Category Archives: LGBT History & Culture

What is Cisgender Privilege?

First, it’s helpful to know what the term “cisgender” means. This means that a person’s gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth and then a person’s gender matches the gender by which others perceive them. The term has been around for over 20 years and is used a lot in educational settings, particularly when discussing gender identity and expression in trans and queer communities.

Cisgender privilege shows how gender/sex alignment means being free from having to think about or address things that those who are not cisgender do quite frequently.

What is Cisgender Privilege?

The following are some examples of privileges you might have if you are cisgender:

  • You are not misgendered. People refer to you by the correct pronouns every day.
  • People do not ask you nosy questions about you are genitalia, what type of medical procedures you’ve had, and your real gender is not in question, or connected with the genitalia another assumes you have.
  • You are able to get into sex segregated facilities such as bathrooms and events that are in alignment with your gender identity without being questioned, refused, or at risk of harassment or even physical violence.
  • When you search for employment, housing, banks, go to vote or receive medical treatment, you don’t have to worry about your gender or what others perceive your gender to be.
  • In the unfortunate event that you are a victim of physical and/or sexual assault, you don’t have to fear being blamed because of your gender expression or identity and you don’t have to fear that the attacker will be allowed a reduced sentence due to what is called “trans panic defense.” Some in the law profession still believe this argument is viable and that it partially excuses violent assault or even homicide.

Cisgender privilege is incredibly wide-ranging. It’s a lot for the non-privileged person to have to deal with on a daily basis and leaves little else for them to think about. This includes those who were incorrectly sex-assigned at birth and those who make a choice to present as a different gender, as they are distinct from each other.

Don’t be mistaken, many gay, bisexual, and lesbian folks have cisgender privilege. For example, it’s very possible for a gay man to be gender-conforming. The fact he presents physically as a man means that he won’t be challenged when attempting to use male designated facilities or attend events for men. On the other hand, if a heterosexual man was sex-assigned female at birth, he may face his life being challenged or harassed for not being “man enough.”

If you recognize yourself as cisgender, perhaps you’ll understand privileges you’ve previously taken for granted and try to help those you know who are gender non-conforming or transgender.


The Need for Senior LGBTQ Housing Communities

Where are all the Baby Boomers? Everywhere, of course! In the U.S., approximately one-fifth of the population will be 65 or older by 2030. This will affect elder care profoundly in decades to come. This, of course, includes LGBTQ boomers–who will have unique support and housing needs.

Fortunately,  many more are coming out as LGBTQ allies, in support of gay rights, particularly regarding equal rights to marriage. Though, many LGBTQ Boomers are grateful, they remember a more bleak time, when they could be arrested, rejected, and violated (physically and emotionally) for being themselves. This hasn’t all disappeared, of course.  Discrimination is still rampant. This is why it’s of particular importance to focus on the housing and/or employment discrimination that LGBTQ elders will only become more susceptible to in the decades ahead.

The Need for Senior LGBTQ Housing Communities

Recently, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) announced a gathering of notable affordable-housing advocates, developers and organizations in the LGBTQ community to form a “national, comprehensive LGBT elder housing strategy.”  Their objective is to ensure LGBTQ seniors will be able to live affordably, with their rights protected and with a sense of community. These groups represent affordable-housing strategists, developers and federal-level commitment through HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and include, HELP USA, the Los Angeles LGBT CenterEnterprise Community Partners , and Equal Rights Center out of DC.

This strategy will, in part, be guiding cities to plan LGBTQ housing that is affordable. There are some communities (some also in progress) in the U.S. already, such as Spirit on Lake in Minneapolis, Openhouse in San Francisco, Center on Halsted in Chicago, and Triangle Square in West Hollywood. The latter was one of the first affordable housing communities planned to meet the needs of LGBTQ elders. One-third of the 104 units in Triangle Square are set aside for those at risk for becoming homeless or are living with HIV/AIDS.

Kathleen Sullivan, director of senior services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which provides services to Triangle Square, says, “Not having the burden of keeping a secret about who you are is transformative.” Many in the LGBTQ community are not able to truly be themselves until they’re in these communities, in their 70’s and 80’s. 

In addition, a minority of health care providers have training or experience that focuses on treating LGBTQ seniors. Older transgender people need their specific health care requirements considered and older LGBTQ people may shy away from seeking proper cancer screening and gynecological care. Of critical importance is the consideration that HIV infections are on the rise in the senior population, in general, and this will be one of the first generations growing into old age with HIV/AIDS. These communities will be a giant, needed step forward, for the overall health and well being of LGBTQ seniors.

Wal-Mart Opposes Anti-LGBT Bill

A proposal to keep local and state governments from placing a “substantial burden” on another’s religious beliefs was resisted the day after Arkansas was the second state to ban cities and counties from offering protection from discrimination for LGBT people. Wal-Mart spoke out against the legislation.

A spokesperson for Wal-Mart, Lorenzo Lopez, said the proposal-turned-law runs counter to its beliefs and “sends the wrong message about Arkansas.” Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, criticized the pending legislation in a similar way that it voiced concern about new local ordinance laws. The American multinational retail corporation includes gender identity and sexual orientation in its policy of non-discrimination.

Governor Hutchinson stated that he had reservations about this “conscience protection” measure backed by the House, yet he didn’t express opposition. He is interested in how the this would be applied and told reporters, “I can see a great deal of litigation coming out of this, and so we want to have a better understanding of it.” Despite advocacy groups urging Hutchinson to veto the legislation, he did not.

Wal-Mart Opposes Anti-LGBT Bill

Lopez  stated, “While HB1228 will not change how we treat our associates and operate our business, we feel this legislation is also counter to our core basic belief of respect for the individual and sends the wrong message about Arkansas, as well as the diverse environment which exists in the state.”

If enacted, this bill could support a case of an individual suing the government if they could corroborate that their religious beliefs were being violated. Unless a “compelling governmental interest is proven”, the proposal would prohibit any state or local regulations or laws that substantially burden religious beliefs.

LGBT rights groups are focusing their attention on the “conscience protection” measure, treating it as another attempt to allow bias in the LGBT community.

The law won’t be effective until 90 days after the Legislature is formally adjourned, which is expected to be this May.


Questions that Insult Queer Women

There are some questions you’re better off knowing will likely be annoying to queer women.

Who’s the man in your relationship?
Who is the man in your relationship?  Lesbian relationships involve two women and this question assumes that one of the women is acting as a man.  Even if the relationship involves a more feminine woman and a butch woman, this doesn’t mean that one of them is roleplaying as a man. It’s rude to assume so.

How do you have sex?
Is this a question you would ask anybody?  Why would you think that it’s appropriate to ask a lesbian or bisexual woman?   And, there’s more than one way to go about having sex no matter your sexual orientation.  Are you really expecting anybody you choose to provide the details of their sexual activities?

If you’ve never had sex with a man how do you know you’re a lesbian?
Answer this question yourself by asking:  how do I know my sexuality if I haven’t engaged in sex with someone of the same sex?

Are you up for a threesome?
Many queer women are affected by this question– especially bisexual women.  Just as many, if not more, queer women choose to be in a monogamous relationship and have no interest whatsoever in inviting anybody else to join.

Questions That Can Be Insulting to Queer Women

You must not be bisexual anymore since you married a man
Just because a bisexual woman enters into a monogamous relationship with a man doesn’t mean that she has lost her sexuality.  Although she may not continue to have sex with women, it’s very possible she’s still going to be attracted to women. The fact that she doesn’t act on it doesn’t make it less so.

You just haven’t found the right man
This assumes that queer women exist just because they’ve had unpleasant experiences with men. While it may be the case that some of them have had bad relationships with men, the same would apply to heterosexual women. Does this mean that they are going to become lesbians suddenly? No.

Life would be so much easier if I were a lesbian
Really?  Probably not, especially due to the hate crimes, higher suicide rates, harassment, workplace discrimination, stigma,  possible isolation from your family,  and the list goes on. This is an insensitive comment to make to a queer woman. Do you really think life would be easier? Choose sensitivity; think before you speak.

6 Damaging Myths about Non-Binary People

The biggest myth about non-binary people is that they’re non-existent.  What does it mean to be non-binary?  Non-binary gender identities cannot be fit into the male/female, accepted binary. It’s more simple to imagine an entire spectrum of gender and know that everyone fits somewhere on it and they don’t always necessarily remain in the exact same place. Yet, let’s remember that “male” and “female” do not begin and end this spectrum.  “Genderqueer” (GQ) is another word some use instead of non-binary.  There are plenty of harmful stereotypes about non-binary folks out there.  Here are six common ones that need debunking:

It’s just a fad
It is not an option to choose between male and female for gender identity for a non-binary person.  It’s not a game that anyone’s playing for attention…it’s very real.  Gender expression (the type of clothes you might choose to wear, for example) is not the same as gender identity. This is where a lot of people seem to get confused and think of non-binary people as if they’re folks trying to fit in with a trend.

Non-binary people are just confused
Confusion is natural for a lot of people and there’s nothing wrong with being confused.  It is part of the process of many trans people.  However, the fact that someone is non-binary doesn’t mean they’re confused.  It just means that they’re not male or female…or they are genderless (agender).

This is a new concept
The fact that non-binary folks haven’t received much recognition in the US until recently doesn’t mean it’s a new concept. There are  many cultures in the world who use words for genders that aren’t “male” or “female”.

6 Damaging Myths about Non-Binary People

Non-binary people want to destroy gender
Just because non-binary people want more options than “male” and “female” for gender doesn’t mean they’re trying to destroy gender.  This assumption doesn’t observe the fact that many non-binary people do have genders.

Non-binary is the same as intersex
Of course, this is untrue.  Being non-binary means you have a gender identity that doesn’t fit into the male or female genders.  When one is intersex, it means they’re born with a physical sex that isn’t classified as male or female.

Trans oppression is not experienced by non-binary people
Non-binary people experience more discrimination and violence in some circumstances, as they would have negativity coming from both cisgender and binary transgender communities.  This means less of a support system for non-binary folks as well as fewer safe places.  You can become a better ally to non-binary people by insisting on including them whenever the topic of gender arises.  You can be a part of the change that needs to happen in order for everyone to realize they matter just as much as anyone else.

Being a Better Trans Ally: Gender Pronouns

Many of us are so used to having conversations that involve a limited amount of pronouns that we take for granted (he/she, his/her, they/theirs) because (when speaking English) we must assign a gender when we’re speaking about one person.  We need to understand that others, particularly trans people, ask to be referred to by different pronouns than we might assume we should use.

Singular pronouns such as “ze” and “hir” are the more common new ones for those not wishing to use “he” or “she”.  Changing pronouns can be a significant part of coming out as trans.  This can sometimes cause a lot of emotional pain when they’re met with negative responses, even violence.  Here are some major reasons why it is incredibly important to use the correct gender pronouns as a trans ally:

We’re helping shape our culture with language

Language is very powerful and we often take the words we use for granted, passing them off as insignificant, gender pronouns included.  Language spreads more quickly than ever now due to Internet and social media sites.  We are validating and making visible those who wish to be described and identified in a way that doesn’t fit into a strict gender binary.  Using the correct gender pronouns, even when we’re not with our loved one, is important and respectful.

We’re showing respect to their reality

Trans people are often told what’s best for them by doctors, politicians, schools, and anyone else who wants to deny their reality with a gender pronoun or name that invalidates who they really are.  It’s not up to us to decide who they are, but to show them the same respect we would want in life.

Being a Better Trans Ally: Gender Pronouns

We’re holding the media responsible

The media frequently ignores the requests of trans people who state their gender pronoun preference.  Many allies and activists have prompted change in news organizations, leading them to change their protocol on gender pronouns.  It’s important to keep using our voices.

We’re fighting transphobia and sexism

In our culture, it’s seen as bad or wrong to not fit within the male/female binary, acting outside of the gender of which our culture assigns us.  It’s not up to others to assign anything to us — and we need to realize that if we’re not transgender, and bring clarity to the obvious lack of understanding surrounding these cultural differences.  If you support gender equality, you’re playing a big part in walking the talk by being a trans ally.

We’re educating the community

It’s normal for some folks, activists included, to be confused by different pronouns.  It’s important to  learn them and then be patient as we’re educating others.  As allies, if we consistently use terms that are a true reflection of a person’s gender, we’re not only educating by example, we’re encouraging use of the proper terms by others in the community.  If it seems like a lot of work, just remember, it’s completely necessary and worth our attention.


Saying Goodbye to Lesbian Bed Death

Sometimes when a couple has been together for a long time, sex isn’t the main priority for them, or one person in the relationship isn’t as into it.  Regarding lesbian relationships, this has been called “Lesbian Bed Death” (LBD).

Just like any other type of couple, a lesbian couple might find that they’re not as passionate as they were when they first met.  Even though this a common occurrence for those who’ve been together long-term, it is a hot topic in the LGBT community.  This issue can be worked on if both partners in the relationship are willing to give it a shot. Read on for some ideas you can use to spice up your sex life and put LBD behind you.

Reintroduce romance to the relationship
It’s easy enough to take your partner for granted when you’ve been together for awhile. You’re both most likely very busy, juggling work and family life. See what happens when you start to surprise your partner with tickets to a movie they want to see or some flowers. Whatever you know will make them smile.

Spend some time on your own
Have your own life and social circle. Maybe take up a new hobby or join a group with similar interests. A little time away from each other now and then will make you appreciate each other more.

Saying Goodbye to Lesbian Bed Death

Go ahead and have sex
There’s always an excuse to not have time for something that seems like a luxury. Sex is an important part of an intimate relationship. Make it a priority and set aside time for quick, but passionate lovemaking during a break at work, or go on a mini vacation to a hotel, even near home.

Show affection toward each other
When you’re not being loving and affectionate (touching, cuddling, kissing, etc.), you might as well be housemates.  Long-term relationships need love and attention. Remember why you were so excited about your partner in the first place and go from there.

Mormon Church Supports LGBT Anti-Discrimination Rights

The Mormon Church officially came out in support for LGBT rights in a recent, unprecedented news conference.

There were conditions though: The church wanted to make clear that they were not changing their opposition to same-sex marriage and the requirement was that the same legal protections would include all religious organizations.

This announcement coincides with an anti-discrimination bill that’s passing through Utah’s state legislature, seeking to ban discrimination in housing and the workplace based on gender.  Although the Mormon Church has promoted kinder attitudes towards LGBT issues, this has been its most obvious approval of LGBT rights. Fewer than one third of the United States has LGBT anti-discrimination laws, according to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). Less state laws protect gender expression or identity.

Mormon Church Supports LGBT Anti-Discrimination Rights

Neill Marriott, the second counselor in the general presidency of the Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said at a press conference: “Such basic human rights such as securing a job or a place to live should not depend on a person’s sexual orientation.”

This is a step beyond the Church of LDS’s 2009 backing of a non-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City, as it is now in support of statewide LGBT protections. The condition of this endorsement is significant, though. The church is asking for religious freedom protections along with the LGBT non-discrimination legislation.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of one of the church’s leadership groups, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “It is one of today’s great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals.” His belief is that laws are necessary to protect individuals and faith communities from discrimination.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says they believe religious freedom should be protected, but that the Mormon church’s request would diminish the effectiveness of any protections granted in non-discrimination legislation.

Neutral Gender Embraced by University of Vermont

Recently, the University of Vermont acknowledged a third gender option: “neutral”, according to a report from The New York Times. They have agreed to allow students to “select their own identity” in a few ways which include:

  • Choosing a pronoun for themselves that will be entered into the campus information system.
  • Having the option to be referred to by name only if they do not want a pronoun used.
  • Selecting to change their first name, even if it’s not legally acknowledged.

Neutral Gender Embraced by University of Vermont

This system makes it easier for transgender or genderqueer students, saving them from possible embarrassment and confusion.  Vermont is a leader in validating a third gender, ahead of colleges across the U.S. facing concerns related to transitioning students.  These changes did not come without serious effort.  According to The New York Times, it took “nearly a decade of lobbying”, which included a task force of administrators, students and faculty.  Adding gender-neutral options to the information system cost approximately $80,0000 in staff labor.

Gender identity exists along a spectrum that includes a number of ways in which an individual may want to identify, not only male/female.  The existing contrast of the two genders more commonly acknowledged is so much a part of our society that even those who want to make the most profound changes are effectively trying to stretch out the definitions of “male” and “female”.

We might be used to using two gender labels to define ourselves, but an increasing number of people are open to the idea of including more than two options.  This is demonstrated on social media and dating sites such as Facebook and OkCupid.  Next to “female” and “male’, there’s now a tab that lets one choose “custom”.  Approximately 50 options are available, including “pangender”, “androgyne”, “agender”, and “trans person”.  Privacy settings can also be adjusted according to the user’s preference. Hopefully this will be the beginning of much overdue progress in the way of gender identity.


Clearing up Some Myths about HIV

Myths about HIV are all too common, especially in connection with the LGBT community. It’s important to keep in mind that the myths and facts here are written in the context of the United States.  The circumstances and realities are different in other countries.

HIV is a gay person’s disease

HIV is not a disease that only LGBT individuals acquire.  Unfortunately, rates of infection are higher in the LGBT community. Labeling it as a “gay” disease is a damaging stereotype and not medically true.

Contracting HIV is a death sentence

HIV is a serious and chronic medical illness, but not a death sentence.  Currently, there are a lot of advances in HIV treatment and it’s possible to live a fulfilling, healthy and long life.  Those living with HIV who take their medication as directed can reduce the risk of passing the virus by up to 96 percent.

I don’t have to worry about HIV

Many individuals are at risk for HIV, even from new infections that are occurring in higher rates in communities.  HIV is very treatable and people are living better with it, but it’s still extremely important to practice safe sex.  Communication with potential sexual partners is crucial, too.

It is possible to tell that someone has HIV by looking at them

This is untrue.  There is no way.  In fact, some people have HIV for over 10 years, never showing any symptoms or signs.  For this reason, it is incredibly important to be honest and communicate with potential sex partners.

HIV testing only needs to be done once every year

This is not enough for some people, especially those who have a lot of high-risk sex and/or use injection drugs.  The center for disease control recommends testing every three to six months. And, it sometimes takes up to three months for HIV to appear in many tests.

Clearing up Some Myths about HIV

If my relationship is monogamous, I don’t need to get tested

Recent estimates indicate that 68 percent of new HIV infections among bisexual and gay men occurred when they were in a monogamous relationship.  Make sure to speak with your partner about your sexual health.

It’s impossible to stay HIV negative if you have sex with someone who’s HIV positive

This is not true. There are actually many “mixed-status” couples (one with HIV, one without) who have healthy, lifelong sexual relationships without ever transmitting HIV.  Those with HIV are stigmatised and it’s assumed that no one should be with them sexually.  This is medically untrue.  One can also reduce their risk of HIV with pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

HIV is irrelevant to those who are HIV negative

It doesn’t have to be and really isn’t.  You can be an ally, educator and supporter of those who are HIV positive.  It’s very relevant!