- What does LGBT mean?
- I’ve also seen the LGBT acronym have Q, I, P, A in it, too. What does that mean?
- You say “gay” refers to men who are having sex with only men, but I also heard people use “gay” to refer to lesbians. Is that accurate?
- What’s the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?
- How do you know if you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender?
- If a man dresses as a woman, is he transgender?
- Where can I get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
- I think my participant/client might be gay. What should I do?
- How can I make my office a safe space for LGBT individuals?
- Can individuals be granted asylum status in the United States due to their sexual orientation?
- I was harassed at work and/or fired from my job because I am LGBT. What can I do?
- Will my doctor judge me if I tell them I am LGBT?
- Do only gay men contract HIV/AIDS?
- Are LGBT people more likely to be predisposed to mental illness and/or substance abuse?
- Are same-sex relations only found in Western cultures?
- Are same-sex relations a contemporary phenomenon?
- What is gender reassignment surgery?
1. What does LGBT mean?
The acronym LGBT stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender”.
- Lesbian is used to describe a woman whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women.
- Gay is used to describe a man whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other men.
- Bisexual describes an individual who is physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to both men and women.
- Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
2. I’ve also seen the LGBT acronym have Q, I, P, A in it, too. What does that mean?
Terms relating to sexual orientation and gender identity vary based on culture, generation, location, and other determining factors. Adding additional letters to the acronym often connotes broader inclusion of different communities and community members. Some of the most common terms are as follows:
The “Q” can stand for Questioning and/or Queer:
- Questioning refers to individuals who are unsure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- Queer is an umbrella term encompassing a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities excluding heterosexuality. The term was originally used as a slur but has been reclaimed by younger generations to also refer to political ideologies not adhering to heteronormativity or a gender-binary.
- Intersex is an umbrella term covering differences of sexual development, which can consist of diagnosable congenital conditions in which development of anatomic, chromosomal, or gonadal sex is atypical.
- Pansexual refers to individuals who feel emotional and sexual attraction to, and intimate relations with, individuals of all gender identities and sexes.
- Asexual Refers to individuals who do not feel sexual attraction to others or have a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is different than celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity.
3. This website defines “gay” as men who are attracted to men, but I also heard people use “gay” to refer to lesbians. Is that accurate?
Yes. The term gay is sometimes used more broadly to refer to lesbians or women who identify as being attracted to women; however, the term is most often used to refer to men who identify as being attracted to men.
4. What’s the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity?
The relationship between sexuality, gender identity, and sexual orientation is complex and sometimes hard to decipher. Sexual orientation refers to individuals’ attractions to others–who they love and date, and to whom they are physically and/or emotionally attracted. The terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual refer to one’s sexual orientation. Gender identity refers to individuals’ internal and individual experiences of gender. Transgender refers to one’s gender identity. In basic terms, gender identity is concerned with who one is, and sexual orientation is concerned with who one loves.
5. How do you know if you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender?
People often continue to learn about themselves and their sexuality throughout their lives. For some, though, acknowledging and coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity can happen at a young age. It is important to support individuals wherever they are in this process, understanding that it is different for each person.
6. If a man dresses as a woman, is he transgender?
Yes and no. The person may identify as transgender and dress as a woman for that reason, but there are many reasons people dress in clothing and accessories of other genders. Some people do it for fun; others do it as part of performance. People might feel more comfortable in that clothing, while some choose to do it as a political or social statement. For others, dressing in clothing of the opposite sex is an opportunity to explore their gender identity and can help them align who they feel like on the inside with how they express themselves on the outside.
7. Where can I get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
You can ask your primary care provider to include this testing during your regular check-ups. Your primary care provider will not test you for HIV and STIs unless you specifically ask them. If you do not want to ask your primary care provider, do not have a primary care provider, or do not have health insurance, there are many sites (e.g. community clinics and non-profit agencies) that can provide anonymous and/or confidential testing. Some services are free or sliding-scale.
Click here to find HIV and STI/STD testing near you: http://www.hivtest.org/
8. I think my participant/client might be gay. What should I do?
This can be a sensitive subject for your participants so avoid asking them directly if they identify as LGBT, as this could put them in an uncomfortable position. Although knowing your participants’ sexual orientation and gender identity is useful for when tailoring services and offering appropriate referrals, they need to share this information with you on their own terms.
What you can do is create a safe and inclusive environment for your participants so they feel more comfortable sharing such personal information with you. If the participant tells you that they are gay, thank them for sharing, affirm that what they told you is ok, that they can continue to receive services, and that this information will be kept confidential. Based on your relationship with the participant, it may be appropriate to make referrals to LGBT organizations, discuss a safety plan for the participant, or discuss LGBT status at school or in the workplace. For more information, please refer to our Resources page under “For Providers.” Check out Heartland Alliance’s field manual (coming soon) for detailed instruction and recommendations.
9. How can I make my office a safe space for LGBT individuals?
It is important to cultivate a safe and welcoming environment for your participants so they can feel comfortable sharing personal information with you. There are many things you can do both individually and as an organization to create a more comfortable space for LGBT individuals.
One of the easiest ways is to ensure your language is gender neutral and LGBT inclusive. For example, you can use the term “partner” instead of husband or wife. You can ask your participants what gender-pronoun they prefer (for example, “he” or “she”). You can also make sure that forms, paperwork, policies, and procedures are LGBT inclusive. Your agency can include sexual health information and a LGBT sensitivity module in your cultural orientation with all refugees and asylees. These are just a few ways to make your work environment more LGBT-friendly.
For additional ways to create a safe space and inclusive environment for LGBT participants, please refer to our Resources page under “For Providers,” and check out Heartland Alliance’s field manual (coming soon) for further recommendations.
10. Can individuals be granted asylum status in the United States due to their sexual orientation?
Yes. According to U.S. and international law, an individual becomes eligible for asylum when he or she can exhibit a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion." This includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
11. I was harassed at work and/or fired from my job because I am LGBT. What can I do?
There are laws in place to protect individuals from being harassed or being terminated without cause; however, legal protections for LGBT individuals vary depending on where you live. Currently, there is no federal law that explicitly forbids job discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. For more information, go to our “Employment” and “Legal” sections or go to www.lambdalegal.org
12. Will my doctor judge me if I tell them I am LGBT?
No one should face discrimination while accessing healthcare services. Unfortunately, not all providers are familiar with LGBT communities and common health concerns. You may feel most comfortable seeking out LGBT healthcare providers in your area. In big cities there may be groups of providers who specialize in providing care to LGBT communities. In other areas, LGBT community organizations may be able to provide the names of individual providers who are known to be culturally competent.
13. Do only gay men contract HIV/AIDS?
No. HIV/AIDS is contracted through exchange of bodily fluids, and is not based on sexual orientation.
14. Are LGBT people more likely to be predisposed to mental illness and/or substance abuse?
No. LGBT individuals are more susceptible to mental illness or substance abuse as a result of the isolation, hostility, or discrimination they endure as LGBT individuals, not because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
15. Are same-sex relations only found in Western cultures?
Same-sex relations occur in all communities and cultures across the globe.
16. Are same-sex relations a contemporary phenomenon?
Same-sex relations are natural occurrences that have been recorded throughout history.
17. What is gender realignment surgery?
Gender realignment surgery refers to medical procedures transgender individuals may undergo to align their genitalia and physical appearance with their gender identity. It is also known as “gender reassignment surgery” and “sexual reassignment surgery”. Some individuals have top surgery. Top surgery refers to surgeries involving chest reconstruction. Some individuals have bottom surgery. Bottom surgery refers to surgeries involving genital reconstruction. While transgender individuals may choose to undergo surgery or hormone therapy, this is not the case for all transgender persons.