Welcome to Better Sex With Dr. Lexx, a monthly column where sex therapist, educator and consultant Dr. Lexx Brown-James shares expertise, advice and wisdom about sex, relationships and more. Approaching education about sex as a life-long endeavor — “from womb to tomb” — Dr. Lexx (AKA The #CouplesClinician) is your guide to the shame-free, medically accurate, inclusive and comprehensive conversations for you, your partner and your whole family.
Well, Pride Month is coming to a close, and so is this column. I wouldn’t be Dr. Lexx if I didn’t leave you with a little bit of education from a sex-positive and shame-free perspective.
At the end of Pride Month, there are still over 400 pieces of legislation that are anti-LGBTQIA and seeking to criminalize and remove the rights of a marginalized group of people. These bills are often steeped in fearmongering rhetoric, often rooted in religious beliefs. Despite the fact that there is a legal mandate regarding the separation of state and church in the U.S., constant arguments condemning the existence of queer people are deeply rooted and supported by use of biblical passages and perceived Christian-based value systems. And there is a cost for queer people.
Queer people are nine times more likely to be the victims of violent hate crimes. We also know now that it’s not just violent attacks from others that pose a significant risk to queer people. In 2021, 45 percent of queer youth experienced suicidal ideation, while 1 in 5 trans and nonbinary youth actually attempted suicide, which is frightening.
As many in our country’s governing bodies try to actively erase, deter, and withhold gender-affirming care, invalidate the existence of queer people’s existence, and demonize queer people as ‘groomers’ of children, there seems to be a clear choice in ignoring exactly what queer actually means.
What is the definition of queer? As a reclaimed term, “queer” is now an umbrella term that covers a variety of identities including, but not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, pansexual (which is what the ‘P’ stands for), asexual, questioning, and nonbinary.
Here are the definitions of those words as defined by the Human Rights Campaign:
Queer: A term people often use to express a spectrum of identities and orientations that are counter to the mainstream. Queer is often used as a catch-all to include many people, including those who do not identify as exclusively straight and/or folks who have non-binary or gender-expansive identities. This term was previously used as a slur, but has been reclaimed by many parts of the LGBTQ+ movement.
Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women and non-binary people may use this term to describe themselves.
Bisexual: A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one gender, though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way, or to the same degree. Sometimes used interchangeably with pansexual.
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.
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.
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.
Asexual: Often called “ace” for short, asexual refers to a complete or partial lack of sexual attraction or lack of interest in sexual activity with others. Asexuality exists on a spectrum, and asexual people may experience no, little or conditional sexual attraction.
Questioning: A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Intersex: Intersex people are born with a variety of differences in their sex traits and reproductive anatomy. There is a wide variety of difference among intersex variations, including differences in genitalia, chromosomes, gonads, internal sex organs, hormone production, hormone response, and/or secondary sex traits.
Using “queer” as an umbrella term creates a safer place of community, where others might be able to find a place, people, and actually feel a sense of belonging. Being part of the queer community can be a place where we can see ourselves happy and existing in peace, while being well-loved, both platonically and romantically. And most of all, belonging in the queer family, which can be a chosen family instead of a biological family, means being safe from violence and hate.
Messages about “good marriages,” “happy families,” “positive parents,” and more are on a constant loop across the American media. Queer people get these messages too; however, we are rarely shown what success looks like in queer relationships and family relationships. Even though it may feel like queerness is showing up in everything and everywhere, especially during Pride celebration month, queerness exists in less than 10% of prime time television. That means that over 90% of prime time television represents cisgender, heterosexual people. How many people don’t actually get to see themselves then?
So, to end, queer is a term of inclusivity and not exclusivity. There are queer cisgender, transgender, and nonbinary people in the world. There are people you know who are queer (perhaps they haven’t figured it out themselves yet) and people you have yet to meet. Queerness is an invitation to explore who you are and, if you feel comfortable, to share who you are with others. Will you be someone queer people in your life can share their queerness with?