FAQs About Gender and Identity
- How do people become straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or other orientations?
No one really knows for sure. However, the vast majority of credible professional experts believe that sexual orientation is not a choice but rather part of our normal human condition. Regardless of how our sexual orientation develops, the majority of evidence states that it is nearly impossible to change or choose.
- I think I might be LGBTQIA+. How do I know for sure?
There are hundreds of different ways to realize you are not straight. Some LGBTQIA+ people say that from the time they were very young they just “felt different” or “just knew” they weren’t like their friends. It usually begins at a young age but can also occur at different stages in a person’s life. People who are LGBTQIA+ often say it took a while to put a name to their feelings. Once they learned what being LGB was, it started to make sense to think about their own sexual orientation in those terms.
- How can I be sure of my sexual orientation if I’m not sexually active?
A person does not need to engage in sexual activity to discover who they are. It is the attraction that helps determine sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is the deeply held sense of attraction, either emotional, physical, and mental attraction to another person.
- I thought LGBTQIA+ people act a certain way. If I don’t fit the stereotype, am I still LGBTQIA+?
Stereotypes are harmful and is a method that groups a description of similar people together. There is no right or wrong way on how to act, behave, or think. All LGBTQIA+ people do not act the same in similar ways that all straight people do not act the same. People who are LGBTQIA+, like people who are straight, can act in many different ways, and might or might not fit stereotypes. There is a wide range of diversity within the community. We encourage all people to not make assumptions and stereotype groups of people together.
- I have a crush on my same-sex best friend. Does this mean I’m LGBTQIA+?
Not necessarily and not always. Intimacy looks and feels different for everyone. Holding hands with your same-sex best friend doesn’t make you LGBTQIA+. Enjoying cuddles does not make you LGBTQIA+. Your attraction can happen on an emotional, physical, or romantic level. You can be attracted to your best friend on an emotional level but not on a physical level. Many people develop crushes on someone of the same sex at some point in their lives, and we often explore or identify with different gender roles and expectations throughout our lives.
- I have a crush on someone at my school. How can I tell if they’re LGBTQIA+ too?
It’s impossible to know for sure whether someone identifies as LGB just by looking at them. We shouldn’t assume people are LGBTQIA+ because of the way they look, dress, or act. Figuring out if someone is LGBTQIA+ if they’re not completely out is like figuring out if someone is interested in you: Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can’t. It can be an extremely frustrating and stressful process, but it is part of getting to know the people around you and exploring relationships.
- What’s the difference between sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression?
In a summary, sexual orientation is who we are emotionally, physically, or romantically attracted to. Gender identity is our deeply held sense of who we are as a person. Gender expression is how we express ourselves on the outside, including things like our hair, clothes, jewelry, etc.
- What’s the difference between being transgender and non-binary?
The term ‘transgender’ describes a person’s gender identity that does not necessarily match their assigned sex at birth. It is an umbrella term for those who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth. People who are non-binary are those who fall outside the gender binary of what male, female, man, or woman is. Non-binary falls within the transgender umbrella because they do not confine to gender norms set by society.
- What is the typical transition process for transgender people?
There is no right or wrong way for people who transition. Being in transition does not mean undergoing surgical procedures nor should it limit to this. Transitioning means different things. For some, it means medical treatments, including use of hormones and gender-affirming surgeries. For others, it means social transition, which might include things such as choosing a new name, using a different pronoun, or altering outward appearance with clothing or hairstyles. It can also mean legal transition, which is the process of changing names and gender markers on important legal documents.
- Aren’t there only two genders?
No. Gender is a spectrum. We’re use to thinking of gender as binary —masculine/man/male and feminine/ woman/female—we have come to learn that gender exists on a wide spectrum. Many cultures show this spectrum through the use of gender-neutral terminology or no gender terminology at all. Throughout our lives, we can experience and express our gender in a variety of ways and at different times throughout our lives.
- I think I might be transgender or gender expansive. How do I know for sure?
There is no right or wrong way to identify as trans. You’ll know when you know. People who are trans and those of trans-experience typically say that from the time they were very young they “felt different” or “just knew” they weren’t like their friends, rejecting the stereotypical gender norms they were “supposed” to display.
- I want to come out, but I’m not sure if my family and friends are going to accept me? What should I do?
It is empowering to come out, but only when you want to, feel ready to, and when it is safe to do so. It can be a frightening experience not knowing how people will respond. You get to choose when you want to come out, who to come out to, how much you want to share, and when you want to come out to. You do not owe anyone your story and not everyone deserves these parts of you. There’s no reason to come out if you’re not ready to. Realizing you’re LGBTQ+ doesn’t change who you are. It just fills in some of the blanks. Now, you can choose to keep your personal picture to yourself. Or you can display it for others to see; it’s up to you.