Frequently Asked Questions
What does queer mean?
Queer is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of sexualities and gender identities, including, but not limited to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Asexual, Takatapui, Fa’afafine, Fakaleiti, Pansexual and Gender Queer. Although the term ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community, not all LGBTQIA+ people like or use the words ‘queer’ or ‘gay’.
How can you support the queer community?
Educate yourself. Use Google, or reach out to Q Canterbury if you want to learn more.
Always aim to use correct pronouns and use gender neutral language (i.e. they/them/their) if you’re not sure.
Be an advocate by speaking up for LGBTQIA+ rights.
Be a part of LGBTQIA+ events such as the Christchurch Pride Week!
Join a club! You don’t have to be queer to be a part of Q Canterbury and it’s great for others to know that you support them.
Remember: LGBTQIA+ people are people first – their gender or sexual identity is just one component of who they are. Each person will have an individual approach to how they express it and want to be identified by it.
What does LGBTQI+ mean
This article on Stuff explores similar terms and explains their meanings. To learn more, check out some of the resources and FAQs at:
- Outline NZ
- Insideout - Making Schools Safer for Trans and Gender Diverse Students
- Rainbow YOUTH - Queer + Gender Diverse
What does transgender mean?
Being transgender may mean different things for different people. Typically, a transgender person is someone whose gender identity differs from the one they were assigned at birth i.e. they do not identify as the biological sex that is registered on their birth certificate.
The term Cisgender is the contrasting term, and refers to people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth i.e. someone who is born biologically female and continues to identify as female throughout their life.
Being transgender is not a sexuality. The term ‘sexuality’ refers to someone’s level of attraction – whether sexual, romantic or emotional – to another gender. A person’s gender identity is unrelated to their sexuality and does not necessarily influence who they are attracted to.
What is ‘transitioning’?
The process of gender transition is not always the same for each person. It often entails a social change, in which a person might change the way they dress, or the pronouns they prefer to use. It may even involve a legal name change. For example, a transgender female, who may have been assigned male at birth, will generally use “she/her” pronouns, and seek to present themselves in a way that matches societal definitions of how a woman should look. The opposite applies to transgender men.
Gender transition is not always a surgical operation, and one does not need to undertake any such operation to identify as transgender. There may be medical components to some transgender people’s transition process, but this is considered personal information and needs to be treated as such.
So transitioning is something only transgender men and women do?
Not always. There are lots of different ways in which people can feel their gender identity doesn’t match the one they are assigned. Some people don’t feel comfortable fitting into these categories, and may not feel they fit into them. Other people also feel that their gender shifts and changes. Each of these people may undergo some sort of transition process. Genderfluid, agender, or gender queer are some terms that have arisen to describe these gender identities.
Using correct terminology
The terms ‘Trans’ or ‘Transgender’ are the most acceptable terms to use to refer to transgender people. Both are used as adjectives (i.e. “a trans person” or, “a transgender person” instead of “a transgender”). In some cases certain people will prefer to use different terms to these, in which case it is important to adhere to their wishes.
Pronouns are extremely important as they not only represent a person’s identity, but misusing them can compromise a transgender person’s sense of safety and comfort. The most common pronouns used by transgender people are those that most people are already aware of. These are; “she/her/hers”, “they/their/them”, and “he/him/his”. There are other sets of pronouns as well, though the correct set to use can vary depending on the individual.
Always use the pronouns the transgender person has advised you to use. If you make a mistake that’s totally fine; just apologise and move on.
When do transgender people know that they are transgender?
There is no specific age that people first realise they are transgender. Some people realise at a very young age whereas some realise later in life, sometimes not until adulthood.
What does intersex mean?
Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a number of different conditions which may result in a person being born with chromosomes or sexual or reproductive anatomy that don’t match standard definitions of male or female.
For example, a person might be born appearing male on the outside but possess anatomy more consistent with those born female. Intersex anatomy does not always show up at birth, and may not be evident until puberty or even later in life.
What’s the difference between sex and gender?
Many people use these terms interchangeably, though they possess distinct meanings. The term ‘sex’ is a biological one, with an individual’s sex being assigned to them at birth based on their genitalia.
Gender is a social construct, developed to determine how members of each sex should act, think or behave. The idea that “pink is for girls/blue is for boys” is an example of this, and further reinforced through everyday realities, such as the segregation of different toys, clothes and books for boys and girls.
So how many genders are there?
There is no specific number of genders. Male and female are the two genders people are most familiar with, and these are commonly referred to as the gender binary. There are also numerous gender identities that sit outside the gender binary. Some examples include bi gender, genderqueer and genderfluid, though there are many more besides these.
What is the difference between bisexual and pansexual?
Bisexuality is most commonly understood as attraction, whether sexual, romantic or emotional, towards both males and females.
Those who identify as pansexual experience attraction to individuals regardless of their gender identity.
This FAQ is intended as an educational resource, but some of the topics are complex and the content is not comprehensive. You can find out more information through the various links provided.