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Gender, Sexuality, and Expression

What does LGBTQIA+ mean?

LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual (or allies), plus other marginalized groups such as pansexual, heteroflexible, aromantic, etc. The term does not include everyone, but it’s a starting point for talking about different types of romantic attraction and gender identities.

 

Expressing Myself. My Way.

 

 

What is sexual orientation?

The following terms describe some people’s sexual orientations. Someone’s sexual orientation refers to the people that they are sexually attracted to.

 

      • Heterosexual (or straight) refers to a person who is sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex.
      • Homosexual (or gay) refers to someone who is sexually attracted to people of the same sex.
      • Lesbian refers specifically to a woman who is sexually attracted to other women.
      • Bisexual refers to a person who is sexually attracted to both men and women.
      • Pansexual refers to a person who is sexually attracted to people of any sex, gender or gender identity.
      • Asexual refers to a person with a lack of sexual or romantic attraction for anyone, or with low interest in sexual activity.
      • Aromantic refer to a person who has no interest in romantic relationships
      • Questioning is the process of exploring one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation.
      • Heteroflexibility is a form of a sexual orientation identified by minimal homosexual activity and being predominantly heterosexual (straight).
      • Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and/or gender minorities. Typically those who identify as queer do not consider themselves heterosexual and/or a part of the gender binary. (learn more in gender identity and gender expression sections)

 

Just like with differences in race, ethnicity, religion, or cultural background, it’s important to remember that just because someone is different than you doesn’t mean they’re weird, bad or wrong. Always treat everyone with respect and understanding no matter who they are or how they live their life.  If you don’t see yourself represented in the list above, click here to see a more complete list of sexual orientations.

 

What does biological sex mean?

Biological sex refers to the anatomy that defines us as male, female or intersex. This includes the internal and external sex organs in addition to chromosomes and hormones as well.

Here’s some important info to know about biological sex:

 

  • A person with two XX chromosomes is a biological female.
  • A person with XY chromosomes is a biological male.
  • Intersex refers to an individual who has a chromosome set different from biological males or females. This individual may develop sex or reproductive organs that are ambiguous or may develop sex characteristics of both males and females.

 

What does gender identity mean?

Gender identity refers to how people see themselves.  It is their own internal sense and personal experience of gender.  Just because someone is a biological male or female does not mean that they identify with that sex or gender identity. Gender markers are not determined by biological sex.  They are ideas that we assign to a person based on sex.  Here are some important terms to know regarding gender identity:

 

  • Cisgender refers to a person whose gender identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex assigned at birth.
  • Genderqueer/Gender Non-Conforming refers to a person whose gender identity does not strictly conform to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of genders.
  • Transgender refers to a person whose gender identity does not correspond to their biological sex assigned at birth.
  • Non-binary refers to a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary.

 

What is gender expression?

Gender expression includes all the ways a person communicates their gender based on societal factors such as gender norms and perceptions.  Gender expression is a person’s outward expression of their gender; like their clothes, haircut, makeup, etc.

 

It all exists on a spectrum

It is important to remember that gender identity, sexual orientation, biological sex, and gender expression are all on a spectrum. This means that some people aren’t always one thing or another – they can be somewhere in between.

 

  • A person who is transgender can identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or any other sexual orientation.
  • A person who identifies as a woman and is biologically female may choose to express their gender on the scale of masculine, feminine or androgynous.
  • A person whose biological sex is male can have a feminine gender expression.

Genderbread Person Poster

Trevor Project

Growing up LGBTQIA+

In 2012, the Human Rights Campaign did a report called, “Growing Up LGBT in America,” and surveyed more than 10,000 LGBTQIA+-identified youth ages 13 – 17.  It provided a stark picture of the difficulties they face.  Since, they surveyed more than 12,000 LGBTQIA+ youth ages 13-17 in the “2018 LGBTQ Youth Report.”  Both reports surveyed youth from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The results of the 2018 youth survey show continuing, serious challenges for LGBTQIA+ youth.

 

The 2018 youth survey shows 67% of LGBTQIA+ youth hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQIA+ people.  Similarly 48% of LGBTQIA+ youth who are out to their parents say that their families make them feel bad for being LGBTQIA+.

The Trevor Project’s 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health surveyed over 34,000 youth, ages 13-24, with representation from all 50 states. Their key findings show:

 

  • 39% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered
  • 71% of LGBTQ youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year
  • Less than half of LGBTQ respondents were out to an adult at school, with youth much less likely to disclose their gender identity than sexual orientation
  • 2 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with youth who have undergone conversion therapy more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not
  • 71% of LGBTQ youth in our study reported discrimination due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • 58% of transgender and non-binary youth reported being discouraged from using a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity
  • 76% of LGBTQ youth felt that the recent political climate impacted their mental health or sense of self
  • 87% of LGBTQ youth said it was important to them to reach out to a crisis intervention organization that focuses on LGBTQ youth and 98% said a safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth would be valuable to them

 

LGBTQIA+ Youth Rights

lgbtqia+ Youth Rights

If you are interested in laws specific to the state you live in, a good resource is: https://sexetc.org/action-center/sex-in-the-states/.

 

In recent years, many states have taken steps to protect LGBTQIA+ youth against bullying and discrimination.  22 states have anti-bullying laws geared to protect the LGBTQIA+ community, and 15 states have school non-discrimination laws and state-wide regulations to protect LGBTQIA+ students from discrimination in schools on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including being unfairly denied access to facilities, sports teams, and clubs.  This information is up to date as of July 2019

 

LGBTQIA+ youth face lots of challenges and are often targeted by bullying and discrimination. School bullying is a big problem, which has garnered national attention and affects many LGBTQIA+ youth.  Results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that, nationwide, more U.S. high school students who self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) report having been bullied on school property (33%) and cyberbullied (27.1%) in the past year, than their heterosexual peers (17.1% and 13.3%, respectively). Bullying puts youth at increased risk for depression, suicidal ideation, misuse of drugs and alcohol, risky sexual behavior, and can affect academics as well. For LGBTQIA+ youth, that risk is even higher.

 

 

There are many organizations that devote their time and money to fighting for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.  Their belief is that regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; jobs, housing, government programs, service at restaurants and everything else should be equal.  If you would like to learn more about the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Humans Rights Campaign are good places to start.

 

How to be an ally

  1. Be a listener.
  2. Be open-minded.
  3. Be willing to talk.
  4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.
  5. Don’t assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
  6. Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
  7. Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
  8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination.
  9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
  10. If you see LGBT people being misrepresented in the media, contact GLAAD.org.

(https://www.glaad.org/resources/ally/2)

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How do I know if I’m part of the LGBTQIA+ community?

That’s a difficult question to answer because only you can decide.  You don’t need to decide right away.  As you learn about yourself, your identity may grow and change.  No matter how you decide to identify, you are valid and deserve happiness and acceptance.  Even if you identify as heterosexual you can still be an ally and support the LGBTQIA+ community!

 

How can I support my friend who has “come out of the closet?”

This could be a rough transition for them, try and make yourself available for them to chat with because they will need a good friend.  Coming out of the closet can be exciting and new but also scary because there is a lot of unknown.  You can learn about healthy positive relationships here.

 

How do I know what pronouns to use for a person?

Ask in a respectful way what pronouns they prefer.  The person will probably be happy that you care enough to use the correct pronouns.  Some pronoun examples include: he, him, his; she, her, hers; they, them.

 

Why do people say “that’s so gay”?

Typically when people use that phrase, they are using “gay” to mean something is bad, negative, stupid or less than desirable.  Using that term in that way can make a homosexual person feel that their sexual orientation is less than desirable or that they are not supported.  Using this phrase can be a habit for someone, even though they may not understand the weight of their words.  If you feel comfortable, you can ask that person not to use that phrase around you and explain to them why it’s offensive to you and others.

 

Someone called me homophobic, but I have a friend who is gay, so I can’t be, right?

Language matters.  Sometimes what we say, our body language, and how we talk to people can project a message that doesn’t match how we really feel.  The words that we use can be upsetting to some and not to others.  It’s important to listen to the person who you’ve hurt, be accountable and take responsibility for what you said, and then commit to do better.

 

I want to “come out” but I’m afraid that my parents/guardians won’t be accepting.

Deciding to come out is a brave decision.  Think ahead before you come out, get ready for a variety of reactions; good, bad, and super tough.  Your safety should be the first priority.  Being your authentic self is important but being safe is even more important. If you are worried that it may not be safe for you to come out, have a safety plan for yourself.  It may make you feel safer to have a back-up plan for housing, food, school and transportation in case your family is unsupportive.  And remember, even if they aren’t supportive initially, that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. The Trevor Project has an excellent guide to coming out on their website.

 

What should I do if I need help?

The Trevor Project also has a crisis line for LGBTQIA+ youth, where you can call 1-866-488-7386, use TrevorChat to instant message with a counselor, or use TrevorText by texting START to 678678.

 

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