Discussions of LGBT health include other acronyms and terms that may be unfamiliar. These are a few examples.
• Bigender: A person whose gender identity encompasses both male and female genders. Some may feel that one identity is stronger, but
both are present.
• FTM: A person who transitions from female to male, meaning a person who was assigned the female sex at birth but identifies and
lives as a male.
• Gender Expression: The manner in which a person represents or expresses their gender identity to others.
• Gender Identity: A person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.
• MSM: An acronym used to identify men who have sex with men.
• MTF: A person who transitions from male to female, meaning a person who was assigned the male sex at birth but identifies and
lives as a female.
• Sexual Orientation: A person’s emotional, sexual, and/or relational attraction to others. Sexual orientation is usually classified as
heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual (i.e. lesbian and gay).
• Transgender: A person whose gender identity and/or expression is different from that typically associated with their assigned sex at
• Transsexual: A person whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth.
• WSW: An acronym used to identify women who have sex with women.
Understanding Gender Identity
For many, the acronym LGBT reflects a community of individuals who, in some way, are attracted to members of the same
sex. However, many people fail to realize that the “T” in the acronym does not relate to the sexual attraction at all; rather, it refers to
a person’s sense of gender (referred to as gender identity).
Gender Identify: Gender vs. Sex
- Before the 19th century, the terms gender and sex were synonymous.
- Ongoing work since the 1950s in the field of gender identity development has raised awareness that gender is not exclusively
determined by assigned sex at birth but determined by a person’s sense, belief, and the ultimate expression of self.
- Initially, psychologists believed that gender identity was the extent to which a person felt masculine or feminine. This fundamental feeling, coupled with the ability to meet cultural standards for specific gender roles (referred to as sex typing), was thought to be necessary for possessing a secure sense of self and overall well-being. However, since then, some researchers have argued that adhering to gender-related standards could, in fact, promote negative, not positive, adjustment.
Gender Identity Development: Nature
Gender identity is developed in three stages:
• Construction (ages 0–5 years);
• Consolidation (ages 5–7 years); and
• Integration (ages 7 years and up).
• During construction, children seek information about gender and do not necessarily react strongly to norm violations (e.g., a boy may play with a Barbie doll). In the consolidation phase, children have well-developed gender stereotypes and show rigidity about their gender beliefs (e.g., a boy may avoid or refuse to touch a Barbie doll). Lastly, in the integration phase, children may show more flexibility and individual differences in how they think about gender (e.g., a boy may choose to play with certain types of dolls).
Gender Identity Development: Nuture
Some research suggests that three external factors may influence how a person develops and ultimately expresses their gender identity:
• Evaluation; and
• Felt pressure.
Centrality refers to how important gender is to a person’s overall identity; evaluation refers to how a person views his or her gender in terms of cultural standards, beliefs, and norms; and felt pressure refers to a person’s feelings about the need to conform to these cultural standards, beliefs, and norms.
Gender Identity Disorder (GID): A Medical Perspective
• Multiple diagnoses related to gender identity first appeared in the third version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III), published in 1980. These diagnoses were collapsed into one diagnosis, Gender Identity Disorder, with the release
of the DSM IV in 1994.
• Diagnostic criteria, which are different for children and adults, include a persistent discomfort with the assigned sex at birth; a persistent discomfort with the role typically associated with their assigned sex at birth; and significant discomfort or impairment at work, social situations, or other major life areas.
Gender Identity Disorder (GID): A Medical Perspective
• Though many people, including clinicians, do not consider transgender people to have a disorder, the medical community developed a specific diagnosis now known as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) for children and adults whose gender identity and gender expression are not aligned with their assigned sex at birth.
• There are no comprehensive studies of the prevalence of GID among children, adolescents, or adults. Prevalence estimates have been based solely on the transsexual minority of transgender people (i.e., those who present for a diagnosis of GID and referral for treatment for medical transition to the opposite gender). It is likely that many more transgender people do not present for such treatment and have not been included in these estimates.
Nowadays, the term transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity, expression, and/or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Since the 1990s, the term has often been used to describe groups of gender minorities, including but not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers, androgynous people, genderqueers, and gender non-conforming people.
This definition was developed by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2009. To clarify gender differences among transgender individuals, transgender men had or have female body parts; however, they may identify and/or express themselves as male. Conversely, transgender women had or have male body parts; however, they may identify and/or express themselves as female.
Lesbians and Heart Disease
The more risk factors a woman has, the greater the chance that she will develop heart disease. Factors that raise women’s risk for heart disease include physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking—all of which have been found to be more prevalent among lesbians than other women.
Lesbians and Cancer
Lesbians are at significantly higher risk for developing breast cancer than heterosexual women. Risk factors for breast cancer among lesbians include fewer full-term pregnancies, fewer mammograms and/or clinical breast exams, and being overweight.
Traditionally, lesbians and bisexual women have been less likely to bear children and, as a result, may not fully benefit from hormones released during pregnancy and breastfeeding. These hormones are believed to protect women against different types of cancers. Also, lesbians have been less likely to visit a doctor or nurse for routine screenings than heterosexual women.