1. Your cycle
  2. Sex
  3. Sex and relationships

Flo Fact-Checking Standards

Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

9 Awkward Questions on LGBTQ Topic Answered

Straight people have a lot of awkward questions for the LGBTQ community. The psychologist Kathryn Macapagal answers 9 of them. 

What does LGBTQ+ mean?

Whenever you use the whole acronym, or the umbrella term, it typically means that you're referring to the whole community. People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and people whose identities don't fall under those acronyms are the “plus" -- for example, people who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, people who are intersex, asexual, etc. 

If you're referring to a specific community, you should use the specific label for that group and not the umbrella term. If for example you are describing a group of gay men, you would just refer to them as gay men -- not LGBTQ men. 

How should you address LGBTQ people? What pronouns to use?

You should always use the name and pronoun that people use for themselves.

To find this out, straightforward questions are appropriate:

  • What name do you go by?
  • How do you prefer to be called?
  • What pronouns do you use?

I would use these questions with anyone, regardless of whether I think they identify as LGBTQ or not, out of respect. I would avoid assuming what someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity is, or what label they use just based on how they look or how they act, or who they are with. 

What does gay mean and whom we can address as gay?

Gay is a sexual identity label that most often means that you're attracted to people of the same sex or gender as you. Although it is most often used by men, women who are attracted to the same sex or gender might identify as lesbians, or they might choose to identify as gay, or both. It is always up to the person to decide what identity label they want to use to reflect their experiences.

Is it okay to say gay?

This really depends on the person, the culture and the context that you're in. It's certainly not okay when it's used like a slur or an insult, or a joke. But if you're referring to somebody's identity and that's the identity label they prefer to use, then yes, it's okay to use it, as long as it's not going to get that person in trouble or arrested or anything like that. Because it is still a crime to identify as gay or identify with the LGBTQ community in some countries.

What does it mean to be a lesbian or what is the difference between lesbian and gay?

The term "lesbian" is used for women who are exclusively or primarily attracted to women, and "gay" is often used for men who are exclusively or primarily attracted to men. But again, gay is also a term that can refer to people who are exclusively or primarily attracted to the same sex or gender, regardless of that person’s own gender.

How to understand what bathroom should an LGBTQ+ person use?

In an ideal world, people should be able to use whatever bathrooms they want. But we don't live in an ideal world. That is why people should use the bathroom that they feel safer using. If a person doesn’t feel safe using a men’s or women’s bathroom, single stall all-gender bathrooms or family restrooms are a good option, but they may not always be available. It's really up to the person to decide what bathroom they feel safe using in that particular environment. 

And if you're a friend of that person or an ally, there are a few things you could do. You can offer to support them by standing by the bathroom door or by the sink (if in a multi-stall restroom). If someone questions whether they should be in that bathroom, you can help by responding to those questions (for example, by saying they’re in the right restroom, or that you’re almost finished). Ask them if there’s something you can do to help.

What are the main issues LGBTQ people usually face in their life and society?

The main issues depend on the context, on where you live and the culture and the climate towards LGBTQ folks in that specific location.

If you are open about your LGBTQ identity, or if people assume or think that you are a sexual or gender minority, you might face discrimination over the course of your life. 

People can experience overt discrimination, which are things that are very obvious like calling people slurs or insults, denying people their rights or health care, based on individuals’ moral or religious objection to LGBTQ people. LGBTQ people can get threatened or physically harmed or even killed, unfortunately, for being who they are. 

LGBTQ people can also experience things that are covert, or less obvious, but still harmful. Microaggressions are small things that add up over time and lead to worse mental and physical health. These are much more common, and can be things like casual comments that people might make in everyday conversation and don’t realize are a big deal, or assumptions that people might make about somebody based on their appearance or identity that might be a little hurtful in the moment. But over time these hurtful situations or experiences can add up and cause a lot of stress. 

Do LGBTQ+ people have any protective rights in the workplace?

In the US, whether LGBT people are protected from being discriminated against or being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, depends on the specific state where they might live. 

Different states have different policies: some states might have policies protecting people from being discriminated against in the workplace for their sexual orientation but not their gender identity. And some places have protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity, and some places don't have any. LGBTQ+ folks can easily look up their local laws about what protections they have in the workplace regarding sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.

How can people create a safe place and support for LGBTQ+ people?

There are a lot of different things that people can do to be supportive of LGBT people in their lives. It boils down to being welcoming, accepting, and treating them respectfully, as with anyone else. On a day to day basis, this might include using their preferred name and pronouns, not making assumptions about their sexual orientation or gender identity on the basis of how they look or who they are partnered with, and if you have lots of questions about their sexuality or gender, not asking them to educate or do the work for you, because you can likely learn about that on your own. 

In the workplace or in public spaces, there are signals that can show your support. A couple of obvious things like rainbow flags or signs that say “all are welcome here” might indicate to LGBTQ folks that they might feel safer there. In an office, the presence of more progressive magazines or publications could also be a signal. And you can also create a safe and supportive space if you see somebody being threatened or discriminated against, just by saying something. 

At a larger level, you can also get involved in advocacy or activism supporting the LGBT community, which is really critical now more than ever.

Read this next