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In this section, the definition of a few general terms commonly used in the context of SOGI asylum claims is provided. These are:


Asylum Seeker

A person who has fled from his or her own country due to fear of persecution and, having applied for protection in another country, his or her request for sanctuary has yet to be processed. A person remains an asylum seeker until his or her claim has been duly assessed and he or she has been granted (or refused) refugee status or other alternative kind of protection.



Gender refers to the relationship between women and men based on socially or culturally constructed and defined identities, status, roles and responsibilities that are assigned to one sex or another, while sex is a biological determination. Gender is not static or innate but acquires socially and culturally constructed meaning over time’

(Guidelines on international protection: Gender-related persecution within the context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, p. 2, available in our Database)



A migrant is a person who moves from his or her country to settle himself or herself, alone or with his or her family, in another country.



‘A person who, owing to well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it. (…)’

(Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Geneva, 28 July 1951, at Art. 1, A.2 – available in our Database)


SOGI – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

‘Sexual orientation is understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender.’

‘Gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.’

(Yogyakarta Principles, 2007, Introduction, available also in our Database)


A few additional terms have been identified by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in its 2015 Report on Researching the situation of LGB people in countries of origin. Although there is no uniform terminology in the field of SOGI, as the EASO itself reported, these additional terms are:


Biological sex

‘Biological sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women (such as) sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, internal reproductive structures and external genitalia’



‘A term used to describe a person who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to men and women (or rather, more than one gender). A bisexual identity does not necessarily equate to equal sexual attraction to both genders’



A term referring to people whose gender identity and gender expression match the sex they were assigned at birth and the social expectations related to their gender



An acronym for ‘femaletomale,’ most commonly used to refer to a femaletomale transperson. Someone who was assigned female at birth but who identifies as male. Also called a transman



A term often used to describe a man whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other men. Gay can also be used to describe women


Gender expression

The manifestations of one’s gender identity and the one that is perceived by others. Typically, people seek to make their gender expression or presentation match their gender identity/identities, irrespective of the sex that they were assigned at birth



‘Homophobia refers to the fear of or unreasonable anger, intolerance or/and hatred towards homosexuality’



Homosexual describes people who are attracted to people of the same sex’.


A medical condition in which an individual is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome patterns that do not fit typical biological notions of being male or female. An intersex person may identify as male or female or any other gender, while their sexual orientation may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, asexual, etc.



An acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual (trans and intersex) people



A term for a woman whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other women’.



An acronym for ‘men who have sex with men’ but do not necessarily identify as gay or bisexual (…)’



An acronym for ‘maletofemale.’ Commonly used to refer to a maletofemale transperson. Someone who was assigned the male sex at birth but who selfidentifies as female. Also called a transwoman’



‘Nonconformity refers to a situation in which one does not follow the norm, when one is perceived as different because of the characteristics one has or is believed to have, by nature, choice or experience. In the SOGI context, it is when one’s appearance, behaviour, identity or experience differs from the genderbased expectations that society has of that person



A largely academic term that is inclusive of people who are not heterosexual. It includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transpersons (…)



‘Sex refers to the biological makeup, such as primary and secondary sexual characteristics, genes and hormones. One’s legal sex is usually assigned at birth. It has traditionally been a ‘binary’ concept consisting of two mutually exclusive groups: men and women’



‘An acronym for ‘sexually and gender nonconforming’. An umbrella term used to refer to individuals whose sexual practices, attractions and/or gender identity and expression are different from the societal expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. It is intended to be a broader term than LGBTI. The term was coined to describe sexual and gender minorities in the refugee context, referencing the underlying cause for their persecution and avoiding rigid classifications like LGBTI



An inclusive umbrella term referring to persons whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. This term includes, but is not limited to: men and women with transsexual pasts, and people who identify themselves as transsexual, transgender, transvestite/crossdresser, androgynous, polygender, genderqueer, agender, gender variant or with any other gender identity and/or expression that is not standard male or female and express their gender through their choice of clothes, presentation or body modifications, including undergoing multiple surgical procedures



‘The term describes people whose own sense of their gender identity differs from the biological sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender is a gender identity, not a sexual orientation. A transgender individual may be heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual’



Tran(s)sexual refers to people who identify entirely with the gender role opposite to the sex assigned at birth and seek to live permanently in the preferred gender role. This often goes along with a strong rejection of their physical primary and secondary sex characteristics and a wish to align their body with their preferred gender. Transsexual people might intend to undergo, be undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment treatment (which may involve hormone therapy or surgery)



‘Transvestite/Crossdresser refers to people who wear the clothing of another gender for certain periods of time. Their sense of identification with another gender can range from being very strong to nonexistent. Some transvestite or crossdressing people may also be transgender



‘An acronym to refer to ‘women who have sex with women’ but do not necessarily identify as lesbian or bisexual (…)’