Couples holding hands - BIPOC

Breaking Barriers: The Importance of Culturally Competent Counseling

Mexican food was a big part of my growing up. My dad’s family used to own a Mexican restaurant and his recipes made their way onto all of our holiday tables. When I first went to college and told my white friends what we ate over the holidays—you know things like enchiladas, tamales, and posole—I got the tilted, confused look that normally comes from puzzled golden retrievers. 

When I first stepped into my therapist’s office on the campus of Colorado University in Boulder, I noticed quickly I was coming from a very different world than her white and educated background. I had come from a small town where Waste Management leaked into our soil, where my father worked as a pastor of a small, Spanish-speaking congregations, and where my mother cleaned homes for the rich on her hands and knees. For the first time, I sat on her therapy couch as a gay, closeted, partially Latinx, partially Indigenous, and fully lost college student from an alternate reality. 

Intersectionality of LGBTQ+ & Ethnic Minority Experiences

In our first session I remember telling her that I was afraid to come out. She asked questions like, “What makes it so hard to tell your parents?”, “What is it about being Latino that makes being feminine so wrong?”, and “Why do you have to stay so close to your family?” 

Sadly, as I responded to her answers, I received the very familiar confused, golden-retriever-tilted-head look. I felt so objectified and like most of my time was spent teaching my therapist about my reality and not my challenges. 

As a graduate student, I took classes like Cultural Counseling and Cultural Considerations. I felt like those classes were written for white student to better understand minority clients like me. And there I was, the token Latinx, gay boy in a sea of white faces studying how to make a good counselor for my own people from a white perspective. I was so annoyed at how my people were being represented. I had to assert my voice to speak up when lectures were misguided, when textbooks missed the mark, and when I knew better from personal experiences. I had to be a voice for better-informed standards. 

Embracing Diversity: Our Commitment to BIPOC Mental Health

Today, at iAmClinic, we continue to hold high standards when it comes to being a safe, equitable, and knowledgeable therapy center for Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC), as well as minorities of all types. 

Because of what I—and all of our therapists—experience as sexual, gender, and ethnic minorities (just to name a few minority positions among our team), we don’t just approach therapy as trained clinicians, but also as minorities working with other minorities. 

And yes, having a diverse staff with a variety of skin tones is important to us. We know that trans and queer people come in all colors, in all languages, and in all shapes. We take it very seriously to ensure that we have therapists on staff who know your background because it is also their background. We want you to be able to speak Spanish with your therapist if that is your preferred language, because being yourself and being comfortable is your right, especially in therapy. I am determined to ensure that all queer or trans BIPOC have that experience at iAmClinic.  

We know that having to teach people about the subtle ways our skin, our hair, our accents, and our backgrounds are challenged in society is not only exhausting, it is isolating. That is why we are sure to have therapists who understand your world, leaving no need for you to do the teaching. 

iAmClinic is ready, not because we know what the textbooks say, but because we know what discrimination (in big and small ways, in overt and covert forms, and conscious and subconscious microcosms) looks and feels like. 

If you’re a BIPOC and find yourself needing therapy, feel free to reach out for a free consultation. I know what it is like to call numerous providers to feel hopeless and misunderstood. At iAmClinic there are BIPOC therapists ready to meet you and help you on your healing journey. 

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Contents

Jump To:

1. Step Back and Slow Down

2. Express Strong Feelings Without Blame

3. Listen to Understand Instead of Listening to Respond

4. Build a Culture of Appreciation

5. Let Go Of The Myths About Conflict

Even though we learn to communicate at such a young age, it can be so difficult to articulate our feelings about emotionally loaded subjects with our partners without making the situation worse. Fortunately, there are several approaches that can prove helpful if you and your partner are willing to put them into practice. Communication doesn’t have to be difficult!

1. Step back and slow down!

It is easy for our emotions to run amuck if we don’t check in with them. Take some time to evaluate your emotions and what they are trying to tell you. Is your jealousy or feelings of mistrust warranted, or have your past experiences triggered them?

  1. Most of us unconsciously repeat unhelpful behaviors because they have become ingrained as habits or instinctive responses.
  2. We can only change these through awareness.
  3. Plan what you want to say to your partner before speaking to them to decrease the chances of the situation escalating.
  4. Only begin a conflict to learn something new, express your feelings, or to solve a problem.
  5. Ask your partner if they would be willing to have a conversation with you.

2. Express strong feelings without blame. 

When we experience emotions like jealousy and anger it becomes almost impossible to effectively communicate them to those we love. This, in turn, makes it difficult for us to really listen. Here are a few tips on how to express strong feelings without blame:

  1. When expressing strong feelings, use “I statements” to articulate what you are feeling.
  2. Be sure to state a feeling instead of a judgment after saying, “I feel”.
  3. Be sure to carefully describe your partner’s actions or behaviors without adding evaluations or judgments to it.
  4. Be honest! Speak your truth without blaming the other.

3. Listen to understand instead of listening to respond. 

People often feel more inclined to listen to you if they feel understood themselves. Leverage to change comes from a common understanding between both of you not from convincing them you are right.

  1. Be aware of your internal barriers to truly listening, such as thinking you are right or having a strong opinion on the matter.
  2. Take responsibility for your own behavior and apologize for any wrongdoings.
  3. Accept your partner’s perspective and ask clarifying questions.

4. Build a culture of appreciation.

Remind yourself of your partner’s positive attributes and why you enjoy being in their company.

  1. Be sure to identify areas of agreement as well as areas of disagreement.
  2. Identify goals that are important to your relationship and to each other.
  3. Plan an additional time to converse over the topic if it was not resolved.
  4. Spend some time doing something you both enjoy or spend some time apart to reflect on the conversation and engage in activities you find rejuvenating.

5. Let go of the myths about conflict. 

  1. Conflict is not a contest! Don’t make it one.
  2. Conflict is not always negative.
  3. Difficult conversations facilitate change when both parties are willing to adapt their behavior.

Looking for Lesbian Couples Therapy Specifically? Click Here or If you are looking for Couples Therapy, click here!

Be sure to take plenty of time to review the tips above alone before having a tough conversation. Don’t be surprised if it takes practice to implement! It can take time to learn to communicate effectively, but the time and energy invested is well worth it when conflict is no longer a stressful, destructive force in your relationship and is replaced by respectful, open dialogue.

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For whatever reason, it is always one; one member of a couple will spend time observing the relationship and see a great need for therapy. Out of hope, they identify areas where significant changes can occur, but the idea of approaching their partner with the proposition of finding a therapist feels more like dread than hope. Often, their partners make excuses, procrastinate, or simply shut down the entire conversation. Seeking help feels like a burden to the unwilling or uninterested partner. And if this resistance is happening, I would say that therapy is more important now than it has ever been!

If you are the one thinking about therapy, I have listed some of the top reasons couples come to therapy to help you make your case.

1. Repeating Arguments

One of the most common cases we see at iAmClinic is a couple who argues over the same dilemma or pain-point repeatedly. Like a lost boat floating on the waves of emotions, the couple will feel a lull in the argument in one moment and an upsurge in another. The core issue for these partners is not feeling heard, respected, understood, or validated. In fighting to have their needs met, they often forget the original point they were trying to make because they start arguing instead about context within which their pain occurs, not the pain itself. But don’t forget, the argument has less to do with the actual circumstances (who said what and how they said it, for example) and more to do with trying to feel seen, safe, soothed, or secure.

If you find yourselves in this repeating predicament, therapy can help you identify the primary feeling you are craving from your partner (e.g., seen, safe, soothed, or secure) and give you the tools to talk about your craving in a workable way and approach resolution as a team.

Drop the repeating argument. Trust me, you’ll feel new life and passion flooding your relationship. It’s a real game changer.

2. Communication Issues

Communication is always one of the hardest mechanisms of a relationship. We can speak perfectly articulate English, and our partners will hear something entirely different than what we intended. As a result, our heads spin in frustration as we wonder how two people can interpret the same thing dramatically differently.

Efficient communication requires a mature ability to listen without taking it personally. Listening in this way allows us to use a boundary that allows us to hear what our partner is saying as though they are describing an internal experience, rather than launching a personal attack on our character. When you master your internal boundary, you possess the ability to listen with objectivity and give your partner the ability to be a human with functioning emotions.

Here’s another little tip: Never use the “When you _____ I feel _____” template. That will lead to devastating explosions of anger. A new, refreshing way to articulate your pain is to say, “I am telling myself that _____ (e.g., you don’t care about what’s important to me), and when I tell myself that I feel _____ (e.g., like you don’t love me). I don’t know if this is true or not, but I need you to know what is happening inside my mind and heart.” This allows you to own your interpretation of your partner’s behavior, rather than telling them what they are “doing to you.”

3. The Needy vs. the Overwhelmed

We want our partners to prove that they see our point of view, understand our pain, or listen intently enough to see who we truly are. In the battle to get your partner to do what you want, we can fight endlessly. Our legitimate claims become distorted by our desperate tactics. An innocent and valid request transforms into divisive demands and instead of being perceived as strong-willed, we may come across as needy. In this place, our partners will not be able to hear our innocent pleas, but may begin to feel overwhelmed and controlled.

When a partner feels overwhelmed, they will instinctually pull away from the relationship, block you with walls of anger and/or frustration, and even take time away from you. This response feels protective to them, but can leave you feeling even more isolated, emotionally hungry, and unrelenting in your battle to win.

Getting your relationship back into a healthy flow requires that you learn to talk about what you need, rather than explaining how the other person is leaving you feeling empty-handed. Doing this will help your partner put up that internal boundary so they can really hear about how it feels to be in your position.

4. Broken Sex

Sex is an incredibly important facet of bonding, and going without sex can be incredibly worrisome. Couples who can’t find the mojo see their lack of sex as a major sign that something isn’t going right emotionally. And in some ways, I might agree with them.

Two of the most important facets to examine when sex feels broken are: 1) accumulating resentments and 2) lack of emotional vulnerability.

Some couples reach for medication that might help them experience a sexual rebound, thinking it might be a medical issue, but below the sheets of our sexual lives lurks the yearning that drives our sexual machine and the resentments that can shut it down. When resentments fill our bodies, the sexual machine has no room to function because it is too bogged down with anger, frustrations, and feelings of loneliness.

Healthy emotional intimacy, however, is a highly necessary component of a healthy sex life. When the body knows it is safe and cherished—to the core—the body is not only willing, but eager to bond, especially sexually. So if healthy emotional vulnerability is missing from your relationship, it might be causing your sex life to suffer.

Fighting for couples counseling might just be the best thing you could do for your relationship. In Part II of this blog series, we give you tips to communicate with your partner so that therapy might just be able to keep your relationship alive.

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Being a couple means that we invest in one another, sharing not just our time and resources, but also our vulnerabilities, our fears, and our hopes. But, when the relationship starts to falter, an entire host of compounding fears can arise: not just of losing the partner, but of losing the idea of “us,” the plans we’ve made, and the potential we know is there.

In an attempt to get your partner into counseling, there are several ways you can take the helm of your relationship and guide it to safety. Here are four ways to communicate to help get your relationship the care it needs.

1. Know Your Pain: Describe How You Feel, Not What They’re Doing

It is an unfortunate,but all too common practice to try and convince a partner they need to change by telling them how their behavior hurts. These kinds of attempts to end the pain are quickly seen as criticism, controlling tactics, and out-of-control anger. Instead of helping our partner feel empathetic and fostering an “aha!” moment where things change dramatically, what we’re really doing is shutting down the repair process.

It is important to tell your partner not what they are doing, but how it feels inside your body when you interpret their behaviors (read more in Part 1 one of this series). For example, if your partner doesn’t listen well, instead of telling them how bad of a listener they are, use the formula: “I am telling myself that _____, and when I tell myself that I feel _____”. Let me demonstrate: “I am telling myself that I will always be unheard and unimportant to you, and when I tell myself that I feel lonely and isolated. I am not sure if it is true, but I need you to know what is happening in my mind and heart.”

This formula keeps you accountable for your interpretations of your partner’s actions and helps your partner hear you without feeling accused or becoming protective. The other major benefit to using a template like this is that it inspires empathy within your partner. When they have the option to consider what it feels like for you, rather than having to debate the “truth” or accuracy of your recollection, they can easily slip into being your teammate, not your opponent. Creating this dynamic will help set the stage for your approaching conversation about going to therapy.

2. Keep Things Equal: Own Your Side of the Street, Promise to Clean It up, and Keep It Clean

Once you have created an unbiased and safe emotional environment for your partner, you can take the next step by owning your part of the dysfunction. Having a clear understanding as to how you contribute to the problem will help you level the playing field. Giving a heartfelt apology can go a long way. Here is my favorite apology recipe:

  1. Admit what you have done
  2. Tell them how you believe it was hurtful to them
  3. Tell them how you got to that particular behavior
  4. Tell them how you will prevent it from happening again
  5. Sincerely apologize

Here is an example:

“Babe, I admit to being controlling and trying to force you to change for me. I imagine it left you feeling criticized, shamed, and inadequate. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t important to you, and when I told myself that I just tried to get you to see it by allowing my pain and desperation to flare up and my anger to spread out. I will take measures to protect you from my criticism and anger so that you never have to experience it again. Babe, I am so sorry for what I have done.”

This five-pronged apology will model the camaraderie and openness you’d like to receive from your partner.

3. Describe Your Desire: Tell Them What You Really Want

Remember, avoid telling your partner what they are doing wrong and that only counseling can fix it. Instead, rely on the desires that go unseen. You see, the underlying reason most people come to Couple’s therapy is so they can feel secure in their relationships, fulfilled by their sharing of emotional intimacy, and so they can have a person with whom they truly belong. Instead of guilting or shaming your partner into therapy, articulate what you really want to see come true for you, for them, and for the relationship. Get underneath the surface of the everyday interactions and describe what you really want at your core: the feeling of being cherished, understood, and belonging.

4. Ask About Their Fears or Hesitations

Don’t forget that your partner might be afraid of sharing their feelings in front of another person, or they might be afraid that they’ll find out they really have nothing to offer. In other words, they might be scared that a therapist will reveal that they are truly an emotional fraud with very little to offer. So be gentle in how you advocate for couples therapy.

If your partner is experiencing this fear, a good way of helping them is to create a safe place where they might be comfortable to tell you about their insecurities or their fears of being vulnerable. A good way to help them through such a challenging process would be to ask if you can have a phone consultation to help your partner get used to the idea and the process. Relationship Counseling will be able to identify your partner’s fear and will create a rapport to help them overcome their hesitations.

It might take some time to get your partner to sign up for therapy, and you might have to repeat steps 1-4 a couple of times. Getting your partner to move into a vulnerable place might not happen overnight, but the journey toward relational health will be worth every ounce of energy.

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Many of us are comfortable talking about sex with friends. We divulge details, share tips and tricks, and even get advice on aspects of our strained sex lives. Talking openly and honestly with our sexual partners, however, comes with a higher level of discomfort. Talking with transparency comes with the risk of hurting our partners’ feelings, embarrassing ourselves, and asking for things that feel selfish, and it forces us to be vulnerable about the parts of ourselves many of us try to hide: our naked, sexual bodies.

Psychological research shows that couples who talk openly about sex report higher levels of relational satisfaction. How, though, do couples talk about sex so easily?

Tip #1: Spend Time Destigmatizing Sex, Sexual Activity, and Sexual Body Parts.

One of the best ways to work through the discomfort of sexuality is to pick up a sex guidebook that can help you learn more about your body, sex, and sexuality in general. Some of my personal favorite books on this topic are Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity and Janet Hardy’s The Ethical Slut. Books like these will help you feel versed in sexual language, destigmatize sex language, and experience confidence talking about sex with your partner(s).

I once taught a master’s-level course called Sexuality and Counseling. It astonished me how many graduate students felt either scared to talk about sex or ashamed that they had never masturbated. What surprised me more than anything was that these students had a very hard time identifying parts of their sexual organs on a fill-in-the-blank chart.

Learning about our bodies from an academic perspective will help you become comfortable talking about your sex and sexual cravings, allowing them to become a natural part of who you are and how your autonomic nervous system (neurology in charge of sex) functions.

Tip #2: Embrace Self-Exploration

Learning about how your body functions, what you like, what turns you on, what is uncomfortable, and what fantasies you might have can help you make peace with your sexual cravings, and it can also give you the confidence to speak your truth to your sexual lover(s).

Even if they needs to be your personal secret at first, sex toys can help you discover the innocence of what feels good. Masturbating with sex toys and/or the insights of books can help you fully understand your body and inspire confidence to ask for the things you like and stop the things you don’t. This will also help you ask your partner what they like and don’t like, making your self-exploration quite the guide for an under-the-sheets exploration with your partner(s).

Tip #3: Talk About Your Sexual Ethic and Cravings

Sexual activity exists on a massive spectrum. Some mate for life, and some are polyamorous; some enjoy little exploration, while others dive head-first into kink or puppy play. To better assist you and your sexual partner(s) as you approach sex or resolve sexual issues, understanding what is off limits and how you agree to keep one another safe is going to be a great way to set the stage to talk about and have great sex.

The autonomic nervous system, where sex and orgasm live in the neurological body, heavily rely on a felt sense of safety. With safety, the body can sexually function rather well. Without safety, however, the autonomic nervous system will easily and quickly shutdown.

In this light, talking about your sexual ethics and finding agreement will help the nervous system find ease and comfort, which will inspire great passion and sustained satisfaction. You can read more about sex, the body, resentment, and safety here.

Tip #4: Practice Vulnerability & Emotional Intimacy

If you are having a hard time talking about sex with your lover(s), you might want to start with non-sexual emotional vulnerability and intimacy. Talk about your fears, your dreams, your insecurities, and your passions that have nothing to do with sex. Doing so will help you realize that vulnerability is a very rewarding and safety-building process. Log some time experiencing just how safe vulnerability can be and how much emotional intimacy it can create. In this context, you will create an exciting climate and will learn to trust the process of healthy vulnerability, which will lead to meaningful talks about sex. Pave the way to talking about sex by being vulnerable in other areas.

Talking about sex is very different than slipping right into it. However, having these conversations will not only boost your sex life, but also fortify your connections.

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Contents

Jump To:

Category 1: Gender Terms

Category 2: Sexuality Terms

Category 3: Relationship Models

Category 4: Miscellaneous Colloquial/Cultural Terms

Category 5: Oppression and Discrimination

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the many different identities and combinations thereof that make up the LGBTQIA+ communities, please see below this compiled set of terms and their definitions that may help you solidify your understanding of yourself, or aid in your support of your LGBTQIA+ loved one!

Special Mention: Intersectionality: Intersectionality refers to the combination of identities that make up a person, as well as the interconnectedness therein. It acknowledges the fact that no one identity exists without the context of the others, and that these combinations often produce unique interactions between privilege and oppression in different spaces. For example, a white cisgender gay man will exist in a completely different space of privilege than a black trans lesbian woman due to the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality, etc. Intersectionality is inherently tied to the LGBTQIA+ community due to the diversity of identities within, as well as their relationships to other forms of oppression and prejudice. Learn about sexuality counseling here!

Category 1: Gender Terms

Subcategory A: The Basics

  1. Gender: The socially constructed norms and roles assigned to women, men, etc. People who experience gender typically resonate with certain aspects of these norms and roles, and disagree with others.
  2. Assigned Gender At Birth: The gender used to describe an infant at birth, usually by a medical professional. Typically affects the rearing of the child due to conventional gender norms.
    1. Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB): The child is described and treated as female.
    2. Assigned Male At Birth (AMAB): The child is described and treated as male.
  3. Cisgender: Commonly shortened to “cis.” Individuals whose gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a cisgender woman was assigned female at birth and agrees with that assignment.
  4. Transgender: An umbrella term used to describe individuals whose assigned gender at birth does not fit their lived experience. This term encompasses binary trans individuals (e.g. male-to-female or female-to-male) and nonbinary individuals.
  5. Intersex: Refers to a group of individuals with genetic differences that affect their primary and secondary sex characteristics, their ability to conceive, the gender they are assigned at birth, etc. For example, a person may be born with XXY chromosomes, affecting their sexual development. Intersex individuals may identify with the gender they have been assigned at birth, or they may not. About 1.7% of the global population is intersex- just about as common as being born with red hair!
  6. Transition/Transitioning: The act of changing one’s gender presentation to align more closely with their gender identity. Gender transition can take many forms, such as gender affirmation surgery, hormone replacement therapy, or simply changing one’s wardrobe or pronouns.
  7. Gender Affirmation Surgery: Medical surgery on the genitals or secondary sex characteristics of an individual to further align their body with their gender identity. Transgender individuals may choose to have one or multiple surgeries, or they may choose to have no surgeries at all. These procedures were formally referred to as “Gender Reassignment Surgery,” however this term has become outdated due to the harmful implications of the word “reassignment,” such as that being transgender is not innate to the person, but something that must be “fixed” or mitigated.
    1. Top surgery: Colloquial term to describe surgery on the chest to either remove or create breasts.
    2. Bottom surgery: Colloquial term to describe surgery on the genitals to create a penis or vagina.
  8. Gender Affirming Hormones: Typically Testosterone or Estrogen supplements used by transgender individuals to alter certain bodily characteristics to align with their gender identity, e.g. body hair, voice pitch, etc. Also referred to as Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT.
  9. Pronouns: Identifiers used to denote a person’s gender when referring to them. A person may use a single set of pronouns, e.g. she/her or they/them, or multiple pronouns, e.g. she/they or they/him.
  10. Neopronouns: Pronouns that fall outside the conventional she/her, he/him, and they/them spectrum. See this helpful table for more information!

Subcategory B: Binary Terms

  1. Female-To-Male (ftm): Individuals who were assigned female at birth (afab), but now identify as masculine or male.
  2. Male-to-Female (mtf): An individual that was assigned male at birth, but now identifies as feminine or female.
  3. Trans man/Trans woman: A colloquial term to refer to binary transgender individuals. A trans man was assigned female at birth and now identifies as male, and a trans woman was assigned male at birth and now identifies as female.

Subcategory C: Nonbinary and Third Gender Terms

  1. Agender: Individuals who do not resonate with the experience of having a gender, or who identify as having no gender.
  2. Androgynous/Androgyne: Possession of both conventionally feminine and masculine traits in concert to each other, creating a perceived “neutral” gender presentation.
  3. Bigender: Identifying with two distinct genders. This identification does not imply a 50-50 split between said genders, rather it implies the number of genders one identifies with.
  4. Demigender (Demigirl/Demiboy/Demiandrogyne): Individuals that feel a partial, but not full or constant, connection to a gender or the experience of gender. For example, a girl that identifies with masculinity to the extent and intensity that they might identify as a demiboy. 
  5. Feminine (Femme): Originally used by the lesbian community to describe a woman who presents as conventionally feminine, “femme” is now used to describe an individual in the LGBTQIA+ community who identifies or presents as feminine.
  6. Gender Expansive: An umbrella term used to describe people that identify beyond the male-female binary, or that identify with multiple genders, no genders, etc.
  7. Gender Fluid: Individuals whose gender identity/alignment/expression constantly shifts, whether that be every day, every hour, etc. These shifts may be between genders (e.g. male, female, neutral), or intensity (e.g. feeling strongly male in one moment, and slightly male or completely without gender in another). Gender Fluid individuals may choose a static set of pronouns for others to refer to them, or they may change their pronouns depending on their identity at the time.
  8. Gender Neutral: Not gendered. Gender neutral can refer to a person’s identity (e.g. agender or a concrete experience of gender that is neither male nor female), but it can also describe spaces (e.g. gender-neutral bathrooms), honorifics (gender-neutral titles such as Mx. rather than Mr. or Ms.), etc.
  9. Gender Nonconforming: Describes those who do not agree with, identify with, or follow conventional gender stereotypes.
  10. Genderqueer: Non-normative gender, or gender identity that is neither male nor female, but somewhere in between. Can be used as an identity or a blanket term.
  11. Man-aligned: Someone that may or may not identify as a man, but resonates in a deeply personal or intimate way with the experience of masculinity, being perceived as male, or other facets of conventional “manhood.”
  12. Masculine (Masc): Refers to someone in the LGBTQIA+ community that presents and/or identifies with masculine characteristics.
  13. Nonbinary: Identifying outside of the traditional male-female gender binary. This can be used as either an umbrella term or as an identity.
  14. Novigender: The experience of gender such that it cannot be explained due to its complexity.
  15. Omnigender: Identifying with any and all genders save for genders that are culturally closed, e.g. Tumtum, Hijra, Two-Spirit, etc.
  16. Third Gender: Some cultures recognize sexes and genders other than male and female. These genders are often dependent on cultural context and are therefore closed to outsiders, such as Tumtum (Jewish origin), Hijra (Indian origin), and Fa’afafine (Samoan origin).
  17. Transmasculine/Transfeminine: Similar to “Trans man/Trans woman,” these terms refer to individuals who are transgender or nonbinary, but may not identify with manhood or womanhood to its fullest extent. For example, a transmasculine individual was assigned female at birth and has gone through some form of gender transition, but does not fully identify as a man. Rather, they align themself with the concept of masculinity, and may or may opt for gender affirmation surgeries or HRT to further this identity.
  18. Two-Spirit: A term used by some North American indigenous communities to describe a third gender. These individuals are seen as having both a male and female spirit. However, many other indigenous communities use their own terms to describe those that fall outside the gender binary, or that honor third and other genders in other ways.
  19. Woman-aligned: Someone that may or may not identify as a woman, but resonates in a deeply personal or intimate way with the experience of femininity, being perceived as female, or other facets of conventional “womanhood.”

Subcategory D: Other Helpful Terms

  1. Gender Dysphoria: Recently acknowledged as a psychological disorder in the DSM-5, gender dysphoria refers to the experience of suffering or impairment due to the misalignment of one’s physical characteristics with one’s gender identity. For example, a transgender man may experience dysphoria because of the pitch of his voice due to the association of high voices with femininity.
  2. Gender Euphoria: The joyful experience of one’s characteristics aligning with their gender identity. For example, a transgender woman may experience gender euphoria when she wears a dress, or is addressed as “ma’am” by a stranger.
  3. Gender Presentation: Aesthetic choices made to convey one’s gender identity- while everyone regardless of gender or sexuality “presents” their gender in many ways, this term is typically used in the trans community. For example, a trans masculine person may use a binder to flatten their chest in order to present as male or masculine.
  4. Passing: The ability to present one’s gender such that they are automatically perceived as such. For example, a trans man “passes” as male when he is seen as and referred to as a man by strangers without having to disclose his gender identity.

Category 2: Sexuality Terms

Subcategory A: The Basics

  1. Romantic Orientation: The experience (or lack thereof) of romantic attraction to others based on the knowledge or perception of their gender.
  2. Sexuality: Also known as sexual orientation or sexual identity. Refers to the experience (or lack thereof) of sexual attraction to others based on the knowledge or perception of their gender.
  3. Sex: When describing a person, sex refers to the set of genetic characteristics that affect a person’s anatomy. When describing an action, sex refers to any act of sexual intimacy or intercourse between two or more consenting individuals.
  4. Allosexual: Individuals who experience sexual attraction in any capacity. This term is usually used in contrast to “asexual,” which describes having no sexual attraction.
  5. Asexual: Commonly shortened to ‘Ace.’ A lack of sexual attraction OR the experience of sexual attraction with limited capacity or under certain conditions. Asexuality is a spectrum with many identities and preferences within- the word “asexual” is often used either as an identity itself or as an umbrella term to describe this realm of sexuality. Asexual individuals may or may not also experience romantic attraction.
  6. Monosexual: An umbrella term that refers to the attraction to solely one gender.
  7. Multisexual: An umbrella term that refers to the attraction to multiple genders. Also referred to as “polysexual.”

Subcategory B: Monosexual Terms

  1. Heteroromantic: Romantic attraction to a gender different than one’s own.
  2. Heterosexual: Sexual attraction to a gender different than one’s own.
  3. Homoromantic: Romantic attraction to a gender the same as one’s own.
  4. Homosexual: Sexual attraction to a gender the same as one’s own.
  5. Lesbian: A woman or woman-aligned person who is solely attracted to other women or woman-aligned people. Nonbinary people have always been included in this identity, as the term “woman” does not necessarily refer to “a cisgender woman.”

Subcategory C: Multisexual Terms

  1. Biromantic: Experiencing romantic attraction to more than one gender.
  2. Bisexual: Commonly shortened to “bi.” Sexual attraction to more than one gender, or attraction to genders like and unlike one’s own. While bisexual people are attracted to multiple genders, they may have a preference for one or several over others. Some examples of this include: bisexual with a preference for women, bisexual with a preference for mascs, bisexual with no preference.
  3. Omnisexual: Sexual attraction to any and all genders.
  4. Panromantic: Romantic orientation in which gender has no bearing on attraction.
  5. Pansexual: The sexual orientation in which gender has no bearing on attraction.
  6. Queer: Modern uses of this word include an umbrella term to refer to oneself in casual conversation, as well as a celebration of the non-normativity implied therein. A person may describe themself as queer in order to openly identify with the LGBTQIA+ community without listing each of their identities. “Queer” may also be used to imply a lack of concrete identity. An individual may identify as queer because they have not found another word for their identity, and are using the word as a placeholder for the time being.
  7. Questioning: Individuals who are considering other sexual or gender identities, as their current ones may not fit their lived experience.

Subcategory D: The Ace Spectrum

  1. Aromantic: Denotes a lack of romantic attraction. While aromantic individuals can pursue romantic relationships if they choose, they themselves do not experience romantic attraction to potential or existing partners. Aromantic individuals may or may not also experience sexual attraction.
  2. Demiromantic: Falls on the asexual/aromantic spectrum. Individuals who only experience romantic attraction once they have formed a strong emotional connection to someone. A demiromantic individual may or may not also identify as demisexual.
  3. Demisexual: Falls on the asexual/aromantic spectrum. Individuals who only experience sexual attraction once they have formed a strong emotional connection to someone. A demisexual individual may or may not also identify as demiromantic.
  4. Grayromantic: Part of the aromantic spectrum, grayromantic individuals very rarely experience romantic attraction. Differs from Demiromantic in that this attraction is not governed by emotional connection.
  5. Graysexual: Part of the asexual spectrum, graysexual individuals very rarely experience sexual attraction. Differs from Demisexual in that this attraction is not governed by emotional connection.
  6. Sex-averse: Individuals on the asexual spectrum who find the idea of sex to be unappealing, and typically do not want to engage in it.
  7. Sex-favorable: Individuals on the asexual spectrum who, while not experiencing sexual attraction, find sex enjoyable.
  8. Sex-indifferent: Individuals on the asexual spectrum who do not have any strong feelings about the idea of sex.
  9. Sex-repulsed: Individuals on the asexual spectrum who are actively disgusted by the idea of sex.

Subcategory E: Colloquial/Cultural Terms

  1. Bicurious: Refers to the experience of romantic or sexual attraction outside of the heterosexual experience while still identifying as heterosexual. Bicurious individuals may be interested in exploring their sexuality in various ways, and potentially changing their heterosexual identity in the future.
  2. Gay: Can refer to homosexuality (typically in reference to men), but can also be an umbrella term that denotes attraction to the same or multiple genders.
  3. Man-Loving-Man (mlm): An umbrella term that refers to individuals who identify as masculine or male that are attracted to other men or masculine individuals. This attraction does not necessarily have to be the only one the individual experiences, however, it is significant to their sexual identity and the communities they resonate with. For example, a bisexual man and a homosexual man are both mlm, even though the bisexual man is also attracted to other genders.
  4. Woman-Loving-Woman (wlw): Similar to man-loving-man, wlw describes the group of women and woman-aligned individuals who include other women and woman-aligned individuals in their sexuality. For example, a bisexual woman and a lesbian are both wlw.

Category 3: Relationship Models

Subcategory A: The Basics

  1. Monogamy: Refers to a relationship between two people in which both have agreed that the other is their only partner. A monogamous person enters relationships with the intent to keep the relationship exclusive, or closed.
  2. Ethical Non-monogamy: An umbrella term to describe individuals who have multiple romantic and/or sexual relationships, to which all parties have consented and set boundaries.

Subcategory B: Ethical Non-monogamy

  1. Polyamorous/Polyamory: Having multiple intimate, romantic, and/or sexual relationships with the consent of all parties involved. While Ethical Non-monogamy refers to any arrangement in which there are multiple intimate interactions, polyamory specifically refers to multiple relationships.
  2. Polycule: A colloquial term that refers to a network of relationships between polyamorous people. For example, Person A is married to Person B. Person A is in a relationship with Person C, and Person B is in a relationship with Person D. These 4 individuals form a polycule.
  3. Polygamy: Having multiple marriage partners at one time.

Category 4: Miscellaneous Colloquial/Cultural Terms

  1. Cishet: A colloquial term typically used by members of the LGBTQIA+ community to describe cisgender heterosexual individuals.
  2. Closeted: Describes individuals who identify on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but do not yet feel comfortable disclosing their identities to certain groups of people, or the larger public. Closeted individuals may participate in LGBTQIA+ spaces while being closeted in others, such as at work.
  3. Coming Out: The event in which an individual discloses their identity to themself or others. Also described as being “openly” gay, lesbian, trans, etc. Again, someone may be “out” in certain spaces, but closeted in others. Additionally, someone may be “outed” against their will, which potentially poses a threat to their safety and should be avoided by other members of the community as well as allies.
  4. Compulsory Heterosexuality (Comphet): The subconscious feeling that one is required to be heterosexual no matter what their true sexual orientation may be. This may affect how an individual sees their own sexuality, for example, a lesbian may identify as bisexual because she has internalized the heteronormative rhetoric that she, as a woman, “must” retain an attraction to men.
  5. Drag Queen/Drag King: A person who uses costume to perform an aggrandized portrayal of a gender for entertainment purposes. The performer can be cisgender, transgender, gender expansive, etc.
  6. Kink: A term that refers to non-normative sexual behavior, such as BDSM. While kink is by no means exclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community, the practice of kink has been always been intertwined with queer history due to the mutual celebration of non-normativity of sexual and gender expression.
  7. Queer-affirming therapy: Therapy that specifically integrates an individual’s queer identity into sessions and the work. Queer-affirming therapy aims to view the client in a holistic sense, taking the context of their sexuality, gender, and experiences with oppression into consideration.
  8. Straight: A colloquial term used to refer to heterosexual individuals.

Category 5: Oppression and Discrimination

  1. Cisnormativity: Describes the societal trend of treating everyone as cisgender, assuming one’s gender by the sound of their voice, etc.
  2. Cissexism: The oppression of those who do not identify as cisgender, whether by individuals, institutions, policies, or society as a whole.
  3. Fetishization: The harmful reduction of an individual to singular traits, e.g. race, gender, sexuality. Fetishization differs from attraction in that the individual as a whole is not considered. Additionally, fetishization often furthers harmful stereotypes.
  4. Gender Binary/Binarism: Refers to the social trend of grouping traits, behaviors, roles, aesthetics, etc. into solely “female” and “male” categories. Binarism often ignores cultural, ethnic, and social deviations from these strict norms, and is seen as a form of sexism.
  5. Gender Norms: Social conventions that dictate what is considered masculine, feminine, or gender neutral. For example, wearing dresses is conventionally associated with femininity.
  6. Heteronormativity: Refers to social conventions and assumptions that champion heterosexuality as the norm, and other sexual orientations as different or “other.” For example, a bisexual man and an asexual woman may be perceived as a heterosexual couple due to their genders, when neither of them are heterosexual.
  7. Heterosexism: The oppression by individuals, policies, institutions, etc. of sexual orientations that are not heterosexual.
  8. Homophobia: The prejudice against the LGBTQIA+ community. This can take the form of interpersonal violence, using anti-gay slurs, policies and legislation that discriminates against the community, etc.
  9. Internalized Homophobia: Refers to homophobia within the LGBTQIA+ community due to the continued exposure to harmful anti-gay rhetoric from outside sources. For example, a gay man may feel as though others in his community are allowed to openly express their sexuality, but that he himself must hide it or work to extinguish it.
  10. Internalized Transphobia: Refers to transphobia within the LGBTQIA+ community due to the continued exposure to harmful stereotypes and anti-trans rhetoric from outside sources. For example, a trans woman may be pressured by other trans women to pay for cosmetic surgeries in order to be considered “truly trans.”
  11. Misgender: The act of using the incorrect pronouns to refer to someone. This may be done accidentally or intentionally. The latter is usually done maliciously.
  12. Trans-exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF): A subgroup of individuals (typically cisgender women) who actively exclude the transgender community from women’s spaces, including feminist spaces. TERFs work to oppress trans individuals by advocating against trans rights and openly harassing trans people, especially trans women. These individuals may identify as queer themselves, or they may identify as straight.

These definitions have been adapted from the following websites. Visit them for more information!

https://www.healthline.com/health/different-types-of-sexuality

https://www.healthline.com/health/different-genders

https://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/educated/glossary

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Pride Month Flag

Celebrating Pride Month and Beyond

June, A.K.A. Pride Month, is my favorite time of the year. I love the parades, the sense of community and belonging, the countless parties and drag performances, the heightened awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues and advocacy, and the ability -for 30 days – to feel a sense of collective joy, celebration, and acceptance. For one month, I feel free to truly be myself and be loved for who I am. 

Yet, June always goes by so fast and before I know it July is here and life seemingly goes back to normal. Sometimes it feels like a shock to my system, going from the intense highs of joy and celebration to the lows of feeling depressed and isolated. 

Coping with post-Pride blues can be a really difficult challenge, and you are not alone if they are impacting you. 

Care for your health 

When depression or sadness strikes, it can be really easy to fall into unhealthy habits like sleeping too much (or too little), skipping meals, or forgoing physical activity. Yet, getting good sleep and eating well can be really helpful in improving how you feel and coping with low moods. Additionally, exercise can be a really useful tool in fighting the fatigue that often comes with depression (Smith, Robinson, & Segal, n.d.) 

Find support and community 

During Pride, being surrounded by people who accept and embrace you for who you are can be an incredible thing. Yet, when Pride ends and everyone goes back to their daily lives, feelings of loneliness and isolation can be really common. 

Yet, there are ways to stay connected to the LGBTQIA+ community year round. Joining a local support group or meetup group for the LGBTQIA+ community can be great options for finding connections and friendships that last after Pride ends. 

For those in the Denver area, here are a few resources for local support and therapy groups: 

iAmClinic Groups and Workshops

The Center on Colfax Community Calendar

Transgender Center of the Rockies Therapy and Support Groups

Queer Asterisk Community Groups

Seek out other things that make you happy 

Sometimes, it can be really difficult to fight the fatigue that comes with depression and it may feel easier to stay at home and do nothing. Yet, it can be really important to engage with other activities in order to get out of your head and fight back against the depression (Roberson, 2019). Even though Pride only lasts a month, there are a lot of other things that could instill joy. This could include picking up a former hobby, playing a sport, going out to the mountains, or expressing yourself creatively through music, art, or writing.

Talk to a therapist/express your feelings 

Coping with post-Pride blues can be really difficult and processing your feelings might be confusing at times. If you have taken steps to make positive lifestyle changes and still find your depression getting worse, then it might be useful to seek professional help. Sometimes, depression can be hard to overcome, and it does not mean you are weak for needing more support (Holland, 2023). 


References: 

Roberson, J. (2019). The Rainbow Crash: How to deal with the post-Pride blues. 

Bi.org. https://bi.org/en/articles/the-rainbow-crash-how-to-deal-with-the-post-pride-blues

Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (n.d.). Coping with depression. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/coping-with-depression.htm

Holland, K. (2023). How to cope with depression naturally: 22 things to try. 

Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/how-to-fight-depression

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