Current Issues in the LGBTQ+ Community
Here you will find a list of researched talking points important to the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. If there is anything you would like to see here, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Asexual People and Sex
- Bi Erasure and Biphobia
- Bi+ Umbrella
- Brown and Black Stripes: the Philadelphia Pride Flag
- Gender Binary
- Intersex Identity and Infant Interventions
- Sexual Racism
- Transgender People and Public Bathrooms
- Trans Women in Sports
Asexuality is a broadly-misunderstood identity within our culture. Asexual people are those who either don’t experience sexual attraction or experience low to no desire for sex. However, that doesn’t mean that asexual people don’t have sex, or even necessarily that they don’t want to. Asexuality is not synonymous with celibacy.
Asexual folk may still wish to experience pleasure or provide it for their partner. They may experience deep emotional connections that lead to enjoyable sexual activity without any physical attraction experienced. They may wish for children. In short: yes, asexual people still have sex!
It is currently debated whether asexuality is a sexual orientation or the lack of an orientation. Regardless, given that it involves attitudes and/or behaviors outside of cis-hetero norms and results in discrimination from a lack of understanding, we firmly believe that asexual folk belong in queer spaces if they wish to be a part of them.
Bisexuality is a broadly-defined term that generally describes romantic and/or sexual attraction to more than one gender. Bi-identified people make up 52% of the lesbian, gay, and bi community. Yet research indicates that bi people experience bias from both inside and outside the LGBTQ community. And as many as 14% of Americans feel that it is not a legitimate sexual orientation at all. This identity invalidation is likely part of why bi people report higher rates of suicidal ideation and behavior than not only their heterosexual counterparts, but their gay and lesbian peers as well. It may also play a role in the fact that only 28% of bi people are out to the important people in their lives compared to 71% of lesbian women and 77% of gay men.
There are many negative perceptions and stereotypes of bisexuality. There is a persistent myth that bi people are more promiscuous, more prone to infidelity, and less capable of monogamy than monosexual people. The actual research shows that in fact, a large number of bi people are in long-term monogamous relationships. And there is no research which shows that bi people are any more likely than monosexual people to cheat in a relationship.
Bisexuality is a legitimate, permanent sexual orientation. It is not a phase, it is not a fad, and it is not a “stop on the way to gay.” Bi people in a monogamous relationship are still bi regardless of the gender identity of their partner, just as a single gay person is still gay regardless of their relationship status. Bi people are still bi even if they have a history of dating one gender identity more often than others. Bi people are still bi even if their attraction to different genders is not divided equally. Bi people are valid.
- 3 Myths About Bisexuality, Debunked by Science by Samantha Joel
- Bi+ 101 by Bisexual Resource Center
- ‘I’ll go to my grave with this’: Why bi men still fear coming out by Casey Quinlan
- Invisible Majority: the Disparities Facing Bisexual People and How to Remedy Them by The Movement Advancement Project (MAP)
- What is Bisexuality? by American Institute of Bisexuality
“Bisexuality” is a broad and inclusive term that covers a myriad of different identities, behaviors, and patterns of attraction. The terms “bi,” “bisexual,” and “bi+” are all used in the community to describe attraction to more than one gender. There are several labels that fall under the bi+ umbrella, and all are valid. There are as many ways to define these terms as there are people that identify with them, but here are some general definitions.
- Bisexual: attraction to both same and other genders. The use of the term “bi” is often preferred to “bisexual.”
- Pansexual: attraction to all genders; attraction regardless of gender.
- Omnisexual: attraction to all genders (synonymous with pansexual).
- Polysexual: attraction to some, but not all, gender identities.
- Homoflexible: attraction to the same gender a majority of the time, with occasional attraction to different genders.
- Heteroflexible: attraction to different genders a majority of the time, with occasional attraction to the same gender.
- Sexually Fluid: attraction to any gender identities is not static, and sexuality changes over time.
- Queer: an umbrella term encompassing anything that is not a cisgender, heterosexual identity.
In 2017, the city of Philadelphia added black and brown stripes to the pride flag as part of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs’ More Color More Pride campaign. These stripes symbolize the additional struggles faced by marginalized people of color within the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as honoring their contributions at the forefront of the fight for equality, going back at least as far as the Stonewall Riot.
While some within the community (mostly white gay men) argued that these stripes are unnecessary and/or divisive, the reality is that queer people of color face an even greater amount of discrimination and danger in our society while too often finding their voices marginalized even within queer spaces. It is no coincidence that the majority of violence against transgender people in the United States is dealt to black trans women.
Intersectionality (symbolized by the & ampersand) recognizes that all marginalized communities must band together and fight for each other’s rights in order to advance causes for each of us. Individuals who find themselves within multiple marginalized groups simultaneously face that much more difficulty. They have nevertheless fought with consistency and courage, and deserve recognition.
Despite the controversies, support for the 8-striped flag has been growing. We welcome this development. We further wish to go beyond the symbol alone and focus efforts on advocating for queer people of color, ensuring our queer spaces are safe and welcoming, and elevating voices of color within our community.
Much of modern Western society has been constructed around the concept of the gender binary, which holds that there are the male and female genders and no others. However, this concept is deeply flawed and needlessly limiting. People have always existed whose genders do not fit neatly, or even at all, into either category.
Humanity has constructed a variety of gender categories across history and cultures. Some of these are thousands of years old, showing that this is something that has likely always been a part of the human condition.
Gender is distinct from sex in that it includes both social and identity constructs separate from the physical form. Of course, even physical sex fails to line up to a binary. There are varieties of chromosome configurations, ability or lack thereof for cells in the body to process hormones, and other genetic factors that result in what we call intersex. This is not uncommon; the number of intersex people estimated to exist today is about equal to the number of natural redheads. So, with even physical sex failing to meet binary standards, why would we assume that identity, contained within the complex and vastly varied human brain, must neatly conform to such?
While the gender binary is tantalizingly simple to understand, it fails to capture the experience of millions of people. It is instead better to think of gender as a spectrum, with many end points and places in between that a person might inhabit.
New identities in Western culture are still being developed. Some common current examples include, but are not limited to: genderqueer, people who may fall somewhere between male and female norms or take elements from each; genderfluid, people who move around the gender spectrum; and agender, people who do not identify with any gender.
Discrimination against non-binary people has been clearly documented in the workplace, and broader social discrimination results in higher rates of suicide among non-binary folk, similar to levels for binary transgender folk.
Intersex folk are those born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical definitions for males or females. This has a variety of natural (and sometimes chemical) causes. With so many diverse causes, there are just as many diverse outcomes. This includes genitalia, both internal and external, but may also affect secondary sex characteristic development in a variety of ways.
While solid research on the true number of intersex people is scarce. the most reliable number currently circulated is approximately 1.7% of the human population. That makes intersex traits about as common as being born with red hair, or 128 million people currently alive. That’s comparable to the population of Russia, or about a third of the entire population of the United States!
However, intersex people routinely face discrimination. One of the chief ways this manifests is through surgeries imposed on infants. International organizations including WHO and UNICEF decry this as a human rights violation, as intersex folk deserve the right to consent and bodily autonomy. Currently, these nonconsensual interventions are still legal and performed on infants in the United States.
Such interventions must end.
The attitude that racial preferences in dating are natural and acceptable is a widespread one, even among those who take issue with racism in broader society or other contexts. However, research has shown that such “racial preferences” correlate with racist attitudes. Further, it has been shown to have serious negative consequences within the queer community, with gay men of color facing lower self-esteem and life satisfaction as a result of being excluded as potential partners by the white queer community.
As with other types of racism, sexual racism takes many forms. It includes fetishization and stereotyping, rejection of interracial relationships, and discrimination as dating prospects. It has been observed in both traditional and online dating.
The good news is that, like with other forms of racism, sexual racism is less prevalent among those with higher educations and better attitudes about multiculturalism. Education about sexual racism and racism more broadly must be a part of queer advocacy, not just because of intersectionality, but in order to fight against racism within queer spaces.
Opponents of trans rights argue that trans folk should be required to use public bathroom facilities that match their birth sex. While some may only focus on current genitalia, this would still result in the majority of trans folk forced to use the bathroom that does not match their gender or presentation. Opponents believe that this must be done to protect women and children in public bathroom facilities.
However, many states have already adopted laws allowing trans folk to use bathrooms and other facilities matching their gender. Even in other states, many businesses have adopted trans-friendly policies. These policies have not resulted in any increase in attacks in public restroom facilities. Indeed, researchers at the Williams Institute of UCLA have shown that there is no evidence of increased crime when trans-inclusive facility access is adopted.
Requiring trans folk to use facilities of their birth sex is both dangerous and difficult to enforce. It is ludicrous to imagine having a genitalia check or a birth certificate presentation in order to be permitted to enter a bathroom, which means this instead becomes a test of how well the trans person “passes.” Indeed, several cisgender women have been attacked for entering the women’s bathroom because they were mistakenly identified as transgender due to not looking “feminine enough.”
Meanwhile, forcibly outing a trans person through restroom choice puts them at greater risk. Trans women would actually become at greater risk of assault in the men’s bathroom, and trans men entering a women’s bathroom may be assaulted as a man trying to invade a woman’s space. Because of these dangers, restricting bathroom use essentially results in trans folk avoiding those public spaces entirely. Trans children avoid school. Shopping is done elsewhere.
And it’s not just binary transgender folk who are at risk from exclusionary policies. Non-binary, gender non-conforming, and intersex folk may also be faced with increased danger. Even cisgender people face the risk of being misidentified and attacked. The rules of society must include, not exclude. Fear-based rules should never be adopted in lieu of evidence-based approaches.
Trans folk belong in the bathrooms of their declared gender, not the gender their transphobic opponents want to assign to them.
While there is little debate over whether transgender men should be able to compete with cisgender men in athletic events, controversy continues regarding the inclusion of transgender women. Opponents believe that transgender women have an unfair advantage over cisgender women in athletic events. They usually deliver this opposition with obvious transphobic language, such as “men competing against women.” The debate surges whenever any transgender woman wins an athletic event, ignoring the many other events in which the same trans athlete lost. By holding only trans victories under the spotlight, opponents hope to spread the belief that transgender women possess some inherent advantages.
Competitive events have nevertheless begun including transgender women, using stipulations that the athletes be within a certain tolerance for testosterone levels for at least a year. In 2017, an academic review was performed on all published literature on the topic. The review reached the following conclusions:
“In relation to sport-related physical activity, this review found the lack of inclusive and comfortable environments to be the primary barrier to participation for transgender people. This review also found transgender people had a mostly negative experience in competitive sports because of the restrictions the sport’s policy placed on them. The majority of transgender competitive sport policies that were reviewed were not evidence based. Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be considered and potentially revised.”
Sports rules must be written to be inclusive rather than exclusive. While debate currently focuses on transgender women, non-binary and intersex athletes also find themselves victimized by exclusionary policies constructed without any scientific basis. As our understanding of sex and gender evolves, so too must our social rules, including those for athletics.