June is LGBT Pride month.
This acronym has numerous variations, like LGBTQ and LGBTQIA. Due to widespread confusion about these terms, here’s a vocabulary lesson.
Please note: The terms evolve over time, becoming more inclusive and positive for those to whom they refer. I have done my best to find reliable sources for up-to-date language. I welcome any corrections.
LGBTQIA refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Allies. Note: In some other definitions, the “Q” stands for “Questioning.”
Lesbian: A woman who is sexually and romantically attracted to other women.
Gay: A person who is attracted sexually and romantically to the same sex. Typically refers to male homosexuals.
Bisexual: A person who is attracted sexually and romantically to both genders.
Transgender: Most commonly, transgender is an umbrella term used for someone whose identity does not match with their biological sex. This term may include transsexuals, cross-dressers and transvestites.
Transsexual most commonly refers to people who have undergone (or are going through) re-assignment therapy, either hormonally and/or surgically, in order to become the other gender.
Transvestites or cross-dressers are people who dress in clothing that is typically associated with a different gender, sometimes for erotic satisfaction.
Queer is a term that has been used as a derogatory term for homosexual people. There are currently some circles where it is being reclaimed as a positive word for someone who is identifying himself or herself as a sexual minority.
Questioning refers to someone who has not yet defined their sexual orientation or identity.
Intersex refers to a person born with ambiguous genitalia, which happens in about 1 in 100 births. In the past, people have also used the term “hermaphrodite,” which is currently seen as derogatory.
Allies: These are people who believe in supporting sexual minorities and helping them gain and keep civil rights.
Heterosexism: A cultural assumption that everyone is heterosexual or should be, that heterosexuality is the only normal way to be, and therefore, anything else is abnormal or wrong.
Why my interest in increasing your vocabulary? Parents who understand some of the language and issues that many teens take for granted can increase communication with children and teens regarding sexuality in general.
In addition, this can help us serve as a resource regarding sexual minority issues that teens or their friends are experiencing.
Lack of understanding can lead to fearful reactions that can hurt people and communities deeply. Education and understanding are powerful antidotes to fear and prejudice.
Though I believe understanding and supporting sexual minorities is important, you may disagree.
However, we can understand and respect one another, even if we do not condone each other’s behavior and beliefs.
In fact, in order to call ourselves civilized, we must.
Talk to your children and teens, but more importantly, listen.
Amy Johnson, MSW, is a personal life and parent coach in Federal Way. She facilitates faith and sexuality classes for youth, and parenting classes in the Puget Sound area. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.