Supporting and Affirming LGBTQIA+ communities

Anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity can support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual + (LGBTQIA+) individuals. It is important to strive to deepen your understanding of LGBTQIA+ related issues, including learning basic terms and concepts. This resource provides general information for educators, students, allies, and community members who seek to support the wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ communities.


Asexual – Someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction

Bisexual – A person whose emotional, sexual, or romantic attractions are to people of their gender or other gender identities

Cisgender – Someone whose sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender identity

Gay – A common and acceptable word for males who are attracted to other males, but sometimes used for both male and female genders.

Gender – is a social construction, meaning society creates standards and roles about the way in which people should behave based on their gender.

Gender expression – The physical manifestation of gender through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc.

Gender fluid – A person whose identity shifts or fluctuates, including shifting between more than one gender and shifting between having gender and not having one

Gender identity vs. sex assigned at birth – Gender identity is the internal sense of being a woman, man, neither, both, or another gender. Everyone has a gender identity. Sex assigned at birth is a classification of female, male, or intersex based on autonomy, chromosomes and hormones. Sex does not define gender.

Gender-neutral/inclusive – Spaces and language that do not describe a specific gender. For example, gender-neutral bathrooms can be used by anyone regardless of gender.

Genderqueer – Someone whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between, beyond or some combination of genders

Heterosexism – A form of bias and discrimination that favors people who are exclusively romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex/gender

Intersex – General term used for someone who is born with a variation in their autonomy, chromosomes or hormones that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male. Hermaphrodite is offensive and should not be used as a synonym

Lesbian – A woman whose emotional, sexual, or romantic attractions are primarily to other women

LGBTQIA+ Acronym – Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual +. The plus is widely taken as a symbol to represent members of the community who are not included in the ‘LGBTQIA acronym.

Misgendering – Labeling others as a gender that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify, including using pronouns that do not align with their gender

Misogyny & Trans – Misogyny – Misogyny is a general hatred and hostility towards women. Transmisogyny is the same hatred but targeted at trans-feminine people

Non-binary – Identities that are not defined along the male/female binary. Non-binary people may feel that they exist as both, neither or a mix of identities

Pronouns – Gendered pronouns include she/her and he/him. Gender-neutral pronouns include the singular they/them and ze/hir. Many other pronouns exist as well. If unsure of someone’s pronouns, simply ask, “What are your pronouns?” One can create a more inclusive space within a group by introducing themselves with their own pronouns

Queer – Reclaimed term used to self-identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Not everyone uses this term as it can be used as a slur. Consider context before using this term. Queer may also be a distinct identity for someone whose sexual orientation or gender identity is not adequately represented by other terms

Romantic Attraction – Emotional connection to another individual that often involves a desire to be in a romantic relationship. Sexual attraction is not a requirement.

Sexism – A system of beliefs or attitudes which regulates women to limited roles and/or options because of their sex. It centers on the idea that women are inferior to men

Transgender – Someone who does not identify as the gender that aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transvestite and transexual are offensive and should not be used as synonyms. Transvestite is used to describe someone who dresses outside of their prescribed gender, whereas a transsexual is a person who was assigned a sex at birth (male or female) but who identifies their gender in what society considers the “opposite” direction, again defer from these terms.

Two-Spirit – A unique Native American identity embodying traits of both masculinity and femininity or of another gender than what they were assigned

Towards Allyship: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQIA+ communities

If you are heterosexual and/or cisgender, it is important to recognize your privilege and prejudices, towards allyship and inclusivity of the LGBTQIA+ community. Use the information provided here to educate others on language, challenge hate speech, and strive to create a safe and inclusive environment. Below are some recommendations to begin doing the work:

Recognize diversity within the community

Recognize the diversity of LGBTQIA+ people and remember the acronym “LGBTQIA+” includes many people and communities with diverse experiences and backgrounds. Also, remember that these identities are part of other identities, and intersect with race, class, size, religion, age, immigration status, etc. As such, the experiences and perspectives of those within the community are unique and individual.

Names and pronouns

Always use the correct pronouns and names of… EVERYONE! If you’re unsure, ASK!  If you make a mistake, correct yourself – without being dismissive of its importance, without making excuses, and without making it a huge deal/over-apologizing/drawing attention to you. We all make mistakes, remember that mistakes are a part of the learning process. Acknowledge and apologize for your mistakes, learn from them, and do better next time! Also, seek to politely correct others if they use the wrong pronouns. It helps to be explicit rather than hoping they pick it up.

Understand the difference between gender, sex, and sexual orientation

Understand the differences between gender, sex, and sexual orientation. Gender is a social construction, meaning society creates standards and roles about the way in which people should behave based on their gender. For example, gender roles include the ways in which women are often expected to dress in feminine ways, be polite, accommodating, and nurturing, whereas men are often expected to be strong, aggressive, and bold. The U.S. culture strongly promotes the idea of two genders (male or female), also known as a gender binary. The gender binary often discourages people from mixing or crossing prescribed gender lines, or from creating another form of gender expression altogether. Sex is a biological term referring to the genitalia and/or reproductive anatomy a person has at birth. U.S. society generally considers just two sexes, male and female. However, some people are born with both male and female or ambiguous anatomy (intersex). Sexual orientation refers to a person’s emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual attraction to individuals of the same gender another gender, or both/all/no genders, and how people organize their lives around these desires. Also, recognize that every society, ethnic group, and culture has different gender, sex, and sexual orientation expectations.

Support trans communities

It is important that you don’t ask trans people what was their “dead name” is (i.e., the name they were born with). This is invasive and implies their chosen name is invalid and less “real.” If you know their birth name, do not disclose it to others. Furthermore, don’t ask trans people about their bodies, how they have sex, what their genitals are like, etc.  It’s objectifying and it is personal information. It can be helpful to think about whether you would ask these questions of a cisgender person.

Be proactive and informed about restrooms

Be proactive and informed about restrooms – consider where nearby gender-inclusive/all-gender restrooms are near your work, classes, etc.  Be understanding and think ahead about options if a trans or gender-non-conforming friend, colleague, or student is uncomfortable using a gendered bathroom, locker room, or other segregated space. If your department or organization is holding an event, designate a gender-neutral bathroom in the building.  Click here for a reference map of gender-inclusive restrooms at Rowan University.

Self – education

Defer from asking LGBTQIA+ people to educate you. Do your own homework and research and understand that there is a difference between talking to individuals about their experiences, preferences/perspectives and asking someone to be your educator. Take responsibility and initiative for your own education on issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation.  

Rowan Resources

Safe Zone Training

Rowan University is committed to building an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students and employees. The Safe Zone Training program hosted by the LGBTQIA+ Center in the Office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution is designed to specifically support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/question, intersex, and agender/asexual community members. Safe Zones serve as a visual representation to all that the person or office displaying the symbol is understanding, supportive, and a resource for LGBTQ-identifying people and allies seeking help, advice, or just someone they can talk to. The symbol also means that homophobic and heterosexist comments and actions will not be tolerated in the space and will be addressed in an educational manner.

The safe zone symbols reflect that the individual displaying the symbol has taken the time to attend the Safe Zone training to learn and discuss ways to be supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community at Rowan University.

The next Safe Zone Training is being held on Thursday, February 18th. Please RSVP here.

Rowan Prism

The purpose of Prism is to educate and support the LGBTQ+ community at Rowan University. Prism is an educational student organization designed to that provide awareness on the LGBTQ+ issues that concern members, the university, and its surrounding communities. Prism meets weekly on Wednesdays from 7:00-9:00 P.M., please find the contact information below. Prism regularly holds many events around the campus, including an annual Drag Show, Sex Toy Bingo, Gay Soiree, and Pride Week Celebration! Anyone interested is encouraged to contact Prism for more information and attend a meeting.

Contact information
Twitter: @PrismAtRowan
Instagram: @Rowan_Prism

BIPOC Therapeutic Student Group

The Wellness Center is offering a therapeutic group for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) for students at the Rowan and Camden Campuses. The group will be meeting on Tuesdays at 11:00 A.M. – 12:30 p.m. on Webex during the Spring 2021 semester.

Contact information:

Jack Cottom,
Dr. Kha Sadler,

Queer Voices

Queer Voices is a student-run Instagram account that works to amplify LGBTQ+ student, faculty, and alumni voices at Rowan University through portraits and interviews.

Contact information:
Instagram: @QueerVoices

Resources for continued learning


Breaking Through the Binary: Gender Explained using Spectrums –

Creating an LGBT Inclusive School Climate –

Key Terms and Concepts in Understanding Gender Diversity and Sexual Orientation Among Students

LGBT Inclusion: A Work in Progress –

Talking about gender and sexuality –


Becoming Queerly Responsive: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Black and Latino Urban Queer Youth – Dr. Ed Brockenbrough

“Just Go in Looking Good”: The Resilience, Resistance, and Kinship- Building of Trans College Students – Dr. Z. Nicolazzo

The Complexity of Family Reactions to Identity among Homeless and College Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Young Adults – Schmitz, Rachel M; Schmitz, Rachel M; Tyler, Kimberly A; Tyler, Kimberly A

Queering the teacher as a text in the English Language Arts classroom: beyond books, identity work and teacher preparation – Dr. Kate Kedley


Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches – Audre Lorde

Trans* in College – Dr. Z. Nicolazzo

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity – C. Riley Snorton

Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability – Robert McRuer

Gender Outlaws– Kate Bornstein