Aside from having a deliberate bomb-thrower in our SafeZone training, there was an issue that bothered me quite a little bit: the way we staple gender identity and expression onto sexual orientation.

Not that the causes are not parallel, mind you, but the presenters consistently used either LGBT or LGBTQIA, and yet almost every instance was directly related to sexual orientation. We each went around an introduced ourselves as though we were gay. Which is fine, and for many people that’s a big step.

But it doesn’t make me uncomfortable because of the statement itself: I’m uncomfortable because that’s the assumption people make when I have an appearance that’s unexpected. Maybe a touch of eyeshadow one day, or a top with some lace in it. It’s not sexual orientation for me, and the assumptions are the other side of the heteronormative coin. You look normal? You must be straight? You don’t look like us? You must be gay.

Ultimately, we need to be a bit more considerate of how we use our acronyms. T doesn’t mean an alternate sexual orientation, so when training is portrayed as assisting LGBT students with their sexual orientations, that’s a bit of an issue. When transgender is defined as a mismatch between biological sex and gender identity and is then corrected through surgery, that’s a problem. When transgender is defined as a synonym for transsexual, that’s a problem.

I should point out that this training was supposed to be training us to be able to train others. Train the trainers, in other words. But with these sorts of elemental mistakes and poorly considered approaches, I kind of fear what program we’re going to wind up with.

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