Program Coordinators

Becky Norton
Faculty/Staff Coordinator
Office: 508.830.5000 x2238

Maya Stephani, Cadet 1/C
Student Coordinator

Elizabeth Benway
Dean of Human Resources
Office: 508.830.5086

Michael Ortiz
Associate Director, Office of Intercultural Engagement
Office:  508.830.5133

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction toward others. It is distinguished from other components of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female), and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior).
Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Bisexual persons can experience sexual, emotional, and affectional attraction to both their own gender and people of other genders. The term gay (preferred over homosexual) is used by both men and women who have an emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction towards someone of their same gender. The term lesbian is used by women who are attracted to other women. There are some people who identify as asexual, having little or no physical or sexual attraction towards others.
Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors. As a result it is important not to make assumptions about people based on their identity or their behavior. For example, someone who identifies as a lesbian may occasionally have sexual relationships with men or may have had them in the past, and a man who identifies as heterosexual may occasionally have same-sex sexual encounters but not identify as gay. It may be tempting to make judgments about an apparent disparity between someone’s identity and behavior, but social identity is a complex and personal experience and it is much more productive to accept a person for who they are and understand that most people’s life experiences do not fit neatly into a box or label.

Glossary of Terms

Term Definition
ally Someone who is a friend, advocate, and/or activist for LGBTQ people. A heterosexual ally is also someone who confronts heterosexism in themselves and others. The term ally is also generally used for any member of a dominant group who is a friend, advocate, or activist for people in an oppressed group.
asexual A term used to identify someone who does not experience sexual attraction to anyone.
biphobia The fear, hatred, or intolerance of bisexual people.
bisexual A term used to identify someone who has romantic and/or sexual feelings, attractions, and/or relationships with men and women. This does not necessarily mean that bisexuals have relationships with both men and women at the same time—this is a common stereotype. It also does not mean that a person is equally attracted to men and women. Levels of attraction may vary. A bisexual person can also be defined as someone who has romantic and/or sexual feelings, attractions and/or relationships with people of any gender (rather than saying both genders). 
closeted, in the closet A term commonly used to indicate that someone is hiding their sexual orientation.
coming out The term used to describe the process by which lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals recognize, acknowledge, accept, and appreciate their sexual identities.
drag queen/king Used by people who present socially in clothing, name, and/or pronouns that differs from their everyday gender, usually for enjoyment, entertainment, and/or self-expression. Drag queens typically have everyday lives as men. Drag kings typically live as women and/or butches when not performing. Drag shows are popular in some gay, lesbian, and bisexual environments. Unless they are drag performers, most trans people would be offended by being confused with drag queens or drag kings.
family Often used by LGBTQ communities to identify members of the community.
gay Usually refers to men who have romantic and/or sexual feelings, attractions, and/or relationships with other men. Some women may also identify themselves as gay.
heterosexism The societal/cultural, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege heterosexuals and subordinate and denigrate LGBTQ people. The critical element that differentiates heterosexism (or any other “ism”) from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systematic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects.

heterosexual A person who has romantic and sexual feelings, attractions, and/or relationships with someone considered to be “the opposite gender.”  In our section that discusses gender you will read about how gender is not a binary concept for all people. The majority of people in U.S. culture identify two genders, men and women, and use the term “opposite sex” to differentiate them.
heterosexual privilege The benefits and advantages received by heterosexuals in a heterosexist culture. (See page 12 for more information).
homophobia The fear, hatred, or intolerance of people who identify or are perceived to be lesbians or gay men, including the fear of being seen as lesbian or gay yourself. Homophobic behavior can range from telling jokes about lesbians and gay men, to verbal abuse, to acts of physical violence.
internalized homophobia A term used to describe lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who have internalized and accepted societal prejudices, myths, and lies about LGB people.
LGBTQ An acronym sometimes used to refer to individuals or groups of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning. You may also see LGBT or GLBT used in a similar way.
lesbian A woman who has romantic and sexual feelings, attractions, and/or relationships with other women.
outing The act of revealing someone’s gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender identity without permission.
pansexual, omnisexual Sometimes substitute terms for bisexual that rather than referring to both or “bi” gender attraction, refer to all or “omni” gender attraction, and are used mainly by those who wish to express acceptance of all gender possibilities including transgender and intersex people.
queen Often used within the LGBTQ community to identify gay or bi males who take on traditional female characteristics or act in a more “feminine” way.
queer A term that some LGBTQ people have claimed as an inclusive and positive way to describe themselves and their community. Some people use it as an umbrella term or as a term in and of itself. Some people choose not to use the word “queer” because of its history as a derogatory term.
questioning The process of considering or exploring one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
sexual orientation An enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction to individuals of a particular gender. Commonly recognized sexual orientations are “gay” and “lesbian” (attraction to individuals of one’s own gender), “heterosexual” (attraction to individuals of another gender), and “bisexual” (attraction to individuals of various genders). Queer is also used frequently as either an umbrella term or as its own individual identity.


Coming Out Issues

The term “coming out” (of the closet) refers to the process of developing a positive lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity. It usually involves first coming out to oneself and then deciding how and when to come out to others. It can be a long and difficult struggle for many LGBTQ individuals because they often have to confront the homophobia and biphobia (and transphobia) they learned growing up (called internalized homophobia/biphobia). Before someone can feel good about themselves, they have to challenge their own attitudes and move from the negative feelings to feelings of appreciation and admiration. Not everyone experiences internalized homophobia, but for those who do, it can take years of painful work to develop a positive lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity. As a person overcomes internalized homophobia they need to decide when and to whom they will disclose their sexual identity. Coming out is a never-ending process throughout one’s lifetime because our cultural standard is to assume heterosexuality. Over time it does tend to get easier to come out to others, but some people remain fearful over long periods of time due to the lack of acceptance that still exists in many places. 


What is bisexuality?

Although there is a definition of bisexuality (as a sexual orientation) given in the dictionary, the use of the word bisexual as a label and identity varies from group to group and from individual to individual. Since no one definition can fully cover all the different types of bisexuals that exist in this world, here are a few of the more popular definitions currently in use:

  1. Someone who is capable of feeling romantic, spiritual, and/or sexual attraction for any gender.
  2. A person who loves despite gender.
  3. One who loves individuals first and genders second.
  4. An individual open to sexual or emotional exploration with someone of any gender.

Common Myths of Bisexuality


Myth #1: "There is no such thing as bisexual. You're either gay/lesbian or heterosexual, no in between."
  The world is not black and white, although it is sometimes difficult for people to see the shades of gray they do not understand. It is this attitude that all things fall into extremes that keeps many people from learning about and adopting the label, bisexual. 
Despite this there are many people who identify as bisexual in this world. This is the label they feel best describes their attractions, be they physical or emotional, towards different genders. Often times one may remain unaware of a friend or relative's bisexuality because of this tendency (by either party) to classify everything as either gay or straight. 
Myth #2: "Bisexuals are confused about their sexuality."
  This is quite possibly the hardest myth to dispel because many people in transition from identifying as heterosexual to identifying as gay or lesbian (and vice versa) use the label bisexual as an aid in their transition. There is nothing wrong with this and in fact many people may feel bisexual for a time in their lives and then find they identify more as gay/lesbian or heterosexual, than bisexual. In spite of the label being sometimes used transitionally, there are many people who feel the term bisexual best describes their identity in a more permanent way.
Myth #3: "Everybody is bisexual."
  Although most people experience an attraction for someone of the same gender at some point in their lives, this does not mean everyone is bisexual. For most people these feelings pass or change over time without the person ever questioning or redefining their sexual orientations.
Myth #4: "To be bisexual you have to love both genders equally."
  Identifying as bisexual does not set a limit as to how attracted one must feel towards either gender. There is no defined cut off point at which one must cease to identify as bisexual and must identify as gay/lesbian or straight because of a shift in attractions. Most bisexuals do not feel equally attracted to both genders on a sexual and emotional levels and experience shifts in attraction levels to either genders. Some bisexuals are not attracted to a gender per se, but are instead attracted to the person's personality or various other attributes and take note of gender afterwards, if at all. In these cases gender does not really come into play.
Myth #5: "You can't be bisexual and be faithful to one person."
  A person's decision to be monogamous with a partner is an individual choice influenced by many things involved in a relationship and in a person's own personality. Some bisexuals have open relationships and have relations with different people of different genders on different levels. Other bisexuals are in long-term monogamous relationships, including faithful marriages. It is not unlike being straight or gay/lesbian and in a closed relationship. Different people simply make different choices as to how to go about relationships. This is not determined by the person's sexual orientation but rather by themselves and, in some cases, their partners. Many bisexuals feel they can be perfectly content with one person and do not have an overwhelming urge to carry on relations with two genders at once.
Myth #6: "Bisexuals are much more likely to carry sexually transmitted diseases/infections."
  It's not who or what a person is that makes them more likely to carry diseases and infections. It is what a person DOES, the sexual practices of a person, in particular how well a person protects him/herself during sexual activities. The more educated one becomes about STDs the better protected one can be from infection.
Myth #7: "Bisexuals are more accepted by straight society."
  This myth has been expressed by some as "Bisexuals are more accepted by gay/lesbian society." The truth is that although bisexual activists fight for many of the same rights as gay and lesbian people do, they are not always made to feel welcome as a part of the LGBT community/movement. The heterosexual community often groups bisexuals as being "confused or undercover homosexuals" and so rejects bisexuals and the concept of bisexuality. For the opposite reason some lesbian and gay people reject bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation and see the stigma and not the people. The fact is many bisexual people feel as if they are somewhere in between the two worlds and feel both positive and negative feelings from both. This is not to say lesbian, gay, and bisexual people do not work together in the equal rights movement and accomplish great things.