When I started going through puberty and exploring my sexuality more than 13 year ago, there was not a lot of cultural references or information I could find relating to the LGBT community. Being anything outside of what was deemed as “heterosexual passing” was grounds for questioning, gossip, or even bullying. I wasn’t really bullied for how I carried myself and for the most part I am such a private person there wasn’t much information to lead to figuring out my sexual orientation so I can’t contribute to the narrative of bullying but I do think that is mostly due to my gender expression.
I remember trying to watch tv and find people like me and the few things that come to mind was the reality show ‘Boy Meets Boy’ which was deemed as the first gay dating show ever which was found on a pre-housewive run Bravo. The premise of the show was a gay man, this time was James Getzlaff, met and chose a mate from a group of 15 potential male suitors. The show featured the twist that the “leading man” did not know that the mix of suitors included both gay and heterosexual men. If James chose a straight mate, James would win nothing and the mate would win $25,000. The producers managed to keep a mixture of gay and straight men in the house despite the eliminations by putting the men into “groups” that prevented the contestant from eliminating all of the gay men or all of the straight men. At the end of each episode, the sexual orientation of each eliminated mate was revealed to viewers. While this show explored same sex relationships, the premise of being paid to catfish someone with a false sexual orientation isn’t really helping our community (or any community to be honest).
I also use to love the show ‘nEXT’ where is was based around a a contestant going on blind dates with possibly up to five other single people, known as “the daters”, who were secluded on a RV, referred to as the “Next Bus”. The added twist was that the date could end at any time by the contestant shouting “next”. If they dater was chose for another date, they could either choose that or take the dollar amount equally the minute value of the date. The same sex episodes were always taboo to me because it mostly ended with the daters on the RV choosing to entertain each other which now that I am older lends itself to the stereotype that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are hyper sexual.
I was born in 1991, so I didn’t really grow up on this but I did learn about it from re-runs and that was the Men On…sketches from ‘In Living Color’
While comedic, this type of humor and prototype of the gay black male is what mainstream decided to run with and even in 2020 there hasn’t been much change. “Men on …” engendered controversy for its portrayal of black gay men. Both Blaine and Antoine were portrayed as extremely effeminate. Some LGBT people and organizations felt this portrayal was insulting to gay men, although response within the community was split. African American cultural critics have identified “Men on …” as having affected how African American men view homosexuality within their communities. This will later be showcased in a numerous of movies and televisions shows from, ‘Holiday Heart’, Woo’, the “sassy gay black friend” sidekick on Girlfriends, The Parkers, Half and Half, Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop Franchise, and much more.
I would love to speak on the culture significance of the show “Noah’s Arc” which was a dramedy centered around four gay black and Latino characters and lent itself to socially relevant issues, including same sex dating/marriage, HIV and AIDS, homophobia, gay bashing, and much more but sadly I didn’t have access to this when it was on. I will say, I will always thank LogoTV for having showcasing re-runs because this was the first realistic view on the topic because my mom watched religiously and did help with her understanding my sexuality — slightly.
The problem with looking towards television and cultural references for is that it’s only so in-depth they can go within a 30 minute time span and even then those are just narratives being creative and portrayed by someone who might not even be educated in the topic. It’s no difference than a complete white writers room working on another slave driven movie. I am happy that the people who were in my place now have more visibility to people like them. But with visibility comes acknowledgement and accountability and the problem with that is it should be built on the platform of education (which I think is where a lot of confusion comes in).
When you see members of the community operate in mainstream spaces, they are automatically pressured to be spokespersons and advocates of issues and misconceptions. This is a slippery slope because just because someone is part of a community that doesn’t mean they are fully versed in it. I can pay for a membership to a gym, but that doesn’t make me a personal trainer. The main example that has been raising an eyebrow is comedienne Flame Monroe.
A little backstory on Flame Monroe. Flame is a comedian and drag queen by trade but he (that is their chosen pronoun) has been through the process of hormone therapy and also breast implants, silicon body shots, and other surgery procedures to add to his gender identity. Flame never had bottom surgery (still has his birth assigned genitals) and also de-transitioned later in life to reverse the affects of the hormone surgery. In terms of his sexual orientation Flame is bisexual and has sex with men and also trans men. In terms of his gender expression he says he is more “masculine” during the day because he has kids, but is a feminine drag queen at night. You would assume some who checks off so many boxes in the LGBTQIA+ box of FAQ would be a great spokesperson but sadly that is not the case. Flame views have been seen as dated, also he is not properly educated on his own identity (by definition Flame is Non-Binary but everyone is entitled to their own titles). Flame has been on several press circuits that aren’t typically friendly to the community and instead of educating on issues, he almost validated their ignorant ways of thinking but this is a prime example of being great on paper but not having the range to be a full advocate for what is currently needed. But in Flame’s defense, he feels his journey is unique to him and he doesn’t not speak for anyone else.
Dwayne Wade’s announcement of his daughter, Zaya Wade, identifying as transgender has been met with a lot of opinions, comments, and mostly mis-information. Zaya has explained to her family that even though she is 12, she knows she doesn’t identify as being a male. While I fill this announcement is premature, not due to Zaya’s age, but more in terms of I hope she is receiving the proper therapy and tools to correctly identify her true self.
Zaya is not the first public figure to share this journey. If you are a fan of ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race’ then you would be aware there has not only been several transgender contestants but also ones who thought they was trans and later realized they were non-binary or confused gender identity with expression.
Eureka O’ Hara was a contestant for Season 9 and Season 10 of the show and explained her process. They (this is proper pronoun for non-binary individuals) explained because they felt feminine and had a fellow trans friend then it just made since for them. They took back-alley hormones, birth control, and lived their lives as a woman for four years. Once they was educated more on gender identity and expression they decided to de-transition and instead identity as non-binary and operating between the “grey area” of male and female.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION
Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not the same thing. Gender identity is one’s innermost feeling of maleness, femaleness, a blend of both or neither. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth. Before I go into further detail on this there is a list of terms you should add to your lexicon to further understand what I will be talking about.
The sex that is assigned to an infant at birth based on the child’s visible sex organs, including genitalia and other physical characteristics. Often corresponds with a child’s assigned genderand assumed gender.
One’s innermost feeling of maleness, femaleness, a blend of both or neither. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.
External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being masculine or feminine.
Describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.
A medical classification that refers to anatomical, physiological, genetic or physical attributes that determine if a person is assigned male, female or intersex identity at birth. Biological sex is often confused or interchanged with the term “gender,” which encompasses personal identity and social factors, and is not necessarily determined by biological sex.
Something that contains two opposing parts; binary systems are often assumed despite the existence of a spectrum of possibilities. Gender (man/woman) and sex (male/female) are examples of binary systems often perpetuated by our culture.
Describes a person who rejects static categories of gender (i.e. the gender binary of male/female) and whose gender expression or identity falls outside of the dominant social norms of their assigned sex. They may identify as having aspects of both male and female identities, or neither.
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Not all trans people undergo transition. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or something else. Also, trans.
The pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual personally uses and would like others to use when talking to or about that individual. Can include variations of he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/their/theirs, among others. This term is being used less and less in LGBTQ circles, as it suggests one’s gender identity is a “preference” rather than innate. Recommended replacement: “Your pronouns, my pronouns, their pronouns, etc.”
Gender identity is technically on a spectrum. It is how you feel in relation to being a male or female. What your “sex” is and what your “gender identity” is can mean different things. There are different terms, descriptions, and labels for the identities and those include:
Not having a gender or identifying with a gender. They may describe themselves as being gender neutral or genderless.
A person who fluctuates between traditionally “male” and “female” gender-based behaviors and identities.
A person whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth are the same. For example they were born biologically as a male, and express their gender as male.
The external display of one’s gender, through a combination of how they dress, how they act and other factors, generally measured on scales of masculinity and femininity.
A mix of boy and girl. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more man some days, and more woman other days.
A gender identity label often used by people who do not identify with being a man or a woman, or as an umbrella term for many gender non-conforming or non-binary identities.
A person born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’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.
Someone who either by nature or by choice does not conform to gender-based expectations of society
Is a title (e.g. Mr., Ms., etc.) that is gender neutral. Pronounced miks, (similar to Ms) it is often the option of choice for folks who do not identify as cisgender.
A term for a person who does not identify with either man or woman, but identifies with another gender. This gender category is used by societies that recognise three or more genders, both contemporary and historic, and is also a conceptual term meaning different things to different people who use it.
A person who lives as a member of a gender other than that expected based on sex assigned at birth.
Is an umbrella term traditionally used by Native American people to recognise individuals who possess qualities of both genders
Ze / Hir
Alternate pronouns that are gender neutral. Pronounced /zee/ and /here/ they replace “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” respectively. Alternatively some people who are not comfortable/do not embrace he/she use the plural pronoun “they/their” as a gender neutral singular pronoun.
Gender is the socially constructed roles and behaviors attributed to males and females. Society plays a large part in defining “acceptable” male and female roles, though many of us feel that we don’t fit fully into either of these definitions. A personal feeling of maleness, femaleness, or being somewhere in between is known as our gender identity.
Here is a useful way to think about gender:
- Your physical body – as well as your genitals this includes your reproductive system, your chromosomes and characteristics like breasts or facial hair
- Your gender identity – how you feel in relation to being a man or a woman
- Your gender expression – how you show your gender. This could be characteristics, clothing, behaviour, or interests
For some people however their physical body, gender identity and gender expression do not all match, and it raises a lot of questions. The gender role that society expects them to fit into based on their birth sex doesn’t always match their gender identity. Going back to using Zaya for example, according to her physical body she would be classified as male, but she identifies as a female (which is transgender) and will chose to express her gender however she chooses. This has nothing to do with her sexual orientation. Sexual orientation does not dictate gender. What you identify as has nothing to do with what you are sexually attracted to. For example, enjoying eating salads doesn’t make me a vegan.
In terms of gender reassignment surgery, this is where a lot of ignorance on the topic comes up. I saw a lot of people comment on how the Wade’s shouldn’t touch Zaya’s private parts and people seem to forget Zaya is only 12 years old. I don’t know how many 12 year old you know who have undergone elective cosmetic surgery, but I would assume the margins are slim. If Zaya does choose to undergo surgery that would be part of her gender expression but that doesn’t not validate her trans journey. There are a lot of people who don’t undergo surgery because it’s not necessary for their expression but also they might not be able to do with due to money or health issues.
Here is also free tidbit of being respectful to the trans community. Do not asked them about their private areas or if they still have their original assigned genitals. Not only is it rude and demeaning, it’s socially awkward. To relate it to a heterosexual experience, it would be the same as asking a man if he is circumcised or asking a woman her physical attributes of her vagina in everyday conversation.
The process of physically transitioning is a long and expensive one. Most elect to start with hormone therapy and then start surgery further down their journey.The formal requirements for hormone replacement therapy vary widely.
Historically, many health centers required a psychiatric evaluation and/or a letter from a therapist before beginning therapy. Many centers now use an informed consent model that does not require any routine formal psychiatric evaluation but instead focuses on reducing barriers to care by ensuring a person can understand the risks, benefits, alternatives, unknowns, limitations, and risks of no treatment. Some LGBT health organizations advocate for this type of informed consent model.
The Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People (SOC) require that the patient be referred by a mental health professional who has diagnosed the patient with persistent gender dysphoria. The Standards also require that the patient give informed consent, in other words, that they consent to the treatment after being fully informed of the risks involved.
I don’t feel it’s my place to go into detail much further on the actual affects it has on their bodies because I am not trans myself but I hope that information was enough to help.
Times and attitudes have changed as we as a culture become more progressive in our thinking, and the language used to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity has also changed. What was once just LGBT has now grown to cover a lot more individuals.
Take, for example, the addition of “Q” that became increasingly popular as the 20th century turned into the 21st. Some believe this stood for “questioning,” representing people who were uncertain of their sexual orientations or gender identities. Others declared it was for “queer,” a catchall term that has shed its derogatory origins and is gaining acceptance.
Now there’s also I, for intersex; A, for ally (or asexual, depending on whom you’re talking to); and often a plus sign meant to cover anyone else who’s not included: L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+.
Below is a complete breakdown of what you need to know:
GAY AND LESBIAN Someone who is attracted to people of their gender. While “Gay” use to be an umbrella term, it is now generally related to men and women identify as just lesbian so it would be gay men and lesbians.
BISEXUAL Someone who is attracted to people of their gender or other gender identities. It is not a way station from straight to gay, as it had once been described.
PANSEXUAL Someone who is attracted to people of all gender identities. Or someone who is attracted to a person’s qualities regardless of their gender identity. (The prefix “pan” means “all,” rejecting the gender binary that some argue is implied by “bisexual.”)
ASEXUAL Or “ace.” Someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction. They are not to be confused with “aromantic people,” who experience little or no romantic attraction. Asexual people do not always identify as aromantic; aromantic people do not always identify as asexual.
More generally, some people (asexual or otherwise) identify as having a romantic orientation different than their sexual orientation. The terminology is similar: homoromantic, heteroromantic, biromantic and so on.
DEMISEXUAL Someone who generally does not experience sexual attraction unless they have formed a strong emotional, but not necessarily romantic, connection with someone.
GRAYSEXUAL Someone who occasionally experiences sexual attraction but usually does not; it covers a kind of gray space between asexuality and sexual identity.
CISGENDER Someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
TRANSGENDER A wide-ranging term for people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the biological sex they were assigned at birth.
TRANSGENDERED Not a word. Often used as one.
TRANS* OR TRANS+ Two umbrella terms for non-cisgender identities.
GENDER NONCONFORMING, OR G.N.C. One who expresses gender outside traditional norms associated with masculinity or femininity. Not all gender-nonconforming people are transgender, and some transgender people express gender in conventionally masculine or feminine ways.
NONBINARY A person who identifies as neither male nor female and sees themselves outside the gender binary. This is sometimes shortened to N.B. or enby.
GENDERQUEER Another term often used to describe someone whose gender identity is outside the strict male/female binary. They may exhibit both traditionally masculine and feminine qualities or neither.
GENDER FLUID A term used by people whose identity shifts or fluctuates. Sometimes these individuals may identify or express themselves as more masculine on some days, and more feminine on others.
GENDER-NEUTRAL Someone who prefers not to be described by a specific gender, but prefers “they” as a singular pronoun or the honorific “Mx.,” a substitute for “Mr.” or “Ms.”
M.A.A.B./F.A.A.B./U.A.A.B. Male-assigned at birth/female-assigned at birth/unassigned at birth.
INTERSEX A term for someone born with biological sex characteristics that aren’t traditionally associated with male or female bodies. Intersexuality does not refer to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sexual Orientation can be confusing but I have to repeat one last night it is not the same as Gender Identity. Lets look at gay-rapper Saucy Santana.
I have had a lot of people ask me how to properly identify someone like him because they want to make sure they are not being offensive. So Saucy Santana is Cisgender (meaning he identifies as his birth assigned gender) so you can use male pronouns with him and refer to him as male. His sexual orientation is homosexual or gay because he is sexually attracted to the same gender he was assigned. In terms of his gender expression, he would fall under the gender non-confirming meaning he expressing himself in ways to lend to feminine and masculine ways. You can compare him to the late singer Prince.
In terms of Prince’s gender, he is also Cisgender (meaning he identifies as his birth assigned gender) so you can use male pronouns with him and refer to him as male. His sexual orientation is heterosexual because he is sexually attracted to the opposite gender.. In terms of his gender expression, this is where it gets a little confusing. Prince is known for being Androgynos meaning he is a combination of masculine and feminine in one ambiguous form. If Prince wanted to identify under the Intersex label he could, also in terms of expression he would fall under non-binary because he operates within the gray area of what is typically feminine and masculine.
WHAT CAN I DO
The one fundamental thing you can do is try to be respectful and understanding to other individuals. Even if you don’t agree with someone for personal / religious rights that is your God given right to do that when he gave us all free will.