LGBTIQ+ Inclusive Practices Guide

The LGBTIQ+ Inclusive Practices guide explains some of the ways we can use language and other practices to ensure our LGBTIQ+ Deakin staff and students feel safe and included.

Sex, Gender and Sexual Orientation

Thank you to the Victorian Government’s LGBTIQ Inclusive Language Guide for some of this information in relation to sex, gender and sexual orientation.

Sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are all distinct characteristics, although they are sometimes used interchangeably. The Australian Human Rights Commission reports[1] that up to 11% of Australians may have a diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity and up to 42% of LGBTIQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Queer) people hide their identity at social or community events. 60% of LGBTIQ+ people have experienced homophobic abuse.

A person’s sex, sexual orientation and gender identity are important parts of who they are, but do not define who they are. Avoid stereotypes based on sex, sexual orientation or gender. Any attempt to reduce a person to a single characteristic of their identity is likely to cause offence.

People who identify as LGBTIQ may also identify with other diversity groups such as CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) or people with disability. Language used should not assume primacy of one dimension. The diversity within any one element of L,G,B,T, I or Q should be respected.

Refer to Teaching LGBTIQ+ Students which includes a useful glossary.


Sex refers to a person’s biological characteristics. A person’s sex is usually described as either male or female. The designation of a person as either male or female based on their biological characteristics takes into account chromosomes, genitals, hormones and neurobiology. Some people have both male and female characteristics or neither male nor female characteristics.

Intersex is an umbrella term describing a person with reproductive organs, chromosomes or other physical sex characteristics that are 'neither wholly female nor wholly male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male' (Sex Discrimination Amendment Act (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) 2013 Cth). There are 40 types of intersex variations and they may or may not be the identity used by an intersex person. Read more about intersex variations on Deakin’s website.

It is important to acknowledge that a person’s sex is not necessarily categorised within the stereotypical binary of male and female. People with intersex variations are born with physical sex characteristics that don’t fit the medical norms for female or male bodies.


Gender/gender identity denotes a person’s sense of being a woman, a man, neither or both, or other non-binary gender(s).

Gender expression is an embodiment of physical presentation such as hair, clothing, mannerisms or behaviour.

Don’t refer to gender unnecessarily or use language that discriminates based on gender, gives undue emphasis to gender, or assumes a person’s gender. Aim to use gender-inclusive language where possible. For example:

  • Avoid using gendered pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘she’. Instead, use ‘they’, ‘them’ or ‘their’ – or simply refer to them by their name. For example instead of “I met him/her yesterday” you could say “I met [the person’s name] yesterday” or “I met them yesterday”.
  • Avoid masculine and feminine forms of nouns. For example; ‘staff’ instead of ‘manpower’, ‘chairperson’ or ‘chair’ instead of ‘chairman’, ‘actor’ instead of ‘actress’.
  • Not all people identify as either male or female. Transgender, gender diverse, gender fluid or intersex people might identify as more than one gender or no gender. If you’re unsure how to refer to a person, ask them what personal pronoun they use.
  • Consider whether you need the person’s title. Do you want to use this for formality? Historically titles were used to signify a person’s marital status, professional position and/or gender. These days someone’s marital status is generally not necessary information. If you feel it is necessary to include titles, ensure that you also include Mx for those who identify as non-binary or gender diverse where a traditional title may not be appropriate.
Use these words/phrasesInstead of using these words/phrases
office staffgirls/boys in the office
doctor/professorwoman doctor/female professor
transgender person/transman/transwomantranssexual/tranny/transgendered
cisgender male/cisgender female (this  refers to someone who identifies exclusively with the gender they were assigned at birth)real woman/real man
all gendersboth genders
Welcome everyone…Welcome ladies and gentlemen…
intersex person/person with intersex variationhermaphrodite
intersex variation/intersex characteristicsdisorders of sex development (DSD)
they, their and them as gender-inclusive pronounshe, she or it
they are a good studenthe or she is a good student
they must be able to …he or she must be able to …
Mid-year entry applicants must lodge their forms directly with the University.If a student applies mid-year, he can lodge forms…
manufactured, artificial, syntheticman-made
the average personthe Common Man
police officerpolice man
actor, waiter etcactress, waitress etc

Using language inclusive of sex and gender identity

Communication plays an important role in creating a place to work and study which is free of discrimination based on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Unless gender is relevant, aim to use gender-inclusive language.  Consider the words that contain ‘man’ such as ‘chairman’, ‘man-made’ or ‘manned’ that subtly centre men in our thinking and in our conversations. Think about gender-inclusive words that you can use instead such as those listed in the table above.

Pay attention to words or expressions that are commonly used to or about individuals of particular genders, but not others. These can reveal conscious or unconscious biases. Words like ‘shrill’ and ‘nagging’ are commonly used in relation to women, but rarely men.

Avoid gender references that are demeaning or trivialising, for example, ‘throw like a girl’. Don’t infantalise particular groups, for example, the ‘girls in the office’.

Respect how people describe their own bodies, genders and relationships, even when they are not present.

Avoid making assumptions about someone’s gender based on name or physical features. People have different ways in which they prefer to be spoken to or about. If you are unsure of a person’s preferred terms, pronouns or identifiers, respectfully ask them.

Telling a colleague to ‘man up’ or referring to a female manager as ‘hysterical’ both use outdated gender stereotypes and are likely to cause offence.

Gender identity

  • Trans or transgender is a term referring to a person whose gender identity, gender expression or behaviour does not align with their sex assigned at birth. A person classified as female at birth who identifies as a man may use the term trans, transman or man. A person classified as male at birth who identifies as a woman may use the term trans, transwoman, or woman. Deakin University provides support to staff and students undergoing a gender affirmation. Deakin is the only University in Australia to have gender affirmation leave up to 10 days. For more information on this support, visit Gender Affirmation at Deakin.
  • Gender diverse or non-binary is a term referring to people who do not identify as a woman or a man. Some people identify as agender (having no gender), bigender (both man and woman) and non-binary (neither man nor woman). There is a range of non-binary gender identities such as genderqueer, gender neutral, genderfluid and third gendered. Language in this area is evolving and people may have their own preferred terms that are not listed here. Read more about non-binary on Deakin’s website.
  • Brotherboys and Sistergirls are terms that may be used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to refer to transgender people. Brotherboy typically refers to masculine spirited people who are born female, and Sistergirl to feminine spirited people who are born male.
  • Cis or cisgender describes a person whose gender identity is in line with the social expectations of their sex as assigned at birth. It is used to describe people who are not transgender.

Each of these is a spectrum, and we all fit somewhere along the spectrum. It is important to note that each of these characteristics are separate and unlinked – a person’s biological sex does not determine their gender identity.

Avoid misgendering

Misgendering is using language to refer to a person that is not aligned with how that person identifies their own gender or body.

Most but not all intersex and trans people who identify as male prefer to be referred to as ‘he’. Most but not all intersex and trans people who identify as female prefer to be referred to as ‘she’.

Some people prefer to be described with their first name only or a non-binary pronoun such as ‘they’ rather than a gendered pronoun. Others prefer no pronoun at all.

If unsure, ask a person directly and respectfully what their preferred pronoun is. If possible, check privately to reduce discomfort. If you make a mistake, apologise and move on. Dwelling on the mistake may make the person feel more uncomfortable. Try to avoid making the same mistake again.

Avoid offensive questions

Most people would find it inappropriate to be asked questions about their genitals or breasts. It is therefore not appropriate to ask questions about whether a trans person has had surgery. Similarly, most people would find it inappropriate to be referred to with reference to their anatomical or medical history. In the same way, trans people should not be referred to with reference to whether or not they have had surgery.

Respect people’s experiences

A trans or gender diverse person may refer to their gender affirmation rather than transition. They may prefer the phrase gender affirmation as it aligns with how they have always identified. Transitioning implies that they are changing from one gender to another. It is important to use respectful language in line with the person’s own experiences. Some refer to ‘aligning’ their body and gender rather than transitioning.

Personal pronouns

Respect a person's gender identity and chosen personal pronoun even if they do not look or sound like what we might expect from someone of that gender. [2]

While some transgender or gender diverse people do identify as either male or female, other people may identify as both male and female or neither male nor female. Some use pronouns like 'she' or 'he', while others prefer non-binary pronouns such as 'they' or other gender-neutral pronouns like 'ze'.

If you are uncertain what pronoun to use, ask the person in a respectful way.

Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation is used to describe a person’s romantic and/or sexual attraction. Don't make assumptions about sexual orientation, or use slang or language that could be considered derogatory. Don’t use the term ‘gay’ as an insult. LGBTIQ+ may refer to themselves as:

  • Gay person refers to a person who is romantically and sexually attracted to people of the same gender identity as themselves. Usually used to refer to men who are attracted to other men but may also be used by women.
  • Lesbian woman refers to a woman who is romantically and sexually attracted to other women.
  • Bisexual person refers to a person who is romantically and sexually attracted to individuals of their own gender and other genders.
  • Queer person is a term used by some people to describe non-conforming sex, gender and sexual identities.
Use these words/phrasesInstead of using these words/phrases
Partnerhusband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend (unless the person has already used these terms to describe their relationship)
marriage, marriage equality, equal marriagegay marriage
an accurate description of the issue affecting people who identify as LGTBIQ+gay agenda/homosexual agenda
a gay person’s life/gay people’s livesgay lifestyle/homosexual lifestyle
sexual orientationsexual preference
rainbow family (or just family)lesbian family/gay family

Avoid heteronormativity / heterosexism

Heteronormativity is the assumption that everyone is heterosexual (straight), and that this is the norm.

Heterosexism is the belief that non-heteronormative sexual orientations or gender identities are unnatural.

Avoid using language which assumes all relationships are heterosexual, as this denies the experiences of same sex couples. Use the word ‘partner’ rather than ‘wife/husband’ where the gender, sexual orientation or relationship status of a person are unknown. When someone mentions their children, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are in a heterosexual relationship. Avoid making assumptions.

Preferred terminology

  • LGBTIQ - use this acronym when writing about people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer, or who are questioning their gender or sexual orientation. It’s a good idea to spell out the acronym first in some instances. Note: Deakin’s LGBTIQ+ community prefers the acronym LGBTIQ+. The ‘+’ recognises that LGBTIQ doesn’t include the full range of other terms with which people identify.
  • Queer - this is an umbrella term used by some people to describe non-conforming sex, gender and sexual identities. While this term has been reclaimed by many people it has also been used as an offensive term in the past and some people may regard it as an insult.
  • Equal marriage and marriage equality are inclusive of all marriages. Note that ‘gay marriage’ is not a preferred term and ‘same-sex marriage’ sets these marriages apart from heterosexual marriages.
  • Sexual orientation - this is a more accurate term than sexuality as sexual orientation is one facet of a person’s sexuality.

Guide to Data Collection

You may be collecting data about people for research surveys or you may be asking them to register for an event. If you are collecting data for research you will need to comply with Deakin’s Research Data and Primary Materials Management procedure. The information below explains how to word questions about a person’s attributes in a sensitive and respectful manner.

Before asking any of these questions, please ask yourself:

  • Do you actually need this information?
  • What will this information be used for? If the information is necessary, please let people know your purpose for collecting it (such as ‘to improve workplace practices’ or ‘to accommodate your needs’).
  • Is it safe for people to answer this question?

Where will people’s answers be stored? Will the responses be stored securely? Or is this an anonymous survey meaning the data will not be recorded with the person’s name? Ensure you let people know exactly how their data will be stored and used.


  • Female
  • Male
  • Trans/Gender Diverse
  • Non binary
  • Prefer to self-describe
  • Prefer not to specify


This question should only be asked for the purposes of research or clinical forms. There is no need to use this heading in your data collection tool – this question will be included under ‘gender’ above.

Is your gender identity the same as your sex assigned at birth?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know/not sure


Do you have an intersex variation?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Prefer not to specify

Sexual orientation

Do you identify as:

  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Bisexual
  • Straight/heterosexual
  • Pansexual
  • Asexual
  • Prefer to self-describe
  • Prefer not to specify
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