Gender issues and suicide

Recently, I was asked “What does LGBTQ really mean?”   
It stands for Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Queer or Questioning. Those terms can be difficult to understand, so here is a primer on the basics.
Lesbian- The term is associated with the ancient Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos. Women who identify as lesbians are sexually attracted to other females. The first known use was in 1567!
Gay- this term refers to persons, usually males, who identify as homosexual. It is often used as an insult or offensive description of someone who appears feminine.
Bisexual- refers to persons who are sexually attracted to both males and females.
Transgender is about a person’s gender identity (the internal sense of being male, female, neither or both). Being gay is about someone’s sexual orientation (who they are sexually attracted to). Someone who identifies as transgender (“trans”) experiences a true disconnect between the sex assigned to them at birth and their internal sense of who they are. This is often called gender dysphoria -feeling uncomfortable or unhappy with their assigned sex.
Queer/Questioning- Queer used to mean just “strange” or “peculiar,” indicating a deviation from the norm. It has been turned into a harsh and negative term to describe those with non-heterosexual desires and behaviors. Questioning is a term often used for those persons are unsure of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Cross Dressing” is wearing clothing and accessories of the other gender for entertainment or pleasure. It isn’t necessarily an indication of a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.  
“Gender fluidity” is a demonstration of gender identity and expression where people may appear to others as masculine and/or feminine in a variety of different ways over time.
Transgender isn’t just a phase or something you can change. Sometimes a transgender person will come out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual before recognizing their gender identity or coming out as their true gender. Many people say they knew as children they were transgender as soon as they knew what “boys” and “girls” were. For many, living openly as their assigned gender is not possible for safety or emotionally healthy reasons.
According to Psychiatric Times (December 31, 2014), evidence indicates that LGBT populations are at high risk for suicide. It is known that 8-10% of U.S. adults report same sex behavior during their lifetime and 3-5% identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Only about 0.5% of the population identify as transgender.  
High rates of depression, anxiety, and panic disorders are common in both gay and bisexual males, but substance abuse disorders are more common among lesbian and bisexual women compared to heterosexual women.
LGBTQ children, especially teenagers, are at very high risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts. Those risks result from experiencing prejudice, discrimination, intimidation, and victimization. LGBTQ youth often lack social support and are frequently victims of bullying, sometimes resulting in murder or suicide. Sadly, they may be rejected by family who don’t accept their lifestyle.
Research shows that being connected to the sexual minority community, having supportive and accepting family, and a safe school atmosphere are known to be strong protective factors against violence.
For more information these are excellent resources: (Parents, Families, Friends, Lesbians and Gays- there are local chapters all across the country (including Huntsville) to support families, friends and allies of LGBTQ people.
Human Rights Campaign ( represents a force of more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
Family Acceptance Project ( is a research intervention, education and policy initiative that works to promote physical and mental health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth by increasing family affirmation and acceptance in the context of their culture and faith community.

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