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Conversations on the Fringe

giving a voice to the voiceless

New Fringe Initiatives


We are excited to announce two new Fringe initiatives launching in the Summer/Fall of 2016. We’ll share more as get closer to launch dates but were are passionate about these initiative and hope you will be too.

The Voices Project – After a brief project of interviewing young LGBTQ students and giving them a platform to share their stories the immediate response was overwhelming. This marginalized people group all echoed sentiments that become the impetus for the Voices Project. Each person interviewed reported that they had never been asked to hare their story and further more non felt they even had a platform to do so. We were so deeply impacted by these humanizing stories that we are launching the Voices Project to provide a safe space for people to just tell their stories. That’s it. Nothing complicated. We believe in the power of human stories and hope that stories will challenge our assumptions we make about “others” and those “different” than us.

True-North Student Leadership Academy – Fringe recognizes the need for quality student leadership development and is working with other professionals in the youth-service field to provide affordable online learning opportunities that will equip students to shape the culture they live in. Students will learn from a diverse group of leaders from various industries, such as; health care, education, social services, non-profit management/ministry, and the business world. This is a one of a kind leadership development initiative that has the potential to impact your student for a lifetime.

Of course we still offer our Soul Care support and community education/workshops. If you are interested in learning more about any of our initiative email us cschaffner@fringeconversations.com

Building Bridges (pt. 4 – Sense of Belonging/Community)


In our research, the greater the disconnect, the greater the sense of marginalization among LGBTQ youth, the higher the likelihood of high-risk behaviors. To compensate for the deep depression of being isolated many would turn to drugs or alcohol to numb those feelings. Many contemplate suicide at higher rates than their non-LGBTQ peers. Often they would move towards unhealthy communities seeking acceptance and belonging and engage in unsafe and unhealthy sexual activity just to feel a sense of love and that of being wanted.

There are culturally accepted norms by which we hold all people to. The more they are like the norm, the greater level of acceptance and support we are likely to give them. It’s not pretty but it’s honest. Jesus flipped this upside down with his kingdom. One of his goals for the kingdom was to restore people to community with each other and with the Father. The more an individual is different from the norm (those with power) the higher the risk of marginalization.

Add to this tendency, the variety of intersections an individual might have that increases societal marginalization, such as; race, ethnicity, gender, religion, ability, disability, socio-economic status, location, etc.. The more different one tends to be the higher the likelihood of alienation and separation from mainstream society, thus impacting one’s ability to feel and maintain a sense of belonging and connectedness.

So, if we (humanity) are to work towards the reconciliation of all things, how might we better do this?

Where have our strategies failed? Where have they succeeded? What new strategies do we need? What posture might we take that increases the potential for restoration to occur?

Building Bridges (pt. 3 – LGBTQ-Related Stress)


In the third part of our series on LGBTQ themes, our research/interviews revealed to us that there are extra layers of stress for LGBTQ students compared to their non-LGBTQ peers.

Growing up as a teen in today’s fast paced culture is hard enough as it is. To compound those struggles with stressors related directly to being an individual that identifies as LGBTQ can be overwhelming. So what are “normal stressors” all you are at risk for experiencing? Let’s take a quick look:

  • puberty/physical changes/body image issues
  • peer comparison
  • performance anxiety (school, athletics, roles at home, church, etc.)
  • pressures to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as; drug use, drinking, and sexual activity
  • academic stressors/college prep/career planning
  • family life/expectations (child care of younger siblings, household chores, etc.)
  • challenges related to managing emotions
  • onslaught of negative messages (self/family, peers, media, culture) and filtering them

Now let’s take a look at specific stressors identified by LGBTQ teens related to being LGBTQ:

  • internal/external homophobia
  • bullying/assault/death
  • stigma
  • social isolation/alienation/minority stress
  • academic struggles due to not feeling safe at school
  • higher risk of depression, self harm,, substance abuse, and suicide
  • fear of or actual rejection from family and friends
  • misconceptions by public related to what it means to be LGBTQ
  • pressure (internal or external) to suppress sexual identity/gender identity
  • incongruent identity
  • intersections, such as; disability, race, gender, gender norms, religious background/beliefs

These lists are probably incomplete but it gives you a clearer picture of what the average LGBTQ student is likely to deal with on any given day. High levels of relentless stress contribute to feeling hopeless and helpless, which is a precursor to suicidal ideation. This alone sets apart LGBTQ youth from their non-LGBTQ peers. This also contributes directly to further alienation and isolation. Regardless of your faith tradition and its respective doctrine about the issue of homosexuality, this kind of collateral damage to God’s beloved children cannot be acceptable to anyone calling themselves followers in the way of Jesus.

So, what might be a better way of engagement?

Doing The Same Thing Over Again And Expecting Different Results


I’m concerned about the further criminalizing of people who suffer from substance abuse disorders. Any approach that isn’t balanced or leans heavily on law enforcement has historically proven to be ineffective. We are not going to arrest our way out of addiction. Here are other points to consider when looking at addressing drug use as a public health concern:

1) There needs to be a shift in resources to programs that work. Right now 2/3 of all federal and state funding for addressing drug use/trafficking goes into incarceration. This leaves very little for treatment.

2) Make treatment available on demand like other healthcare services. That’s great that law enforcement plan to make referrals for treatment but access to these services are limited due to budget concerns. Our state doesn’t have a budget and are currently holding up funds to increased treatment for heroin.

3) Invest in asset – based youth prevention services. Equipping youth with multiple pathways to a sustainable adulthood is essential in preventing substance abuse from developing. Unfortunately, prevention services for youth are typically the first to be cut.

4) Focus law enforcement resources on most dangerous and violent criminals. Right now, 1/2 of all drug arrests are low-level, non-violent drug users.

5) Demilitarize drug control efforts and focus on economic development. Jobs, better education, and business opportunities address the systemic issues contributing to substance use related problems.

6) Restore justice to the justice system (i.e., profiling, white bias in court, mandatory minimums, and corrupt law enforcement/lack of a accountability).

7) Respect state’s right to try new approaches. Often the federal government will block innovative state initiatives (researching medical marijuana).

8) Endorse real harms reduction approaches regarding substance use and HIV/other blood born diseases.

Just getting “tough on crime” is not effective. It never has been. We waged war on meth over the last couple decades and it didn’t make it go away it just changed how it looks. We waged war on crack cocaine in the 80s and 90s and destroyed entire generations of urban black communities.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insane.

Navigating Seasonal Affective Disorder


Seasonal Affective Disorder often starts in the fall and typically continues through winter and into early spring. The Mayo Clinic reports there are more than 3 million cases of SAD per year. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to fatigue, depression, hopelessness, social withdrawal/isolation, lack of energy, sleep disturbances, eating disturbances, and irritability.

For those of us in the helping/serving/giving professions the holidays represent a busy time of hectic activity, parties, visits, emotions, family and friends. For many, it is a time of celebration and happiness. For others, it is a time of hurt and alienation from those same people.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be treated and there are things an individual can do to prevent or manage the effects of SAD. The following are some ideas one can use to make the most of their holiday season and to ward off the sense of isolation and hopelessness that comes along with SAD.

Tip #1: Cultivate and nurture supportive relationships

Getting the support and relational connect you need plays a huge role in lifting the fog of SAD. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort needed to manage SAD. The very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. Isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so remaining engaged in close relationships and social activities are important.

Reaching out to even loved ones and friend can feel overwhelming when in the grips of depression. You may feel ashamed, exhausted, or too embarrassed to talk. Here are some simple ways to remain engaged in supportive relationships:

  1. Help someone by volunteering
  2. Have a set coffee date
  3. Go on a walk with a friend
  4. Ask a loved one to check in on you regularly
  5. Talk to a counselor, or clergy member

Tip #2: Take care of yourself

Self-care in so important when trying to prevent or overcome depression. This includes making time for things you enjoy, asking for help, setting limits, adopting healthier eating habits, and scheduling fun into your day.

Develop a wellness toolbox

Create a list of things you can do for a quick moon boost.  Include anything that has helped you in the past. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try to implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re already feeling good.

  1. Spend time in nature/creation
  2. Read a good book
  3. Watch a funny movie or tv show
  4. Listen to music
  5. Play with a pet
  6. Write in your journal

Push yourself to do things, even when you do want to. You’d be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t immediately lift, you will likely feel better than if you stayed in your house alone.

Sleep, sunlight, stress management, time management, and relaxation are also important when combating depression. Don’t neglect these areas.  Each of these can be a contributor to a struggle with mood. Being vigilant in these areas will pay off in the fight for freedom from depression.

Tip #3 Get regular exercise

Exercise is the best antidepressant on the market and, it’s free! A 10 minute walk can give you a mood boost for 2 hours. Exercise increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain, raises endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension – all things that can have a tremendous impact on depression. Here are a few easy ways to get moving:

  1. Take the stairs rather than the elevator
  2. Park your car in the farthest parking spot away from the door
  3. Take your dog for a walk
  4. Pair up with an exercise partner
  5. Walk while you talk on the phone

Start slowly and don’t overdo it. More isn’t always better. Too often we get motivated, bite off more than we can chew and then get discouraged and quit. Start with a daily 15 minute walk; no more, no less. Just do that daily for a couple weeks and see how you feel.

Tip #4 Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet

God gave us everything we need to manage our emotional life. There is a time for professional help but often depression can be addressed by making lifestyle changes; such as what we eat. Aim for a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.

  1. Don’t neglect breakfast/don’t skip meals. Starbucks doesn’t count as a meal.
  2. Minimize sugars and refined carbs like candy bars, french fries, and other “feel good” food. They won’t last and your mood and energy will crash quickly, sending you back for more.
  3. Focus on complex carbs. Bake potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas can all boost serotonin levels without a crash. Serotonin is the neurochemical that gives you a sense of wellbeing.
  4. Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins can trigger depression. To get more, eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
  5. Practice mindful eating. Slow down and pay attention to the full experience of eating. Allow your stomach time to send the “I’m full” signal to the brain. Enjoy and taste your food.
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood. The main sources are vegetable oils and nuts, flax, soybeans, and fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel.

Tip #5 Challenge negative thinking

Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future. Here are some ways to challenge negative thinking:

  1. Get perspective from another source. This could be the scriptures or sacred texts, other people (i.e., significant other, spouse, family, mentor, pastor, friend, etc.).
  2. Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself.
  3. Keep a “negative thought log” and compare it to scriptures. Review your log when you are in a better place to become familiar with the negative thinking patterns that lead to and fuel depression as well as the cognitive antidotes you’ve discovered in the scriptures.
  4. Socialize with positive people. Hopeful and positive people tend to not sweat the small stuff. This kind of attitude can rub off on you.

The above is not a magic formula as much as it is a list of attitudes and behaviors that simply increase the likelihood of navigating Seasonal Affective Disorder. It increases the likelihood that you might enjoy this Christmas season more than previous years. It increases your resiliency for managing SAD in the future.

Here’s hoping you will have a Merry Christmas in the most literal sense of the word. May you be renewed with hope, peace, and joy during this otherwise dark time.

Building Bridges (part 2 – acceptance/rejection and coming out)


“I was born a female but identify with the male gender. My sexual identity is gay. I am 16 years old and was kicked out of my home recently. Sometimes I think killing myself would save everyone a lot of trouble. I don’t know what else to do or where to go. There is no place that I know of that will accept me as I am. I never wanted this. It’s not like I want to be hated by everyone and all alone. I’m basically on my own now.” – Homeless transgendered teen

In an attempt to better understand the lives of young LGBTQ students I interviewed several teens looking for common themes related to the topics of rejection/acceptance, coming out, LGBTQ-related stress, other intersections of identity, trauma/bullying, mental health/substance use, suicide, community/sense of belonging, and faith and spirituality. What I discovered has changed me and I don’t think I will ever be the same and I’m hoping it will change how the church engages these precious and beloved children of God as well.

During the course of one interview, the student I was talking with used the term “straight privilege”. It stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t something I’d ever considered, let alone heard of. Those with privilege rarely do consider it. I mean, come on. I get white privilege or male privilege, but straight privilege? How much privilege could one man have? I quickly learned that the world I lived in lent itself to being straight. I have never experienced the stress of coming out or being rejected because I liked the opposite sex. The term “Hetero” has never been used as a derogatory term. Nobody shouts, “Look at that dude, he looks so straight!” or “That shirt is so straight. He must like girls.” I have never had to wonder if me being heterosexual was pleasing to God or if I was damned to hell because I was attracted to the opposite sex. I learned through these interviews that I am biased because of straight privilege and it was preventing me from seeing the world through the eyes of an LGBTQ individual.

Rejection/Acceptance

All of the students interviewed had a sense they were different at a very early age, some reporting as early as 7 or 8 years old. Most had a definitive awareness by 10 – 13 years of age. Most report initially rejecting the notion that they had same-sex attraction and many said they were repulsed by the idea. One teenage boy, who identifies as gender fluid and gay shared that when he was 6 years old he asked his mother if he could like boys.

The most common fear of identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered was the fear of rejection and all correlated this with not coming out at an earlier age. This shouldn’t surprise anyone reading this but it was an overwhelming majority of LGBTQ students that echoed this sentiment. Mallory, a 22-year-old lesbian told a story about being the center of gossip in her small rural town when she came out. She said repeatedly that her fear was that those closest to her would begin to look at her differently, like a pedophile who intended to steal and eat all of the children in town like a monster.

Coming Out

Most of the students interviewed report coming out to the safest people possible at first. This usually consisted of closest friends and siblings. Ironically, most of them report that the individuals they first came out to already had suspicion that they were not heterosexual. The average age of coming out among those interview was 16-18 years old. They all indicate that the time period between accepting they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered and when they came out were the most difficult years. We’ll explore that a little later.

Several indicated that the process of coming out never ends. With each new person they tell the process starts over for them. The fear of rejection and anxiety resets and with each new person they meet for the rest of their lives will likely provoke some measure of anxiety as well.

One young woman shared that she believed there were three layers of coming out; to the first individual, family and friends, and publicly, each with their own unique factors.

Bree, a 20-year-old lesbian reminded me that these are issues I will never have to deal with because I identify as a white, heterosexual, Christian male and since I won’t have to deal with them I am likely biased to expect the rest of the world (including LGBTQ individuals) to experience the world just like I do.

If it’s possible to summarize issues so complex I would say this; the time between when a young person identifies internally that they are gay, lesbian, bi, or trans and when they actually come out to others is the time they are at the greatest risk for substance abuse, depression, self-harm, suicide and other mental health related concerns.

If that is even remotely true it beckons a response. So, then what is the best response(s) from people of faith?

New Trainings for 2016


We’re excited to offer two brand new training opportunities for 2016. Both address much needed conversations around important and urgent issues; the opiate overdose epidemic, and the need for cultural intelligence in a rapidly changing world. If you are interested in bringing either of these conversations or any of our other trainings/workshops/community conversations to your area, just email us at cschaffner@fringeconversations.com

Connecting with Marginalized Youth (increasing your CQ)

Do you have a diverse group of kids? Do you want to be more effective in reaching a more diverse cross-section of youth in your community? Do you desire to impact the lives of LGBTQ youth, kids with disabilities, cross racial and ethnic barriers, and get to know those who are strikingly different than you and those in your ministry? Do you desire to increase your cultural intelligence in order to build a bridge across the gap between your church and others? This training focuses on developing and increasing our cultural intelligence (CQ) in order to begin the bridge building process of learning how to love our neighbors that appear to be different that us.

Understanding the Opiate/Heroin Overdose Crisis

According to a government website heroin related overdose deaths have seen a 10-fold increase since 2001. Many of those impacted by this growing trend at adolescents and young adults. Prescription narcotics and heroin have become the drug of choice for youth across all classes, races, and socio-economic ranges. Learn about the impact of opiates on the developing adolescent brain and body as well as how someone becomes addicted to opiates. In this training you will earn how to use a life saving medication called Naloxone, an opiate overdose reversal medication that can save a loved one’s life. This workshop is in partnership with the JOLT Foundation. Visit JOLT Foundation for more information on Naloxone.


lgbt-bullying-infographic

Stages of Sexual Identity Development for LGBTQ Youth


October 11th is National Coming Out Day. It’s a day set aside for LGBTQ youth and adults to draw strength and courage from each other as they come out to family, friends, and the general public. Coming out is a complex experience that occurs not just once but over and over again for LGBTQ individuals. With each new person that is encountered the process starts over.

Coming out to oneself is a different experience and a process that can best be understood through the different stages one goes through until they reach total identity synthesis. The more we understand this process the we can provide a stable and consistent presence in the life of a vulnerable individual. The most common model is the Cass model of sexual identity development.

Most models of identity development do not take into account sociological variables that can impact the process. With that being said, our culture has become more accepting of LGBTQ orientations/gender definitions so the process of formation would naturally be impacted by that. And lastly, when considering developmental processes it is very unlikely that there is a linear path, from one stage directly to the next. Often stages are resolved quicker or slower or jumped altogether. One might also revisit stages more than once.

However this occurs, a coming theme that continues to emerge in our research is that of isolation during this process. Many of the youth interviewed report an increase in unhealthy, maladaptive behaviors as an attempt to cope with stressors related to their emerging identity/gender affiliation and sense of being socially invisible.

From Wikipedia

The six stages of Cass’ model

Identity Confusion

In the first stage, Identity Confusion, the person is amazed to think of themselves as a gay person. “Could I be gay?” This stage begins with the person’s first awareness of gay or lesbian thoughts, feelings, and attractions. The people typically feel confused and experience turmoil.

To the question “Who am I?”, the answers can be acceptance, denial, or rejection.

Possible responses can be: to avoid information about lesbians and gays; inhibited behavior; denial of homosexuality (“experimenting”, “an accident”, “just drunk”, “just looking”). Males may keep emotional involvement separated from sexual contact; females may have deep relationships that are non-sexual, though strongly emotional.

The possible needs can be: the person may explore internal positive and negative judgments. Will be allowed to be uncertain regarding sexual identity. May find support in knowing thatsexual behavior occurs along a spectrum. May receive permission and encouragement to explore sexual identity as a normal experience (like career identity and social identity).

Identity Comparison

The second stage is called Identity Comparison. In this stage, the person accepts the possibility of being gay or lesbian and examines the wider implications of that tentative commitment. “Maybe this does apply to me.” The self-alienation becomes isolation. The task is to deal with the social alienation.

Possible responses can be: the person may begin to grieve for losses and the things they give up by embracing their sexual orientation (marriage, children). They may compartmentalize their own sexuality—accept lesbian/gay definition of behavior but maintain “heterosexual” identity. Tells oneself, “It’s only temporary”; “I’m just in love with this particular woman/man”; etc.

The possible needs can be: will be very important that the person develops own definitions. Will need information about sexual identity, lesbian, gay community resources, encouragement to talk about loss of heterosexual life expectations. May be permitted to keep some “heterosexual” identity (as “not an all or none” issue).

Identity Tolerance

In the third stage, Identity Tolerance: the person comes to the understanding they are “not the only one”.

The person acknowledges they are likely gay or lesbian and seeks out other gay and lesbian people to combat feelings of isolation. Increased commitment to being lesbian or gay. The task is to decrease social alienation by seeking out lesbians and gays.

Possible responses can be: beginning to have language to talk and think about the issue. Recognition that being lesbian or gay does not preclude other options. Accentuate difference between self and heterosexuals. Seek out lesbian and gay culture (positive contact leads to more positive sense of self, negative contact leads to devaluation of the culture, stops growth). The person may try out variety of stereotypical roles.

The possible needs can be: to be supported in exploring own shame feelings derived from heterosexism, as well as internalized homophobia. Receive support in finding positive lesbian, gay community connections. It is particularly important for the person to know community resources.

Identity Acceptance

The Identity Acceptance stage means the person accepts themselves. “I will be okay.” The person attaches a positive connotation to their gay or lesbian identity and accepts rather than tolerates it. There is continuing and increased contact with the gay and lesbian culture. The task is to deal with inner tension of no longer subscribing to society’s norm, attempt to bring congruence between private and public view of self.

Possible responses can be: accepts gay or lesbian self-identification. May compartmentalize “gay life”. Maintain less and less contact with heterosexual community. Attempt to “fit in” and “not make waves” within the gay and lesbian community. Begin some selective disclosures of sexual identity. More social coming out; more comfortable being seen with groups of men or women that are identified as “gay”. More realistic evaluation of situation.

The possible needs can be: continue exploring grief and loss of heterosexual life expectation, continue exploring internalized homophobia (learned shame from heterosexist society). Find support in making decisions about where, when, and to whom to disclose.

Identity Pride

In the identity pride stage, while sometimes the coming out of the closet arrives, and the main thinking is “I’ve got to let people know who I am!”. The person divides the world into heterosexuals and homosexuals, and is immersed in gay and lesbian culture while minimizing contact with heterosexuals. Us-them quality to political/social viewpoint. The task is to deal with the incongruent views of heterosexuals.

Possible responses include: splits world into “gay” (good) and “straight” (bad)—experiences disclosure crises with heterosexuals as they are less willing to “blend in”—identify gay culture as sole source of support, acquiring all gay friends, business connections, social connections.

The possible needs can be: to receive support for exploring anger issues, to find support for exploring issues of heterosexism, to develop skills for coping with reactions and responses to disclosure to sexual identity, and to resist being defensive.

Identity Synthesis

The last stage in Cass’ model is identity synthesis: the person integrates their sexual identity with all other aspects of self, and sexual orientation becomes only one aspect of self rather than the entire identity.

The task is to integrate gay and lesbian identity so that instead of being the identity, it is an aspect of self.

Possible responses can be: continues to be angry at heterosexism, but with decreased intensity, or allows trust of others to increase and build. Gay and lesbian identity is integrated with all aspects of “self”. The person feels “all right” to move out into the community and not simply define space according to sexual orientation.

Building Bridges (Definitions): Part 1


This is a long post but a necessary one. If two people are trying to communicate and don’t speak the same language they will never fully understand each other. Spend some time studying this list of definitions before you enter the conversation. It will serve you well if you do

LGBPTTQQIIAA+: any combination of letters attempting to represent all the identities in the queer community, this near-exhaustive one (but not exhaustive) represents Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Intergender, Asexual, Ally

Advocate: a person who actively works to end intolerance, educate others, and support social equity for a group

Ally: a straight person who supports queer people

Androgyny: (1) a gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity; (2) occasionally used in place of “intersex” to describe a person with both female and male anatomy

Androsexual/Androphilic: attracted to males, men, and/or masculinity

Asexual: a person who generally does not experience sexual attraction (or very little) to any group of people

Bigender: a person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (and sometimes a third gender)

Binary Gender: a traditional and outdated view of gender, limiting possibilities to “man” and “woman”

Binary Sex: a traditional and outdated view of sex, limiting possibilities to “female” or “male”

Biological sex: the physical anatomy and gendered hormones one is born with, generally described as male, female, or intersex, and often confused with gender

Bisexual: a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction to people of their own gender as well as another gender; often confused for and used in place of “pansexual”

Cisgender: a description for a person whose gender identity, gender expression, and biological sex all align (e.g., man, masculine, and male)

Cis-man: a person who identifies as a man, presents himself masculinely, and has male biological sex, often referred to as simply “man”

Cis-woman: a person who identifies as a woman, presents herself femininely, and has female biological sex, often referred to as simply “woman”

Closeted: a person who is keeping their sexuality or gender identity a secret from many (or any) people, and has yet to “come out of the closet”

Coming Out: the process of revealing your sexuality or gender identity to individuals in your life; often incorrectly thought to be a one-time event, this is a lifelong and sometimes daily process; not to be confused with “outing”

Cross-dressing: wearing clothing that conflicts with the traditional gender expression of your sex and gender identity (e.g., a man wearing a dress) for any one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification; often conflated with transsexuality

Drag King: a person who consciously performs “masculinity,” usually in a show or theatre setting, presenting an exaggerated form of masculine expression, often times done by a woman; often confused with “transsexual” or “transvestite”

Drag Queen: a person who consciously performs “femininity,” usually in a show or theatre setting, presenting an exaggerated form of feminine expression, often times done by a man; often confused with “transsexual” or “transvestite”

Dyke: a derogatory slang term used for lesbian women; reclaimed by many lesbian women as a symbol of pride and used as an in-group term

Faggot: a derogatory slang term used for gay men; reclaimed by many gay men as a symbol of pride and used as an in-group term

Female: a person with a specific set of sexual anatomy (e.g.,  46,XX phenotype, vagina, ovaries, uterus, breasts, higher levels of estrogen, fine body hair) pursuant to this label

Fluid(ity): generally with another term attached, like gender-fluid or fluid-sexuality, fluid(ity) describes an identity that is a fluctuating mix of the options available (e.g., man and woman, gay and straight); not to be confused with “transitioning”

FTM/MTF: a person who has undergone medical treatments to change their biological sex (Female TMale, or Male TFemale), often times to align it with their gender identity; often confused with “trans-man”/”trans-woman”

Gay: a term used to describe a man who is attracted to men, but often used and embraced by women to describe their same-sex relationships as well

Gender Expression: the external display of gender, through a combination of dress, demeanor, social behavior, and other factors, generally measured on a scale of masculinity and femininity

Gender Identity: the internal perception of an individual’s gender, and how they label themselves

Genderless: a person who does not identify with any gender

Genderqueer: (1) a blanket term used to describe people whose gender falls outside of the gender binary; (2) a person who identifies as both a man and a woman, or as neither a man nor a woman; often used in exchange with “transgender”

Gynesexual/Gynephilic: attracted to females, women, and/or femininity

Hermaphrodite: an outdated medical term used to describe someone who is intersex; not used today as it is considered to be medically stigmatizing, and also misleading as it means a person who is 100% male and female, a biological impossibility for humans

Heterosexism: behavior that grants preferential treatment to heterosexual people, reinforces the idea that heterosexuality is somehow better or more “right” than queerness, or ignores/doesn’t address queerness as existing

Heterosexual: a medical definition for a person who is attracted to someone with the other gender (or, literally, biological sex) than they have; often referred to as “straight”

Homophobia: fear, anger, intolerance, resentment, or discomfort with queer people, often focused inwardly as one begins to question their own sexuality

Homosexual: a medical definition for a person who is attracted to someone with the same gender (or, literally, biological sex) they have, this is considered an offensive/stigmatizing term by many members of the queer community; often used incorrectly in place of “lesbian” or “gay”

Hypersex(ual/-ity): a sexual attraction with intensity bordering on insatiability or addiction; recently dismissed as a non-medical condition by the American Psychiatric Association when it was proposed to be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 5.

Intersex: a person with a set of sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit within the labels of female or male (e.g., 47,XXY phenotype, uterus, and penis)

Male: a person with a specific set of sexual anatomy (e.g.,  46,XY phenotype, penis, testis, higher levels of testosterone, coarse body hair, facial hair) pursuant to this label

Outing [someone]: when someone reveals another person’s sexuality or gender identity to an individual or group, often without the person’s consent or approval; not to be confused with “coming out”

Pansexual: a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions

Queer: (1) historically, this was a derogatory slang term used to identify LGBTQ+ people; (2) a term that has been embraced and reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community as a symbol of pride, representing all individuals who fall out of the gender and sexuality “norms”

Questioning: the process of exploring one’s own sexual orientation, investigating influences that may come from their family, religious upbringing, and internal motivations

Same Gender Loving (SGL): a phrase coined by the African American/Black queer communities used as an alternative for “gay” and “lesbian” by people who may see those as terms of the White queer community

Sexual Orientation: the type of sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction one feels for others, often labeled based on the gender relationship between the person and the people they are attracted to; often mistakenly referred to as “sexual preference”

Sexual Preference: (1) generally when this term is used, it is being mistakenly interchanged with “sexual orientation,” creating an illusion that one has a choice (or “preference”) in who they are attracted to; (2) the types of sexual intercourse, stimulation, and gratification one likes to receive and participate in

Skoliosexual: attracted to genderqueer and transsexual people and expressions (people who aren’t identified as cisgender)

Straight: a man or woman who is attracted to people of the other binary gender than themselves; often referred to as “heterosexual”

Third Gender: (1) a person who does not identify with the traditional genders of “man” or “woman,” but identifies with another gender; (2) the gender category available in societies that recognize three or more genders

Transgender: a blanket term used to describe all people who are not cisgender; occasionally used as “transgendered” but the “ed” is misleading, as it implies something happened to the person to make them transgender, which is not the case

Transitioning: a term used to describe the process of moving from one sex/gender to another, sometimes this is done by hormone or surgical treatments

Transsexual: a person whose gender identity is the binary opposite of their biological sex, who may undergo medical treatments to change their biological sex, often times to align it with their gender identity, or they may live their lives as the opposite sex; often confused with “trans-man”/”trans-woman”

Transvestite: a person who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression (“cross-dresses”) for any one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification; often called a “cross-dresser,” and often confused with “transsexual”

Trans-man: a person who was assigned a female sex at birth, but identifies as a man; often confused with “transsexual man” or “FTM”

Trans-woman: a person who was assigned a male sex at birth, but identifies as a woman; often confused with “transsexual woman” or “MTF”

Two-Spirit: a term traditionally used by Native American people to recognize individuals who possess qualities or fulfill roles of both genders

– See more at: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/#sthash.Wxs7jhhX.dpuf

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