The Gender Unicorn | Terminology | LGBTQ+ Symbols | Coming Out
Trans 101: Primer | Homophobia & Biphobia Heterosexism & Privilege | Allyship
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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning Student Services are committed to enhancing the overall educational experience of the CSU community. We provide resources, support and educational programming that promotes the academic and personal growth and development of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning students and their allies, work to assure unrestricted
access to and full involvement in all aspects of life at CSU, and strive to create a more inclusive and welcoming campus climate for all students.
Why the (+)? The plus (+) in our name ensures that we will always be inclusive of all identities to make our community feel welcomed and that nobody is left out. We make it a goal to not have a closed focus mind of the continuing ways people define themselves as. And yes, allies are included in our LGBTQ+ acronym!
The Gender Unicorn
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“SEX ASSIGNED AT BIRTH”
Most societies view sex as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options: male or female, based on a person’s reproductive functions genitals, sex chromosomes, gonads, hormones, reproductive structures). While most bodies have one of two forms of genitalia, which are classified as “female” or “male,” there are naturally occurring Intersex conditions that demonstrate that sex exists across a continuum of possibilities. This biological spectrum shows that sex can not be neatly divided into two categories. At birth, babies are assigned a sex, and assigned the binary gender that society has designated to match. It is assumed that our identities should and will match this assignment, but this isn’t the case for most people who are trans*. Trans* people may use “AFAB” (assigned female at birth) or “AMAB” (assigned male at birth) to communicate their assigned sex.
DEFINING A COMMON LANGUAGE
SEX AND GENDER
Sex | A medical term designating a certain combination of gonads, chromosomes, external sex organs, secondary sex characteristics and hormonal balances. A binary system (male/female) set by the medical establishment, usually based on genitals and sometimes chromosomes. Because this is usually divided into “male” and “female,” this category often ignores the existence of intersex bodies. See intersex.
Gender | A complex combination of roles, expressions, ideas, performances, and more that are assigned gendered meaning by society. Gender is both society-defined (a social construct), and self-defined (gender identity). A person’s gender can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth. Gender is a spectrum, not a binary, meaning there are more than 2 possible gender identities.
Intersex | A person born with any manner of supposed “ambiguity” in terms of gendered physical characteristics, including organs,
genitals, hormones, chromosomes, or any combination thereof. At birth, attending physicians may choose to perform reassignment
surgery on individuals with ambiguous genitalia, thus assigning a gender identity. Many who identify as intersex believe that early childhood surgical intervention is not only unnecessary but cruel, and advocate counseling and support for children and families.
Cisgender | A person whose gender identity aligns with the gender typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth; someone who is not trans*.
Trans* and Transgender | An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the gender they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. The asterisk in “Trans*” signifies a specific effort to include all transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming identities, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderless, agender, nongendered, third gender, two-spirit, and bigender, in addition to trans men and trans women.
Transition | The process by which some people strive to more closely align their outward appearance with their gender identity. Transitioning may include social, physical, mental, and emotional components, and may or may not include things like changing one’s name, taking hormones, having surgery, changing legal documents to reflect one’s gender identity, coming out to loved ones, dressing as one chooses, and accepting oneself among many other things. Transition in an individual process.
Transsexual | This term often refers to binary trans* people (trans men and trans women), or to trans* people who physically transition in any way. While still a preferred term for many, some people dislike the term because of its connection to the medicalization of trans* people and the focus it can put on physical transition.
FTM/F2M/female to male | A term usually synonymous with trans man, but also occasionally used by other AFAB (assigned female at birth) trans* people. This term is problematic to some AFAB trans* people, because “X to Y” terms can put too much focus on traditional means of physical transition. Additionally, some trans* people may feel they were never female.
MTF/M2F/male to female | A term usually synonymous with trans woman but also occasionally used by other AMAB trans* people. This term is problematic to some AFAB trans* people, because “X to Y” terms can put too much focus on traditional means of physical transition. Additionally, some trans* people may feel they were never male.
Transphobia | The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, people who are transgender.
Passing | When used by trans* people, it can either mean that one is being read as the gender they identify as or that one is being read as cisgender. For example, a trans man who is regarded at a glance as a cisgender man.
Gender binary | The societal expectation that there are only masculine cisgender men and feminine cisgender women, and there can be no alternatives in terms of gender identity or expression.
Gender expression | How one expresses their gender outwardly and/or the facets of a person’s expression which have gendered connotations in our culture. This cam include behavior, clothing, haircut, and/or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with one’s gender identity.
Gender identity | An internal sense of one’s self as woman, man, trans*,non-binary/gender non-conforming, or another identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth. A person may or may not identify with the social constructs that define options for gender.
Gender neutral pronouns | Pronouns other than the usually gendered “he/him/his” or “she/her/hers.” Some examples are “ze/zir/zirs” and “they/them/their,” but there are many others.
Gender non-conforming | A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of
their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category.
Gender role | Cultural expectations for what people should do with their lives, what activities they should enjoy or excel at, and how they should behave, based on what their gender is.
Non-binary | Non-binary people are those who identify as a gender that is neither man nor woman, or who are not men or women exclusively. Non-binary can refer to a specific gender identity, or it can function as an umbrella term which can include (though not always) people who are genderqueer, agender, bigender, and others.
Agender | Some people who are agender would define their identity as being neither a man nor a woman, while others would define agender as not having any gender.
Genderfluid | This term can be used as a specific identity or as a way of articulating the changing nature of one’s gender identity or expression. People who are genderfluid may feel that their gender identity or expression is constantly changing, or that it switches back and forth.
Genderqueer | This term can be used as an umbrella term to include people who are gender nonconforming, people who are non-binary, and many more. As a specific identity it can be generally understood as a gender that is neither man nor woman, possibly in between, or completely separate.
ORIENTATION & EXPRESSION
Sexual Orientation | A component of identity that includes a person’s sexual and emotional attraction to another person and the behavior and/or social affiliation that may result from this attraction. A person may be attracted to men, women, both, neither, or to people who are genderqueer, androgynous, or have other gender identities. Individuals may identify as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, queer, pansexual, or asexual, among others. Sexual Orientation can be consistent or fluid. This term is often used to include romantic attraction as well.
Romantic Orientation | describes an individual’s pattern of romantic attraction based on a person’s gender(s) regardless of one’s sexual orientation. For individuals who experience sexual attraction, their sexual orientation and romantic orientation are often in alignment (i.e. they experience sexual attraction toward individuals of the same gender(s) as the individuals they are interested in forming romantic relationships with).
Asexual | A person who experiences a lack of a sexual attraction or desire for other people. Asexual or “Ace Umbrella” can be used to refer to anyone who experiences sexual attraction in only some/not all situations.
Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender, or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way, or to the same degree.
Gay | A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.
Heterosexuality | A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the opposite binary gender.
Homosexuality | A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender. This term is not frequently used in current LGBTQ+ discourse, and may be seen as outdated or possibly offensive - see “gay.”
Lesbian | A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women.
Pansexual | A person who is or can be emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to people of all/any genders, or to people regardless of gender.
Queer | A term people often use to express identities and orientations outside of societal norms, including anyone who is not cisgender and/or heterosexual. Can be used as an umbrella term, or used interchangeably with "LGBTQ+."
Questioning | A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Androgynous | Identifying and/or presenting in a way that diverges from normative categories of masculinity and femininity, including elements of both or neither binary gender expression.
Closeted | Describes a person who identifies as LGBTQ+, but who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Coming out | The process in which a person shares their sexual/romantic orientation or gender identity with others. This may occur all at once in a public setting, or privately with one person at a time, and often happens many times throughout a person’s life as they meet new people and enter new settings.
Living openly | A state in which people who are LGBTQ+ are comfortably out about their sexual orientation or gender identity – where and when it feels appropriate to them.
Outing | Exposing someone’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety, or religious or family situations.
ALLYSHIP AND ISMS
LGBTQ+ | An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning.” The plus (+) at the end includes other identities not represented by these letters, such as (but not limited to) intersex, asexual, agender, pansexual, HIV/AIDS positive, demisexual, polysexual, and more.
Ally | A person who does not identify as LGBTQ+, but shows support for people within LGBTQ+ communities and promotes equality in a variety of ways.
Biphobia | Prejudice, fear, or hatred directed toward people who are bisexual.
Heteronormativity | is the assumption that all people are heterosexual, or the belief that everyone should be heterosexual,and should conform to traditional gender roles.
Heterosexism | includes the prejudice and discrimination based on these assumptions and beliefs, and the privileging of heterosexual
Homophobia | The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are gay. Homophobia includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence brought on by fear and hatred. It occurs on personal, institutional, and societal levels.
Internalized homophobia | The fear or hatred of one's own sexuality that occurs for many individuals who have learned negative ideas about homosexuality throughout childhood. One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group. It can result in depression, alienation, anxiety, and even suicide.
It is important to remember that we are all unique and don't fit into distinct categories; "bisexual," "lesbian," "gay," and "heterosexual" are labels created by homophobic, biphobic, heterosexist society, and some LGBTQ+ people find them to be oppressive and limiting. For other LGBTQ+ people, using a label provides a sense of community and shared experience, and identifying with a label shared by a group of like-minded people can help a person feel less alone and misunderstood. Acknowledging and accepting the differences and seeing the beauty in our diversity facilitates our self esteem.
The pink triangle has become one of the symbols of the modern gay rights movement, but it originated in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. In many camps, prisoners wore badges. These badges were colored based upon the reason for imprisonment. In one common system, men convicted for sexual deviance, including homosexuality, wore a pink triangle. The icon has been reclaimed by many in the post-Stonewall gay rights movement as a symbol of empowerment, and, by some, a symbol of remembrance to the suffering of others during a tragic time in history.
The ribbon acknowledges the significant impact AIDS has had on the LGBTQ community. While AIDS can impact anyone, there is no denying the impression it has left on the community.
Designed by David Spada with the Rainbow Flag in mind, these six colored aluminum rings have come to symbolize independence and tolerance of others. They were quickly adopted by the Gay Civil Rights Movement, and are frequently displayed or worn as jewelry and can be found as necklaces, bracelets, rings and key chains.
This is the transgender symbol, which combines and modifies elements of the male and female gender symbols with a combined symbol jutting from the top left.
Use of the rainbow flag by the gay community began in 1978, when it first appeared in the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. Borrowing symbolism from the hippie movement and black civil rights groups, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag in response to a need for a symbol that could be used year after year. Originally the flag had 8 stripes, and each had a specific meaning; hot pink (sex), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature),turquoise (magic/art), indigo (serenity), and violet (spirit). Rainbows have since become a symbol representing pride for the LGBTQ+ community even though a few stripes have been removed- pink was removed due to fabric unavailability, and indigo and turquoise were combined into royal blue.
This flag was designed in 1998 to create visibility outside of and within the LGBTQ community. The deep pink represents the possibility of same gender attraction; the royal blue represents the possibility of different gender attraction; the purple represents the possibility of attraction anywhere along the entire gender spectrum.
A BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT IT MEANS TO “COME OUT”
THE TERM “COMING OUT” (of the closet) refers to the life-long process of communicating one’s LGBTQ+ identity to others. It is a very long and difficult struggle for many members of LGBTQ+ communities because they often must confront homophobic attitudes and discriminatory practices along the way. Many first need to struggle with their own negative stereotypes and feelings of homophobia that they learned when they were growing up.
It often takes years of work to develop a positive gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer identity. Then, many individuals begin to make decisions about whom to tell about their identity: LGBTQ+ people spend their lifetime coming out, in each new situation with new people. Many are afraid to “come out” to their friends and family, and are concerned about:
Coming out is, however, a very important process for many LGBTQ+ people. A person may want to come out in order to:
- Share their authentic self
- Feel closer to their friends and family
- Be able to be “whole” around others
- Stop wasting energy by hiding their identity
- Make a statement that “gay is OK”, as is lesbian, bisexual, trans*, or queer!
While everyone is different, many LGBTQ+ people may want to feel affirmed by their coming out experience. This may mean they desire:
- Willingness to learn more about LGBTQ+ experiences
- Closer friendship/family relationship that is not negatively
- impacted by coming out
- An acknowledgment of their feelings
- Reassurance that sexual orientation/gender identity is just
- one part of their being, not the entirety of the personality
*Adapted from Vernon Wall and Jamie Washington, 1989 Things to Consider When Supporting Someone Who is Coming Out
How can you affirm their experience?
A person who comes out to you may be wrestling with guilt, feelings of anxiety or depression, or discomfort. They may have spent many hours in thoughtful preparation prior to coming out to you, and may have rehearsed. They may feel vulnerable, frustrated, relieved, unsure, proud, or any combination of these feelings when preparing to come out to you.
An LGBTQ+ person may have experienced discrimination or rejection when coming out to others in the past. What can you do to play a role in making the person feel safe and accepted when they come out to you, and help facilitate a positive coming out experience?
How can you affirm their identity?
Coming out to others may require tremendous energy on the part of an LGBTQ+ person. Acceptance by others, including family and friends, can be a big part of accepting oneself. Be aware of your reactions, and how you can offer support to a person who comes out to you.
How can you connect them with a support system?
Coming out can be a difficult process for some, and they may benefit from knowing there are additional supports available to them. Remember, your role is to support the person coming out to you within the context of your relationship. It may be helpful for you to connect this person to a licensed mental health professional, peers in the LGBTQ+ community, or an identified ally for additional support and encouragement. It may also be helpful to have other resources at your fingertips, such as a book addressed to parents, a contact for the local or national Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG), or the name of a counselor who can help.
Are you knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ issues?
You may be exposed to new information or terminology when someone comes out to you. Rest assured that you do not have to be an expert on all things LGBTQ+ in order to be a good ally! Your good friend Google is there when you need them, and you’ll find plenty of resources online. If you’re unsure about something, there are many resources for you to consult.
GENDERED EXPERIENCE BEGINS when a doctor assigns one of the two binary genders to an infant based on the appearance of genitalia. Caretakers and peers reinforce this gender onto the child, assigning gendered pronouns, identity, roles and expression. Most people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, and are referred to as cisgender. Many people, however, identify with a gender or genders different from that assigned to them at birth—these people can fall under the trans* umbrella. Gender is a complex subject that encompasses several components.
The trans* community is very diverse, encompassing many identities and experiences. It is especially important to remember that trans* identities are not defined by a singular bodily experience or physical transition. Some trans people do not change their bodies at all, some undergo hormone therapy but do not undergo any surgeries (or vice versa), while still others choose some combination of physical transition options. Gender is not determined by bodily characteristics, and gender identities must be respected regardless of personal transition choices or needs.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What Does “Transgender” Mean?
A person who is “transgender” is someone whose gender identity differs from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.
Their gender identity differsfrom their biological sex as assigned at birth. Transgender people are born this way and have no choice in who they are.
Are Transgender People Gay?
Many transgender individuals identify themselves as heterosexual. Their intrinsic difference is their gender identity, not their sexual identity: these are two different concepts altogether. However, transgender people can be perceived as lesbian or gay, and thus are discriminated against in similar ways.
How Are Transgender People Discriminated Against?
Transgender people may face employment and housing discrimination, usually to a greater degree than gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people. They may also be denied public accommodations and access to health care, and may be potential targets for hate crimes: verbal harassment, threatening telephone calls and emails, and acts of violence committed by the same people who hate lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Transgender people are much more likely to fall victim to discrimination and hate crimes than LGB individuals, especially those who are readily identifiable as transgender.
What is Transphobia?
Transphobia is the fear of people who are transgender and the hatred, discrimination, intolerance, and prejudice that this fear brings. Transphobia is manifested as harassment, threatened safety, disgust, ridicule, restrictions on freedom of movement, restrictions on access to resources (housing, employment, services etc.), and violence to name a few.
How Should I Treat a Person Who is Transgender?
Treat transgender people with the same respect you treat others. If you are not sure how to address them, it is better to ask than assume! Make an effort to use the person’s preferred name and pronouns. Don’t ask questions about their genitals or how they have sex, unless they have indicated that it is ok.
Homophobia & Biphobia
HOMOPHOBIA AND BIPHOBIA take many different forms. Sometimes they take the form of physical acts of hate, violence, verbal assault, vandalism or blatant discrimination, such as firing an employee, evicting someone from their housing or denying them access to public accommodations. There are many other kinds of homophobia and biphobia that happen every day. Some of the more subtle actions and exclusions are harder to recognize, but can have an equally harmful effect.
SOME INSTANCES OF HOMOPHOBIA MAY INCLUDE:
- Looking at a lesbian or gay man and automatically thinking of her/his sexuality rather than seeing her/him as a whole,complex person.
- People cannot be boiled down to their sexual orientation alone. While sexual orientation may be a very important part of some individuals’ identities, this is only one part of the whole.
- Thinking you can “spot one.”
- Relying on stereotypes to identify a person’s sexual orientation can be very hurtful. The only way to know someone’s sexual orientation is if they tell you.
- Using the term “lesbian” or “gay” as accusatory, or as an insult.
- Using these words as insults implies that there is something negative about holding a lesbian or gay identity.
- Expressing disgust at public displays of affection between LGBTQ+ couples, but accepting the same displays of affection between heterosexual couples.
- While it may be new to you to see displays of affection between LGBTQ+ couples, remember that all couples have a desire to express love and affection for one another.
- Being afraid to ask questions about lesbian or gay issues when you don’t know the answers.
- Sometimes, we really mess up- that’s okay. Asking questions is the only way we learn. (Also, the internet is a really great tool to help you find answers!)
SOME INSTANCES OF BIPHOBIA MAY INCLUDE:
- Believing that bisexuality doesn’t exist, or stating that it’s a phase - people are only gay or straight.
- This statement denies the fluidity of sexuality and dismisses people’s experiences and definitions of self. People deserve the right to define their identities any way they wish.
- Believing, on the other hand, that everyone is really bisexual.
- People may say this as a way to acknowledge the fluidity of sexuality. However, it dismisses people who identify as bisexual, as well as their experiences.
- Believing that bisexual people are greedy, or just want to have sex with everyone.
- This stereotypes bisexual people and assumes they are all promiscuous. It creates negative attitudes towards sex and works against creating a sex positive climate. It also comes from the notion that bisexuality is not a legitimate identity, but is only about behavior.
Heterosexism & Privilege
HETEROSEXISM IS THE CULTURAL, institutional, and individual assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of LGBTQ+ community while it gives advantages and privileges to people who are heterosexual. It is often a subtle form of oppression that reinforces realities of silence and invisibility. What can you do to interrupt heterosexism? Here are a few action steps you can take:
- Stop Heterosexist Behavior
- Notice and stop heterosexist language in yourself and others.
- Establish guidelines and professional expectations. Enforce them gently but firmly.
- Educate Yourself
- Read about LGBTQ+ issues.
- Talk about the issue with others.
- Attend LGBTQ+ events.
- Join organizations (NGLTF, HRC, NASW gay caucus, etc.).
- Support Change in Others
- Acknowledge when someone is non-heterosexist.
- Rename heterosexist acts and comments as unfair or unacceptable.
- Initiate and Prevent
- Develop an office policy statement against heterosexism.
- Analyze training materials for heterosexist bias.
- Write to lawmakers to support LGBTQ+ rights legislation and oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation
- Model Non-Heterosexist Behaviors
- Don't joke or tease someone for nontraditional gender behaviors.
- Avoid “heterosexual credentializing” - making a point of your heterosexuality.
- Don't assume that anyone/everyone is /are heterosexual.
Use terms like "partner" and "friend," not "boyfriend" or "wife," etc.
Use neutral examples for pronouns.
Adapted from Social Issues Training Project, University of Massachusetts, School of Education, 1984.
HETEROSEXUAL PRIVILEGE is living without ever having to think twice, face, confront, engage, or cope with these experiences. Heterosexuals can address these phenomena but social/political forces do not require you to do so.
- Family-of-origin support for a life partner/lover/companion.
- Increased possibilities for getting a job, promotion, and job security.
- Kissing/hugging/being affectionate in public without threat or punishment.
- Talking about your relationship or what projects, vacations, family planning you and your partner/lover are creating.
- Not questioning your normalcy (sexually and culturally).
- Having and adopting children, foster-parenting children.
- Being employed as a teacher in pre-school through high school without fear of being fired any day because you are assumed to corrupt children.
- Living openly with your partner.
- Receiving validation from your religious community.
- Receiving social acceptance by neighbors, colleagues and new friends.
- Working without always being identified by your sexuality/culture (e.g. you get to be a farmer, bricklayer, artist, etc. without being labeled the heterosexual farmer, the heterosexual teacher.)
BEING AN ALLY on LGBTQ+ issues is the process of working to develop individual attitudes, helping institutions to evolve, and transforming society into one in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender people matter. This work is motivated by an enlightened self-interest to end homophobia and heterosexism.
…has worked to develop an understanding of LGBTQ+ identities and issues, and the needs and the strengths of LGBTQ+ individuals and communities.
…chooses to align with LGBTQ+ communities, responds to their needs and gains from their strengths.
…does not speak for an LGBTQ+ person, but makes space for an LGBTQ+ person to speak for themselves.
…is committed to the work that personal growth requires, and to doing this work for themselves rather than expecting an LGBTQ+ person to bear the responsibility of educating the ally, or the emotional labor of using their own story as an example.
…is able to acknowledge and articulate how patterns of oppression have operated in their lives, and the privilege they have received by the imbalance of society.
…expects to make some mistakes but does not use it as an excuse for non-action, and accepts consequences for mistakes and uses them as an opportunity to learn and grow.
…knows that responsibility comes with the empowerment and privilege of being a member of the dominant majority, and will use that power and privilege to create space for marginalized minority members to speak for themselves.
…promotes a sense of community with the LGBTQ+ community, and teaches others about the importance of outreach.
… remembers that people are people, with their own unique characteristics, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.