Texas Tech University

Allies Handouts

Becoming an Ally

What is an ALLY?

  • “A person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in his or her personal and professional life through support of, and as an advocate for, the oppressed population,[1] ”namely, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
  • An ALLY for persons who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) is most often a heterosexual person who works as an advocate for GLBT people and GLBT issues in their personal an professional life.
What Does an ALLY Do?
  • Commits him or herself to personal growth in the area of GLBT awareness in spite of discomfort
  • Is willing to confront his or her own prejudices, stereotypes and misunderstandings
  • Believes that all persons regardless of age, sex, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation should be treated with dignity and respect
  • Engages in and is committed to developing a climate (e.g., on campus, at home, at work) that is free of hate and oppression toward GLBT individuals, and free from homophobia and heterosexism
  • Recognizes the legal, political, and financial power & privilege that heterosexual persons have that GLBT persons are denied
  • Supports the Ally program at his or her university or place of work
  • Practices acceptance, support and inclusiveness of GLBT persons
  • Is willing to be an advocate for GLBT persons and GLBT issues
  • Is willing to avoid making a point of being heterosexual
  • Is aware of & comfortable with his or her own sexual orientation & the development of that orientation
  • Understands the coming out process
  • Understands the concepts of internalized homophobia and oppression
  • Understands that there is great diversity within the GLBT community as with any other group
There are four basic levels to becoming an ALLY (Washington & Evans, 1991) …
  1. Awareness:This involves becoming aware of who you are, and how you are different from and similar to GLBT persons. This is accomplished through self-examination, talking with GLBT persons, attending GLBT related events, reading material that is inclusive of GLBT lifestyles, etc.
  2. Knowledge/ Education: Understanding and knowledge regarding the experiences of GLBT persons in your community, state and nation.Understanding the laws and policies that affect GLBT persons, and the history of those laws and policies.Educating yourself about the GLBT community in your area and around the country. Contacting and being aware of GLBT groups, organizations and other resources in your community & around the country.
  3. Skills: This involves developing skills you need to communicate your awareness and knowledge as an advocate.You can gain these skills through attending workshops & other ALLY training events, practicing awareness-raising in safe settings (e.g., with supportive friends & colleagues).
  4. Action: The most important, & scariest level.This step involves taking what you know, and what you have learned & feel strongly about concerning GLBT issues and helping to cause change in our society.

The Student Counseling Center; 201 Student Wellness Center; 742-3674

  • Some Information in this handout taken from the Human Rights Campaign brochure on “Establishing an Allies Program on Campus or in the Workplace.”www.hrc.org.
  • [1] Washington, J. and Evans, N.J.(1991).“Becoming an Ally.”In N.J. Evans and V.A. Wall, eds., Beyond Tolerance: Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals on Campus.Alexandria, VA: American College Personnel Association.

Developing a Common Language

  • LGBTQ: refers to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer Homosexual: A person who is emotionally, physically and/or sexually attracted to a person of the same sex.
  • Gay: A common and acceptable term for men who are emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to other men (also used when referring to both men and women).
  • Lesbian: A common and acceptable term for women who are emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to other women.
  • Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to both men and women.
  • Transgender: An umbrella term that includes all levels of gender noncomformity. A transgender person is someone whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations for their sex assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to the internal sense of being male, female, or some other gender. Gender expression refers to how people present their gender to the world through style of dress, mannerisms, hairstyle, etc. A transgender person may make a gender transition that modifies their physical characteristics and gender expression to be more aligned with their gender identity. Transgender people can be straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
  • Intersexed: An umbrella term used for several conditions that result in an individual having partially or fully developed sex organs of both genders. While not a dangerous physical condition, it is often treated as a medical emergency, and physicians generally assign a gender to an infant, using surgery and recommending hormonal therapy throughout a lifetime. Typically, intersexuals are not told of their birth status, their surgery, or the cause of resulting medical problems.
  • Transvestites: Individuals who engage in cross-dressing mainly for the purposes of erotic stimulation. Cross-dressing may be limited to undergarments only but may require full attire and make-up for erotic effect. The vast majority of transvestites are heterosexual males, and many are in heterosexual relationships. The goal for transvestites is typically not to appear feminine or pass as female, and transvestism is virtually non-existent in women.
  • Drag Queens/Kings: Individuals who cross-dress, often very elaborately and mostly for entertainment purposes, to imitate the opposite sex as closely as possible. The vast majority are gay men whose relationships are typically with more masculine gay or bisexual men. Although some may be transsexuals, most identify with their biological sex. In contrast, male or female impersonators cross-dress for entertainment purposes only and are mostly heterosexual individuals who identify with their biological sex.
  • Queer: In the past, this term was a derogatory word for gay men and lesbians. It has been reclaimed by more radical LGBT activists during the 1980s and used in the slogans of ACT UP and Queer Nation (We're here, we're queer, get used to it!). Considered a more inclusive term than gay, queer also sometimes refers to a more radical and confrontational type of activism.
  • Homophobia: The irrational fear of homosexuals, homosexuality or any behavior, belief or attitude of self or others which does not conform to rigid sex and gender-role stereotypes. The extreme behavior of homophobia is violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons.
  • Heterosexism: Evidenced by the assumption that everyone is heterosexual. The systematic oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons that is directly linked to sexism.
  • Internalized Oppression: The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.
  • Ally: Any non-lesbian, non-gay, non-bisexual or non-transgendered person whose attitudes and behavior are both anti-homophobic and anti-heterosexist and who works toward combating homophobia and heterosexism on a personal and professional level.
  • Coming Out: To publicly declare and affirm one's homosexuality to oneself or to others.
  • In the Closet: To hide one's homosexuality in order to maintain one's job, housing situation, friends, family or in some other way to survive life in a heterosexist culture. Many LGBT persons are out in some circumstances, but closeted in others.
  • Rainbow Flag: The flag was originally designed by San Francisco artist, Gilbert Baker, in 1978 and was intended to be a symbol of gay and lesbian pride. It was inspired by the Flag of the Races which had five stripes, each one representing the colors of human kind. The six colors of the flag — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple — represent the diversity and unity within the LGBT movement. The widespread use of the flag is due less to any official recognition of it as a symbol and more to its adoption by members of the LGBT community. Pink Triangle: An inverted pink triangle was a Nazi symbol used to identify homosexuals during the Holocaust. The symbol was adopted by gays and lesbian activists to remember those who were tortured and killed in Nazi concentration camps.
  • Lambda: This Greek letter was adopted by the Gay Activist Alliance in 1970 as a symbol of the gay movement. An ancient Greek regiment of warriors who carried a flag emblazoned with the lambda marched into battle with their male lovers. The groups was noted for their fierceness and willingness to fight until death.
  • Freedom Rings: These six colored aluminum rings are linked together and reminiscent of the Rainbow Flag. Wearing them has come to symbolize independence and tolerance of others. The rings are often used in necklaces, bracelets, rings and key chains.
  • Double Women's Symbol: Representing the planet Venus, this symbol represents women loving women.
  • Double Man's Symbol: Representing the planet Mars, this symbol represents men loving men.

Gay and Lesbian Identity Development

Identity Confusion:

  • "Could I be gay?" Denial and disownment.
    • Possible responses:
      • Avoids information about homosexuality; inhibits behavior; denies homosexuality ("experimenting", "an accident", "just a phase").
      • Men: keep emotional involvement separate from sexual contact.
      • Women: keep relationships non sexual, though strongly emotional.
  • Therapeutic Task:
    • Explore internal positive and negative judgments.
    • Be permitted to be uncertain regarding sexual identity.
    • Find support in knowing that sexual behavior occurs along a spectrum.
    • Receive permission and encouragement to explore several identity as a normal experience (like career identity, social identity).
Identity Comparison:
  • "Maybe this does apply to me." Accepts possibility that he or she may be gay/lesbian/bisexual.
    • Possible responses:
      • Begin to grieve for losses, the things he or she will give up by accepting an LGB identity.
      • Compartmentalizes own sexuality. Accepts "homosexual" definition of behavior but maintains "heterosexual" identity of self.
      • Tells oneself: "It's only temporary"; "I'm just in love with this particular man/woman", etc.
  • Therapeutic Task:
    • Very important that the person develops own definitions.
    • Need information about sexual identity, gay, lesbian, and bisexual community resources.
    • Need encouragement to talk about the loss of heterosexual life-expectations.
Identity Tolerance:
  • "I'm not the only one." Accepts probability of being homosexual and recognizes sexual, social, and emotional needs that go with being gay/lesbian/bisexual.
    • Possible responses:
      • Beginning to have language to talk and think about the issue.
      • Recognition that being gay or lesbian does not preclude other options.
      • Accentuates differences between self and heterosexuals.
      • Seeks out lesbian, gay, bisexual community (positive contact leads to more positive sense of self; negative contact leads to devaluation of the culture). May try out variety of stereotypic roles.
  • Therapeutic Task:
    • Be supportive in exploring client's own shame feelings derived from heterosexism, as well as external heterosexism.
    • Give support in finding positive gay and lesbian community connections.
    • It is particularly important for the counselor to know of community resources.
Identity Acceptance:
  • "I will be OK." Accepts, rather than tolerates, LGB self-image and there is continuing and increased contact with the LGB community.
    • Possible responses:
      • Accepts an LGB self-identification. May compartmentalize "LGB life".
      • Maintains less and less contact with heterosexual community.
      • Attempts to "fit in" and "not make waves" within the LGB community.
      • Begins some selective disclosures of sexual identity.
      • More social coming-out; more comfortable being seen with groups of men or women who are identified as LGB.
      • More realistic evaluation of various situations (job, etc.).
  • Therapeutic Task:
    • Continue exploring grief and loss of heterosexual life expectations.
    • Continue exploring internalized "homophobia" (learned shame from heterosexist society).
    • Find support in making decisions about where, when, and to whom he or she self-discloses.
Identity Pride:
  • "I've got to let people know who I am!" Immerses self in LGB community. Less and less involvement with heterosexual community. "Us vs. Them" quality to political and social viewpoints.
    • Possible responses:
      • Splits world into LGB (good) and "straight" (bad).
      • Experiences disclosure crises with heterosexuals as she or he is less willing to "blend in" or "pass."
      • Identifies LGB community as sole source of support; all LGB friends, business connections, social connections.
  • Therapeutic Task:
    • Receive support for exploring anger issues.
    • Find support for exploring issues of homosexism and heterosexism.
    • Develop skills for coping with reactions and responses to disclosure of sexual identity. Resists being defensive.
Identity Synthesis:
  • Develops holistic view of self. Defines self in more complete fashion, not just in terms of sexual orientation.
    • Possible responses:
      • Continue to be angry at heterosexism, but with decreased intensity.
      • Allows trust of others to increase and build.
      • GLB identity is integrated with all aspects of "self".
      • Feels alright to move out into the community and not simply define space according to sexual orientation.
  • Therapeutic Task:
    • Continue to affirm and support client progress and positive identity development.
    • Explore other facets of identity and their interaction with gay/lesbian/bisexual identity.
    • Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality

Heterosexual Questionaire

  • Reversal of Questions Frequently Asked of Gays Based on Homophobic Premises:
    • Martin Rochlin, Ph.D.
    • January 1977
  1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?
  2. When and how did you first decide you were a heterosexual?
  3. Is it possible your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?
  4. Is it possible your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?
  5. Isn't it possible that all you need is a good gay lover?
  6. Heterosexuals have histories of failures in gay relationships.Do you think you mayhave turned to heterosexuality out of fear of rejection?
  7. If you've never slept with a person of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn't prefer that?
  8. If heterosexuality is normal, why are a disproportionate number of mental patients heterosexual?
  9. To whom have you disclosed your heterosexual tendencies?How did they react?
  10. You heterosexuality doesn't offend me as long as you don't try to force it on me.Why do people feel compelled to seduce others into your sexual orientation?
  11. If you should choose to nurture children, would you want them to be heterosexual, knowing the problems they would face?
  12. The great majority of child molesters are heterosexual.Do you really consider it safe to expose your children to heterosexual teachers?
  13. Why do you insist on being so obvious, and making a public spectacle of heterosexuality?Can' you just be what you are and keep it quiet?
  14. How can you ever hope to become a whole person if you limit yourself to a compulsive, inclusive heterosexual object choice, and remain unwilling to explore and develop your normal, natural, healthy, God-given homosexual potential?
  15. Heterosexuals are noted for assigning themselves and each other narrowly restricted, stereotyped sex-roles.Why do you cling to such unhealthy role-playing?
  16. How can you enjoy a fully satisfying sexual experience or deep emotional rapport with a person of the opposite sex, when the obvious physical, biological, and temperamental differences between you are so vast?How can a man understand what pleases a women sexually or vice-versa?
  17. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?
  18. With all the societal support marriage receives, the divorce rate is spiraling.Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?
  19. Shouldn't you ask the far-out straight types, like Swingers, Hell's Angels, and Jesus Freaks to conform more? Wouldn't that improve your image?
  20. How could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual like you, consider the menace of overpopulation?
  21. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Techniques have been developed with which you might be able to change if you really want to.How you considered trying aversion therapy?
  22. A disproportionate number of criminals, hippies, welfare recipients, and other irresponsible or antisocial types are heterosexual.Why would anyone want to hire a heterosexual for a responsible position?
  23. Do heterosexuals hate and/or distrust others of their own sex?Is that what makes them heterosexual?
  24. Does heterosexual acting-out necessarily make one a heterosexual?Can't a person have loving friends of the opposite sex without being labeled aheterosexual?
  25. Why are heterosexuals so promiscuous?
  26. Why do you make a point of attributing heterosexuality to famous people:Is it to justify your own heterosexuality?
  27. Could you really trust a heterosexual therapist/counselor to be objective and unbiased?Don't you fear he/she might be incline to influence you in the direction of his/her own leanings?

Heterosexual Privilege

I have heterosexual privilege if….

  1. I can, if I wish, legally marry my life partner.
  2. I can, if I wish, have public recognition and support for my intimate relationship.
  3. I have and can receive cards or phone calls celebrating my commitment to another person.
  4. I can, if I wish, kiss my partner and show affection on the street without being conscious of what others may think or do to us.
  5. I can, if I wish, easily talk about my relationship with anyone.
  6. I don't have others or myself question my normalcy.
  7. I can, if I wish, show pain and get support when a relationship ends.
  8. I can, if I wish, have children without any questions.
  9. I can, if I wish, be open, without hesitation, about apartment or house hunting with my significant other.
  10. I can, if I wish, choose not to do something if it means others may think it makes me gay or lesbian.
  11. I am validated by my religion.
  12. I am socially accepted by my neighbors without question.
  13. I have accepted paid leave from my employment when my partner was sick or in need of my assistance.
  14. I am comfortable and accepted in my children's school, with my children's teachers and school activities.
  15. I can, if I wish, dress however I want without worrying about what it represents.
  16. I can, if I wish, have in-laws.
  17. Under probate law, I can, if I wish, inherit from my partner/lover/companion.
  18. I can share health, auto and homeowner's insurance policies at reduced rates.
  19. I can, if I wish, be employed as a teacher in a pre-school through high school without fear of being fired any day because I am assumed to corrupt children.
  20. I can, if I wish, raise children without threats of state intervention, without children having to be worried which of their friends might reject them because of their parent's sexuality and culture.
  21. I can and have dated the person I desired in my teenage years.
  22. I don't have to lie about my social activities.
  23. I can, if I wish, work without being identified by my sexuality and culture (e.g., I get to be the farmer, the artist, the professor without being labeled the heterosexual farmer, the heterosexual artist, etc.).
  24. My sexual orientation is represented in the media and I don't feel excluded.
  25. I can, if I wish, share holidays with my lover and families without question or rejection.
  26. I don't have to explain or justify my sexual orientation.
  27. I don't have to be nervous about talking to my family and friends about my sexual orientation.
  28. I don't feel compelled to disprove myths of my own heterosexuality.
  29. I don't have to fear that my sexuality may become a major point in a smear campaign that may affect the custody of my child, the job I want, the house I want to buy, the way I am treated by my neighbors and family.
  30. I automatically have custody of my own children if my partner dies.
  31. I can, if I wish, easily visit my partner/spouse in the case of hospitalization without lying or without question.
  32. I am accepted by society as a heterosexual person, not just tolerated.

Trans Definitions

It is useful to keep two distinct continuums in mind when exploring transgender lives and experiences.

  • Biological Sex: Male--------------------------Intersexed-------------------------Female
  • Gender Identity: Masculine--------------------Androgynous----------------------Feminine
  1. Transgender: An umbrella term that includes all levels of gender noncomformity. A transgender person is someone whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations for their sex assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to the internal sense of being male, female, or some other gender. Gender expression refers to how people present their gender to the world through style of dress, mannerisms, hairstyle, etc. A transgender person may make a gender transition that modifies their physical characteristics and gender expression to be more aligned with their gender identity. Transgender people can be straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
  2. Intersexed: An umbrella term used for several conditions that result in an individual having partially or fully developed sex organs of both genders. While not a dangerous physical condition, it is often treated as a medical emergency and physicians generally assign a gender to an infant, using surgery and recommending hormonal therapy throughout a lifetime. Typically, intersexuals are not told of their birth status, their surgery, or the cause of resulting medical problems. In recent years, advocates have been successful at decreasing isolation and lobbying for change in a medical system that disallows this biologically-based gender non-conformity.
  3. Transvestites: engage in cross-dressing mainly for the purposes of erotic stimulation. May be limited to undergarments only, but may require full attire and make-up for erotic effect. Vast majority of transvestites are heterosexual males and many are in heterosexual relationships. The goal for transvestites is typically not to appear feminine or pass as a female. Transvestism is virtually non-existent in women.
  4. Drag Queens/Kings: Cross-dress, often very elaborately and mostly for entertainment purposes. Goal is to imitate, as closely as possible, the opposite sex. May cross-dress more often or full-time. Vast majority are gay men and relationships are typically with more masculine gay or bisexual men. Although a small minority may be transsexual, most identified with their biological sex and do not seek genital reassigning surgery. But many drag queens may use hormone treatment or breast augmentation to enhance their appearance.

Overview of the Transgender World

When we talk about the concept of gender and how that relates to physical sex, we quickly get into very complex territory. The various combinations of gender identity, physical sex and how the individual chooses to express both of these can result in a vast array of transgender individuals. Our tendency as humans is to want to simplify complex phenomena into easily understandable categories or types – this is probably not an accurate way to describe the transgender experience. You will often find an individual who does not fit one of the clean definitions of one of our transgender groups or categories.

That said, I think it can help sometimes to start with a more simple explanation of what it means to be a transgender person – and to know that we are likely going to have to expand our understanding over time.

So, I'm going to give you a basic framework for understanding what it means to be transgender. One way to think about this is to consider two separate and distinct continuums – one being the continuum of physical sex and the other being the continuum of gender identity – in order to conceptualize the transgender experience. When we talk about the continuum of physical sex, we're talking about the internal and external physical characteristics that define us as male or female. For some people, it can be a stretch to consider this a continuum – I mean, doesn't everybody fall into clear categories of male and female? The little known truth is that, no, not everybody has physical characteristics that clearly defines them as male or female. There are a number of medical conditions that result in an individual being “intersexed” – that is, lying somewhere on the continuum between being clearly male or clearly female. We're going to spend some time talking about intersexuality more in depth later. The second continuum that is helpful in understanding the transgender experience is that of gender identity – that is, what is our internal sense of our gender – from the masculine extreme to the feminine extreme. Most people have little difficulty thinking about this continuum – the word “androgynous” is fairly common – and we all can probably think of people – both male and female – who at least display varying levels of masculinity or femininity. Remember, though, that what we observe as masculine or feminine in a person's behavior may or may not be an accurate reflection of their internal sense of gender. While outward expressions of gender identity are certainly important, it is this internal sense of gender identity that helps us understand the transgender experience.

In a nutshell, any individual who does not fall at the extremes of both continuums – that is, a physical male with a masculine gender identity, or a physical female with a feminine gender identity – could be said to fall under the umbrella term of “transgender”. Obviously, this includes a lot of people in lots of different circumstances – the combinations are probably limitless. We have several terms that are meant to help us categorize some of these individuals' experiences – terms such as drag queen, drag king, transvestite, female or male impersonator, she-male, hermaphrodite, transsexual, intersexed, transgenderist, crossdresser. Much of the time, there is little agreement as to what exactly defines each of these terms – there always seems to be individuals that defy any clear-cut category we try to place them in. This is just more evidence that we are talking about a highly complex phenomenon.

The Intersexed Condition

Again, we are in pretty murky waters when we try to define exactly what it means to be intersexed. Broadly speaking, intersexuality constitutes a range of medical conditions in which an individual's anatomy mixes key masculine anatomy with key feminine anatomy. Sometimes, physicians will use the term “ambiguous genitalia” instead of “intersexuality”, but that begs the question “what should count as ambiguous?” (How small should a baby's penis have to be before it counts as “ambiguous”; or conversely, how large should a baby's clitoris be before it is ambiguous) This is a difficult question. And it doesn't address intersexuality of internal sexual organs or genetic intersexuality, when the external genitalia appear to be clearly male or clearly female.

There is a lengthy list of medical conditions which can result in a child being born as intersexed. They vary greatly in how often they occur in the general population. The Intersex Society of North America estimates that in approximately 1 in 100 births, a child's body differs, in some way, from standard male or female. They also estimate that in 1-2 births out of 1,000 the infant receives surgery to normalize their genital appearance. We'll talk about possible effects of these surgeries in a few minutes.

First, I'd like to cover a few of the medical conditions that result in intersexuality – these are conditions that occur a little more frequently than the other, more rare, conditions. There are a several conditions in which the child's genetic make-up is not clearly male (XY) or female (XX).

  • Klinefelter's Syndrome

You've probably heard of this before – it's not uncommon and occurs in approximately 1 in 500 to 1 in 1,000 births. Instead of the typical, XX or XY chromosome pattern, the child is born with an XXY pattern. The condition is not hereditary and seem to develop in the fetus. The extra X chromosome results in feminizing effects on the body. They are typically seen as boys and are raised as boys. The condition is often not diagnosed until puberty, when expected secondary sexual characteristics don't develop. These individuals are sterile, have enlarged breasts, small testicles & penis, tall in stature with long legs and short trunk, and are often learning disabled. Testosterone therapy seems to help with many of the results of Klinefelter's, with the exception of sterility.

  • Turner's Syndrome (XO)

These are females that are born without a second X chromosome. 1 in 2,000-2,500 births. Not hereditary. They tend to be short in stature (average height of 4'8” if not treated with growth hormones). They tend to have ovarian failure which results in a lack of development of secondary sex characteristics. 99% are infertile. Hormone replacement therapy can help.

  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

Occurs in about 1 in 13,000 births. These individuals have a male genetic make-up (XY chromosomes). Testes develop during gestation, while the fetus is developing. These testes produce Mullerian Inhibiting Hormone (MIH) which prevents the development of a uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix. The testes also produce testosterone. However, because cells fail to respond to testosterone, the genitals form in the female, rather than the male, pattern. Newborn infants may have the genitals of a normal female appearance. Occasionally, the testes may be partially descended. There is a short vagina with no cervix. Occasionally, the vagina is nearly absent. At puberty, the estrogen produced by the testes produces breast growth. She does not menstruate and is not fertile. Most AIS women have no pubic or underarm hair.

When AIS is diagnosed during infancy, physicians often perform surgery to remove the undescended testes. Vaginoplasty surgery is frequently performed on AIS infants or girls to increase the size of the vagina. Most AIS women who received surgery as a child state that they would have preferred that they had been given the choice when they were old enough to understand the surgery. Not all AIS women choose surgery. There are non-surgical options to increase the size of the vagina.Because AIS is a genetic defect located on the X chromosome, it runs in families. The mother of an AIS individual is a carrier, and her XY children have a 50% chance of having AIS. Her XX children have a 50% chance of carrying the AIS gene.

AIS women tend to have a feminine gender identity.

  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia

Occurs in both males and females. Occurs in about 1 in 13,000 births. In females (with an XX chromosome make-up), hypersecretions of steroid hormone from the adrenal gland causes masculinization of the external genitalia of the female fetus. Affected infants can have mixed genitalia. Internal female organs are intact. Many of these children receive “corrective” surgery during infancy. If the child is raised as male, following any "adjusting" surgery and given male hormones at puberty, the individual develops as a "normal" but sterile male with XX chromosomes. On the other hand, if the infant is surgically corrected to female and given female hormones, there is a 50/50 chance of transsexualism. So – this is more evidence that gender identity may be greatly influenced by hormones during development in the womb (rather than by chromosomal make-up).

  • Corrective Surgery

This "correction" is the source of much unhappiness – most advocates for intersexed individuals promote not performing any corrective surgeries on children and raising them as either as a boy or girl following consultation with medical professionals who are familiar with intersexed conditions. But the parents should watch for signs of gender expression in the child, not attempt to suppress these expressions if they don't fit with the gender they are being raised as, and when the adolescent is old enough to understand their condition, they should be informed and given the choice whether or not to proceed with surgery if an incongruity between physical sex and gender identity exists.

I don't envy the parents of children who are intersexed – it is challenging in our society to provide a child with gender-neutral support and to possibly need to adjust parenting strategies to fit with the developing gender identity of the child.

What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?

The Bible figures prominently in discussions about the place of lesbians and gay men in the life of the church. Most commonly, it is assumed that "biblical morality" or "a biblical standard" automatically supports the conclusion, as currently stated in the United Methodist Social Principles, that "the practice of homosexuality is contrary to Christian teaching."

The Methodist Federation for Social Action rejects that position and urges the elimination of this condemnatory clause.

As a part of this critical ongoing debate in the church, I offer the following observations on the issue of homosexuality and the Bible.
-George D. McClain

Not a major Biblical Issue
Commentators of various persuasions tend to agree that homosexuality is not a matter of grave concern to the biblical writers. The number of references to homosexual acts is exceedingly small.

Furthermore, there are no passages which address homosexuality as we know and unerstand it today -- as a sexual identity based upon a life-long attraction toward people of the same sex, fixed early in life, (Hilton, 64). The concept of homosexuality was first given its name by the Hungarian K.M. Benkert in 1869, writing in the German language.

The references in Scripture are to homosexual acts, performed by persons who are presumed unquestionably to be heterosexual in orientation and are therefore considered to be acting in ways contrary to their "nature."

  • The Holiness Code: Lev. 18:22, 20:13

These references to same-sex acts are part of the priestly "Holiness Code" which was promulgated to ensure clear and unequivocal separation between Hebrews and Babylonians at a time when the independent survival of the Hebrew people was threatened. Many barriers were erected, as against eating meat and milk together, sowing two different crops together, or the roles of men and women. Men must at like men in their sexual relations, no like women -- that is, passively in the sexual encounter. To do so would be to confuse the roles of men and women, and thus homosexual acts were condemned.

What the Bible offers us today is broad ethical themes ("love your neighbor as yourself"), not specific ethical rules. If our approach to Scripture were to try to follow all its behavioral rules, the Holiness Code would present enormous problems. Would anyone agree to the Levites' prescribed punishment of stoning for adultery or for cursing one's parents?

The Holiness Code 1) is not about homosexuality but about maintaining purity, 2) is uninformed about homosexuality as an identity formed early in life, and 3) is superseded in Christianity by a larger understanding of law and grace: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8).

  • Romans 1:18-32

In this often-quoted passage, Paul's subject is human rebellion against God. He borrows from prevailing Hellenistic morality a list of human failings to describe what he believes to be the behavioral consequences of human rebellion and sin. His reference to "unnatural intercourse" may underscore the cultural assumption of that day that all people are heterosexual, for whom same-sex relations would be "unnatural" or that only certain positions in intercourse are "natural" (Scroggs, 114). It was only considered "natural" for men to take an active, dominant position in sexual relations, and a woman a submissive role; anything else was held to be "unnatural." This passage is not a thoughtful theological discourse on sexuality but a list, borrowed from Hellenistic culture, of signs of human sin. It has no rule-book authority for today.

Bruce Hilton points out (p. 73) how the conclusion of this passage is the exhortation, "therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same thing" (Romans 1:32). How ironic that the foregoing passage is used precisely in order to heap condemnation upon an especially vulnerable portion of the church and society.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10

According to Robin Scroggs, the references in these passages are extremely biguous. He suggests that the items in Paul's list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 "might well be partially, at least, memorized from a traditional stock of evils" (p. 102). He concludes that arsenokoites (NRSV: "sodomites") refers to the active partner in pederasty and that malakos (NRSV: "male prostitutes") refers to an effeminate call-boy used in this practice.

Scroggs argues persuasively that the only form of homosexuality that New Testament writers had in mind was Greco-Roman pederasty, with the sexual use of a young boy by an older male. This practice, espoused by Plato and widespread in Greco-Roman culture, was much in dispute among Greco-Roman moralists because it involved human denigration, misogyny, and crass exploitation (p. 84).

In Scroggs' discussion of 1 Timothy 1:9-10, pornos (NRSV: "fornicators") means a male prostitute, used by the arsenokoites, and kidnapped or/and managed by the andropodites, literally a "kidnapper" or, as in the NRSV, "slave traders" (p. 120).

  • Passages Mistakenly Applied to Homosexual Relationships

Genesis 1:26-28 is a culturally-bound account, explaining the origin of strong attraction of the sexes for each other and placing it within God's good creation. It is not intended to prescribe particular relationships and should not be used to argue for an exclusive hetero-sexuality for all humankind or to oppose a homo-sexuality which could not even be conceived of at that time.

Nor should the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:1-29 be used to condemn homosexuality, but rather to condemn rape and inhospitability, as made explicit in Ezekiel 16:49 (denial of aid to "the poor and needy") and by Jesus' words in Luke 10:10-12. (See Scroggs, pp. 73-74).

Some Conclusions

Karl Barth cautioned that "The Bible cannot be read unbiblically." To reject loving, same-sex relationships on the basis of a supposed "literal sense" of Scripture flies in the face of the enormous medical and historical gap between then and now. These considerations are decisive for me:

  1. In the New Testament context the known form of homosexual activity was pederasty, an inherently exploitative, temporary relationship between an active older man and a passive youth.
  2. Ancient sexology, based on fear of wasting male semen, goes far toward accounting for biblical prejudice against any male homosexual acts.
  3. The Bible is essentially disinterested in the matter of same-sex relations. References are strikingly few and remarkably ambiguous (Scroggs, 101).
  4. The Bible should not be read as morally opposing something which could not then even be conceived of, namely loving, egalitarian, same-sex relationships.
  5. However, the Bible does address sexual relationships in important ways. I can only affirm the conclusion of Bruce Hilton in Can Homophobia be Cured?:
    • "God's love and grace, reflected in the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and spelled out as major themes of the Bible, tell us what we need to know about loving relationships. There is a growing belief in the church that the test of such a relationship is not the gender of the partners, but its nature.
      If it exploits, abuses, imprisons, it is wrong, whether it involves a long-time monogamous marriage or not. If it is truly loving, affirming, supportive -- reflecting the grace of God -- it can be a holy union, whether the church and society see fit to recognize it or not" (p. 76).


  • Bruce Hilton, Can Homophobia be Cured?, Abingdon, 1992.
  • Robin Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality, Fortress, 1983.

Choosing a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual-Affirming Therapist

Adapted from Bernice Goodman, "Out of the Therapist Closet," in Hilda Hidalgo & Travis Peterson (Eds). NASW Resource Manual on Gay and Lesbian Issues

  • What extent of knowledge does the therapist have about lesbian, gay, bisexual culture?
  • How long has the therapist been working with LGB clients? How many LGB clients has the therapist worked with?
  • What type of training does the therapist have in working with LGB clients?
  • How much understanding and knowledge does the therapist have about racism, sexism, and homophobia/biphobia in society?
  • What is the therapist's knowledge of and commitment to issues of diversity among LGB persons and culture?
  • Can the therapist constructively challenge self-oppressive attitudes and internal biases with clients and also help to create and support new, healthy ways of being?
  • Is the therapist a visible part of the LGB community?
  • What feelings do you have of this person? Is there a feeling of trust and safety? Would you feel comfortable in participating in therapy with this person?
  • Does this therapist understand the effects of institutional homophobia, biphobia, and heterosexism upon LGB people?
  • Can this therapist recognize the differences between appropriate behavioral responses related to societal oppression and the unique psychological difficulties that a LGB person may be experiencing?
  • How well does the therapist acknowledge the impact of socially defined gender roles on an LGB individual's sense of self?

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