LGBT Resource Center

LGBT 101

So you want to learn more...about LGBT issues, LGBT history, how to make a more inclusive classroom, or maybe you are just curious. The LGBT Resource Center has put this page together for you. Below is a sampling of some general information as well as links to websites, videos, and documents you can use to learn more. If you have any questions, feel free to send them to SafeZone@slcc.edu .

Terminology

History

Coming Out

 

For a closed caption version of this video, click here.

Terminology

For a complete list of common terms, click here.

Ally – Someone who confronts heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexual and gender-straight privilege in themselves and others; a concern for the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people; a belief that heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are social.

Androgynous - An appearance and/or identification that is neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.

Asexual – Someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. Asexual people still have the same emotional needs as anyone else, and experience attraction. However, they feel no need to act out that attraction sexually.

Assigned Sex - When all of us are born, a doctor or other official surveys the evidence and assigns us one of two sexes: “male” and “female.”  If the available physical evidence at birth is unclear, many times the evidence is “fixed” surgically to conform to one of those two boxes.

Bisexual – A person emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to male/men and females/women.  This attraction does not have to be equally split between genders and there may be a preference for one gender over others.

Cisgender - Literally “not transgender.”  This is a less problematic term for people who are not transgender – preferred over terms like “real man/woman,” “biological man/woman,” or “natural man/woman.”

Coming Out – May refer to the process by which one accepts one’s own sexuality, gender identity, or status as an intersexed person (to “come out” to oneself).  May also refer to the process by which one shares one’s sexuality, gender identity, or intersexed status with others (to “come out” to friends, etc.).  This can be a continual, life-long process for homosexual, bisexual, transgendered, and intersexed individuals.

Gay – 1. Term used in some cultural settings to represent males who are attracted to males in a romantic, erotic and/or emotional sense.   Not all men who engage in “homosexual behavior” identify as gay, and as such this label should be used with caution. 2. Term used to refer to the LGBTQ community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as heterosexual.

Gender Expression - The gender everyone sees: the way in which an individual externally represents their gender identity and presents it to the world.

Gender Identity – A person’s internal sense of being masculine, feminine, or other gendered. The way individual identifies their individual gender; this does not always align with their sex.

Gender Normative / Gender Straight – A person who either by nature or by choice conforms to gender based expectations of society.

Gender Queer -  A person who redefines or plays with gender, or who refuses gender altogether. An identity taken up by many people who bend/break the rules of gender and blur the boundaries.

Gender Variant / Gender Non-Conforming – A person who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender- based expectations of society (e.g. transgender, transsexual, intersex, gender-queer, cross-dresser, etc.).

Hermaphrodite - An out-of-date and offensive term for an intersexed person. (Intersexed Person)

Homophobia – The irrational fear or hatred of homosexuals, homosexuality, or any behavior or belief that does not conform to rigid sex role stereotypes. It is this fear that enforces sexism as well as heterosexism. 

Heterosexual – A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to member of the opposite sex.

In the Closet – Refers to a homosexual, bisexual, trans-person or intersex person who will not or cannot disclose their sex, sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, co-workers, or society.   An intersex person may be closeted due to ignorance about their status since standard medical practice is to “correct,” whenever possible, intersex conditions early in childhood and to hide the medical history from the patient.  There are varying degrees of being “in the closet”; for example, a person can be out in their social life, but in the closet at work, or with their family.

Intersexed Person – a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.

Lesbian – Term used to describe female-identified people attracted romantically, sexually, and/or emotionally to other female-identified people. The term lesbian is derived from the name of the Greek island of Lesbos and as such is sometimes considered a Eurocentric category that does not necessarily represent the identities of African-Americans and other non-European ethnic groups.  This being said, individual female-identified people from diverse ethnic groups, including African-Americans, embrace the term ‘lesbian’ as an identity label.

LGBTQ – A common abbreviation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or questioning community.

Outing – Involuntary disclosure of one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status.

Pansexual – A person who recognizes more than two genders and experiences the human need for warmth, affection, and/or love from a person of any gender.

Polyamory – Refers to having honest, usual non-possessive, relationships with multiple partners and can include: open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to those), and sub-relationships (which  denote distinguishing  between  a  ‘primary’  relationship  or  relationships  and various “secondary” relationships).

Queer – Different. 1. An umbrella tern which embraces a matrix of sexual orientations, and habits or   the   not-exclusively-   heterosexual-and-monogamous   majority.   2. Once used primarily as a pejorative term, queer is being reclaimed by many LGBT+ people in an attempt to blur rigid labels. Many who choose to use the term feel that it is more inclusive, allowing for diversity of race, class, and gender that are often underrepresented in the LGBT community. Other LGBT people find this term degrading.

Questioning – Someone who is questioning their sexual orientation, identity, etc. These individuals may be exploring their feelings or unsure of their own sexuality.

Sexual Identity - The way a person views and identifies their sexual orientation.

Sexual Orientation – The “direction” of the desire for intimate emotional and/ or sexual relationships with people. Sexual Orientation is not necessarily the same as sexual behavior.

Straight – Another term for heterosexual

Transgender – A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on anatomical sex or assigned sex. Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity.

Transsexual – A person who identifies psychologically as a gender/sex other than the one to which they were assigned at birth. Transsexuals often wish to transform their bodies hormonally and surgically to match their inner sense of gender/sex.

Two-Spirited – Native persons who have attributes of both genders, have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes, and are often involved with mystical rituals (shamans). Their dress is usually mixture of male and female articles and they are seen as a separate or third gender. The term ‘two-spirit’ is usually considered to specific to the Zuni tribe. Similar identity labels vary by tribe and include ‘one-spirit’ and ‘intake’

Ze / Hir – Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral and preferred by some gender variant persons. Pronounced /zee/ and /here,/ they replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively

 

Historical Timeline

For a more complete timeline of events in the 20th century to present, click here.

54 - Nero becomes Emperor of Rome. Nero married two men in legal ceremonies, with at least one spouse accorded the same honors as an empress. Gay relationships are accepted and institutionalized in this time period.

650 - In early medieval Visigothic Spain, there is great persecution of gays and Jews. Homosexuality is criminalized. However, outside of Spain, homosexuality remains completely legal, and even relatively accepted, in almost all of Europe.

1000-1100 - An eleventh century Byzantine legal treatise makes it clear that gay unions are well-known and legal in early medieval Byzantine society.

1533 - King Henry VIII begins the English proclaims sodomy, then-defined as any non-procreative sexual activity, a crime.

1792 - France decriminalizes sexual acts between men

1813 - Bavaria decriminalizes sexual acts between men

1934   Gay people are rounded up from German-occupied countries and sent to concentration camps.

1948    A. Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male revealing that queer people number far more than was commonly believed. 

1961    Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexual acts.

1969    The Stonewall Riots in New York mark the beginning of major resistance by gay men and lesbians to discrimination.

1973    The American Psychiatric Association removes “homosexuality” from its official list of mental disorders

1978    On November 27, Harvey Milk, an openly gay city council member and San Francisco’s Mayor George Moscone were murdered.

1981    Wisconsin became the first state to pass state-wide gay rights legislation.

1987    On October 11, The National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights drew over 500,000 people making it the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. history. THis date would become National Coming Out Day.

1990    The Hate Crime Statistics Bill passed through Congress.

1992    Canada joined the vast majority of other NATO countries permitting military service by lesbians and gay men.

1993    The first large study of female sexual orientation found that there was a strong genetic component to homosexuality and heterosexuality.

1993    “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is signed into law, banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military

1996    President Bill Clinton signs the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), denying same-sex couples to the right to have their unions/partnerships recognized by the federal government

1998    Mathew Shepard brings hate crimes against gays to the forefront of news. The 21-year-old gay college student in Wyoming was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die.

2001    Rev. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blame gays & lesbians among other groups for contributing to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

2005    The United Church of Christ becomes the first mainstream Christian church to support gay marriage

2008     Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, passes in California

2008    Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire legalize same-sex marriage. Maine’s law was later overturned.

2010    US District judge rules California’s Prop 8 ban on gay marriage unconstitutional

2011    “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed allowing LGBT men and women to openly serve in the U.S. Armed Services.

2011    New York legalizes gay marriage

2012    U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals rules California Prop. 8 unconstitutional

2012    Maine, Maryland, and Washington become the first states to legalize gay marriage by popular vote

 

Coming Out

What is Coming Out?

Coming Out refers to the process by which one accepts one’s own sexuality, gender identity, or status as an intersexed person (to “come out” to oneself and  the process by which one shares one’s sexuality, gender identity, or intersexed status with others (to “come out” to friends, etc.). Coming out is often a long and difficult journey, but is one of the most important process in developing a positive self image/identity. Coming out to others is not easy, as it involves risks. It is also a life long process and recurs throughout one's life.

 

A Lifelong Process

Coming out is not just a one-time event and does not follow a linear course. For example, each time a person meets new people or starts a new job he/she must decide whether it is safe to come out. In addition, a person might be out to some people (i.e., friends) but closeted around others. Each coming out experience is unique as reactions can be positive or negative.

 

When Someone Comes Out To You

We live in a society where people are taught to believe that  being "straight" is normal. Therefore, people are indirectly, and sometimes intentionally, taught that being LGBT is abnormal. This makes coming out very difficult for many people. Like anyone, people who identify as LGBT accept themselves better if they are accepted by others. So, what do you or should you do when someone comes out to you? It is difficult to know what to say and do when someone comes out to you. Below are some suggestions you may wish to follow if you ever find yourself in that position:

  • Thank your friend for having the courage to tell you. Choosing to tell you means that they have a great deal of respect and trust for you.
  • Respect your friend’s confidentiality. They may not be ready to tell others right away and want to tell people in their own way. It is never your place to "out" someone else.
  • Don’t judge your friend. If you have strong religious or other beliefs about homosexuality, keep them to yourself for now. There will be plenty of time in the future for you to think and talk about your beliefs in light of your friend’s orientation.
  • Tell your friend that you still care about them, no matter what. Be the friend you have always been. The main fear for people coming out is that their friends and family will reject them. 
  • Ask any questions you may have, but understand that your friend may not have all the answers. 
  • If your friend has a partner, include them in plans as much as you would with any other friend. 
  • Be prepared to include your friend in more of your plans. They may have lost the support of other friends and family; your time and friendship will be even more precious to them. This may include “family” times like holidays or special celebrations. 
  • Offer and be available to support your friend as they “come out” to others. 
  • Call frequently during the time right after your friend has come out to you. This will let them know you are still friends.  
  • Be prepared for your friend to have mood swings. Coming out can be very traumatic. Anger and depression are common, especially if friends or family have trouble accepting your friend’s orientation. Don’t take mood swings personally. Be flattered you are close enough to risk sharing any feelings of anger or frustration.
  • Do what you have always done together. Your friend probably feels that coming out will change everything in their life, and this is frightening. If you always go to the movies on Friday, then continue that.  
  • Learn about the LGBT community. This will allow you to better support your friend and knowing about their world will help prevent you from drifting apart. 
  • Don’t allow your friend to become isolated. Let them know about organizations and places where they can meet other LGBT people or supportive allies. 
  • If your friend seems afraid about people knowing, there may be a good reason. 
  • Don’t worry that your friend may have attractions or feelings for you that you may not share. If they have more or different feelings than you have, these can be worked through. It’s the same as if some- one of the opposite sex had feelings for you that you don’t share. Either way, it’s probably not worth losing a friend over. 
  • It’s never too late. If someone has come out to you before and you feel badly about how you handled it, you can always go back and try again.
Contact Us
For questions or more information, contact the LGBT Resource Center at SafeZone@slcc.edu