The recent “big news” on the social media front this past weekend centered around Facebook. Recognizing that not all individuals identify as heterosexual, there are now options for their users when setting up their Profile.
Options, you ask? How can there be options? Male. Female. What more can there be?
Well, a lot actually.
Apparently, Facebook offers about 50 options. Well, I read that somewhere anyway. So, curious, I checked it out. Wow – there ARE a lot of options!
It did get me thinking…are people familiar with the terminology that many individuals use to identify themselves? Maybe not. Would you like to know? Good! That’s what I like to hear – people who are interested in learning new information to help them become educated, open-minded, people of society.
We have heard the term “LGBT” in the media, but I’m not so sure people know what each of the letters stand for. I believe people know it is a term related to the gay community, but that is about it. Sometimes you may hear it referred to GLBT.
“L” – Lesbian
“G” – Gay
“B” – Bisexual
“T” – Transgender
Sometimes you may see it written as such:
LGBTQ or LGBTQQ or LGBTQA or LGBTQQAAIP
These are a little less mainstream, but understanding their basic meaning is beneficial.
“A” – Ally
“A” – Asexual
“I” – Intersex
“P” – Pansexual
Okay. So, what do these terms mean?
Ally: Someone who supports the LGBT community.
Asexual: Not sexually attracted to any sex.
Bisexual: A person of one sex who is attracted romantically/physically to a person of the same sex OR of another sex.
Cisgender: A person’s biology matches their gender identity.
Gay: A person of one sex who is attracted romantically and/or physically to a person of the same sex. Generally the term is used when referring to men who are attracted to men, however this term can be used to include both males and females who are attracted to same-sex individuals.
Gender identity: The person identifies as male, female, neither, or both. Some individuals do not identify as him/her/she/he. Rather, they prefer to be referred to as them/they.
Intersex: More of a medical thing. A person may be born with ambiguous male and female anatomy – external as well as internal. Sometimes it is obvious at birth, other times it is not noticed until puberty, and sometimes a person never knows! There are several medical conditions associated with being intersex, including Turner Syndrome and Klinefelter Syndrome. This has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Other terms for this are Gender X and hermaphrodite.
Lesbian: A woman who is attracted romantically and/or physically to other women.
Non-binary: A person may use this term when they do not identify as either male nor female, but somewhere in between. This is not the same as transgender.
Pansexual: Attracted romantically/physically to a person regardless of their orientation, gender, identity, or anatomy.
Polyamorous: A person has more than one romantic partner.
Queer: Used by those in the LGBT community to describe themselves as being unique. The word ‘queer’ can sometimes be interpreted as derogatory, so be considerate when using this term.
Questioning: Refers to a person who is exploring their sexual identity, orientation, or gender identity.
Transgender: Transgender refers to individuals who express themselves as the opposite sex from which they were born. This can include cross-dressers, transsexuals, and others.
Transsexual falls under the umbrella term of transgender.
Transsexual is defined as an individual who was born with the outward appearance of one sex, yet inside they feel like the opposite sex (gender identity). The body does not match the psyche. Some individuals may transition by dressing as the person of the opposite sex to express their gender identity. They may also transition by legally changing their gender or name, or merely by changing their name and pronoun within their social or professional circles.
Some individuals who identify as transgender will elect to transition by undergoing surgical and/or hormonal treatment to allow their outward appearance to match how they identify inwardly. This is referred to as sex reassignment surgery. They may also elect to surgically or hormonally transition partially which can be referred to as gender hybrid. The individual may choose not do anything at all. It is a personal choice.
The term transsexual is not used as much as it used to be. In fact, transgender is often used interchangeably. It is best to ask the individual how they would like to be referred. Keep in mind, these terms refer only to gender identity (do they identify as male or female) NOT sexual orientation (whom they are attracted to romantically).
Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz on this.
That is a lot to take in. It is important to have a general idea of what people are talking about. And yes, it can be confusing. Especially the transgender/transsexual language.
So, getting back to Facebook. I think it is pretty cool that they are offering identity alternatives for those who do not identify themselves as either “male” or “female”.
If you want more information, these are great resources:
http://www.glaad.org (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)
http://www.isna.org (Intersex Society of North America)
https://www.gsanetwork.org (Gay Straight Alliance Network)
http://community.pflag.org (Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes by Gerald N. Callahan, Ph.D. (I loved this book!)
(A special thanks to Dr. Sally Conklin from Northern Illinois University for her support and suggestions!)