Glossary / Zanele Muholi: ZAZISE


The function of this glossary or list of terminology is to clarify some concepts that are connected with the themes of the Finnish Museum of Photography's exhibition ZAZISE (Feb 4 — May 29, 2022) by South African photographer Zanele Muholi. The terms and concepts gathered in the glossary are diverse and vary culturally. Language as well as the ideas it codifies all change with time; therefore, the interpretations in this word list are under constant professional scrutiny and discussion. 

The glossary is based on a prior document prepared for the Muholi exhibition at the Tate Modern in London (Nov 5, 2020 — May 31, 2021). Close attention has been paid to the culture-specific nature of the terms in compilation and translation. The queer sensitivity reading for the Finnish-specific context is by Kaura Raudaskoski. The glossary has been compiled with the aid of resources from Seta - LGBTI Rights in Finland, feminist and anti-racist civil society organization Fem-R, the LGBTQIA+ web media Kehrääjä, and, the Ministry of Justice's non-discrimination database. 

Content warning: violence, sexual violence, discrimination


An individual who actively supports the social movements and rights of LGBTQIA+ and other marginalised identities, but who does not identify as LGBTQIA+ or as a member of said marginalised groups. Allyship is not an identity but an active role. That is why one does not apply for allyship, instead it is a relationship of trust that is earned through constant action and solidarity.  

A former policy/oppressive system that was officially implemented in South Africa from 1948 until 1994, to enforce racial segregation and political, economic and social discrimination against people of colour or anyone who was not classified as white. The word ‘apartheid’ is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘apartness’. The term has also been used to refer to global forms of institutionalised racial and socioeconomic oppression that is still prevalent in societies across the world.   

An umbrella term used to describe those with a variation of romantic and/or sexual attraction, including a lack of attraction. The term can also describe people who are emotionally, psychologically and intellectually attracted to people, or where their attraction is not limited to physical sexual expression. The letter A in the initialism LGBTQIA+ refers usually to the asexual and aromantic spectrum.  

An umbrella term used to describe a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bisexual people may describe themselves using one or more of a variety of terms, including (but not limited to) pansexual and queer.   

Capitalise when used to describe someone’s race, ethnicity or culture, unless the individual or group self-identifies otherwise.    

Black Lesbian Feminism  
A political identity, movement and school of thought that incorporates perspectives, experiences and politics around race, gender, class and sexual orientation, and surfaces the inextricable links between them. 

A term used in queer culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically masculine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such. 

A term used to describe someone whose gender identity matches the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. Most people are cisgender. Cis is the antonym of trans; both words are from Latin, where they mean "on this side" and "on the other side". Cisgender people are privileged in relation to trans people, because cisgender is a society-wide norm.  

Civil union  
A registered relationship is a method in many countries by which same-sex couples can make their relationship official and provide it with a legal standing. In Finland, civil unions were available from 2002 until the Marriage Act of March 1, 2017 enabled same-sex marriage outright. People in civil unions do not enjoy all the same rights as people in marriages. 

‘Corrective Rape’  
A term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity. 

Chosen family  
A term widely used by queer and trans people to identify other queer and trans people. Chosen families are common especially among such individuals in sexual and/or gender minorities whose biological families are unaccepting of their self-identification.  

A term used in LGBTQIA+ culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically feminine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such. 

A term used to refer to a man, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. The term can also be used more broadly and colloquially to describe a same-sex or queer orientation.  

Gender is one category of human social classification and a legal attribute. It is a spectrum, composed of various genetic, developmental, hormonal, physiological, psychological, social, and cultural properties. Gender is also an important part of many people's personal identity.   

Gender Binary  
The term gender binary is used to refer to a strictly exclusive conception of gender, which describes all humans as either male or female, which are seen as polar opposite genders. Binary thinking completely bypasses the existing spectrum of diverse gender identities, instead leaning on simplifications and rules of thumb. Binaries are also often thought to be permanent and pancultural. The phenomenon has its roots in several highly binary systems of thought prevalent in Western philosophy.   

Gender Dysphoria  
Used to describe a person’s discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. 

Gender Non-conforming/Non-conformity  
A person who does not conform to the binary gender categories that society prescribes (man and woman) through their gender identity/expression.  

Hate Crime  
Any incident that may or may not constitute a criminal offence, perceived as being motivated by prejudice or hate. The perpetrators seek to demean and dehumanise their victims, whom they consider different from them based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, health status, nationality, social origin, religious convictions, culture, language or other characteristics. According to Finnish criminal law, an aggravated sentence may be pressed when the motivation for a crime is found to be rooted in xenophobic hatred. 

A sociopolitical system that, predicated on the gender binary, upholds heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation. Heteronormativity encompasses a belief that people fall into distinct and ‘complementary’ genders (men and women) with natural roles in life. It assumes that sexual, romantic and marital relations are most fitting between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman, positioning all other sexual orientations as ‘deviations’. 

A form of LGBTQIA+ advocacy that frames LGBTQIA+ rights in nationalistic terms that privilege North American and European expressions over those of the Middle East and the Global South, particularly Africa. Homonationalism sees the conceptual realignment of LGBTQIA+ activism to fit the goals and ideologies of both neoliberalism and the far right in order to justify racist, classist, Islamophobic and xenophobic perspectives. This framing is based on prejudices that migrant people are supposedly homophobic, and that western society is egalitarian.  

Homophobia refers to a reaction of hatred, fear, disgust, or aversion to same-sex attraction. Phobic behaviour may be expressed as invalidation, belittling, shutting out, harassment, discrimination or even hate crimes. It may also manifest as systemic prejudice. Homophobia is comparable to phenomena such as sexism and racism. 

A person who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender. ‘Homosexual’ is often considered a more medical term.   

Emerging from the traditions of critical race theory and Black feminist thought, intersectionality encompasses the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. The term was formalised by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 in a discussion around Black women’s employment in the US. Intersectionality rejects the notion of universal experiences of womanhood in favour of a more holistic assessment of how one’s race, class, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality, nationality and religion can impact one’s experience of womanhood or gender, but also how these social inequalities intertwine with and shape one another.  

A term used to describe a person who may have biological attributes that do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes 'male' or 'female'. These biological variations may manifest in different ways and at different stages throughout an individual’s life. Intersexuality may also be a gender identity for some individuals. 

A type of language used amongst the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa, mostly among the Nguni people.  

A slur or derogatory isiZulu term used in vernacular language to refer to a person who is from the LGBTQIA+ community in the Southern African context. Translated into English, the term means a person who is born with both male and female ‘parts’. 

A term used to refer to a woman, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women or non-binary femmes.  

An acronym standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual. This is not an exhaustive list, as denoted by the inclusion of the plus symbol, which nods to the varying sexual orientations and gender identities that exist around the world.  

Also known as lobolo, lobola is a customary practice of marriage whereby the bridegroom’s family and kin transfer certain goods to the bride’s family in order to validate a customary marriage. Historically this was in the form of cattle, but today monetary payment is preferred, depending on the bride’s family.  

A practice of extrajudicial torture and execution whereby a burning rubber tyre is forced around a person’s neck. Under apartheid, necklacing was sometimes used within the Black community to punish those who were perceived to have collaborated with the apartheid government. 

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’ (also often referred to as genderqueer). Non -binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.  

When an LGBTQIA+ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed without their consent. Outing infringes upon a person's right to self-determination, because everyone has the inalienable right to decide for themselves what to divulge about their own sexuality or gender to other people. This right is especially important to sexual and gender minority members, because cis-gender people are not as competent in assessing the information's social repercussions.

A term that refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.  

Passbook (dompas)/Reference book  
An identification book or document that every person of colour or anyone who was not classified as white had to carry under the pass laws of apartheid. The book was made up of two parts. One part had a laminated identity card that featured the name of the bearer, their ethnic affiliation, the date the card was issued, the signature of an official and a black and white portrait photograph. The other part included five sections which listed information on permissions to enter urban areas, record of required medical examinations, names and addresses of employers, work status and receipts for tax payments. Colloquially, among the Black South African population, these passes were often referred to derogatorily as the dompas, an Afrikaans term literally meaning ’dumb’/’stupid pass’.  

A social hierarchy that privileges and prioritises men and masculinity over women and other gender identities and expressions.  

Pencil Test  
A racist, dehumanising test that was devised to assist authorities in racial classification under apartheid. When officials were unsure if a person should be classified as white or of colour, a pencil would be pushed into their hair. If the pencil fell out, signalling that their hair was straight rather than curly, kinky or coily, the person ‘passed’ and was ‘classified’ as white. 

POC is an abbreviation of the expression People of Colour. This expression refers to individuals who are perceived as non-white due to various characteristics, such as name, skin colour or religion. BIPOC is an abbreviation of the terms Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. This expression has been used recently because black and indigenous peoples face forms of discrimination and racism that differ from those experienced by other POC.  

A term with multiple meanings, but that commonly refers to the appropriation of the LGBTQIA+ movement in order to promote some corporate or political agenda. The term is used to describe the practices of entities who market themselves as ‘gay-friendly’ to gain favour with progressives, while simultaneously masking aspects of their practices that are violent and undemocratic. 

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’, or gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they’. In the Finnish language, personal pronouns (words used as substitutes for a person’s name, such as he and she) do not specify whether the person discussed is a woman or a man. One word – hän – refers to women, men and people of other genders alike.   

An acronym standing for queer, trans and intersex people of colour. 

An umbrella term used by those who reject heteronormativity. Although some people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed by the queer community, who have embraced it as an empowering and subversive identity. 

Safe/safer space  
An environment that enables all persons, including sexual and gender minorities, to be free to express themselves without fear of discrimination or violation of their rights and dignity. Individual actions and reactions are key in upholding or violating a safe space. The Finnish Museum of Photography's safe space guidelines are available on the museum's website.  

A traditional African healer who specialises in treating people’s spiritual and physical diseases by looking into their past and future and connecting them with the ancestors. Healers believe that they are called by their ancestors to take on this important and respected position in society. 

An umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people are binary-identified, and others are not. 

The steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition involves different processes. For some this involves medical intervention or genderaffirming healthcare such as hormone therapy and surgeries (medical transition), but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning might also involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently, changing one’s pronouns (social transition) and changing official documents (legal transition). 

A term that characterises the marginalisation of Black trans women and transfeminine people and captures the intersection of transphobia, racism and misogyny. It is used to denote the fact that Black trans women experience a different, racialised form of misogyny that is compounded with transphobia. 

A term capturing the interlocking discrimination of transphobia and misogyny. Transmisogyny includes negative attitudes, hate and discrimination toward transgender individuals who fall on the feminine side of the gender spectrum.  

The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact that they are transgender, including the denial/refusal to accept their gender identity.  

White Supremacy  
A racist ideology in which people defined and perceived as white are positioned as superior to and should dominate people of other races, and the practices based on this ideology.   

A Bantu ethnic group and language of Southern Africa situated within the Nguni people. They are a branch of the southern Bantu and have close ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties with the Swazi and Xhosa. The Zulu are South Africa’s largest ethnic group, with an estimated population of 10 million, residing mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.   












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