There are a number of concepts discussed in this Toolkit. In this module we will review several key concepts that flow through the Toolkit to set the stage.



Throughout this toolkit we will use the acronym LGBTQ2S to refer to a very diverse population. This shorthand explicitly excludes a number of identities: people who are asexual, pansexual, intersex, and the list goes on. These identities are implicitly intended in the umbrella term of LGBTQ2S. There are a number of other acronyms being used including: LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQA, TBLG. In an effort to be inclusive, additional letters are added to the acronym, but this can make saying the acronym challenging. For the purpose of this Toolkit, we have chosen to use the acronym LGBTQ2S.


LGBTQ2S Versus Queer

Another response has been a move towards using the term “queer” to label LGBTQ2S communities. There has been both movement towards embracing the term and resistance to embracing the use. The latter is caused mostly by the negative historical connotation as a derogatory and homophobic insult.

In many ways queer is a more inclusive term than LGBTQ2S, as LGBTQ2S names several identities, but also excludes several.

(Queer) includes anyone who a) wants to identify as queer and b) who feels somehow outside of the societal norms in regards to gender or sexuality. This, therefore, could include the person who highly values queer theory concepts and would rather not identify with any particular label, the gender fluid bisexual, the gender fluid heterosexual, the questioning LGBT person, and the person who just doesn’t feel like they quite fit in to societal norms and wants to bond with a community over that (PFLAG, n.d.)

However, it is important to note that the term “queer” does not necessarily represent all trans people, as some trans people may identify as straight, or may simply not identify with the label “queer”. Which is why when using the term “queer”, it is important to also include the term “trans” — “queer and trans”.

Queer has not always been held up as a positive term to describe LGBTQ2S individuals or LGBTQ2S communities. It is one of the terms being reclaimed by LGBTQ2S communities.



Hate speech intended to disable its target simultaneously enables its very resistance; its injurious power is the same fuel that feeds the fire of its counter-appropriation. Laying claim to the forbidden, the word as weapon is taken up and taken back by those it seeks to shackle—a self-emancipation that defies hegemonic linguistic ownership and the (ab)use of power (Brontsema: 1)

There is a long list of terms that have been used to marginalise folks who are non-normative. Words like: fairy, faggot, dyke, nancy, pussy, bull dagger, tranny, pervert, deviant…the list goes on. Some members of LGBTQ2S communities have been making efforts to reclaim many of these terms. It is not unusual for LGBTQ2S identified folks to use terms such as fag, dyke, or queer to refer to themselves and others in their communities.

The word “queer” is one that still puzzles many minds today, depending on the context, as it is used now as an umbrella term for a staggeringly diverse community, one that becomes more so every day. However, for non-queer persons, one question remains: “When am I allowed to use the word ‘queer’?” (Marie, 2015)

Unless you identify as LGBTQ2S it is best not to use terms like dyke and fag. Queer is another matter. The “Q” in LGBTQ2S stands for queer and questioning.

Please see Reclaiming the dictionary: Shifting power through words for more information on reclaiming queer and other terms.


Gender Unicorn

The Gender Unicorn is a community developed, open-source tool that provides us with a visualization of gender diversity. Throughout the Toolkit, we will attempt to highlight this distinction at all opportunities. The Gender Unicorn has five elements:

Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender. Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same. Female, woman, and girl, and male, man, and boy are also NOT necessarily linked to each other but are just six common gender identities.
Gender Expression/Presentation: The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. Most transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth. Sex Assigned at Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another gender based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, chromosomes. It is important we don’t simply use “sex” because of the vagueness of the definition of sex and its place in transphobiaSexually Attracted To: Sexual Orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth. Romantically/Emotionally Attracted To: Romantic/emotional orientation. It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth (Trans Student Educational Resources, n.d.).

Trans Student Educational Resources
Photo Credit: Trans Student Educational Resources

Becoming An Ally

The concept of becoming an ally is discussed in the How To Be An Ally module.

According to Anne Bishop who wrote Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in People:

Allies are people who recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns. Allies include men who work to end sexism, white people who work to end racism, heterosexual people who work to end heterosexism, able-bodied people who work to end ableism, and so on. Part of becoming an ally is also recognizing one’s own experience of oppression. (Bishop, 2002).

Many of us are already LGBTQ2S allies. We know that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are wrong and take action when we see and/or hear it. We understand how oppression marginalizes LGBTQ2S youth. For those of you who identify as LGBTQ2S and/or LGBTQ2S Ally, the goal for you is find one or two new ideas/concepts in this Toolkit that will help push your practice of working with youth forward.

For folks who are new to this topic, your goal is to be open to the ideas and concepts shared and be reflective in how these ideas and concepts can help move your practice working with young people to a level of inclusion and openness.



Bishop, A. (2002). Becoming an ally: Breaking the cycle of oppression in people (2nd ed.). London: Zed Books.

Brontsema, R. (2004). A Queer Revolution: Reconceptualizing the Debate Over Linguistic Reclamation. Colorado Research in Linguistic, 17(1), 1-17.

Marie, C. (2015, January 24). The Word ‘Queer’ Is Only Offensive If You’re a Jerk. Retrieved February 17, 2015, from

PFLAG. (n.d.). About the Q. Retrieved February 17, 2015, from

Thornhill, N. (2015, February 10). He, She, Zhe: How to Talk to Your Kids About Gender :: Retrieved February 18, 2015, from

Trans Student Educational Resources. (n.d.). Trans Student Educational Resources. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from



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