Sextion: “That is sooo heteronormative…”


Most of us are aware of the plethora of “Brown buzzwords” that circulate on campus. They’re words that are perhaps used more frequently here than at our friends’ schools: hegemony, discourse, unpacking, spectrum, and social construct, to name just a few. Not only do they set us apart from other schools, but they make a wicked set of Halloween costumes, as we saw from this year’s costume contest.

One of the many words in the quintessential Brown vernacular is heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the belief system that assumes heterosexuality to be the norm and rejects or ignores individuals or relationships that do not fall into the strict man-woman paradigm. It also, according to Karen Lovaas and Mercilee Jenkins in their comprehensive book Sexualities and Communication in Everyday Life: A Reader, assumes “that there are two sexes and therefore two genders” and therefore “requires that all discussions of gendered identity and opportunity be framed strictly in terms of this dichotomy” (98). We inclusive Brown students openly reject this notion.

But how inclusive are we as a whole? How much does each of us truly know about the LGBTQ community? Probably not as much as we think, considering that the acronym is much longer than that! The acronym, as I know it now, is LGBTQQIAAP2S. So click on the image of the Sporcle quiz below to test your knowledge of the entire acronym, and then read below for a description of each of the components!

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Lesbian: The sexual or romantic attraction between two female-identified individuals.

Gay: Often used as an umbrella term for lesbians and gay men; in this case we are referring to the sexual or romantic attraction between to male-identified individuals.

Bisexual: The sexual or romantic attraction to both male- and female-identified individuals. Does not necessarily have to be in equal parts. A person may identify as bisexual but have a stronger preference for one of the genders.

Transgender: This tends to be one that’s often confused and misinterpreted. The term transgender does not refer exclusively to individuals whose gender identities do not match their assigned sexes at birth and to those who get hormonal treatments or surgery to help align the two (that’s transsexual). Transgender is an umbrella term that, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, can be used to describe “people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth, including but not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers, androgynous people, genderqueers, and gender non-conforming people.” Some of these individuals feel that they don’t fit into the gender binary at all, but feel as though they’re part male/part female or neither (genderqueer). The opposite of transgender is cisgender, or the alignment of one’s self-perceived gender identity and their assigned sex at birth. 

Queer: This is another umbrella term that encompasses all of those who don’t fit into the boxes of heterosexuality and the gender binary. It’s a controversial term—it has recently been reclaimed by the LGBT community as a positive descriptor, but was formerly used as a form of hate speech. So be careful about your use of this term, as people of older generations may be sensitive to it.

Questioning: Those who aren’t quite sure where they lie on the sexual orientation, or the gender identity and expression spectrum. These folks are still working it out, so it’s best not to assume or draw unnecessary conclusions about where they stand.

Intersex: According to the Intersex Society of North America, intersex “is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” This includes any number of conditions, such as external male organs but internal female organs (or vice versa), or genitals that are in between what is considered to be male and female. This is not the same as a hermaphrodite, a damaging and inappropriate descriptor.

Asexual: Individuals who do not experience sexual attraction. This doesn’t mean that they do not feel emotions nor romantic connections with others…nor does it mean that they are incapable of feeling arousal—it’s that they don’t feel a desire to engage sexually with a partner.

Ally: Traditionally thought of as heterosexual or cisgender individuals who support the aims of the LGBTQ community (namely those of equality and civil rights) and actively fight homophobia and transphobia. However, an ally does not only have to refer to heterosexual and cisgender individuals. Therefore, gays and lesbians can act as great allies to transgendered people!

Pansexual: Pansexual individuals may be emotionally and sexually attracted to individuals regardless of their biological sexes and gender identities. Therefore, they may be attracted to males, females, trans people, intersex people, and so on. Like bisexual people, they may have a preference, but are open to all, regardless of their place on the gender spectrum. Oftentimes they view their sexualities as being related to the personality of the person they are attracted to regardless of his/her gender.

Two-Spirit: Perhaps the least well-known of the acronym, the term two-spirit refers to a “third gender” present in many Native American and Canadian First Nation tribes. These individuals possess both female and male qualities and often dress in a combination of the two genders’ traditional clothing. Two-spirited individuals were often viewed as shamans, medicinal or spiritual leaders, and do not identify as specifically heterosexual or homosexual. Two-spirits have been identified in over 130 Native American tribes in every region of North America. So now you know!

There you have it, folks! Now you’re all a bit more well-versed in the LGBTQQIAAP2S language. If you have any questions about anything I’ve talked about (or are curious about some more of the identifiers that I have not mentioned, such as polysexual, androphilia, gynephilia) email me at

Until next week,


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