Updated: Feb 2, 2020
I hear a lot of people saying that back in the old days’ everything was much simpler. Either you identified yourself as a man or a woman, and you lived your life based on that societal definition, or cultural and social expectations, and people were attracted (or acted as if they were) to (only) the other gender.
Right? Wrong! This specific concept is a concept that we were taught to believe as the truth or as normal human behavior. This approach was much supported by most religions that tried to normalize only a single way for gender identification and sexual orientation. The idea that you must identify yourself based on your biological anatomy, or that you must be attracted to a specific gender, determined by your society’s culture expectation, isn’t a natural human behavior.
Who we identify ourselves as and who we are attracted to isn’t something we can control or choose. Today, more people are discovering or open to sharing that their gender identity or sexual orientation is broader than a man or a woman or heterosexual or homosexual. I believe that these feeling or ways of expression existed during the past 2,000 years, they just couldn’t be expressed, most of the time.
I quickly want to share some wording identification so that this subject will be clearer for you. Gender Identity — The way you identify yourself, usually refers to being a man or being a woman. Man or woman is a societal identification, of what it means to be a man or a woman. Sexual Orientation — who you are attracted to (doesn’t mean that one acts based on his attraction). LGBTQ is the more commonly used term in the community, possibly because it is a more user-friendly term. However, as you can see the name keeps evolving, and it’s normal to feel confused if you aren’t aware of the new words. The most important thing is to be respectful and use the names that people prefer. When I speak with parents and students, I like to use the LGBTTQQIAAP+ as it can show the progress has been made in allowing individuals to define themselves as they wish.
LGBTTQQIAAP+ contains both gender identity and sexual orientation, and let me explain each letter on this definition: Lesbian — A lesbian is a female homosexual: a female who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other females. Gay — Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual. Gay is often used to describe homosexual males, but lesbians may also be seen as gay. Bisexual — Bisexuality is a romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior toward both males and females, or romantic or sexual attraction to people of any sex or gender identity; this latter aspect is sometimes termed pansexuality. Transgender — Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. It is sometimes abbreviated to trans. Transsexual — experience a gender identity inconsistent or not culturally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Queer — Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual or cisgender. Queer has initially been used pejoratively against those with same-sex desires but, beginning in the late-1980s, queer scholars and activists began to reclaim the word. Questioning- The questioning of one’s gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, or all three is a process of exploration by people who may be unsure, still exploring, and concerned about applying a social label to themselves for various reasons. Asexual — Asexuality (or nonsexuality) is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone or low or absent interest in sexual activity. It may be considered the lack of sexual orientation, or one of the variations thereof, alongside heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. Ally- An Ally is a person who considers themselves a friend to the LGBTQ+ community. Pansexual — Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is sexual attraction, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender identity. Pansexual people may refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in determining whether they will be sexually attracted to others. Pangender- Pangender people are those who feel they identify as all genders. The term has a great deal of overlap with gender queer. Because of its all-encompassing nature, presentation and pronoun usage vary between different people who identify as pangender. + A denotation of everything on the gender and sexuality spectrum that letters and words can’t yet describe.
Yes, it can seem confusing, and you don’t need to remember all the definitions. I believe that what is important to us as parents is to recognize our right to identify ourselves and our freedom be attracted to whom we choose to. It is also our children right to choose for themselves how they want to identify themselves and to be open and feel safe to share and express their feelings with their families to who they are attracted to. When we aren’t open, we send them a message that this isn’t ok, that their home might not be a trusted or safe place for them to be who they are.
LGBTQ+ community has higher rates of obesities, depression, and suicides. They can’t change who they are, and who they are attracted to. Those feelings and thoughts aren’t something they can choose. The same as a heterosexual person can’t choose how to identify themselves or who they are attracted to.
And because they can’t choose their identity or their sexual orientation, we, as a society, can choose to change how we accept them. We can choose to create a safe space for our children, let them know we love them, no matter what. If we will understand and accept that the idea of a single sexual orientation or gender identity is just a social concept, or cultural heritage, that we are carrying, then this is when we can understand that we can change that. We can choose to create a different social concept, different culture heritage for our children, to live in this world and to pass it to future generations.
It’s our responsibility, as parents, and it’s our responsibility as a member of our society.
The Trevor Project hotline: 1–866–488–7386
LGBT National health center 1–888–843–4564