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Understanding LGBTQ+

Let’s explore LGBTQ+ as a concept. Before sharing this definition behind this community, we ask that you watch and reflect on the video below.

LGBTQ | How You See Me

  1. What stood out to you in the video?
  2. What questions do you have after watching the video?

The LGBTQIA+ community means different things to different people including the terms used for personal identification. They are always evolving and changing, so we encourage you to use this as a starting point for understanding and increasing your awareness of these terms and the emergence of others beyond this guide.

LGBT:  Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.  An umbrella term that is often used to refer to the community as a whole.  Our center uses LGBTQIA to intentionally include and raise awareness of Queer, Intersex, and Asexual communities as well as myriad other communities under our umbrella.

Gender: A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth.

Gender Identity: A sense of one’s self as trans, genderqueer, woman, man, or some other identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex and gender one is assigned at birth.

(For more information on gender, please see the guide on Gender provided by the Office of Equity and Inclusion.)

Sex: a medically constructed categorization. Sex is often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth.

Sexuality:  The components of a person that include their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, etc.

Sexual Orientation: Sexual Orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people.  Sexual orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation. See also Orientation below.

Source: LGBTQIA Resource Center

One simple way, we at Drake acknowledge gender identity and support the LGBTQIA+ community is through asking for pronouns.

Pronouns: Pronouns are how you refer to someone if you are not using their name.
For example: "Thomas left his book at my place last night."

If someone tells you their pronouns, use them! We cannot assume gendered pronouns, so a common practice until told otherwise is to use gender-neutral ones, like they/them.

Examples of pronouns are but not limited to: (She/Her/ Hers, He/Him/His, They/Them/Theirs, Xe / Xem / Xir)

If you don’t know someone’s pronouns. Try to introduce yourself with your own pronouns and ask for theirs!

Ex. "Hello, my name is Erica and I use they/them/theirs pronouns."

See here for more ways on how to respectfully use and ask for pronouns.

Identifying as an individual in the LGBTQIA+ community can produce experiences of oppression because of societal stigma or potential rejection, especially for those who identify with another marginalized identity.

According to Iowa Safe Schools, 76% of LGBTQ youth in Iowa have been harassed or assaulted in the past years. This infographic (PDF) shares additional statistics about the queer youth experience in Iowa and highlights several ways you can support LGBTQ+ youth.

Source: 21-Day Equity Challenge

This ongoing discrimination – rooted in homophobia and transphobia – has a significant negative impact on members of the LGBTQ+ community, including:

  • Increased physical and emotional health risks
  • Becoming victims of violence
  • Career and financial instability
  • Higher rates of homelessness, especially among LGBTQ+ youth

With these risks in mind, today’s LGBTQ+ activists are not only focused on policies and legislation that protect their communities from discrimination, but they are also increasingly focused on issues such as intersectionality, transgender rights, and achieving greater representation of marginalized groups within the LGBTQ+ community.



This is not a list of resources but a guide for how to approach and use those resources to further your own education, understanding, and action.

Build your knowledge on this term. - become more educated/informed about a social issue, a community of people, the historical roots of systemic inequality, how systems and institutions reflect and maintain racial and socio-economic hierarchies, theory, data, and storytelling about an issue


Take a few minutes to review the definitions found in the key terms found here.

Check out Trans and Nonbinary 101 (PDF) and LGBTQ 101 (PDF).


Read the article How I Found My Gender Identity, by J.P. on how their journey with defining their gender identity.

Continue your personal education with this reading list (PDF) featuring options that will appeal to readers regardless of where they are along their journey of understanding, embracing, and supporting LGBTQ+ equality.


Watch the them.’s video “What Does "Two-Spirit" Mean? | InQueery”. (6.16)

Watch TED Talk Why we need gender-neutral bathrooms — Ivan Coyote grapples with complex and intensely personal issues of gender identity and highlights the need for gender-neutral bathrooms in all public places. (11:40)

If you want to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, you have to learn the basics, and this LGBTQ 101 presentation by One Iowa is a great place to start! You will learn the difference between sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in addition to a summary of what the LGBTQ acronym means.


National Geographic’s Stonewall at 50 features photos, quotes, and short videos that tell stories of LGBTQ+ resistance and resilience. The stories were collected as part of photographer Robin Hammond’s project Where Love is Illegal, created in 2014 with the mission of ending persecution based on sexuality and gender identity.


Increase proximity or engagement - have more personal experiences with the social issue or community you are learning about which, for those of us this may mean going outside of our own segregated communities where these issues have not been visible.

Rainbow Union (RU)

Created to provide a social and supportive environment for a vibrant population of Drake’s campus, RU has become a leading campus organization. The continuing emphasis on programming and education culminates in two annual celebrations: National Coming Out Week and Pride Week. RU also celebrates Ally Day and brings attention to Transgender Day of Remembrance and Day of Silence. RU persists to support those dealing with issues of sexuality and gender, resists homophobia through example and education, and strives to prevent heterosexism in our lives and on our campus. RU invites ALL students to join and participate and makes no assumptions about a person’s sexuality in our safe space. For more information, connect with RU on Facebook.

Student Activists for Gender Equality (SAGE)

SAGE is an organization devoted to advocacy of gender issues in the Drake community and beyond. SAGE works to promote and voice the opinions and issues of women all over the world. SAGE strives to make the world a more equal and safe place for all. We celebrate the unification, dedication, and spirit of all individuals along the spectrums of sex and gender.

Drake University Voice of Choice

The purpose of this organization is to stimulate interest in and foster knowledge of and respect for reproductive health and justice. Voice of Choice promotes choice in reproductive health matters including contraception and abortion, responsible sexual lifestyles, and respect for the sexual and sexual-health-related choices of others through education, activism, and dialogue.

Counseling Referrals for Transgender Students

List of Single-stall restrooms on campus : Looking for a single-stall restroom on campus? 

If you find a single stall restroom that could be added to our map, please email the information to us at with the subject line: Single Stall Restroom.

Engage in critical and continuous reflection - creating meaning from the knowledge and proximity through critical thinking that explores one's personal experience of and role in systemic inequality as well as one's understanding of what change could look like and how to do it as an individual and in community with others

On-going learning (especially in groups) can be a form of ongoing action. How can you learn more about the thing you are interested in? For instance, if you learned about police brutality, can you find some history of that issue in the United States or wherever you are?

  • Can you take a free online class or attend a public event about that issue?
  • Can you find another book, movie, podcast, etc. to consume to increase your understanding?
  • Can you find people working on this and join their movement? Can you volunteer?

Want to lead a discussion on this topic? Find the Facilitator's Guide here!

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