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Working With Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Families in Adoption
Series: Bulletins for Professionals|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2011|
Language and Terminology
As noted above, not all LGBT people identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Other terms might include "same-gender loving," having a "fluid" sexuality, or being "two-spirited." Many younger LGBT Americans have reclaimed the term "queer" and may choose that term to self-identify. The terms, expressions, and ways of defining oneself are often tied to cultural understandings of sexuality and gender and can also be influenced by popular culture, generational experience, and region of the country. Additionally, like most groups, the language and terminology used within and about the LGBT community evolve over time.
The following is a glossary of terms and definitions you should be familiar with in order to work effectively with the diverse LGBT community and to begin to gain a higher level of comfort with some of the core concepts that are inevitably part of the LGBT experience.2
- Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically, and physically attracted to both men and women. A bisexual person may not be equally attracted to both sexes.
- Closeted: A person who does not share information about his or her lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender identity with others. LGBT people are more likely to be "closeted" when there is a risk of losing a job or facing discrimination or being rejected by family, friends, or religious community.
- Gay: Describes a man who is attracted emotionally, romantically, and physically to other men. Some women prefer to use this term to describe themselves, but it is more typically used by and about men.
- Gender expression: Refers to external characteristics and behaviors such as clothing, hair style, mannerisms, speech patterns, social interactions, etc. that are socially identified with a particular gender.
- Gender identity: One's innermost (psychological) sense of being male, female, or androgynous (a sense of being "both" or not either).
- Gender roles: The set of roles and behaviors assigned to or imposed upon females and males by society and/or culture.
- Heterosexism: The societal or institutional assumption that heterosexuality is the only valid sexual orientation and is superior or preferable to being lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
- Homophobia: The irrational fear or hatred of, or discrimination toward, people who are gay or lesbian (same-sex attracted).
- Homosexual: A term used to describe people who are attracted to members of the same sex. Most people prefer the terms lesbian or gay, as the term homosexual is outdated and is often perceived as derogatory or offensive.
- Internalized homophobia: The experience of shame, aversion, or self-hatred in response to one's own awareness of having same-sex attraction, usually the result of being exposed to significant societal, familial, or cultural homophobia.
- Lesbian: A woman who is attracted emotionally, romantically, and physically to other women.
- Queer: Describes all people who are not heterosexual or gender conforming. For many LGBT people this word has a negative connotation; however, some members of the younger generation are comfortable using this term.
- Questioning: A person, often an adolescent, who has questions about his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Some questioning people eventually come out as LGBT; some don't.
- Sexual orientation: Defines who a person is attracted to emotionally, romantically, and physically. Categories of sexual orientation include heterosexual, gay/lesbian, and bisexual and can be fluid over time.
- Transgender: A broad term used to describe individuals who experience or express their gender in ways that do not correspond with social or cultural norms or expectations of the sex assigned to them at birth (natal sex).
- Two-Spirited: A term for both same-gender (LGB) and transgender people that emerged from various Native American/First Nations traditions.
2This abbreviated glossary is adapted from a variety of resources, including Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).Back
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