Lesbian - A female-identified person who is romantically or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
Gay - A male-identified person who is romantically or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
Bisexual - An individual who can be romantically or physically attracted to more than one gender.
Transgender - An individual whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.
Queer - A term used often as a catch-all for gender and sexual minorities who are either not cisgender, not straight, or both.
Questioning - An individual who may be trying to understand or have questions on their sexuality and/or gender identity.
Intersex - An individual born with a combination of male and female biological traits.
Asexual - An individual who has little or no sexual and/or romantic attractions.
+ (Plus) - For the ever-expanding definitions around gender and sexual identities.
There are many different forms of abbreviations used within our ever-growing and evolving community.
Throughout the community, you may see many different forms of abbreviations such as: GLBT, LGBT, LGBTQQ, LGBTQ+, LGBT2S, 2SLGBTQ, and LGBTQIA+.
While our name is the LGBT National Help Center, our services and support are for the entire LGBTQIA+ community, and you will see that abbreviation throughout this website. We strive to provide support to everyone in our community.
The LGBT National Help Center provides free and confidential support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) people and those with questions about sexual orientation and/or gender identity. We provide support through our national, toll-free hotlines as well as through our Online Peer Support Chat program, which allows private, one-on-one instant messaging (IM) with a trained peer volunteer, directly on our website. We also operate a number of moderated chatrooms for LGBTQIA+ youth. We provide peer support for people going through a difficult time. We also offer factual information about LGBTQIA+ issues, safer-sex info, and local resources for cities and towns across the country.
All of our peer support volunteers identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Because of the volume of calls and chats we receive, we are unable to offer ongoing multiple call conversations on the same subject. We also can not have conversations that are not directly connected to LGBTQIA+ issues or concerns.
We focus on feelings and emotions in calls, we can not have conversations that are sexually explicit. While we understand for some sexual acts can be part of a person’s journey of understanding themselves, we will not get into the specifics of sexual acts, but instead focus on the caller’s feelings and emotional state in those instances.
We will not contact any authorities or other services or programs on your behalf.
Understanding your sexual orientation is really about understanding your long-term feelings and attractions. It has nothing to do with whether you have acted on those feelings or not. Just about all mainstream mental health organizations now believe that someone’s sexual orientation, regardless of whether they are gay, lesbian, straight, or bisexual, is something that forms in each person either before we are born, or within the very first few years of each person’s life. Way before we are making conscious decisions about anything.
So people don’t choose to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, just like people don’t choose to be straight. Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual may not be as common as being straight, but it is just as normal. While not everyone falls perfectly under the labels of “gay,” “straight,” or “bisexual”, generally someone who is attracted in a physical and/or romantic way to only people of the same sex might consider themselves to be gay or lesbian. People who are only attracted to people of the opposite sex might consider themselves to be straight, and someone who has some level of attraction to multiple genders (examples: male, female) or to people who don’t identify as male or female or a mix of more than one gender (example non-binary or gender expansive) might consider themselves to be bisexual or pansexual.
Being bisexual (or bi for short) is a wonderful gift, since it means that you have the capacity to be attracted to more than one gender.
Some people who are bisexual may have a stronger attraction to one gender over other genders, but there is enough of an attraction to more than one gender for them to consider themselves to be bi. Bisexuality, like homosexuality or heterosexuality, is a normal variation of sexual orientation. Being bisexual is not a phase, nor does it mean that people can’t “make up their minds.” While it is true that some people who are gay or lesbian may initially identify as bisexual, the vast majority of bisexual people have genuine feelings of physical and romantic attraction to more than one gender. Bisexual people also have the capacity to form long-term, loving, and monogamous relationships with another individual, if that is what they are looking for at that point in their lives, just as anyone else can.
Pronouns are words that a person uses to identify themselves. An example is he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/their.
Pronouns such as he/him/his are often seen as masculine pronouns and she/her/hers are often seen as feminine.
A person who identifies as male, either cisgender or transgender might use the pronouns he/him/his.
A person who identifies as female, either cisgender or transgender might use the pronouns she/her/hers.
There is also a common gender neutral pronoun that can be used when a person’s gender identity is not known, they/them/theirs.
Example: “Someone lost their wallet, they left it on their chair."
They/them/their can also be used by a person who is nonbinary, gender nonconforming or doesn’t identify with one gender.
There are also other gender-neutral pronouns (sometimes called Neopronouns) when referring to a particular person. Besides they/them/their there are also many others, some of the most common are, xe. ze, fae, and ey. There are more, but these are just a few of the most common. Below is a table of some of the most common pronouns.
xe/xem/xyr - pronounced “zee/zem/zeer”
an example sentence would be, "xe is over there reading xyr book."
ze/hir/hirs - pronounced “zee/heer/heers”
an example sentence would be, "ze is over there reading hir book."
fae/faer/faers - pronounced “fay/fair/fairs”
an example sentence would be, "fae is over there reading faer book."
ey/em/eir - pronounced “ay/em/heir”
an example sentence would be, "ey are over there reading eir book."
Here are a few short videos on examples on how to use pronouns such as they/them and ze/zir.
It’s also important to remember that many people may be coming from a background unfamiliar to pronouns beyond he and she. It can take time for a person to understand or integrate other pronouns into their vocabulary. If you make a mistake on someone's pronoun, recognize it, apologize if needed, and try to move forward.
If someone uses the wrong pronoun for you, you have the right to let them know they’re using the wrong pronoun if you feel safe to do so. It’s also important to remember if a person uses the wrong pronoun when referring to you, their incorrect action does not reflect on who you are or your identity. It can hurt and you can acknowledge that, but ultimately no one else can define you or your identity but you.
Finding out that a child is either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender can be big news for a parent. Many parents want to be supportive, but they aren’t sure how, and they have many questions. It also means that their child loves them enough to want to share this information. The first step is to remember that your child is still the same person they were before you knew their sexual orientation or gender identity. The only difference is that you now know more about them. If they have shared this information with you, it’s a very big step for a person to take, and regardless of whether they told you soon after understanding this for themselves, or after some time, they have told you because they want to be able to talk openly about their life, in the same way every other child does with a parent.
Often, parents need time to educate and inform themselves about these issues, and that’s okay (an excellent organization that helps parents of LGBTQIA+ kids is called PFLAG. They have local chapters throughout the country, and you can learn more about them at www.pflag.org.) But the most important thing to do is keep your lines of communication open with your child, and remind them that you love and respect them, and that you are a safe person for them to talk to. Just about all mainstream mental health organizations now believe that someone’s sexual orientation, regardless of whether they are gay, lesbian, straight, or bisexual, is something that forms in each person either before we are born, or within the very first few years of each person’s life. So nothing causes people to “turn” gay, just like nothing causes people to “turn” straight. People are whatever sexual orientation they are, often from birth. It can take time for a person to come to understand what their sexuality means to them.
Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight has nothing to do with the way a child was raised, or who did or didn’t raise them. Some parents often make the mistake of thinking that if their child has not yet acted on their feelings, then they can’t really know “for sure”. The best analogy is if a 16-year-old boy was 100% straight, nobody would think that he can’t really be sure that he's straight until he has sex with a girl. They would accept that he knows that he likes girls and that he is straight. The same is true for a 16-year-old boy who is attracted to other boys. He knows his feelings, just like anybody else, and whether he has physically acted on those feelings or not is really not relevant to understanding and accepting his sexuality.
We realize that this must be one of the most difficult decisions to make and to go through with. That said, it helps to remember that you can’t change decisions that were made in the past (often for very complicated reasons). All you can do is think about what is going to make the most sense and ultimately be the healthiest for both you and your spouse going forward. Many mental health experts believe that having a very difficult but honest conversation with your spouse will lead you both in a direction that will ultimately turn out to be the best for both of your lives. Because this can be such a complicated issue, many LGBTQIA+ find that speaking with a professional counselor, either alone or together as a couple, can be a big help. You can find local counseling resources near you by visiting our resource website and easily searching through all of our 18,000+ listings at www.LGBTnearMe.org. Choose the category for “Health” from our drop-down menu. Another very helpful resource for the straight spouse in a relationship is an organization called OurPath (formerly, the Straight Spouse Network). Their website is www.OurPath .
Starting to discover that you are attracted to another person can be exciting, terrifying, wonderful, and scary, often all at the same time! But it helps to remember that sometimes the person you may be attracted to may not have those same feelings for you, often because of something that has absolutely nothing to do with you. The other person might only be attracted to people of a gender you do not identify as, or may not have feelings for anybody. Of course, the most direct way to let someone know that you like them is to tell them. But we realize that is not always easy, especially if you don’t know if the other person is gay, lesbian, or bisexual themselves. If you are uncomfortable asking, some people bring up a topic that has to do with being LGBTQIA+ and see what the other person’s reaction is. If the other person is homophobic (disrespectful to LGBTQIA+ people), then that can let you know this isn’t someone worth your time anyway. But if they are LGBTQIA+ friendly, while it certainly doesn’t mean they are LGBTQIA+ themselves, it might make it easier for you to let them know about yourself and see how your friendship develops. The bottom line is that you deserve to be with someone who can have the same feelings for you, that you have for them.
We maintain a very extensive database of local LGBTQIA+ resources for cities and towns all across the United States. With over 18,000 resources, it is the largest collection of listings of its kind in the country. Our volunteers can help you find local social and support resources, as well as professional listings like doctors, lawyers, and counselors. We also have information on businesses and places to go out. You can also find local resources near you by visiting our resource website directly and easily searching through all of our 18,000+ listings at www.LGBTnearMe.org.
When we talk about safer-sex here, we are talking specifically about HIV risk. There are other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) besides HIV, but we specifically focus on HIV because it is the most serious one. So keep in mind that the following information is about HIV transmission only.
The way that HIV transmits is by getting certain very specific fluids from one person’s body into another person’s bloodstream. When having sex with someone with a penis (usually a man), you need to be careful about blood, semen (cum), or pre-cum. When having sex with someone with a vagina (usually a woman), you need to be careful about blood or vaginal fluid.
If you are going to be sexually active, the safest thing to do is always assume that it’s possible that the person you are with might have been exposed to HIV at some point in their past and protect yourself based on that possibility. That way you don’t have to guess about the other person. And different sexual activities have different amounts of risk, depending on how easy it is to get those fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or pre-cum) inside someone’s body. For more detailed information about the risks of particular sexual activities and how to reduce those risks, please call, email, or chat with any of our peer support volunteers.
If you feel that you might have been exposed to HIV, it is important to get an HIV antibody test. There is a “window period” from when someone might be infected with HIV until it would show up accurately on this type of HIV test. That can take up to about three months. So we suggest that people wait three months before taking a test, so that they can feel confident with the results. If someone does test positive on an antibody test, it is important to confirm those results with additional types of testing. Once someone is HIV+, they may have the ability to infect other people from the day they got infected, even if that is not showing up on an HIV test yet. For that reason, practicing safer-sex with people who have a negative HIV test is still important. Don’t use good news like a negative test result as a reason to start putting yourself at risk.
If you have more questions feel free to contact us by email or call one of our toll-free hotlines:
The LGBT National Hotline at 888-843-4564
The LGBT National Coming Out Support Hotline: 888-OUT-LGBT (888-688-5428)
The LGBT National Youth Talkline at 800-246-7743
The LGBT National Senior Hotline at 888-234-7243