites)
- Transgendered - Transgendered people feel that the sex they were assigned at birth does not fit easily with their own gender identity. For example, a boy with male genitals may feel emotionally and consciously like a girl, and a girl, with female genitals, may feel like a boy.
- Transsexuals - Transsexuals usually want to live full-time as the gender they identify with and may choose medical procedures such as hormone treatment or surgery to change their bodies appropriately.
- Cross-dressers (transvestites) are those who choose to wear clothes that are considered to be for the opposite gender but may not want to change their bodies. Cross-dressers like to wear clothing of the opposite gender but, generally, do not identify with that gender and do not want to change their body.
- Homosexual - this word is no longer encouraged because, historically, it has promoted negative stereotypes, and the preferred wording is gay, lesbian or bisexual.
- Transvestite - this word is also outdated - today 'cross-dresser' is commonly used
- GLBT is the short description for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered. 'LGBT' is an alternative abbreviation to GLBT meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered.
- Questioning - someone who is feeling unsure about their sexuality and has not identified themselves with a specific sexual orientation.
Realising that you may be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered can be a frightening and lonely time for some people, or, for some just a time which throws up new questions.
Would you like to talk to someone - someone who won't judge you or tell you what to do, but who will listen to your thoughts and feelings? Befriending centres can help. You don't have to tell them who you are, and everything you say will be treated in complete confidence.
If you want to talk to someone right now you can call us, or contact us
There are many resources available to GLBT people, we have listed some below. If you need help or support please click on the link marked 'I need help'.