In the last few years, friends and acquaintances have reached out to me with questions about sexuality, gender identity, and sexual orientation. One friend, who works at a weekly newspaper, asked me how to ask someone their personal pronouns. Another friend, a reporter at a daily newspaper, asked me whether he should use the phrasing “a transgender person” or “a person who is transgender.” Another friend asked me how to ask a job applicant their pronouns so that she could correctly refer to this person when telling her bosses to hire this applicant.
I have shared these anecdotes a lot, because they demonstrated a few truths:
- Many people who are not LGBTQ+ want to say and do what’s “right” and “respectful,” and that scares them into thinking they might make a mistake, such that they might choose to not do anything at all.
- We need more resources that can help everyone understand issues and terminology that touch upon gender identity, sexual orientation, and the intersection of the two.
- Issues that we might think only affect or relate to LGBTQ+ people are actually issues that each of us should consider, learn, and discuss.
So, in June 2018, I decided to fix this and I created a weekly newsletter to explain LGBTQ+ current events, history, and terminology. My hope was that it could be informative and interesting to LGBTQ+ people while also informing people who might not know where to begin in searching out information on LGBTQ+ issues. I especially wanted the newsletter to be accessible to journalists, but I have treated this as a resource for people regardless of their job or identity. As the stories above show, it is not only is it beneficial for everyone to learn these terms and concepts, it should be seen as crucial and not optional. “Everyone” includes parents, siblings, friends, teachers, lawyers, business owners, coaches, doctors, nurses, pastors, and, well, everyone.
Each week, the newsletter has two parts: a bulleted list of LGBTQ-themed headlines from the previous week, and a Q-&-A that explains some term or concept, usually based on one of the stories in the bulleted list.
My strategy has been to start with a term as it has been defined by some glossaries. Then, to flesh out the meaning, I share examples of how it has been used in news stories, mixing in links from mainstream news outlets with links from outlets that write for an LGBTQ+ audience. I have made it a point to quote a diverse range of writers, particularly transgender people of color.
The strategy has worked, as I have gotten a few new subscribers each week. As I have continued this newsletter, it’s become clear to me that this can and should have a wider scope. So, I’ve decided to expand the project to include a website that can help pool together explanations. To support that, I’ve also created a Facebook page, and a private Facebook group for people to ask each other questions.
Like the newsletter, the website will not be the LGBTQ+ world according to Patrick. I’ll be using my words and turn of phrase, but I’ll be pointing people in all sorts of directions to all sorts of existing resources. My role will be more as a guide rather than as an authority. There are all sorts of transgender writers, gay black writers, Latinx queer voices, queer women, and others that have already said things about topics they know far better than I do. I’m just pointing people in the direction and translating along the way, particularly because there are people who might not know how to find those other voices. So, welcome. Like the newsletter, I hope this will be interesting to everyone, whether or not you are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, cisgender, queer, or so on. And if you didn’t know all the words in that sentence, do not worry. I’ll be defining them.
Here are some things I hope to address in upcoming posts and newsletters:
- What is the difference between sex and gender?
- What’s the difference between gender identity and gender expression?
- What’s the etiquette in asking pronouns?
- What is “deadnaming”? And why do some people object to that term?
- What does “partner” mean in an LGBTQ+ context? And why do people support or object to straight people using it?
- What are resources to help us learn these changing terminologies?
Again, don’t worry if you can’t follow with a lot of those terms or concepts. You don’t have to know them just yet. I’ll help you learn.
And if you have any questions, feel free to drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.