Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sexual orientation and gender identity play a major role in how we think about who we are, our sexual health, and our relationships.  While sexual orientation and gender identity are typically discussed when talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people, it is important for everyone to learn about these topics to better understand themselves and those around them. After all, everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity. 

In this section, we will cover:

  • Terms used to explain sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • LGBTQ community resources
  • What “coming out” is and how to navigate coming out
  • Social acceptance, homophobia, and transphobia
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity on the Autism Spectrum

Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity. People on the autism spectrum are no exception. Sometimes people ignore or don’t believe that a person on the autism spectrum can have romantic or sexual feelings towards others, but that is not true! Similarly, some people believe that individuals on the autism spectrum cannot have a nonconforming gender identity or a nonconforming sexual orientation, but that is not true either!

This area can be a difficult subject to talk about and understand – whether you are on the autism spectrum or not. Although it is becoming more common for people to talk about being LGBTQ, not everyone understands or is supportive of LGBTQ people.

The percentage of LGBTQ people who are on the autism spectrum is at least the same as the percentage of LGBTQ people in the neurotypical population. Some research has suggested that there is a higher percentage of people on the autism spectrum who are LGBTQ. Either way, LGBTQ people on the autism spectrum certainly exist, and it is okay to be both on the autism spectrum and be LGBTQ.

Sometimes it takes a while for people – whether they are on the autism spectrum or neurotypical – to figure out their sexual orientation and gender identity. Someone who is questioning may try to date people of the same gender as them to see if that feels good. Or, they may try out different gender roles and expressions to see what feels right to them. It is okay to explore your options and take your time figuring it out so long as you are respectful of others and take the same safety precautions as you would in any other relationships.

If you feel like you are LGBTQ, learning to better advocate for yourself will likely become even more important than before. If your parents or caregivers are unsupportive, it may be helpful to find support or social groups that allow you to express your sexual orientation or gender identity in ways that work for you. Finding support groups for your parents or caregivers can also be helpful so that they can begin to understand your identity. If your doctors or counselors don’t believe that you can be LGBTQ because you are on the autism spectrum, or if they are unsupportive, consider finding new care providers that will support you, if those resources are available to you.

Being LGBTQ+ and on the Autism Spectrum
Key Words

A lot of different terms are used when discussing sexual orientation and gender identity. Below are a few basic terms that you will see throughout this resource. More terms are defined throughout this section as needed.

Sex: the kind of body a person is born with. This can refer to a person’s traits such as the body parts they have (anatomy) and their DNA (genes).

Sex assigned at birth: When a baby is born, the doctor looks only at its physical traits to declare whether the newborn is male or female. Some people, mostly those in the LGBTQ community, call this “sex assigned at birth.” Note that some people outside of the LGBTQ community might not know what you mean if you use this phrase, so if you use it, you will probably have to explain what you are referring to.

Intersex: when a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy or genetics that do not fit traditional definitions of being “male” or “female.” This may include having body parts that are not clearly male or female or having extra chromosomes or other appearances of both male and female sexes.

Gender: a set of social, psychological, or emotional traits, often influenced by society, that determines what we expect to be “feminine” and “masculine.”

Gender identity: a person’s feelings of being male, female, some of both, or neither.

Gender expression: the way a person’s gender looks. This may be more feminine, masculine, or androgynous (somewhere in between). This might include, but is not limited to, choices in clothing, accessories, hairstyle, and the way a person moves their body.

Sexual orientation: the emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings of attraction toward others; in other words, who you love or are attracted to. There are many different sexual orientations based on who one is attracted to.

LGBTQ: stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer. Sometimes there are more letters added to this abbreviation, so that more identities can be included. For example: I might be added for “intersex” or + for any additional identities.

If you are interested in a more comprehensive list of LGBT terms and definitions, check out PFLAG’s glossary.

Sex

In our society, sex refers to your anatomy (body parts) and your genes (DNA). When a person is born, their traits are most often noted by a doctor to be either male or female, though sometimes a person can be intersex. Some people, mostly people in the LGBTQ community, call this “sex assigned at birth” because it is based on what body parts the doctor saw when a baby was born. People outside of the LGBTQ community might not know what you mean if you use this phrase.

Intersex: when a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy or genetics that do not fit traditional definitions of being “male” or “female.” This may include having body parts that are not clearly male or female or having extra chromosomes or outside appearances of both male and female sexes.

 

Gender Identity 

updated icon“Gender identity” has to do with the gender you feel you are. This is not the same as your gender expression. For example, you might look and act more masculine and still identify as a woman, or you might look and act more feminine and still identify as a man. Gender identity describes whether you identify as a man, a woman, both, or something else, regardless of how masculine or feminine you might be.

Transgender

Sometimes a person feels very strongly that their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. A person who feels that way is called “transgender,” also called “trans.”

Many trans people transition socially, meaning that they change aspects of their life to better match their gender identity. This may include changing their name and asking others to call them by pronouns (“he”/”she”/”they”) that fit their identity better and changing how they dress, again to reflect and match their gender identify.

Beyond socially transitioning, some trans people want to change their bodies medically with surgery and hormone therapy, while others do not. These choices are usually made with help from certain specialists. All of these kinds of decisions are called “transitioning.” Transitioning, socially or medically, is a personal choice.

Gender identity is different from sexual orientation. This means that being transgender is different from being lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Some people who are transgender are straight, some are gay/lesbian, and some are bisexual or other sexual orientations.

A transgender person may be a:

  • Transgender man: This means that people assumed the person was female at birth and was likely identified by a doctor as such, but now the person feels strongly that they are male.

Let’s meet Jayden. When Jayden was born, his assigned sex was female, and his parents named him Jacqueline. But as he got older, he didn’t feel like a girl. He wasn’t comfortable with the changes in his body during puberty that made him look more feminine. He wished that he had gone through the changes in puberty that people who are assigned male at birth experience. He also preferred to wear more masculine clothes and kept his hair cut short. When he realized he was transgender, he started asking people to call him Jayden and use male pronouns (“he”/”him”/”his”)

  • Transgender woman: This means that people assumed the person was male at birth and was likely identified by a doctor as such, but now the person feels strongly that they are female.

When Sam was born, the doctors looked at Sam’s body and decided Sam was male, mostly because Sam had a penis. Everyone thought that Sam was a boy and used the pronouns “he” and “him” and the name “Samuel.” As Sam grew up, people didn’t know that deep down, she felt strongly that she was a girl. Sam had been thinking about it for many years and finally told a therapist. Sam took time to talk with the therapist about different gender identities. Finally, Sam figured out that she was a girl and identified as transgender. Sam asked people to call her “she” and “her” and by the name “Sam,” shortened from Samantha.

 Terms for Other Kinds of Gender Identity

Cisgender: This is when a person feels their sex assigned at birth matches their gender identity (how they feel about gender). A majority of people are cisgender.

For example, Jack’s assigned sex at birth was male. Jack feels like a man. Jack might love ballet, or knitting – things our society traditionally associates with females – but overall, Jack is comfortable being male. He identifies as being a man. He is cisgender.

Lauren is cisgender. Lauren was assigned female at birth although she always felt that she fit in better with boys than girls. For a while she thought she might want to be a boy. But as she got older, she learned that many girls like “boy things” and prefer to hang out with boys. This helped her feel more comfortable being a girl. She realized that she didn’t have to wear dresses, like the color pink, or hang out with girls to be a girl.

 Gender fluid: This is when a person feels that their gender identity shifts. Some days they feel they are male and other days they feel they are female, or they might feel like a different gender altogether. This has nothing to do with being feminine or masculine – the person could be either masculine or feminine or both.

Toni doesn’t want people to use gendered pronouns like “she”/”her”/”hers” or “he”/”him”/”his” to describe Toni. Instead, they use the pronouns “they”/”them”/”theirs.” Today, Toni was dressed in a dress and high heels, but yesterday they wore a suit and bowtie. Toni shifts their expression to match how they feel each day.

Gender nonbinary, gender nonconforming, gender queer, or “enby”: Similar to gender fluid, a gender nonbinary person identifies as both male and female, or neither male nor female.

Chris never felt like a boy or a girl. When Chris was in high school, Chris stopped wanting people to use the pronoun “he” when talking about Chris but didn’t feel that “she” fit either. So Chris let friends know that Chris was gender nonbinary and asked people to say “they” and “them” instead of “he” or “she.” Some people were confused by this, but it made Chris feel good when friends said “they” instead of “he.”  Chris’ friend, Jack, described Chris to another friend by saying, “I have a friend who is gender nonbinary. They aren’t a guy or a girl.”

Agender: Some people describe not feeling like they have any gender – they feel like they are not a boy or a girl.

Frankie identifies as agender, since Frankie feels like they don’t have any gender at all. Frankie likes for people to use the pronouns “they”/”them”/”theirs” when talking about them. Other agender people might be comfortable using the pronouns “he”/”him”/”his” or “she”/”her”/”hers” – it is a personal choice; it depends on the person.

Figuring out Gender Identity

Figuring out your gender expression and gender identity can take time. Before reaching a decision, people may explore their gender and try out different gender expressions.

There is nothing wrong with being transgender, gender fluid, or nonbinary. While most people are cisgender, no gender identity is better than another. When a person is transgender, they may wish to speak with a specialist who understands gender development, especially to help them navigate decisions about transitioning and how best to explain their gender identity in terms others can understand.

Gender Expression

Gender expression is the way a person’s gender looks. This might include, but is not limited to, clothing choices, accessories, hairstyle, and the ways a person uses their voice, tone of voice, interacts socially, and moves their body.

Some people have gender-conforming interests. That means that their interests and style match that of many others of their same sex. But some people have gender-expansive interests and styles. For example, some boys like things that many girls like, and some girls like things that many boys like.

Gender Norms or Stereotypes

Some styles, clothes, activities, and ways of acting are more often associated with one gender or another. For example, in most of the United States, girls and women wear dresses; men are not expected to do so. In our society, men are often expected to be physically strong while women are generally expected to be less physically strong Men may also be expected to be interested in sports, while women are often expected to like shopping.  

These are called “gender norms” or “gender stereotypes.” Gender norms and stereotypes don’t always make sense, but they reflect what is socially acceptable for men and women. Making the situation even more confusing, gender norms can change over time and differ from one society to another.

Flexible norms/stereotypes

Some gender norms and stereotypes are flexible and can be broken with few or no consequences. For example, a woman might wear her hair short, even though most women wear their hair long. Most people would not be upset by this difference in gender norms. But some gender norms and stereotypes are not as flexible. For example, if an adult man is wearing a dress, this difference in gender norms might confuse some people or even make some people upset.    

Strict norms/stereotypes

Some gender norms can limit individuals, and those limitations sometimes cause harm. Those limitations are especially harmful if they make people feel like they have to do something that they don’t want to do. For example, in some societies, women have historically been expected to get married, stay at home, and raise children, even if they didn’t want to, because this is what was considered “correct” behavior for women. 

Figuring out what you like and your style is a personal issue, and it can change over time. It is perfectly fine and normal to like things that the people of a different gender like. Take Jay, for example. Jay is a boy, and he loves to make jewelry and to do a lot of things that are traditionally associated with girls. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that Jay is a girl – he can be a boy who likes feminine things. Similarly, Annie is a girl who loves to play football, lift weights, and watch sports. This doesn’t have to mean that Annie is a boy – she can be a girl who likes masculine things.

Sometimes a person feels very strongly that they are a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. This is different than expressing oneself in a more feminine or masculine way. Gender expression and gender identity may match and follow social norms, or they may not. It’s up to individuals to decide what feels best for them.

Sexual Orientation

068-two-hearts-graphic-iconSexual orientation is different from gender identity and gender expression. A person of any gender identity or expression also has a sexual orientation. Your sexual orientation indicates who you are sexually, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to.

Sexual orientation is the emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings of attraction toward other people. Different people have different kinds of sexual orientations.

  • Some people are attracted to men, and some people are attracted to women.
  • Some people are attracted to both men and women.
  • Some people are not attracted to anyone or experience low/limited levels of attraction.
  • Some people are attracted to an individual regardless of gender identity

For some people, sexual orientation stays the same their whole life; for others, it changes over time. It is important to remember that just because someone has the capability of being attracted to a particular gender, that doesn’t mean they are attracted to every person of that gender. (For example, if Sam is attracted to girls, that doesn’t mean Sam is attracted to every girl.)

Sometimes it takes a while for people to figure out their sexual orientation. Let’s meet Andy. When he was in middle school, he didn’t know his sexual orientation – he didn’t know who he was attracted to. But then, when he started high school, he thought he might be attracted to both women and men. After a few years, he felt mostly attracted to women.

And then there is Cindy. She had crushes on (was attracted to) other girls when she was in middle school, and this continued through high school. As an adult, Cindy is still attracted to women.

There is not one “right” kind of sexual orientation or one “right” time to figure out who you are attracted to. Everyone is different and figures out who they are attracted to at their own pace.

Different kinds of sexual orientation

Many terms are used to describe a person’s sexual orientation. This section provides an overview of those terms.

Heterosexual

People who are heterosexual are attracted to members of the gender opposite of themselves. People who are heterosexual are usually referred to as “straight.” For example, Jack is a young man, and he feels attracted to women – so he tells people he is straight. Since Jack is attracted to women, he would likely seek relationships with a woman in the future.

Homosexual

005-people-seg-graphic-icon-1People who are homosexual are attracted to people with the same gender as themselves. Most people do not use the term “homosexual,” because it can feel formal or outdated. Instead, most people use the term “gay.” For example, Bob is a man, and he feels attracted to men, so he tells people he is gay. Gay women sometimes, but not always, call themselves “lesbians.” For example, Abby is a woman, and she feels attracted to women, so she tells people that she is a lesbian.

Bisexual

People who are bisexual can be attracted to people who are the same gender as them or a different gender. Therefore, when a bisexual person falls in love, it can be with a man, a woman, or someone who has a different gender identity. Larry is bisexual, which means that he could seek out a relationship with a man or a woman. Most people use the shortened term “bi” in conversation. For example, Larry might tell his friends that he is “bi.”

Pansexual

People who are pansexual can be attracted to people regardless of their gender or sex, or whether or not their gender and sex match. This can include attraction to people who are nonbinary or other genders besides male or female.

Note: Bisexual vs. pansexual. It is often confusing to distinguish between these two terms. Sometimes people think that being bisexual means that a person likes only men and women and that they are not attracted to transgender or genderqueer people. This may be true for some bisexual people, but the definition of “bisexual” can be more expansive if it means being attracted to someone of the same gender or someone of a different gender. “Pansexual” is slightly different, and people who use this term to describe themselves may think that sex and gender have very little, if anything at all, to do with attraction to another person.

Asexual

People who are asexual do not feel sexual attraction or feel low/limited levels of sexual attraction to others. Take Janet. She likes to have friends but realized that she doesn’t really feel sexually attracted to anyone, regardless of their gender. Some asexual people are still interested in dating. They might be interested in emotional and romantic relationships, but not sexual ones.

Questioningiconmonstr-help-3-240

People who are questioning are in the process of wondering what their sexual orientation is. It is fine to be questioning. Some people are questioning for many years until they figure out their sexual orientation.

Queer

People who say they are queer can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, or some other sexual orientation than straight. It can also mean that a person has a gender identity that doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth.

A note on sexual orientation:

There is a lot of diversity when it comes to sexual orientation. For example, some people who identify as bisexual might go beyond the “male/female” binary and have relationships with people who are trans or genderqueer. Others may choose to not engage in relationships or sex with others for religious, cultural, or other beliefs.

All of this can get very confusing. The key is to listen to how a person defines themselves, to respect the decisions a person makes about who they are interested in romantically and sexually, and to support people in creating healthy relationships that feel right to them.

What Percentage of People Are LGBTQ?

There are millions of people across the world who identify as trans, queer, or some other non-cisgender identity. There are also millions of people who identify as gay, lesbian, or another nonstraight sexual orientation. It is not easy to get an accurate count of how many people identify as LGBTQ. According to current statistics, 4%-10% of the population identify as LGBTQ.

So, LGBTQ people are a minority in society compared to cisgender and straight people. This is not a bad thing, but sometimes being in a minority, of any kind, can bring challenges. This is because the majority of people do not always understand the needs and experiences of people in the minority and, therefore, become prejudiced against somebody who they feel are different from themselves. In this case, this can lead to prejudice against people who are not straight and can even lead to violence against an individual simply because they are LGBTQ. Violence against an LGBTQ person because they are LGBTQ is a hate crime and should be reported. Learn more about prejudice against LGBT people here.

When thinking about your orientation.

Keep the following points in mind!

  1. Some people know who they are attracted to at a very young age. Some people don’t figure out who they are really attracted to until they are adults.
  2. Just because you like to hang out with (spend time with) a certain kind of person doesn’t mean that you are attracted to them. Think about Jenn. Her best friends are girls, and she likes to be around girls. But this does not mean she is a lesbian. She would only be a lesbian if she felt sexual or romantic attraction to other women.
  3. Your sexual attraction and sexual orientation may change and develop. It’s normal for young people to go through different feelings over time.
  4. There is no way to change your sexual orientation. You might understand your sexual orientation differently as you get older, but there is no way to make yourself be attracted to certain types of people. It’s just something that our brains do automatically. Sometimes it takes years for a person to figure out their sexual orientation, and that’s okay.
  5. It does not matter what sexual orientation you are. One sexual orientation is not better than the others. What matters is how you feel. If you are attracted to men, that’s fine. If you are attracted to women, that’s fine, too. And if you are attracted to someone with a different gender identity, that’s also fine.
A Spectrum in a Binary World

The society we live in often has the idea that things can basically only be one thing or another with very little room in the middle. For example, people may think that you are either “a cat person” – somebody who likes cats – or a “dog person” – somebody who likes dogs. This is called “binary” thinking. But in reality, we know that it isn’t always an either/or situation. Some people like cats, some like dogs, some like both, and some like neither – all to varying levels.

The same idea can be applied to variations in sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. For example, some people believe that people can either like men or like women. But really, some people like men, some like women, some like both, and some like neither. To give another example, some people might mostly like men, but they might have one or two crushes on women. On the other hand, some people might like mostly women but have a few crushes on men.

Similarly, often men are expected to be masculine and women to be feminine, but that isn’t always the case, and there is no one “right way” for gender to be. Sexual orientation and gender identity are actually on a spectrum, and people can be anywhere along that spectrum.

genderbreadman
Coming Out as LGBTQ

From an early age, culture tells us that people should behave a certain . Our culture often assumes that people are straight, and that boys and girls are supposed to look, act, and feel certain ways. For example: a young girl may be asked what boy she likes or a young boy may be expected to pretend that girls have “cooties.”

Some LGBTQ people may struggle to accept that they are LGBTQ, while others more easily accept themselves the way they are. Each person is different. It is okay if you feel scared, confused, or vulnerable if you are trying to figure out your sexuality or gender identity. It is also okay to feel relieved, proud, and empowered to be who you truly are.

When an LGBTQ person lets other people know they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, this is called “coming out.” Many LGBTQ people come out and let everyone know that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender because they want to be able to fully be themselves around their friends, family, and peers. But some LGBTQ people decide to only let a few people know, or they don’t tell anyone at all, usually because they worry about the reaction of those they come out to.

More and more people are accepting of different sexual orientations and gender identities. But some people are prejudiced against LGBTQ people, and this can make coming out a difficult decision. There are benefits and risks to coming out, including the following.

coming out risk.benefit

Note: If someone comes out to you, it usually means that they trust you and hope that you will still like them for who they are. They may prefer to be the only one who shares that personal information with others. You can ask if you should keep the fact that someone is LGBTQ private. If so, it is important to honor the person’s wishes and not tell anyone else that they are LGBTQ.

Coming Out If Your Family Is Not Supportive
How can you tell if someone is supportive of LGBTQ people?

It is not always easy to know if someone will be supportive of LGBTQ people. One way to learn more about a person’s feelings about LGBTQ people is to listen to what the person says.

Do They:

  • Talk about gay people or transgender people in a positive way?
  • Have friends who are LGBTQ?
  • Make positive comments about LGBTQ people they see in the media?

If the answers to some of these questions are “yes,” that person is probably accepting of LGBTQ people.

If you are thinking of coming out as LGBTQ to someone, it helps to first try to figure out how the person feels about LGBTQ people. Is the person accepting? If they are not accepting, are you prepared to deal with the person being upset or disapproving?

Sadly, in some cases, coming out can be unsafe and lead to being bullied or harassed. Some people are very prejudiced against LGBTQ people. They might feel very strongly that it is not okay for somebody to be LGBTQ. These may not be safe people to talk with about your gender identity or sexual orientation.

Because of such homophobia and transphobia, you must carefully consider who is a safe person to talk to or to come out to. See the next page for more information on these issues.

Being An Ally

LGBTQ people may face discrimination, harassment, or prejudice. One thing that can make it easier is to have great allies. Allies are people who are not LGBTQ but support LGBTQ people.

They might provide support by learning about LGBTQ issues and experiences, working to solve issues LGBTQ people face, or by being supportive friends of LGBTQ people.

Different ways to be an ally:

  1. Being friends with LGBTQ people, including speaking up if people are saying mean things or threatening their LGBTQ friend.
  2. Learning and then educating others about LGBTQ history, laws, and experiences so that more people better understand LGBTQ people.
  3. Taking more active roles, like starting Gay Straight Alliances or helping to change laws and policies to help guarantee certain rights to LGBTQ people.

No matter what type of ally someone is, having a support network of LGBTQ people and allies is really helpful to LGBTQ people. This is especially true if an LGBTQ person does not have a supportive family.

Finding an LGBTQ Community

rainbow flagPeople who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual, or transgender have friendships just like everyone else. Most LGBTQ people have friends who are straight, and LGBTQ people may also like connecting with one another for friendship and support.

One way for LGBTQ people to connect is through LGBTQ clubs or groups. Some schools have an LGBTQ group for the purpose of connecting LGBTQ people with others who are supportive. There are also similar groups in the community, like GLSEN; there may also be local organizations near you to join if you are LGBTQ and would like support.

Here is a list of some resources for support in the LGBTQ community:

  • OutCare Health
    An online resource connecting LGBTQ people with accepting healthcare providers.
  • Q Card Project
    Resources to help communicating with healthcare providers.
  • Twainbow: Resources for LGBTQ People with ASD
    There are unique challenges for people who come out as LGBTQ as well as those who come out as a person with ASD. This resource recognizes those who share both situations and provides resources for LGBTQ people on the autism spectrum.
What Percentage of People Are LGBTQ?

There are millions of people across the world who identify as trans, queer, or some other non-cisgender identity. There are also millions of people who identify as gay, lesbian, or another nonstraight sexual orientation. It is not easy to get an accurate count of how many people identify as LGBTQ. According to current statistics, 4%-10% of the population identify as LGBTQ.

So, LGBTQ people are a minority in society compared to cisgender and straight people. This is not a bad thing, but sometimes being in a minority, of any kind, can bring challenges. This is because the majority of people do not always understand the needs and experiences of people in the minority and, therefore, become prejudiced against somebody who they feel are different from themselves. In this case, this can lead to prejudice against people who are not straight and can even lead to violence against an individual simply because they are LGBTQ. Violence against an LGBTQ person because they are LGBTQ is a hate crime and should be reported. Learn more about prejudice against LGBT people in the next section: Social Acceptance.

Social Acceptance

Many people are accepting of LGBTQ people, but there are also people who do not accept LGBTQ people. This could be because they don’t understand LGBTQ people, are afraid of LGBTQ people, or have beliefs that say being LGBTQ is wrong. Unfortunately, these attitudes sometimes lead to bullying, harassment, or assault.

Fear, prejudice, or discrimination against gay people is called “homophobia.” Fear, prejudice, or discrimination against trans or other nonconforming gender identities is called “transphobia.” Homophobia and transphobia can lead to mistreatment and, in extreme cases, even violence. This includes getting called names, being made fun of, threatened, or physical harassment such as getting pushed or punched.

Experiencing harassment can be a very isolating experience. Sometimes people worry that telling anyone what’s happening will be embarrassing or will make the harassment worse. But it is important to find supportive people that you can talk to if you are experiencing homophobia or transphobia.

Examples of homophobia and transphobia:

  • Calling a person a “fag”
  • Writing insults on the locker of a person who people think is bisexual
  • Intentionally calling a transgender person by their birth/former name or using the wrong pronouns intentionally
  • Telling a trans person that they are not a “real” girl/boy
  • Hitting or hurting someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender

No one has the right to harass or hurt another person, emotionally or physically. And no one should be discriminated against because of race, gender, age, physical abilities, sexual orientation, or any other part of their identity.

If you are being harassed, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Find someone you trust, like a friend or therapist. Talk to them about how you are feeling.
  2. Do some research. Depending on what type of harassment you experienced and the place where the harassment happened, there may be different policies to help you. For example, a school or workplace may have an antibullying or harassment policy that includes procedures for dealing with homophobic/transphobic actions. If you are physically assaulted, you could file a report with the police. It’s important to know your local laws and policies.

It’s also important to know whether the people you are asking for help are friendly towards LGBTQ people. In some cases, filing an official report may not help the situation or may make it worse if the people you are reporting to are also homophobic/transphobic. This can be very difficult to navigate, so ask a trusted person or an LGBTQ support organization to help you!

  1. Seek outside support groups/organizations, both to help you manage your emotional and physical wellbeing and to help with any official ways by which you are reporting harassment.

Many parents and families are accepting of LGBTQ people. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. Sometimes, people may seem upset when one of their loved ones who is LGBTQ first comes out to them. This could be because they are surprised, or perhaps they are worried that life might be harder for their loved one as an LGBTQ person. Over time, many people become more comfortable with their loved one’s LGBTQ identity.

Hopefully, if you are LGBTQ, your family will support you. But if your parents or family reject you, or if you are rejected by your religious organization, you may end up face serious health and other problems. Such problems include things like social isolation, homelessness, or violence. Individuals with disabilities, including individuals on the autism spectrum, face another layer of difficulty since you may rely on care from someone who is prejudiced against LGBTQ . If the people who support your daily needs are not accepting of LGBTQ people you could risk losing support for those needs if you come out to them.

Finding Help and Support

LGBTQ people are not more likely to be depressed or anxious because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are at a higher risk for these things because of the discrimination that they might face, which could make them feel their life is worth less than the lives of their straight or cisgender peers.

This situation makes reaching out to supportive people and organizations absolutely crucial. Connecting to LGBTQ resources is part of taking care of yourself and making sure you have the support you need to cope as an LGBTQ person in a world that, sadly, is not always supportive. If you are experiencing these issues, do not try to deal with them all alone.

Fortunately, homophobia and transphobia are decreasing in many places, but you still might meet prejudiced people. If you are in this situation, one thing to remember is that you are not alone. It is also important to know that there is nothing wrong with you because you are LGBTQ. There are many supportive people in the world.

Here are some resources for how to deal with situations where you are faced with people who are homophobic or transphobic.

StopBullying.gov: Information for LGBT Youth
LGBT youth and those perceived as LGBT are at an increased risk of being bullied. This is a resource of strategies to prevent and address bullying of LGBT youth.

The Trevor Project: Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention
The Trevor Project is a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

Conclusion

LGBTQ people are part of the diversity of humanity. Much like autism, people can find themselves along the spectrums of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is okay to explore various sexual orientations and gender identities to find what works best for you. If you need help figuring it out, find a trusted adult or friend who you think will be accepting and can help you work through it. Remember, there is no one “right” sexual orientation or gender identity.

Key Takeaways 
  • There are various ways people identify, both with sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • There is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ.
  • People express a wide range of gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations.
  • “Gender expression” refers to how you express your gender through what you wear, how you sound, and how you act.
  • “Gender identity” refers to you internal understanding of your gender or identity.
  • “Sexual orientation” refers to who you are attracted to sexually, romantically, and emotionally.
  • Some people are accepting of LGBTQ people, while other people are not. There are support systems for people who are LGBTQ that can help them find community, health services, and emotional support.
  • Anyone can be LGBTQ, including people on the autism spectrum

LGBTQ Quiz

Disclaimer

Information found on OAR’s Sex Ed. for Self-Advocates website, related videos, resources, and links are not a substitute for professional medical advice. All users of the site should consult with a physician or other health care provider to discuss specific concerns if they require further information or clarity.