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Marriage Equality Hearings: Queer Terms You May Have Heard And What They Mean

Do you know what the + in LGBTQIA+ stands for?

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Gender
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With LGBTQIA+ petitioners currently rallying their fight for equal marriage rights in the Supreme Court, the opposing lawyers have time and again displayed a clear lack of understanding of queer terms.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, while defending the Centre's stance, has conflated basic terms like sexual orientation and gender identity on several occasions. Apart from claiming that "we don't know what the + means in LGBTQIA+", he's also boldly stated that "gays and lesbians are genderqueer", which is not only factually accurate but also points to a deep, underlying ignorance.

While putting forth her stance, Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra even referred to the community as "LGBTI-whatever" - a clear example of when the lines between ignorance and prejudice get blurred.

Whether you have been tracking the marriage equality hearings or not, understanding queer terminology is a key step towards understanding the complexities of the community.

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For anyone who's ever found themselves wondering what the difference between cisgender and transgender is, or what heteronormativity actually means - here's a non-exhaustive glossary of queer terminologies:

1. The term LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual. The + stands for the evolving nature of the community and identities outside the acronym.

2. After birth, a person is assigned to a certain ‘sex’ based on their biological characteristics. Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that don’t fit into the male or female binary. It’s important to note that sex is not the same as gender.

3. If you’ve ever read queer Twitter discourse, you know that gender is a construct. The attributes society ascribes to people based on their sex is commonly referred to as gender but this can differ from your personal awareness. That’s gender identity.

For cisgender people, this aligns with their assigned sex. But it mostly doesn’t for trans individuals.

4. Next on the roster is sexual orientation. In the simplest terms, it refers to who you feel sexually or romantically attracted to. Homosexuality means being attracted to someone who expresses gender in the same way as you do.

Notably, sexual orientation is a spectrum made of several identities including bisexuality, asexuality, and pansexuality.

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5. Contrary to popular belief, transgender is often used as an umbrella term. This is why identities like nonbinary and genderfluid also fall under the transgender spectrum.

Fun fact: People often use the term 'transgender' as a noun which is both incorrect and dehumanizing. The term is an adjective for a person’s gender identity and the correct usage would be 'trans man’, ‘trans woman’ or ‘transgender people’ to name a few.

6. Speaking of umbrella terms, queer is also one and it denotes sexual and gender identities outside of the cisgender-heterosexual binary. While the term was originally used as a homophobic slur, a majority of the community has since reclaimed it.

7. When we speak about binaries, conversations around the topic of heteronormativity are important. Heteronormativity refers to the problematic mindset that being straight or heterosexual is both the default and a superior identity.

Heteronormative practices can range anywhere from asking a woman if she has a boyfriend to restricting rights and privileges for queer citizens.
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8. One thing that came up during the marriage equality hearings is the need for gender-neutral language. Gender neutral refers to words or concepts that are applicable to all people irrespective of their gender identity, like using they/them pronouns instead of he/she as the default. It’s trans and genderqueer inclusive.

In the hearings, petitioners have urged the court to use ‘spouse’ instead of ‘husband or wife.’

9. And last but not the least, if you delve deeper into the conversations surrounding marriage equality, you might come across the term Civil Union. It refers to a legally-recognized relationship between two people which gives them the same legal protection as marriage. It is recognised by issuing states but not by federal law and is usually granted to queer couples in jurisdictions where they don’t have the right to marry.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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