The descriptions used here are shortened explanations taken from the "Fibel der vielen kleinen Unterschiede" ("reader of many small differences"), a kind of dictionary of sexual and gender diversity. You can order the "Fibel" for free if you're based in North Rhine-Westphalia.


Abbreviation LSBTIQ*

This acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer. The asterisk at the end is also called Gender Star and serves as a place holder for visibility of all genders and identities beyond male and female. The underscore_ or Gender Gap is used for the same purpose.


AGG refers to “Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz” (general equal treatment law), the anti discrimination law in Germany. It’s meant to ensure equal treatment for everybody, no matter their ancestry, their age or their beliefs, if they’re hard of hearing or a wheelchair user, whatever their gender or whomever they love.

asexual / asexuality

Asexual people feel little or no need for sexuality involving other people. Consequently they usually don’t make a conscious decision to refrain from sex, unlike, for example Catholic priests who choose celibacy. Rather asexuality is characterized by absence or rejection of sexuality. As is often the case when talking about sexual identity there’s different variations of asexuality. 

bisexual / bisexuality

Bisexual people feel sexual or emotional attraction to members of two or more genders. This attraction can be equally or differently distributed between genders, it can feel the same for all genders or vary depending on the gender. However, definitions of bisexuality are diverse and differ greatly. There are also similarities to pansexuality (see also pansexual/ pansexuality).

cis / cis gender

Cis gender (derived from the Latin prefix cis meaning “on this side”) is the opposite of trans gender (trans meaning “on the other side” or “beyond”). Cis people identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. A cis woman therefore is a person who was assigned female at birth and who identifies as a woman. A cis man is a person who was assigned male at birth and identifies as a man.

civil partnership / marriage

In August 2001 civil partnership came into law in Germany creating the opportunity for legally protected partnership for same-sex couples. Since October 2017 same-sex couples can marry and adopt children together. Still inequality remains, since children born to a married same-sex couple through insemination aren’t automatically legally both partners’ child.


Coming out is the step of making your sexual orientation or gender identity public. You may know the term “coming out of the closet”, the closet symbolizing being confined by and trapped in a society taht often views heterosexuality and the binary gender system (men and women) as the only viable options of living and loving. The process of coming out is self-determined, what steps people want to take at what time is their own decision. The opposite is true for a so-called outing which is done by a third party, usually against the outed person’s will. 


The word community describes a group of people who live in similar circumstances or share the same life struggles. In this case community is founded by people who have shared (similar/ same) experiences because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and who are involved with LGBTIQ* causes. Examples for community work include counseling for lesbians and gays just as much as volleyball teams for FLTI* (female, lesbian, trans* and intersex people), self-help groups for trans* and intersex people, regular meetings at a bar, or the Gay Museum.

CSD / Pride

In Germany, pride parades are called CSD which is short for Christopher Street Day, named after Christopher Street where police raided a gay bar called Stonewall Inn on June 28th 1969. Tired of police brutally targeting queer people, the patrons fought back and barricaded themselves in the bar – locking out law enforcement. These rioting lesbians, gays and trans people became known worldwide and made Stonewall Inn and Christopher Street famous. Since 1970 Christopher Street Day has been celebrated with pride parades showing queer love and life and protests for acceptance and recognition.


A homosexual man is gay, meaning he is same-sex oriented. He loves and is attracted to men.


The German word “Geschlecht” has two English translations with totally different meanings: “sex” and “gender”. Sex is a biological category which is oftentimes defined by reproductive organs but doesn’t have to be (see also trans, intersex, nonbinary). Gender on the other hand is a social category which isn’t determined by traits of the body. A person’s gender doesn’t have to match their biological sex. There is no German equivalent to the word gender, thus it is oftentimes used without translation.

gender expression

A person’s gender is not determined by their body, meaning one can’t draw one’s conclusions about somebody’s gender from their physical appearance. People whose own bodies match societal norms for a certain gender often assume those two automatically correspond. This means a person, whose body is categorized as male by their surroundings is assumed to be male by them. It’s important to be mindful of the many variations a person may express or experience their gender in.

gender identity

In June 2011 the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution that nobody should be persecuted or discriminated against because of their gender identity. Thus the right to individual gender identity is a Human Right. What physical appearance, behavior or social role is deemed “typically female” or “typically male” or whether a society accepts additional genders can vary depending on time period and living environment.

heterosexual / heterosexuality

In Greek “hetero” means “different” or “other” (as opposed to “homo” meaning “same”). Heterosexual women thus love and are attracted men, heterosexual men love and are attracted to women. For a long time, heterosexuality was thought to be the norm. Other sexualities were considered deviations or even illnesses. This mindset is called “heteronormativity”.

homophobia / heterosexism

Homophobia describes all kinds of negative beliefs about lesbians and gays. These beliefs may manifest in prejudice, contempt, support for anti- gay discrimination, or even violence against homosexual people. Homophobia is often regarded as a problematic term since phobia describes an excessive fear, a concept which doesn’t apply to anti- homosexual mindsets. The terms homonegativity or homohostility are now sometimes used to highlight that they’re talking about pejorative or adverse mindsets towards homosexual people. Some people feel heterosexism fits the bill even better, being more descriptive of depreciation of non heterosexual identity, behavior, relationship, or community.

homosexual / homosexuality

In Greek “homo” means “same” (as opposed to “hetero” meaning “different” or “other”). Homosexual women thus love and are attracted to women (see also lesbian) and homosexual men love and are attracted to men (see also gay). Studies estimate that between five and seven percent of people lead exclusively homosexual lives. The amount of people who are attracted to people of the same gender, but not exclusively so, seems to be substantially bigger (see also bisexual, pansexual).


Social inclusion means including everybody and conversely excluding nobody. The idea is that everybody is accepted as a valuable member of society in their uniqueness, be it their sexual identity, disability, background or appearance.


Intersex people are born with genetic, hormonal or bodily traits that are neither exclusively male nor exclusively female. These traits can be typical for both sexes mentioned above and at the same time ambiguous. This can become apparent in secondary sex traits (for example muscle mass, body hair or distribution of fat), in primary sex traits (reproductive organs and genitals), chromosomes, and/ or hormones. Fatally, intersex people are still pathologized, meaning they are considered ill or abnormal. Even intersex people born now are still subjected to sex-modifying surgeries (also known as intersex genital mutilation) without their consent, as they are often performed during childhood.

intersexual / intersexuality

Initially intersexuality was a medical term that highlighted the fact that there are many nuances between male and female sex traits. The term was coined by geneticist Richard Goldschmidt in 1915/16. In 2006 it was replaced by the term DSD (disorders of sex development) in medical circles. In other contexts however “intersexuality” is still commonly used. The usage of the term “disorder” is often criticized for reinforcing the idea of some bodies being “more normal” and therefore more desirable. Bodies that don’t fit the norm are considered atypical or dysfunctional from this perspective.

intersectional / intersectionality

Intersectionality is the theory of intersecting social categories. One’s gender identity, sexuality, race, origin, religion, age, and social background are interwoven and cannot be regarded as separate. As a result, different forms of discrimination for example racism, homophobia or transphobia, are interconnected and have to be considered together. An intersectional view analyzes synergies and interdependencies of different forms of discrimination. Ultimately, every person belongs to multiple different groups (see multiplicity of social identities) that are included or excluded socially.


A lesbian is a homosexual woman, which means she is same-sex oriented. She therefore loves and is attracted to women.

multiplicity of social identities / multiplicity of discrimination

LGBTIQ* people can experience discrimination not only based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. They also always have a skin color, an origin, a body with individual talents and disabilities, an age, and a nationality. Thus, they belong to many different social groups – they have multiple social identities. Identity and belongingness are almost always connected to power structures in society. Opportunities and resources (e.g. education, job opportunities, housing) are distributed based on belongingness to social groups. By combination of multiple social identities, LGTIQ* people are affected by several forms of discrimination at the same time, for example racism, sexism, ageism, classism, etc.


Nonbinary people are neither women nor men. “Binary” is derived from the Latin “bi” = “two” and is used here to describe the system of two distinct genders that is recognized in our society. Nonbinary is an umbrella term for many different genders. Some nonbinary genders are localized “between male and female”, some don’t adhere to the gender binary at all and some are fluid, meaning they’re not permanently fixed. Many people use a shortened form of nonbinary, enby, which is derived from “nb” – nonbinary.

normal / normalcy

The term normal is derived from Latin, norma meaning” standard, precept, rule”. Social norms are widely accepted standards. However, norms are not set in stone but change continuously. Nowadays many things are considered normal, which were once regarded as “deviant” and punished by ostracism, exclusion or even imprisonment (see also § 175 StGB / persecution of homosexuals). Hence, working towards further changing social norms is beneficial to diversity being normal (see also inclusion). 

pansexual / pansexuality

Pansexual people love or are attracted to people independently of their gender or sex. Pansexuality therefore calls the gender binary into question. Pansexuality is a sexual identity that’s not limited to men and women, it includes all other sexes and gender identities. Therefore, people are pansexual if they can have sexual relations or a relationship with any person they are compatible with. For them it doesn’t matter if the other person defines themselves as male, female, intersex, trans, nonbinary or in another way.

Paragraph 175 persecution of homosexuals

“Unnatural fornication, whether between persons of the male sex or of humans with beasts, is punished with imprisonment, with the further punishment of a prompt loss of civil rights.” was the official text of paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code. It came into effect in 1871 and for the following almost 100 years sexual acts between two adult men was punishable in (Western) Germany.

pink triangle / black triangle

During the Nazi regime, homosexual men were imprisoned in concentration camps and marked with a pink triangle sewn onto their uniforms. Prisoners wearing the pink triangle were on the lowest level of the hierarchy and were often humiliated and abused to a greater extent. The gay movement reclaimed this symbol of their oppression during the 1970s and was able to change its meaning to symbolize gay confidence. Female homosexuality was never punishable in Germany, but there were isolated cases of lesbian women being brought into concentration camps. These women wore a black triangle, stigmatizing them as “asocial” or “inferior”.


Queer is an open term that includes everybody whose appearance or demeanor doesn’t conform to heteronormative ideals. Political or scientific theories, lifestyles, people, and movements can be queer. The label queer originated from critical discussions about exclusionary and discriminatory practices, especially within lesbian and gay communities. Queer philosophy and actions challenge the idea of two diametrically opposed genders existing and finding exclusively each other sexually and romantically attractive. A more far-reaching interpretation of the term queer questions norms and categories in general and analyzes power dynamics beyond sexuality and gender (e.g. disability, race, class). Without an anti-oppressive perspective, queer is also used as an umbrella term for all LGBTI* people.

rainbow family / LGBTQ parented family

It’s pretty simple: Within a rainbow family at least one parent is lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, trans, intersex or queer. There are different ways to start a rainbow family. However, Germany doesn’t legally acknowledge more than two people having children together. This results in a disadvantage for children and parents living in a multiple parented family.

rainbow flag

The rainbow flag is an international symbol for the liberation movement of lesbians and gays and for their fight for acceptance and equal rights. Its colors red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple symbolize the colorful diversity of the communities united under it. In summer 2017 a new rainbow flag was popularized using the hashtag #morecolormorepride. It added brown and black to the previous rainbow flag with the goal of to including and highlighting Black people and people of color.

sexual identity / sexual orientation

While gender identity denotes to which one or more genders a person belongs, sexual identity indicates towards which gender (or genders) a person’s emotional and sexual desires are oriented. Bisexuality, heterosexuality and homosexuality are the most common sexual orientations, although these narrow labels don’t apply to everybody. The development of sexual orientation is still insufficiently studied.

Third Option

A ruling of the German Supreme Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) in October 2017 compelled German law makers to create a third positive gender marker. Focal point of the ruling was the right to self- determination for everybody independently of their gender identity. An intersex person had filed a suit because there existed no accurate gender marker for them. The defendant was supported by the campaign Third Option (Dritte Option). They call for this new gender marker not only being available to intersex people but also allowing nonbinary people (see also nonbinary) to claim it. This would be inclusive of everybody who neither identifies as “male” nor “female”. The German Institute for Human Rights among others supports their position.


Trans people don’t (exclusively) identify with their sex assigned at birth. When a baby is assigned male at birth due to their genitalia and this person realizes over the years that they can’t identify with this assignment but rather identify as female, they are a trans girl or a trans woman. When a baby is assigned female at birth due to their genitalia and this person realizes over the years that they can’t identify with this assignment but rather identify as male, they are a trans boy or a trans man. People can identify as binary trans, meaning as girl or woman, or boy or man, or as nonbinary. An asterisk is sometimes used as a placeholder for all the terms that can be added to the prefix trans (derived from the Latin word for “across” or “beyond”), for example transsexuality, transgender, or trans identity.


Analogous to homophobia, transphobia includes predjudice, negative mindsets, stigmatization, devaluation, disavowal, approvement of discrimination, discrimination, and violence against trans people. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) came to shocking conclusions in their 2014 report about trans people’s situation in Europe. 34 % of all trans people had been subject to hate crime within the previous five years. Trans people in Germany also bemoan a heightened rate of hate crime. 26 % of questioned trans people in Germany reported such incidents, the EU-wide average is 22 %. This is why education and anti-discriminatory activism are important building blocks for enabling trans people to live in our society without experiencing discrimination and violence.