Breaking down some of the tricky terminology of inclusivity
One of the coolest things about modern Western society is that it’s becoming ever more inclusive, and more supportive of self-expression. There’s still a long way to go, but education, increased diversity, and greater tolerance will move us ever closer to a more egalitarian and happier society.
Most universities are actively trying to be more inclusive, and encourage their students to do the same, but it’s totally understandable if some of the terminology is unfamiliar to you. The list orientations, sexualities, and identities is endless; and some people feel they fit into more than one category, while some people feel they don’t fit into any at all. The most common acronym for identities and orientations is LQBTQIA+, which is far from comprehensive, but just learning what these stand for is a good start.
A lesbian is anyone who identifies as a woman, and is attracted to other women
Gay is relevant for anyone who identifies as a man, and is attracted to other men. Gay can also be an umbrella term for anyone who identifies as homosexual.
Bisexual is anyone who is attracted to both men and women, this can also encompass being Pansexual, which describes people who are attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender. While bisexuals are attracted to both men and women, pansexuals are attracted to “people” and don’t see gender or sex as a defining factor.
Trans is actually an umbrella term for those who are transsexual or transgender. Exact definitions of these terms vary, but it is generally accepted that transsexual refers to a person’s biological “sex” so is applied to those who have had, or desire gender affirmative surgery, whereas transgender is about someone’s gender, and so one can identify as either gender regardless of physicality
Q- Queer/ Questioning
This is also generally used in terms of gender- many people would use this term to describe themselves, including those who identify as both genders, neither gender, or parts of each. It should be noted that although the word has now been reclaimed by the queer community, “queer” used to be used as a derogatory term, and some people may still find it insensitive.
I - Intersex
Intersex is another umbrella term, for those who have variations in biological sex characteristics that mean they don’t fit the exact biological definition of “male” or “female”. A lot of people would argue that these terms are reductive and unnecessary anyway, and many intersex people identify as one gender or other regardless of variations.
Asexual is when someone experiences no sexual attraction to anyone else ( there are other terms for those who only feel a very small amount). Asexuality has only recently started to be discussed and understood in the mainstream press. It’s also important to understand that Asexual people can feel romantic attraction (although some don’t), the term only refers to attraction of a sexual nature.
+ - +
+ - + refers to any groups of people who don’t feel that they fit into any of these categories, or fit into more than one. Identity is an enormous spectrum, and everyone would really struggle to remember the acronym if it was 44536786345 letters long.
It’s important to remember that you can’t ever really “learn” all identities and preferences, everyone is different and has their own understanding of who they are. However, it’s always really worthwhile to learn some of the terminology, and keep up to date with what’s happening in LGBTQIA+ news. Also keep an eye out for campaigns on campus to make your university more LGBTQIA+ friendly, and show your support!
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