The world as we know is becoming more complex day by day. There are now more people than ever identifying themselves as gay or undergoing or seeking to undergo sexual orientation changes. The people in this position are a protected characteristic within the meaning of the Equality Act which places certain obligations on you as an employer. Shown below is guide I recently came across which I think provides a succinct explanation of the terminology used in this area.

In recent years, the terminology used and the complexity of issues arising in the workplace has got considerably more complicated.

Do you understand what someone means when they tell you they are gender fluid? How are you going to document that when collecting personal information? Do you understand what is meant by ‘non-binary’, what a GRC is or what the difference is between trans, transgender or transsexual and why a customer might ask to be identified as Mx rather than Mr?

I think you will find it beneficial to be taken through what each of these terms actually means and what employers need to do moving forward.

  • But first a very short legislation history lesson…
    2000 – Barring of homosexuals in the armed forces scrapped.
  • 2004 – The Civil Partnership Act – giving same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples.
  • 2004 – Gender Recognition Act – gives transsexual people legal recognition as members of the sex appropriate to their gender and affording them full legal recognition of their acquired sex.
  • 2006 – The Equality Act (sexual orientation) Regulations – come into force 2007. Makes discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal.
  • 2008 – Criminal Justice and Immigration Act – creates a new offence of incitement to homophobic hatred.
  • 2010 – The Equality Act – brings much of existing discrimination/equality legislation into one place and introduces 9 protected characteristics of which 3 are: gender reassignment, sexual orientation, and sex.
  • July 2013 – Marriage (same sex couples) Act – took effect Dec 2014.

Glossary of Terms
Thanks to Stonewall for providing these so succinctly on their website and for giving permission to reproduce

  • Ally – a (typically) straight and/or cis person who supports members of the LGBT community.
  • Bisexual or Bi – refers to a person who has an emotional and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender.
  • Biphobia – the fear or dislike of someone who identifies as bi.
  • Cisgender or Cis – someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people.
  • Gay – refers to a man who has an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. Also a generic term for lesbian and gay sexuality – some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian.
  • Gender dysphoria – used to describe when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth.
  • Gender identity – a person’s internal sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else (see non-binary below).
  • Gender reassignment – another way of describing a person’s transition. To undergo gender reassignment usually means to undergo some sort of medical intervention, but it can also mean changing names, pronouns, dressing differently and living in their self-identified gender. Gender reassignment is a characteristic that is protected by the Equality Act 2010.
  • Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) – this enables trans people to be legally recognised in their self-identified gender and to be issued with a new birth certificate. Not all trans people will apply for a GRC and you have to be over 18 to apply. You do not need a GRC to change your gender at work or to legally change your gender on other documents such as your passport. Should we mention the GRA in this answer too – and probably also have a summary of it on another line.
  • Gender stereotypes – the ways that we expect people to behave in society according to their gender, or what is commonly accepted as ‘normal’ for someone of that gender.
  • Gender variant – someone who does not conform to the gender roles and behaviours assigned to them at birth. This is often used in relation to children or young people.
  • Heterosexual / Straight – refers to a person who has an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards people of the opposite gender.
  • Intersex – a term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female. Intersex people can identify as male, female or non-binary.
  • Lesbian – refers to a woman who has an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women.
  • LGBT – the acronym for lesbian, gay, bi and trans.
  • Non-binary – an umbrella term for a person who does not identify as male or female.
  • Outed – when a lesbian, gay, bi or trans person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed to someone else without their consent.
  • Pansexual – refers to a person who is not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity.
  • Pronoun – words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze /zir.
  • Questioning – the process of exploring your own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • Sex –assigned to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. Sometimes the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are interchanged to mean ‘male’ or ‘female’.
  • Sexual orientation – a person’s emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person.
  • Trans – an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, cross dresser, non-binary, genderqueer (GQ).
  • Transgender man – a term used to describe someone who is assigned female at birth but identifies and lives as a man. This may be shortened to trans man, or FTM, an abbreviation for female-to-male.
  • Transgender woman – a term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman. This may be shortened to trans woman, or MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female.
  • Transitioning – the steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition will involve different things. For some this involves medical intervention, such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning also might involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently and changing official documents.
  • Transphobia – the fear or dislike of someone who identifies as trans.
  • Transsexual – this was used in the past as a more medical term (similarly to homosexual) to refer to someone who transitioned to live in the ‘opposite’ gender to the one assigned at birth. This term is still used by some although many people prefer the term trans or transgender.
    Other terms not currently on the Stonewall list:
  • Gender fluid – this is a gender identity best described as a dynamic mix of boy and girl. A person who is Gender Fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more boy some days, and more girl other days. Being Gender Fluid has nothing to do with which set of genitalia one has, nor their sexual orientation. Gender neutral – a person who does not relate to being either male or female.

What employers need to do

  • be aware of the increasing need to understand terms such as non-binary be more aware of the terminology and fast changing expectations amongst your staff
  • educate your line managers, directors, recruiters about terminology, The Equality Act, accepted practice and appropriate language
  • check that your recruitment agencies employ staff who are as up to date with all this as they need to review your employment documentation including recruitment docs, induction docs, payroll docs and of course contracts and handbooks to ensure that policies are both clear and appropriate and that terminology used is appropriate.
  • check that your website terminology – especially on the jobs or people pages – is appropriate
  • consider whether you need to revise terminology for customer/clients if you collect personal information
  • remind yourself of data protection act issues, when it comes to the storing of sensitive personal information which does include issues around sexuality and might include expressed views around gender terminology.

A few Stats…
In 2013, ONS asked around 180,000 UK adults about their self-perceived sexual identity, as part of the Integrated Household Survey. By “sexual identity” we mean how people see themselves at the time the interview takes place. This does not necessarily match their sexual behaviour or attraction and can change over time.

  1. 1.6% of UK adults aged 16+ gave their sexual identity as lesbian, gay or bisexual in 2013.
  2. In 2013, men were twice as likely as women to state their sexual identity as gay or lesbian.
  3. 3.2% of London residents aged 16+ identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual in 2013, the highest percentage across all areas of the UK.

For help in this area or any other HR issue please contact me at 02036407748 or at

Michael Newman