Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
On this page:
Helpful Links For Starting Conversations
With Youth On Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
Tough Conversation Basics:
LGBTQIA Specific Resources:
Gender Identity Terms to Know
Term definitions are from HRC.org.
Cisgender | A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gender dysphoria | Clinically significant distress caused when a person's assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify.
Gender expression | External appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, body characteristics or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.
Gender-fluid | A person who does not identify with a single fixed gender or has a fluid or unfixed gender identity.
Non-binary | An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do. Non-binary can also be used as an umbrella term encompassing identities such as agender, bigender, genderqueer or gender-fluid.
Transgender | An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.
Transition | A series of processes that some transgender people may undergo in order to live more fully as their true gender. This typically includes social transition, such as changing name and pronouns, medical transition, which may include hormone therapy or gender affirming surgeries, and legal transition, which may include changing legal name and sex on government identity documents. Transgender people may choose to undergo some, all or none of these processes.
Sexual Orientation Terms to Know
Term definitions are from HRC.org.
Asexual | The lack of a sexual attraction or desire for other people.
Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. Sometimes used interchangeably with pansexual.
Gay | A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender. Men, women and non-binary people may use this term to describe themselves.
Lesbian | A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women. Women and non-binary people may use this term to describe themselves.
Pansexual | Describes someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. Sometimes used interchangeably with bisexual.
Questioning | A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Do's and Don'ts When Talking
Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation
DON'T assume a person's gender based on their appearance.
DO use and respect the pronouns they use.
DON'T ask a transgender person about their biology.
DO give transgender people the same privacy and respect you would give cisgender people.
DON'T feel the need to 'correct' someone you believe you be using the 'wrong' restroom.
DO trust they are using the restroom they are comfortable in.
DON'T make a big fuss if you slip up and use the wrong pronouns for someone.
DO quickly apologize, correct yourself, and move on without making them feel on the spot.
DON'T expect an LGBTQIA person to a representative for their entire community.
DO respect that every person is on their own journey and being expected to represent their entire community can be very taxing.
DON'T share (or "out") an LGBTQIA person's identity without their express permission.
DO respect that everyone needs to be able to share their identity in their own time when they feel safe.
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.”
3-5 Years Old
Julian is a Mermaid
"While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he's seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a periwinkle curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes—and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?"
By Jessica Love
Kindergarten - 2nd Graders
Grades 3rd - 5th
I Am Jazz
"From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl's brain in a boy's body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn't feel like herself in boys' clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz's story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers."
By Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Grades 6th - 8th
The Magic Fish
"Real life isn't a fairytale. But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It's hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn't even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he's going through? Is there a way to tell them he's gay? A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected."
By Trung Le Nguyen
King and the Dragonflies
"Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family. It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy—that he thinks he might be gay. "You don't want anyone to think you're gay too, do you?" But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies."
By Kacen Callender
Not Your Sidekick
"Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether."
By C.B. Lee
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
"Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met."