Understanding Gender and Sexuality

Understanding what all the letters stand for in LGBTQ might be a bit confusing. Over time, letters are added and removed to represent an increased awareness and acceptance of sexuality and gender.


LGBQ – All refer to sexuality. This list is by no means exhaustive and ASHA makes no attempt to restrict how individuals define their sexuality.

L – Lesbian: Generally refers to a female identified person who is attracted to other female identified people.</p

B – Bisexual(bi): An individual of any gender who is attracted to both female and male identified individuals

Q – Queer: A person who does is not exclusively attracted to people of the opposite sex but does not subscribe to restrictive labeling

G– Gay: Generally refers to a male identified person who is attracted to other male identified people.

Gender Identity

Gender Identity = how we choose to identify our gender. Common gender identities include male, female, transgender, and nonbinary.

T- Transgender (Trans)

While the trans community is often associated with LGBQ it is important to understand that gender should not automatically be connected to sexuality. Transgender is term that typically describes individuals whose gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, someone might be born with female genitalia but identify as male.

To learn more about the trans community and how to support it visit theNational Center for Transgender Equality. For trans organizations, legal resources, crisis centers and other resources check outGLAAD’s Resource Center.


Likely, you have seen people who have their pronouns listed in their email signature or bio. Some common pronouns are she/her/hers, he/him/his and they/them/theirs. Adopting pronouns for your group can make gender nonconforming folks feel more comfortable.

Not sure what someone’s pronouns are? It is always better to ask then make a wrong assumption.

Be affirming. If someone tells you that they are gay/bi/trans/queer/etc, the best thing that you can do is be supportive.

  • Responses that are not helpful: Man, you can totally pass for straight. I have always wanted a gay best friend.
  • It is okay to ask questions but remember. People have to come out over and over again, it’s exhausting. They might not want to talk about it.

Use neutral language. This is a very simple way to be inclusive. Instead of saying….

  • I am glad you are coming to dinner, is your husband coming?

Try instead…

  • I am glad you are coming to dinner, is your spouse coming? You could also say Is your partner coming?

It is such a small thing that can people make people feel included and like they do not have to constantly explain themselves

Never out someone else. Unless you are 100% confident that someone is out, do not share that information for anyone. Typically, “coming out” or “being out” refer to disclosing your status as not hetereosexual. The process of coming out is highly personal and should always be left up to the individual. It is not up to you to decide if someone is open about their sexuality or gender identity

Be an advocate

Members of the LGBT community experience violence at higher rates, especially trans women of color

  • 44 percent of lesbians and 61 percent of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner
  • 26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner
  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.

Additional Resources