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No, Open and Nonmonogamous Relationships Are Not Just for White People

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By Monique Judge

Show of hands: Who here was raised to believe that the only healthy, positive relationships are ones that are monogamous, just one-on-one?

Now a show of hands: Who here thinks monogamy is bullshit?

Many of us were raised on the idea that we would grow up and find one person whom we would marry and be with forever until death do us part. We would have children with this person, buy a home with this person, build a life with this person that would look like some combination of all the “perfect” families we watched on television and live happily ever after in monogamy.

I outgrew the fantasy of a “perfect marriage” in my 20s when I realized that most people can’t or don’t function well in long-term, monogamous relationships. The fact that my parents were my primary examples of this reality didn’t help; their marriage ended in a series of horrible fights and alleged infidelities on both sides, and we kids got to witness it all.

There is an argument to be made for monogamy being a social construct. In my personal experience, I’ve found that not only have I been able to feel romantic love for more than one person at a time, but as I move along this path, I have also found more and more people who think like me and are willing to engage in consensual, nonmonogamous relationships. Most of the relationships have actually been very healthy.

It’s no secret that nearly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, and the number of people who report being cheated on continues to climb steadily. What is it about long-term monogamous relationships that makes them so difficult to maintain, and why do nonmonogamous or open relationships seem to be on the rise?

For me, the decision to be nonmonogamous was an easy one. As I have said before, I have been the unfaithful one in a relationship before. I have known what it is like to love two men at once, both romantically. What was missing was a way to pull those things together and be honest with the people I was dealing with about what I was feeling and experiencing and doing.

I have to tell you that the most freeing part of my nonmonogamous experience is being truthful with all my partners and potential partners. I have also been on the receiving end of dishonest nonmonogamy. A partner lied to me about his new love interest and lied to her about his level of involvement with me, and that shit cut like a knife. It took everything I had in me not to destroy her trust in him the way he had destroyed mine, but I realized it wasn’t her fault, and ultimately not my place to tell her what was going on.

I moved on. I grew up. I licked my wounds and I vowed not to be that person. I vowed not to be dishonest and to be forthright with everyone, because it is the right thing to do. People deserve their choices. They deserve to be able to decide if they want to continue rocking with me while knowing that it may not always be their night.

So what, exactly, is consensual nonmonogamy?

Consensual nonmonogamy, also known as an open relationship or relationships, can describe many types of arrangements that people in love partnerships, committed or otherwise, can participate in.

Those include polyamory, which is being in love or romantically involved with more than one person; polyfidelity, which is a polyamorous arrangement in which a group of people treat all the members of the group as romantic equals and agree to have sex only with people within that designated group; and swinging, which describes the practice of individuals and/or couples meeting up in safe, sex-positive spaces to engage in sex openly and consensually with other people.

Whenever I say that I am nonmonogamous, some people immediately equate that with being a swinger, and while I have participated in the swinger lifestyle, nonmonogamy for me is more about me being open to the idea that there are some people I am going to love and some people I will only want a sexual relationship with, and the two are neither mutually inclusive nor mutually exclusive. They can, and often do, exist in the same space.

Nonmonogamy also doesn’t mean that I am currently having sex with everyone I have romantic feelings for. One of the lovers I feel closest to, to whom I bare my soul on a daily basis, is someone I have never had intercourse with. I love him, and there is a level of mutual respect between us that keeps him at the top of my list as far as “lovers” go, even though we have never been intimate. He knows, understands and respects the lifestyle; he is also openly nonmonogamous.

We are sexually attracted to each other, and we agree that it will eventually become a sexual relationship, but right now it is simply a mutual admiration society with lots of long, deep conversations that we never want to end. He gets me, he listens to me and I can be totally myself around him. That’s enough for now.

Then there are the ones that I want only for sex. The sex is not detached or without emotion, but it is a contract entered into knowing that this is what we signed up for: the intentional rubbing together of our pelvises for mutual satisfaction and nothing more. We may converse, we may text throughout the week and we may even attend social gatherings in public together, but the understanding is always there that we are not looking for it to move beyond what it is right now, and that’s OK.

The bottom line is that at the core of nonmonogamy is honesty and mutual respect. You and your partners have to decide how you will navigate the open relationship waters, and once you have agreed on those terms, it is important to stick to them or renegotiate if you think there needs to be a change.

It is not a sexual free-for-all; while a lot of sex may be involved, it is important to remember that safety, consent and honesty play a big role in making this work.

I don’t pretend to be the expert on nonmonogamy. I can only speak on my own lived experience.

I can also provide you with links to more information if you are curious.

In the end, I wrote all this to say that contrary to what Molly said on last night’s episode of Insecure, open relationships and nonmonogamy are not just for white people. More and more black people are discovering and embracing the lifestyle.

I am out here living it, and when I tell you that I know for a fact that I am living my best life right now, it is no exaggeration.

Free up and be open to the possibilities.

Complete Article HERE!

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A Very Useful Guide to Sexy Spanking

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Spanking is fun and sexy, but you’re still hitting someone. Here’s how to do it right.

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Spanking must have a terrific PR person. Though frowned upon as a punishment for children, spanking is currently a super-popular, super-sexy method of “punishment” between two consenting adults. The spanking spectrum covers a lot of ground. At one end are the playful taps you do every now and then, and at the other end is “impact play” (when one person—the top/dominant—strikes another—the bottom/submissive—for sexual gratification). But whether you’re a beginner spanker or a powerful dominant who wants to leave a handprint on your submissive, let’s be real: While spanking is totally normal and fun, it’s still hitting someone. Here’s how to do it respectfully…and sexily.

Lesson 1: Spank inside the lines.

It’s safe to spank someone in your bedroom, but unsafe to spank someone at Buffalo Wild Wings because you’ll freak out the other diners. But where on the body is it safe to spank someone? Anywhere with muscle and fat, like the booty, is safe. David Ortmann, a San Francisco– and Manhattan-based psychotherapist and sex therapist, says his trick is to have the woman he’s spanking put on her sexiest pair of panties (that covers the butt—not a thong). Then, he says, you spank just the clothed area—you can take off her panties later. Stay away from the sides of the body, because it’s more painful. You should also avoid spanking areas that are not protected by fat or muscle. That includes the kidney area, neck, joints, and the tailbone and hip bones.

Lesson 2: Talk about intensity.

Along with spanking, common forms of impact play are slapping, paddling, caning, and whipping. (Please note that single-tailed whips are ill-advised for newbies because they can wrap around the body like a python.) Before adding any of the above to your sex life, pick a safe word. “Safe words are mandatory for anything that involves striking or hitting. You should come up with one that’s not ‘No, please stop,’ ” says Ortmann. With BDSM play such as spanking, begging and whining can be dirty talk that’s part of the action, so Ortmann recommends selecting a word that’s completely out of context. Pick something that you know will snap you out of an Inception-ish sex fugue, like “hedgehog,” “Ralph Lauren,” or “La Croix.”

While choosing a safe word is super-fun (like naming a puppy!), with impact play you also need to communicate with your partner before, during, and afterward. Use touch to get a feel for the spankee’s preferred intensity. Ask your partner, “So what’s your pain threshold like? How hard do you like to be spanked?” while running your hand down their back. Move your hand down to their ass and try a few practice rounds to learn what their comfort level is. And even after you’ve laid out ground rules and established a safe word, pay attention: “Consent can change. If I’m spanking someone and we agreed on a certain level of intensity, but they change their mind, I have to know. It’s okay for them to change their mind,” Ortmann says.

Lesson 3: Level up with non-hands.

If you’re new to impact play, start with your hands, because they’re easily accessible/attached to you and won’t hurt your wallet. “They also allow for skin-to-skin contact, which is a great way to connect to each other,” says Goddess Aviva, a New York City–based dominatrix. But if you do want to level up and spank someone with an object, simply waltz through your kitchen. If you don’t want to spend on expensive kink toys, Aviva recommends a wooden spoon. Unless you’re an impact-play expert, stick with tools that make a “thuddy” sound, like a paddle. I’m a snob, so when I want to be spanked with something other than a hand, I love a BDSM-black paddle.

Complete Article HERE!

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What does kink really mean?

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All your NSFW questions answered

If you want to get kinky, sex isn’t even necessary.

Looking to leave your vanilla sex life behind and break into the exciting world of kink? You’ve probably heard the term thrown around on the internet or mentioned mysteriously on popular TV shows. But what does kink mean? What does being kinky entail? How do you discover your kinks and find out what works for you and your partner?

We suggest putting aside your Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight kink fanfiction for a much more interesting and inclusive look into what it really means to be kinky—and how kink can change sex and intimacy.

What does kink mean?

There are a lot of different ways to define “kink” that range from extraordinarily broad to super specific. But put very simply, a kink is anything that falls under non-traditional sexual and intimate desires, practices, or fantasies. The word non-traditional will mean different things to different people based on cultural backgrounds, but in most contexts, the definition encompasses anything that falls outside or romantic, intercourse-based sex between two people. This can include things that range from light bondage like handcuffs, ropes, or tape, to practices like public humiliation, foot-worship, domination/submission, and group sex.

What’s the difference between having a kink and being kinky? 

Let’s say you like being choked and occasionally have group sex with your partner, but other than that, you mostly subscribe to the standard sexual and romantic practices your parents could barely bring themselves to educate you about. A few kinks or kinky habits don’t brand you as a kinkster if that’s not how you identify. Conversely, there’s absolutely no rule telling you that you can’t identify as kinky on the basis of one or two kinks. Identity is largely helpful in finding community and for you to define yourself—you get to make that choice over whether you identify as kinky or not.

I’m kinky. Does that automatically make me queer?

If you’re a cisgender, heterosexual kinky person, the short answer is no.

Earlier this year HuffPo’s “Queer Voices” made the argument that non-normative sex and fetishes fall under the umbrella of queer. There are several problems with the argument, one of them that the crux of it lies in the author reducing the lives of queer/non-binary/LGBTQ folks to fetishes. Calling all kink inherently queer also diminishes the experiences of folks who have been dehumanized, banned from using the correct bathroom, denied public services, or murdered because of they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or nonbinary.

As a writer on Huck Magazine puts it:

Queerness is an all-encompassing thing—an act of political resistance through its very existence—not just a rejection of what’s considered “normal” through alternative sexual practices. To reduce the queer identity to that is an over-simplification and an insult. Queerness steps outside these norms, and defies the gender and sexual binary. Being queer is about identity, and that is more powerful and goes far beyond the sex we do (or don’t) have.

How do my partner(s) and I get kinky? 

Before all else, make sure to honor the two most important rules of kink: communication and consent.

If you’re thinking of trying something kinky in bed (or elsewhere, since beds are pretty traditional places to have sex, after all) have an open and honest conversation with anyone who will be involved and outline your desires—but not without asking them about theirs, too. A kinky desire alone doesn’t give you a free pass to enact it; as with all sex and romantic activity, there must be explicit consent to move forward and that consent is not written in stone. You or your partner can change your mind at any time about what’s comfortable and what’s not OK.

Now onto the fun stuff: One of the best ways to get started on your kink journey is research. The internet is a bottomless resource hub for all your kink questions, which includes kink education videos, kink communities, step-by-step guides, kink and feminism/racial identity blogs, equipment guides for beginners, resources for specific kinks, and lots more videos.

How do I learn about my own kink(s)?

Both kink beginners and veterans can use the “Yes, No, Maybe So” checklist as a tool to learn about their own kinks and, if they’re comfortable, share the list with a partner. Scarleteen recommends filling it out by hand or reading it through before discussing with a partner, but it all depends on your individual comfort level. As the authors point out, “Lists like this are not finish lines but starting points: for evaluating your own sexuality and/or for deeper conversations with someone else. This is so you can start thinking about things for yourself, or start having conversations with a partner.” There are many different versions of the “Yes, No, Maybe So” checklist, like this visual guide from Autostraddle, this polyamory checklist, and this kink rating system to also peruse through.

Many people also use this online BDSM quiz, which lets you answer questions on a spectrum rather than a simple “yes” or “no.” But the quiz doesn’t explicitly include space for queer, trans, or nonbinary folks—though you can mark “bicurious,” “bisexual,” “heteroflexible,” or “strictly lesbian/gay” in the “Sexual Orientation” section.

What’s the difference between BDSM and kink?

For many people, BDSM—an acronym for bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism—is a subcategory of kink. The desires and practices that fall under BDSM can be classified as non-traditional sexual, intimate, or romantic behaviors—pain, domination, submission, and being tied up can all be considered kinky things.

For others, there are important or notable differences between kink and BDSM. A post on Kink Weekly states: “As I see it—and this is simply my opinion—the difference [between kink and BDSM] is that BDSM has an implied power exchange; kink does not. It is really that simple. BDSM has a lot more structure—and thus it has greater ‘staying power.’”

Whether you see BDSM as a way to have kinky sex or believe that the two exist outside one another is largely up to you. Plus, if you ever hear a partner using the two together, you can always ask how or why they conflate or differentiate (though asking doesn’t always entitle you to an answer). Such a conversation can give you a better idea of their boundaries and desires.

Is forcing someone to do something they don’t want to kinky?

Any kinky activity done without consent is abuse, plain and simple.

Does kink always have to involve sex?

Definitely not. You can be kinky during foreplay, kinky over the phone, use kinky language, or simply create a kinky scenario. You don’t have to touch, or even orgasm, to get kinky.

Ready to get started and want more kink resources? Check out Whiplr, Kinkly, any book or movie other than Fifty Shades of Grey, and read these facts about kink.

Complete Article HERE!

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What gay trans guys wish their doctors knew

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Vancouver study peers into the lives and troubles of trans MSM

Sam Larkham organizes sexual health clinics across Metro Vancouver with the Health Initiative for Men (HIM). He says he was once referred by his doctor to a trans health care clinic that had been closed for years.

By Niko Bell

Speaking to gay and bisexual trans men, the word “invisibility” comes up a lot. Invisibility in the bathhouse and on dating apps, invisibility among cisgender people, straight people, trans people and gay people. And, too often, invisibility in the doctor’s office.

“I have tried just going to walk-in clinics and stuff like that to ask questions or request tests,” one trans man recently told researchers in Vancouver. “And I just found the doctors were generally confused about me and my body. And I had to go into great detail. That made me not so comfortable talking to them about it because they were just kind of sitting there confused.”

“People have tried to talk me out of testing . . . saying I was low-risk behaviour,” another man told the researchers. “They didn’t understand my behaviour really. . . I’ve had practitioners as well say they don’t know what to do; they don’t know what to look for.”

Both men were speaking to researchers for a new study on the sexual health of trans men who have sex with men — a group social scientists know remarkably little about. Many of the men spoke about being on the margins of mainstream culture, gay culture and of the healthcare system.

It should be no surprise, then, that the study happened almost by accident. When PhD student Ashleigh Rich started work with the Momentum Health Study — a five-year, in-depth research project on the sexual health of men who have sex with men (MSM) conducted out of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS — she never intended to write a paper about trans MSM.

But a small group of trans men volunteered for the study, some pointing out ways the Momentum researchers could change their surveys to be more inclusive.

There were too few for quantitative research — only 14 — but Rich asked if they would sit down for an hour and talk about their experiences. Eleven agreed.

The result is a slim, 11-page paper that hints at a world of things we don’t yet know about transgender gay and bisexual men. We do know they form a large part of the trans population; nearly two thirds of trans men say they are not straight. We also know trans MSM participate in the same rich world of sexuality as other men who have sex with men — from dating apps to anonymous sex to sex work and a broad range of sexual behaviour.

We don’t know much about trans MSM risk for HIV; estimates range from much less than cisgender gay and bi men to somewhat more. We also don’t know much about how a combination of stigma, invisibility and limited healthcare options may be affecting trans men’s health.

Rich is cautious about drawing any broad conclusions from her study. Not only is it a tiny sample, but the men she spoke to are also mostly urban, white and educated. This study was less about answering questions, and more about figuring out which questions to ask.

A few themes, though, emerge clearly. One is that trans MSM often find themselves falling through the cracks when it comes to sexual health. Doctors are increasingly aware of how to talk to gay men, but don’t always see trans gay men as “real” MSM. They assume trans men are heterosexual, or fail to bring up sexual health altogether.

Some doctors give trans men information on PrEP — a preventative anti-HIV medication that can drastically reduce the risk of contracting HIV if taken every day — based on studies on cisgender men, without checking to see if different anatomy requires different doses. When trans men come in for HIV tests, they are sometimes urged to get pap smears instead.

“We come in with specific issues we want to talk about in a health care consult, and sometimes once people discover we’re trans they’ll want to do a pregnancy test or something,” says Kai Scott, a trans inclusivity consultant who collaborated on the study with Rich. “And we’re not there for that. They’re giving us things we don’t want, and not telling us the things we do need to know.”

Sam Larkham, a trans man who organizes sexual health clinics across Metro Vancouver with the Health Initiative for Men (HIM), says he was once referred by his doctor to a trans health care clinic that had been closed for years. Experiences like that make him think the best path for trans MSM is to rely on queer-focused health care providers like HIM.

“It would be ideal if it were the whole medical system, but that’s impossible,” Larkham says. “I think we have to look at what we can do, and that’s have specific places where we have nurses who are well trained to handle trans MSM. I think that’s the more doable thing. I would love to have every clinic be culturally competent, but that’s not the reality and never will be.”

Scott is more sanguine. He points to Trans Care BC, a provincial health program that has pushed for more education for doctors. Education needs to happen on both fronts, Scott says, among MSM organizations and in the health care system at large.

Lauren Goldman is a nurse educator for Trans Care BC. Since she was hired last fall, she’s been giving workshops to healthcare providers on how to treat trans patients. For now, though, the workshops are aimed at small groups of sexual health professionals, such as at the BC Centre for Disease Control or HIM. Goldman wants the program to expand to include everyone.

“We know trans patients are accessing care through a number of places all across the province,” she says. “We want everyone to have access to this information as soon as possible.”

Goldman says Trans Care is designing an online course that could bring trans cultural competency to primary care doctors everywhere as part of mandatory continuing education. Trans Care has also designed a primary care “toolkit” for doctors, and is in talks with UBC’s medical school about including trans-focused sexual health education for doctors in training.

Without specialized knowledge, Goldman says, there’s a lot doctors can miss. Testosterone can make vaginal tissue more sensitive and inflexible, for example, meaning trans men might have special difficulties with genital sex. Bacterial vaginosis is more common, and the usual antibiotics given to cis women may not solve the problem. Vaginal and rectal tissue may need different doses of PrEP to be effective.

And, most importantly, doctors need trans patients to know they will be heard.

“We need to be providing really obvious cues that show people that our services are trans inclusive,” Goldman says. “Including how we design our services, how we market our services, how we educate our clinicians, what signs we hang up, letting people know that our clinicians have a greater understanding of gender diversity.”

While Goldman is educating doctors, the trans men Rich studied were already very well educated about their own sexual health. They told Rich about careful risk assessments they make around sex, sharing information with other men, and advocating for STI screening to their reluctant doctors.

One man described slipping in HIV tests while getting regular testosterone-level screening: “Yeah, oh, I’m already getting blood drawn. I probably need to get tested, let’s just draw two more vials for HIV and syphilis.”

It’s not surprising that many trans men are so health-conscious, Scott says. “We’ve had to be champions of our own bodies for a while, and so that ethos carries through when it comes to health information.”

But it would be a mistake to overstate how safe trans MSM are, he adds. For one, the urban, white and well-educated men in Rich’s study may be more likely to have access to resources and care than less wealthy or more rural trans people. Also, the very reason trans MSM seem so safe might be because they aren’t getting the opportunities for sex they want.

“To some extent, we’re still on the sidelines,” Scott says. “I don’t think that systemic rejection should be the means of HIV prevention for trans and nonbinary people. We’re dealing with a lot of rejection, and so I don’t think we’ve really had the opportunity to be exposed to that risk.”

The theme of rejection is echoed frequently by the study subjects.

“I remember meeting this one guy at a friend’s party and we were flirting the whole time,” one participant recounted. “He was like, ‘Oh we should totally go for a beer’ and so we connected and then I told him I was trans and he was like, ‘Oh I’m not looking for anything.’”

“Cis men often shut down immediately, out of a sort of fear of the unknown, and being unaware of what can and can’t happen,” Scott says. “They can assume all trans guys are bottoms, which isn’t true.”

Constant rejection can wear trans men down, Larkham says. Not only does it damage mental health, but constant rejection can weaken trans men’s resolve to negotiate sexual safety.

Many trans men, the study notes, rely on online hookup sites, where they can be upfront about being trans, and avoid rejection by anyone who isn’t interested.

The burden of rejection is one reason trans MSM need better mental health services too, Larkham says. Too many men show up to sexual health clinics after being exposed to sexual risks. Mental health support, he thinks, could reach people earlier.

But again, Scott strikes a positive note. “It’s a source of celebration to me that despite huge barriers we’re still having the sex that we want,” he says.

In the end, the clearest message to emerge from Rich’s study is that there’s a lot more to learn. She hopes to get more answers from the next stage of the Momentum study, which will recruit a larger sample of MSM from across Canada. That study, she hopes, will be large enough to deliver the kind of precise, quantitative answers that this one couldn’t.

Scott is also eager to move forward.

“There’s so much you want to pack in and so much you want to report on,” he says. “There’s such a dire need to research these issues. People are really hurting, and I really feel that. But you’ve got to take it one step at a time.”

Complete Article HERE!

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LGBTQ definitions every good ally should know

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By Alia E. Dastagir

Millions of Americans identify as LGBTQ, and like any group, they have their own language to talk about both who they are and the challenges they face in a society that doesn’t fully accept or protect them.

If you want to be an ally, these terms might help — but be aware that many have been used derogatorily by straight, white, cisgender (defined below!) people, and were reclaimed over time by the LGBTQ community.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and some of these terms — because they are so personal — likely mean slightly different things to different people. If you’re puzzled by a term and feel like you can ask someone you love in the LGBTQ community to help you make sense of it, do it. But also be careful not to put the burden of your education on other people when there’s a whole wide world of resources out there.

Let’s get started

LGBTQ: The acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.” Some people also use the Q to stand for “questioning,” meaning people who are figuring out their sexual orientation or gender identity. You may also see LGBT+, LGBT*, LGBTx, or LGBTQIA. I stands for intersex and A for asexual/aromantic/agender. The “A” has also been used by some to refer to “ally.”

Speaking of intersex: Born with sex characteristics such as genitals or chromosomes that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female. About 1.7% of the population is intersex, according to the United Nations.

Sex: The biological differences between male and female.

Gender: The societal constructions we assign to male and female. When you hear someone say “gender stereotypes,” they’re referring to the ways we expect men/boys and women/girls to act and behave.

Queer: Originally used as a pejorative slur, queer has now become an umbrella term to describe the myriad ways people reject binary categories of gender and sexual orientation to express who they are. People who identify as queer embrace identities and sexual orientations outside of mainstream heterosexual and gender norms.

Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation: How a person characterizes their sexuality. “There are three distinct components of sexual orientation,” said Ryan Watson, a professor of Human Development & Family Studies at the University of Connecticut. “It’s comprised of identity (I’m gay), behavior (I have sex with the same gender) and attraction (I’m sexually attracted to the same gender), and all three might not line up for all people.” (Don’t say “sexual preference,” which implies it’s a choice and easily changed.)

Gay: A sexual orientation that describes a person who is emotionally or sexually attracted to people of their own gender; commonly used to describe men.

Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally or sexually attracted to other women.

Bisexual: A person who is emotionally or sexually attracted to more than one sex or gender.

Pansexual: A person who can be attracted to all different kinds of people, regardless of their biological sex or gender identity. Miley Cyrus opened up last year about identifying as pansexual.

Asexual: A person who experiences no sexual attraction to other people.

​Demisexual: Someone who doesn’t develop sexual attraction to anyone until they have a strong emotional connection.

Same-gender loving: A term some in the African-American community use instead of lesbian, gay or bisexual to express sexual attraction to people of the same gender.

Aromantic: A person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others.

Gender identity and expression

Gender identity: One’s concept of self as male, female or neither (see “genderqueer”). A person’s gender identity may not align with their sex at birth; not the same as sexual orientation.

Gender role: The social behaviors that culture assigns to each sex. Examples: Girls play with dolls, boys play with trucks; women are nurturing, men are stoic.

Gender expression: How we express our gender identity. It can refer to our hair, the clothes we wear, the way we speak. It’s all the ways we do and don’t conform to the socially defined behaviors of masculine or feminine.​

Transgender: A person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Cisgender: A person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Binary: The concept of dividing sex or gender into two clear categories. Sex is male or female, gender is masculine or feminine.

Non-binary: Someone who doesn’t identify exclusively as female/male.

Genderqueer: People who reject static, conventional categories of gender and embrace fluid ideas of gender (and often sexual orientation). They are people whose gender identity can be both male and female, neither male nor female, or a combination of male and female.

Agender: Someone who doesn’t identify as any particular gender.

Gender-expansive: An umbrella term used to refer to people, often times youth, who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.

Gender fluid: Not identifying with a single, fixed gender. A person whose gender identity may shift.

*(Note: While the previous six terms may sound similar, subtle differences between them mean they can’t always be used interchangeably).*

Gender non-conforming: People who don’t conform to traditional expectations of their gender.

Transsexual: A person whose gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth, and who takes medical steps such as sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy to change their body to match their gender.

Transvestite: A person who dresses in clothing generally identified with the opposite gender/sex.

Trans: The overarching umbrella term for various kinds of gender identifies in the trans community.

Drag kings & drag queens: People, some who are straight and cisgender, who perform either masculinity or femininity as a form of art. It’s not about gender identity.

Bottom surgery: A colloquial way of referring to gender affirming genital surgery.

Top surgery: Colloquial way of describing gender affirming surgery on the chest.

Binding: Flattening your breasts, sometimes to appear more masculine.

Androgynous: A person who has both masculine and feminine characteristics, which sometimes means you can’t easily distinguish that person’s gender. It can also refer to someone who appears female — like Orange is the New Black’s Ruby Rose, for example — but who adopts a style that is generally considered masculine.

‘Out’ vs. ‘closeted’

Coming out: The complicated, multi-layered, ongoing process by which one discovers and accepts one’s own sexuality and gender identity. One of the most famous coming outs was Ellen DeGeneres, with “Yep, I’m gay” on the cover of Time magazine 20 years ago. Former President Obama awarded DeGeneres a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, saying that her coming out in 1997 was an important step for the country.

/center
Outing: Publicly revealing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity when they’ve personally chosen to keep it private.

Living openly: An LGBTQ people who is comfortable being out about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Closeted: An LGBTQ person who will not or cannot disclose their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity to the wider world.

Passing: A person who is recognized as the gender they identify with.

Down low: A term often used by African American men to refer to men who identify as heterosexual but have sex with men.

Attitudes

Ally: A person who is not LGBTQ but uses their privilege to support LGBTQ people and promote equality. Allies “stand up and speak out even when the people they’re allying for aren’t there,” said Robin McHaelen, founder and executive director of True Colors, a non-profit that provides support for LGBTQ youth and their families. In other words, not just at pride parades.

Sex positive: An attitude that views sexual expression and sexual pleasure, if it’s healthy and consensual, as a good thing.

Heterosexual privilege: Refers to the societal advantages that heterosexuals get which LGBTQ people don’t. If you’re a straight family that moves to a new neighborhood, for example, you probably don’t have to worry about whether your neighbors will accept you.

Heteronormativity: A cultural bias that considers heterosexuality (being straight) the norm. When you first meet someone, do you automatically assume they’re straight? That’s heteronormativity.

Heterosexism: A system of oppression that considers heterosexuality the norm and discriminates against people who display non-heterosexual behaviors and identities.

Cissexism: A system of oppression that says there are only two genders, which are considered the norm, and that everyone’s gender aligns with their sex at birth.

Homophobia: Discrimination, prejudice, fear or hatred toward people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Biphobia: Discrimination, prejudice, fear or hatred toward bisexual people.

Transphobia: Prejudice toward trans people.

Transmisogyny: A blend of transphobia and misogyny, which manifests as discrimination against “trans women and trans and gender non-conforming people on the feminine end of the gender spectrum.”

TERF: The acronym for “trans exclusionary radical feminists,” referring to feminists who are transphobic.

Transfeminism: Defined as “a movement by and for trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linked to the liberation of all women and beyond.” It’s a form of feminism that includes all self-identified women, regardless of assigned sex, and challenges cisgender privilege. A central tenet is that individuals have the right to define who they are.

Intersectionality: The understanding of how a person’s overlapping identities — including race, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disability status — impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.

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