Responding to parents/guardians who may not be supportive of their child’s identity:


Terms and definitions


There are a lot of terms and phrases within the LGBTQIA+ community, some have small differences between them, and the language is constantly evolving! Below is a list of LGBTQIA+ terminology, understanding their meaning can help you support your Little.

Terminology withing gender, sexual orientation, and sexuality:

Agender | A person with no (or very little) connection to the traditional system of gender, no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman, and/or someone who sees themselves as existing without gender. Sometimes called gender neutrois, gender neutral, or genderless.

Ally | A person who is not LGBTQ but shows support for LGBTQ people and promotes equality in a variety of ways.

Androgynous | Identifying and/or presenting as neither distinguishably masculine nor feminine.

Aromantic | Experiencing little or no romantic attraction to others and/or has a lack of interest in romantic relationships/behavior. Aromanticism exists on a continuum from people who experience no romantic attraction or have any desire for romantic activities, to those who experience low levels, or romantic attraction only under specific conditions.

Asexual | The lack of a sexual attraction or desire for other people.

Bigender | A person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (or sometimes identifying with either man or woman, as well as a third, different gender).

Biphobia | Prejudice, fear or hatred directed toward bisexual people.

Bisexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.

Cisgender | A term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.

Closeted | Describes an LGBTQ person who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Coming out | The process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates their sexual orientation or gender identity and begins to share that with others.

Demiromantic | Little or no capacity to experience romantic attraction until a strong sexual connection is formed with someone, often within a sexual relationship.

Demisexual | Little or no capacity to experience sexual attraction until a strong romantic connection is formed with someone, often within a romantic relationship.

Gay | A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.

Gender binary | The idea that there are only two genders and that every person is one of those two.

Gender dysphoria | Clinically significant distress caused when a person’s assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term – which replaces Gender Identity Disorder – “is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults.”

Gender-expansive | Conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system.

Gender expression | External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender-fluid | According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a person who does not identify with a single fixed gender; of or relating to a person having or expressing a fluid or unfixed gender identity.

Gender identity | One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender non-conforming | A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category.

Genderqueer | Genderqueer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as “genderqueer” may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categories.

Gender transition | The process by which some people strive to more closely align their internal knowledge of gender with its outward appearance. Some people socially transition, whereby they might begin dressing, using names and pronouns and/or be socially recognized as another gender. Others undergo physical transitions in which they modify their bodies through medical interventions.

Heteronormativity | The assumption, in individuals and/or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities. Leads to invisibility and stigmatizing of other sexualities: when learning a woman is married, asking her what her husband’s name is. Heteronormativity also leads us to assume that only masculine men and feminine women are straight.

Homophobia | The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Intersex | An umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, these traits are visible at birth, and in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal variations of this type may not be physically apparent at all.

Lesbian | A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women.

LGBTQ | An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.”

Living openly | A state in which LGBTQ people are comfortably out about their sexual orientation or gender identity – where and when it feels appropriate to them.

Non-binary | An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. While many also identify as transgender, not all non-binary people do.

Outing | Exposing someone’s lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity to others without their permission. Outing someone can have serious repercussions on employment, economic stability, personal safety or religious or family situations.

Pansexual | Describes someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.

Queer | An umbrella term to describe individuals who don’t identify as straight and/or cisgender.

Questioning | A term used to describe people who are in the process of exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity. Due to its historical use as a derogatory term, and how it is still used as a slur many communities, it is not embraced or used by all LGBTQ people. The term “queer” can often be use interchangeably with LGBTQ (e.g., “queer people” instead of “LGBTQ people”).

Same-gender loving | A term some prefer to use instead of lesbian, gay or bisexual to express attraction to and love of people of the same gender.

Sex assigned at birth | The sex (male or female) given to a child at birth, most often based on the child’s external anatomy. This is also referred to as “assigned sex at birth.”

Sexual orientation | An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.

Transgender | An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Transition / transitioning | Referring to the process of a transgender person changing aspects of themself (e.g., their appearance, name, pronouns, or making physical changes to their body) to be more congruent with the gender they know themself to be (as opposed to the gender they lived as pre-transitioning).

Transphobia | The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, transgender people.

*Terms taken from the Human Rights Campaign Website and the Safe Zone Project’s Website


Gender identity vs sexual orientation


Knowing the difference between sex, gender identity and sexual orientation is crucial. Below are definitions and breakdowns so you can distinguish between them!

Sex is a categorization of bodies, based on anatomy, such as reproductive organs and other biological factors. This includes male, female, and intersex people.

Gender identity is one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth. This includes cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, gender non-conforming, and genderqueer people.

Sexual orientation is an inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. This includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, questioning and straight people.

A study by The Trevor Project found that 25% of LGBTQ youth identified with a gender outside of the binary.

The chart above breaks down a few gender identities but there are many more including genders within different cultures- for example two-spirit is a term used by some Indigenous people who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity.

To learn more about gender diversity take a moment to watch this quick video. It explores trans and genderqueer identities, best practices, and explains what gender dysphoria is.


This graphic breaks down some of the common pronouns people use. The chart does not include all pronouns but four of the most common pronouns used today. Some people even use a mix of multiple pronouns for example a person could use all pronouns, a mix of he/they, she/they, she/he, etc.

If you are unfamiliar with using some of the pronoun sets, try practicing in your own time! For example When telling someone a story about a friend try using gender neutral terms (such as they/them) to talk about your friend. This can help when the time comes for you to use gender neutral pronouns for people in your life!

It is important to note that the term “preferred pronouns” is no longer used and instead simply asking/stating ones ‘pronouns’ are is best. The term ‘preferred’ can give the misconception that someone’s correct pronouns are optional.

If you make a mistake and misgender someone simply apologize, say you will work to do better and then move on. Do not over apologize and make it about yourself. We are all human and make mistakes!

Gender expression is how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender. This can include behavior and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronouns are also common ways of expressing gender. Others perceive a person’s gender through these attributes.

Resources for mentoring LGBTQia+ Youth


BBBS hosted a group call for mentors in September 2020 focused on mentoring LGBTQIA+ youth. You can review the call here where we covered LGBTQ terms and definitions, how to support your Little if they are a member of the LGBTQ community, and how to be an ally.



Guide to Being a Straight Ally: the incredibly detailed honest forthright fully comprehensive completely blunt shockingly simple wonderfully helpful and witty exposition on a topic that sometimes makes people blanch but really shouldn’t because this compelling open and straight to the point no pun intended little publication will demystify the secret world of gay people and be your tried and trusted guide to being a straight ally!


Mentoring LGBTQ+ and Gender Nonconforming youth: Mentoring relationships have the potential to serve an important role for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and gender nonconforming (LGBTQI-GNC) youth, but research suggests this population is currently underserved by the mentoring field.


Understanding Gender: There is a generational divide in how we think about gender. In order to bridge this gap, those of us who were raised with a more limited view of gender can take this as an opportunity to explore gender with new eyes, to read and ask questions to better understand gender’s complexity. As with any learning experience, you’ll learn more about the world around you and about yourself in the process. Visit the link above to learn more!

From an early age, kids understand both simple and complex ideas of gender identity. They learn and absorb the categories we teach them, and then eventually find their place within, or beyond, these categories. The surprising truth is that we all know who we are from a very young age, including the truest expressions of our gender identity, and we then spend most of our lives searching for the words, tools, safety, and agency to share ourselves with the world. In recent years, we have seen more transgender and gender diverse kids exploring new words and models to describe their identities. In this talk, you’ll hear about this gender evolution, including how to talk to and support the young kids and teenagers in our lives, as they lead the way toward a more expansive and inclusive future.

LOCAL Resources for LGBTQ+ Youth


  • AIDS Foundation Chicago – Their vision is that people living with HIV or chronic conditions will thrive.
  • Brave Space Alliance – the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ Center located on the South Side of Chicago, dedicated to creating and providing affirming, culturally competent, for-us by-us resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ+ individuals on the South and West sides of the city.
  • Center on Halsted – Their Youth Program creates a safe and confidential environment for young people ages 13–24 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, or who are straight allies (LGBTQIA). Youth programming at Center on Halsted offers a nurturing and supportive environment where youth and young adults can thrive. With a variety of programs and services, from cultural and event programming to case management and leadership development, we are committed to supporting LGBTQIA youth and young adults in a holistic manner.
  • Chicago House – a social service organization that supports individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS and the broader LGBTQ community with housing, health, and employment support.
  • Gender Cool Project – The GenderCool Project is a youth-led movement bringing positive change to the world. The Champions are helping replace misinformed opinions with positive experiences meeting transgender and non-binary youth who are thriving.
  • Howard Brown Health – Howard Brown exists to eliminate the disparities in healthcare experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through research, education and the provision of services that promote health and wellness.
  • JCFS Chicago – JCFS Chicago provides information, education, support and more for LGBTQ youth, young adults and their families and allies.
  • PFLAG – The PFLAG Chapter Network–with over 400 chapters across the country–provides confidential peer support, education, and advocacy to LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies.
  • Pride Action Tank – Pride Action Tank brings together and supports the work of subject matter experts as well as people directly impacted by challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community to envision and realize practical and longer-term policy solutions across six core issue areas.
  • Q Chat Space – Q Chat Space provides online discussion groups for LGBTQ+ and questioning teens ages 13 to 19. It is not a forum. It is live and chat based; there is no video or audio. Everyone is chatting during the same pre-scheduled time. Conversations are facilitated by experienced staff who work at LGBTQ+ centers around the country.
  • Queery – Comprehensive and Searchable online directory of LGBTQ Services for Chicagoland!
  • Trevor Project – The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.
  • Scholarships and Financial Aid for LGBTQ Students
  • College Scholarships for LGBTQ Students


NATIONAL Resources for LGBTQ+ Youth


  • GLSENEvery student has the right to a safe, supportive, and LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 education. GLSEN is a national network of educators, students, and local chapters working to make this right a reality.
  • Point Foundation | The National LGBTQ Scholarship Fund – Point Foundation empowers promising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential – despite the obstacles often put before them – to make a significant impact on society.
  • Trevor Project The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.


LGBTQ + Religion


Back to main mentoring resources page.