Circle I: Intrapersonal
Keep in mind that these terms and identities are for an individual to decide on their own, your own, without outside determinations.
Sexuality and gender-identity are more fluid than what is socially recognized.
Let’s start with some basic terms, with contemporary understandings.
What’s that alphabet soup everyone uses?!
LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTIQA, LGBTQAA, superfragilisticexpialidocious, huh?
These are common acronyms that may be used for movements, organizations, and individuals in the community.
Let’s break it down:
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, Ally, and Intersex.
To see a more comprehensive list, visit this incredible glossary resource from The Gender Equity Resource Center at Berkeley.
Asexual, Bisexuality, what?
- Asexuality or asexual may refer to a person who is not sexually active or is not sexually attracted to other people. Read more at AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network).
Some people contest the notion of Bisexuality. Why is this?
- Bisexuality or bisexual is based upon the idea that there exist only two genders that would be the object of sexual attraction and the individual who identifies as bisexual would be attracted to both genders.
When we deconstruct the gender binary, however, we know there are actually many more gender-identities.
So, some individuals use PANSEXUALITY as a replacement term for sexuality, which applies to people who are attracted to people regardless of their gender.
So what are these other gender identities?
- Intersex can be a “general term for for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Read more at ISNA: Intersex Society of North America.
- Trans* is a shortening for a myriad of trans-identities, because each and everyone has their own unique qualities. Remember that transsexual, transgender, transman, transwoman, and trans-identified each mean something very different.
- Genderqueer is also another noteworthy gender-identity that is not limited or assigned to one specific gender of the male/female gender binary.
These terms for identifying personal gender identity do not indicate sexuality or preference of attraction to specific gender(s).
Some of your trans* and genderqueer questions are answered here, by Annika and Sebastian from Autostraddle.com.
and more questions answered here, at Not Your Mom’s Trans* 101.
- If someone doesn’t identify as male or female, what pronouns are available to use?
Popular gender-neutral pronouns instead of he or she are ze, and hir (pronounced “here”) instead of her/him.
OR just ask preference!
I'd highly recommend taking a look at the GENDER book, (<--link to the actual book online! wow!) for "a fun, colorful, community-based resource, which illustrates the beautiful diversity of gender - a sort of gender 101 for anyone and everyone." Though it's still a work-in-progress, the project began (<--link to their tumblr!) when creators "started to educate each other about what it means to live and express and perform one’s gender. The more they learned, the more they wanted to share with everyone else. They saw a need around them in transgender friends who wanted more options on their census forms, and transsexual lovers who had to educate their own therapists, and parents wanting to know how to be supportive of their gender-variant kids."
If interested, there are also more complex definitions of genders and sexualities if you visit the work of Julia Serano (scroll down to “a glossary of terms”).
- Moving on to more terms, what about this “closet” everyone talks about?
I feel, no one should EVER feel pressured to “come out of the closet” about their gender-identity or sexuality, through words, actions, or expectations. This is a personal decision.
This means, never “out” someone else, not knowing the individuals’ context or level of safety and comfortability.
We all know my thoughts on National Coming Out Day, knowing that there is no one special day or time to “come out.”
It happens, continually, constantly.
Feeling comfortable and in the right context in the various circles and institutions of society in which you operate is so crucial for this experience. Personally, for example, I’m “out” to everyone in my personal and academic circles, but not at work.
Want more information on Coming Out? Visit some information from AVERT or from The New York Times. (any more helpful, supportive and affirming resources would be appreciated!)
Wondering how else can you be an ally and a friend?
Visit the GLAAD ally resources for additional ideas.
or click here to see more ways on How To Be an Ally to LGBT People, from The Stonewall Center at UMass Amherst.
Introduction: Being Queer