Diverse sexuality, sex and gender (LGBTIQA+)

Sexuality, sex, and gender cover a broad spectrum and is different for everyone. Exploring your sexuality and gender is personal, and a normal part of self-discovery.

Understanding sexuality, sex and gender

Sexuality, sex, and gender can be complex and dynamic. It’s not as clear-cut as some people might think, and covers a broad spectrum.

Here are some helpful definitions from the Australian Government style manual:

  • Gender - is about social and cultural differences and identity. 'Gender' and 'sex' both mean 'the state of being male or female' but are often used in different ways.
  • Gender expression – is the way a person expresses their gender.
  • Gender identity – is about who a person feels themselves to be. It refers to the way a person identifies or expresses their masculine or feminine traits.
  • Gender-queer and non-binary - refer to people who don't identify as either male or female. They may identify as both or neither.
  • Gender-fluid - refers to people who do not identify with a fixed gender.
  • Intersex - refers to people with innate genetic, hormonal, or physical sex characteristics that do not conform to medical norms for female or male bodies.
  • Sex - refers to the legal status that was initially determined by sex characteristics observed at birth.
  • Sex characteristics - are a person's physical sex features, such as their chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive organs.
  • Sexual orientation - is a person's romantic or sexual attraction to another person, such as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
  • Sexuality - includes biological sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and reproduction.
  • Transgender - means people whose gender identity is different from that given to them at birth.

headspace also has resources on understanding what LGBTIQA+ means, your sexuality, and gender identity.

Some people find terminology helpful to identify their sexuality or gender identity, whereas others may not like or identify with these terms, and that’s ok too. There’s no right or wrong way to be you, and you don’t have to fit in a label. Your identity is yours – it’s completely up to you to decide how you want to describe it, what it means for your life, and who you want to share it with.

Questioning your sexuality or gender identity?

Understanding the sexual feelings and attractions we have towards others, and the gender we identify with and express, is a personal journey.

It can take time to figure out what fits right with you. Know that you don’t need to decide or do anything straight away. You can take as much time as you need to clarify what these feelings mean for your identity and your future.

In the meantime, it can help to:

  • Explore online resources to understand more about sexuality and gender, like at ReachOut.com or Minus18. We've also included a list of more resources below.
  • Hear other people's experiences discovering their sexuality and gender via online forums or videos. See below for more options to feel more connected to the community.
  • Read books or watch movies that explore and celebrate the lives of LGBTIQA+ people.
  • Talk to someone you trust if you feel ready and safe to share where you're at. Learn more about coming out and inviting in, and tips on how to have the conversation.

At the end of the day, remember that no matter what gender you identify with, or who you’re attracted to, you are a worthy human being just as you are.

Dealing with bullying or discrimination

It’s never ok for someone to harass, or make you feel ‘less than’ or bad about your sexuality or gender. Facing prejudice or exclusion because of your sexuality or gender identity can affect your wellbeing.

You don’t need to manage discrimination, poor treatment from others, or other negative experiences on your own. Seek support from a trusted friend or family member, or outside support if you’re still finding it hard to cope.

Your experience of your sexuality, sex or gender is valid and will be respected by the counsellors at Counselling and Psychological Services. We acknowledge there are a range of unique challenges that LGBTIQA+ people face that can affect their mental health and wellbeing, and we provide specialist counselling for LGBTIQA+ students and staff.

Further support

  • LGBTIQA+ counselling services
    • Switchboard Victoria - National telephone and web counselling, information, and referral service for LGBTQI identifying people or families, friends, teachers, and co-workers of LGBTQI people.
    • Queerspace - Family support agency that provides counselling and support to LGBTIQA+ people and their families.
    • Thorne Harbour Health - Counselling, peer, and community support for the local LGBTIQA+ community in the areas of HIV, trans and gender diverse health, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, and relationship and family violence.
  • LGBTIQA+ friendly GP clinics and health services
    • DocLIST - Online list of doctors and mental health professionals recommended by lesbian and bisexual women in Australia.
    • Equinox - Specifically trans and gender diverse health clinic located in Fitzroy providing GP services, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) management, sexual health, and counselling.
    • Northside Clinic - LGBTIQ+ oriented general practice and sexual health clinic in Fitzroy North.
    • Prahran Market Clinic - General medical practice in Prahran with particular focus on gay, lesbian, and gender diverse health.
    • The Centre Clinic - General medical practice in St Kilda providing general health care for LGBTI community.
    • Touchbase - Information, support, and services for LGBTI people for alcohol and drugs, mental health, and sexual health.
    • Turn the Corner Medical Clinic - General medical practice in Northcote committed to providing an environment that is safe and inclusive for LGBTIQA+ people.
  • LGBTIQA+ support for families
    • PFLAG Australia - Support group and advocacy for parents and allies of the LGBTIQ community.
    • Rainbow Families - Community organisation for rainbow families.
    • Transcend - Parent-led support network and information hub for transgender children and their families.
  • Transgender
    • Equinox - Specifically trans and gender diverse health clinic located in Fitzroy providing GP services, HRT management, sexual health, and counselling.
    • Seahorse Victoria - Support and social group for the Victorian transgender community.
    • The Shed - Support group for trans masculine people, including people who are non-binary and those who are questioning or exploring their gender.
    • Transgender Victoria - Information and resources for the Victorian transgender community.
    • YGender - Peer-led social support and advocacy group for trans/gender diverse young people.
  • Intersex
    • Intersex Human Rights Australia - Support, education and policy development for people with intersex variations or traits focusing on human rights, bodily autonomy and self-determination, and on evidence-based, patient-directed healthcare.
    • Intersex Peer Support Australia - An intersex peer support, information and advocacy group for people born with variations in sex characteristics and their families.
    • Understanding what it means to be intersex - A ReachOut.com article written and reviewed by  people with intersex variations.
  • Bisexual
    • Bi-alliance Victoria - Non-profit volunteer-run organisation dedicated to promoting the acceptance of bisexuals in LGBTI and mainstream society.

Things to do to feel connected

Becoming part of an LGBTIQA+ community can be an important step in building a support network and making lasting social connections with people who understand issues specific to LGBTIQA+ people. The UMSU Queer Department can help in providing advice and a safe place, along with local support groups and resources listed below.

If you'd like more support, come along to one of our workshops or make an appointment for individual counselling.

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