As with many other populations, there are terms and definitions that are specific to LGBT populations. Creating awareness and understanding of these terms is essential to promoting cultural competence among prevention specialists and healthcare providers, as well as ensuring sensitivity toward LGBT individuals.
While not exhaustive, the following is an overview of terms and related definitions related to gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation that people use to self-identify. When addressing LGBT individuals, prevention specialists and healthcare providers should always ask clients how they identify and/or wish to be addressed. Note: Language is dynamic and evolves over time. Therefore, terms, definitions, and how LGBT individuals identify varies based upon a number of factors, including geographic region, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, among others.
The terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) describe distinct groups within the gay culture.
The term "gay" has traditionally been used to represent a diverse group or people who are attracted to people of the same gender or are in a relationship with someone of the same gender. It is important to recognize, however, that different groups within the gay community exist, and that the term "gay" is not all-inclusive.
Heterosexual, or straight, refers to people whose sexual and romantic feelings are mostly for the opposite gender: Men who are attracted to women, and women who are attracted to men.
Homosexual, or gay, refers to people whose sexual and romantic feelings are mostly for the same gender: Men who are attracted to men, and women who are attracted to women.
Lesbian refers to women who are homosexual.
Bisexual or "bi" refers to people whose sexual and romantic feelings are for both genders.
Transgender is an umbrella term that encompasses a diversity of gender expression including drag queens and kings, bi-genders, crossdressers, transgenderists, and transsexuals.
Transvestites are people who like to dress like members of the opposite sex.
Transsexuals are people who feel that their anatomical sex does not match the gender with which they identify.
Bigender refers to people who define themselves as having the behavioral, cultural or psychological characteristics associated with both the male and female genders.
Transgenderist describes someone who is gender variant or transgresses gender norms as part of their lifestyle or identity.
What are the top health issues for transgender people?
Available research related to physical health issues among transgender people is extremely limited and mainly conducted abroad.
Studies of how medical interventions, such as hormone therapy and/or sexual reassignment surgeries, affect overall physical health and well-being remain extremely limited.
Numerous studies have suggested that between 16 to 60 percent of transgender people are victims of physical assault or abuse, and between 13 to 66 percent are victims of sexual assault.
Intimate partner violence has also been found to be a prominent issue for transgender people.
Studies have shown that suicidal ideation is widely reported among transgender people and can range from 38 to 65 percent. More alarmingly, studies have also found that suicide attempts among transgender people can range from 16 to 32 percent.
Data about the prevalence of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and other clinical conditions among transgender people are extremely limited.
Alcohol and substance abuse has been identified as a major concern among transgender people.
High rates of tobacco use, specifically cigarette smoking, have also been found among transgender people. Some studies suggest that tobacco use rates can range from 45 to 74 percent.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a significant effect on transgender people. However, due to a lack of systematic surveillance and reporting of HIV prevalence rates among transgender people, the exact prevalence of HIV among this population remains unknown.