Utilizing two handouts and lecture to explain LGBTQ acronym and the difference between sex, gender, and sexual orientation.



  • (suggested) Draw the Genderbread Person on the whiteboard or flipchart paper and have the continuums with the blanks drawn as well

Facilitator Framing

  • This is the most lecture-heavy part of Safe Zone curriculum. If you are going to use the sample lecture give it a read a few times before doing it so that you can know the flow and general sense of it before facilitating.

Goals & Learning Outcomes

  • Participants will be able to understand that there is a difference between gender and sexuality.
  • Participants will be able to identify the difference between the L, G, B, Q, and the T of LGBTQ.
  • Participants will be able to describe the difference between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and attraction.

Process Steps

  1. Frame the activity:

“We are going to move now from talking about vocab to talking about some frameworks and ways to make sense of a lot of that vocabulary. First we are going to start with the LGBTQ umbrella handout. This handout helps us make some sense of the LGBTQ acronym.”  

  1. Begin the example lecture which will bring you from the LGBTQ umbrella to and through the genderbread handout.
  2. Wrap-up the activity.

LGBTQ Umbrella & Genderbread Example Lecture

“If you could all turn to the page with the umbrella imagine on it, we want to spend a little time discussing what those common LGBTQ letters mean and how they refer to different identities. When we discuss “LGBTQ” people, one thing we generally forget to make clear what, exactly, those letters mean. For example, there is no such thing as an “LGBTQ” person. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer are all different labels, representing different identities. Importantly, they are words that relate to folks’ experiences of gender and sexual identities — two things we often confuse for being one and the same.

LGB all represent sexual identities. And the T represents a gender identity. Queer is often used as an umbrella term to lump all marginalized sexualities and genders together. So, to recap, on one side we have queer sexualities (Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual, to name a few), and on the other we have queer genders (Transgender, to name one).

When we say sexual identities, sexualities, or sexual orientations, we are talking about are the ways we categorize and define who we are attracted to. When we “gender identities” we are talking about the ways we categorize and define our genders.

Moving into the next handout, the genderbread person is a diagram that helps us understand gender and sexuality, and the parts that make up both. This model is meant to accurately depict the complexity of how these concepts show up in our society; it is not a depiction of what dream society could be. We’re going to start with the top half of the sheet, so we encourage you to fold the paper in half.

To begin, let’s fill in the blanks and name the different parts of the genderbread person.

On the first line, pointing to the brain, we can write “Identity.” Gender identity is who we, in our heads, know ourselves to be, based on what we understand to be the options for gender, and how much we align (or don’t align) with one of those options. Gender identity is our psychological sense of gender.

On the line below that, pointing to the heart, we can write “Attraction.” Attraction is the different ways we feel pulled to other people, often categorized based on our gender and the gender of those we feel drawn to. This categorization is referred to as sexual orientation.

On the bottom line on the right, we’ll write “Sex.” Sex, here referring to anatomical sex, refers to the physical makeup of our bodies, and specifically all the body parts we’ve named as sex characteristics — both the primary traits we’re born with, and the secondary that we might develop later in life.

On the left we have a line pointing to the entire diagram. On this line we can write “Expression.” Gender expression is all the different ways we present ourselves through our actions, our clothing, and our demeanor, and the gendered ways those presentations are socially interpreted.

Does anyone have any questions about those terms, or their definitions?

Let’s now unfold our paper and move on to the bottom half.

Here, we see a lot of arrows pointing to the right. You can think of each of these as one-way continuums, or scales, depicting how the different components above may show up for us. For some people, it’s helpful to imagine a 0% on the left, and a 100% on the right.

Again, we’re going to start by filling in the blanks.

With gender identity, people often think of social roles, gender norms, and personality traits, and the expectations baked into these things. In the top blank, we can write “Woman” and in the bottom blank we can write “Man”, and we’re going to add a “-ness” to both of these, because these lines indicate all the varying degrees of potential “Woman-ness” and/or “Man-ness” with which someone might identify.

With gender expression, people often think of hair styles, grooming, make-up, clothing, nonverbal mannerisms, and other things we see on the outside. We’ll write “Femininity” in the top line and “Masculinity” in the bottom line, as these are the two words that people generally use to describe the different ways our expressions show up.

And with anatomical sex, the first things that people think of are genitals and reproductive organs, but lots of things make up what we call sex, including body hair, hip to shoulder ratio, chromosomes, pitch of voice, and more. On the top line, we’ll write “Female-ness,” and on the bottom line we’ll write “Male-ness,” because here we are depicting the varying degrees someone might embody these traits, as opposed to the sex a person is assigned at birth (which is generally solely determined by external genitalia at birth).

Does anyone have any questions about these scales, or the words we’re using to label them?

Now we’re going to fill in the blanks in the attraction section. People experience attraction (or don’t) in a lot of different ways. Two common ways people describe the attraction they may or may not be experiencing is as “sexual” and “romantic.” You can think of sexual attraction as the drive to engage in physically intimate behaviors like touching, kissing, or intercourse, and romantic attraction as the drive to engage in socially intimate behaviors like flirting, dating, and marriage.

Some people experience both, some only one, and some neither. And within those experiences of attraction, we often focus on the gender of others that we are attracted to.

In the top blanks on the write, you can write “Women” and in the bottom we can write “Men.” But we can also write all the words from above. That is, in the top line we might write “woman-ness, femininity, and/or female-ness,” and in the bottom line “man-ness, masculinity, and/or male-ness,” because our sexual or romantic attraction might be to a particular part of gender. For example, someone might be attracted to people who identify with a lot of woman-ness, but express a lot of masculinity.

Does anyone have any questions about these scales, or the words we’re using to label them?

What we’d like to do now is take a moment to consider where we land on these scales. How much woman-ness do you identify with? How much man-ness? Maybe neither? How much femininity and/or masculinity do you express? A lot of both? A lot of one and not a lot of the other? How much female-ness or male-ness do you see yourself embodying? You can draw a dot on each continuum, several dots to indicate a range, or leave it blank — be as creative as you’d like.

We won’t be collecting these, or asking you to share your answers. We’re going to give you 2 minutes.

We are socialized to oversimplify all of this, and to think that once we know one thing about someone, we can fill in the rest of their blanks. For example, if we learn someone is a woman, we have a picture in our mind of what that person looks like and who she’s attracted to. We might assume she expresses gender in feminine ways, was assigned female at birth and embodies female-ness, and is exclusively attracted to men. This image is simple, however, is not true or complicated enough for many, if not most, of us. Many of us exist in different degrees on the scales above, and may zig-zag through them in ways that break assumptions and norms.

To highlight this, we want to use the blank space between the gender and sexuality scales to write two things: “Identity ≠ Expression ≠ Sex,” and “Gender ≠ Sexual Orientation.”

As we said at the beginning, the genderbread is a model that shows us how complex gender and sexuality are in our current society, not the ideal world we would want to live in. Our hope is that understanding might lead to a healthier world, and we hope that this intro was a helpful step for you toward a better understanding of yourself and others.

Make it Your Own

This activity can be done in exclusively lecture format or can be made interactive by asking participants for examples or suggestions during the lecture. It is best to give definitions for the terms before asking for examples.


Please read through and practice giving the lecture or facilitating the activity before running it with a group for the first time.  Because it’s a lot of information, sequencing and being clear will help your participants stay with you.

To gain deeper understanding of all the terms and identity labels prior to conducting the activity.  Read Sam’s “Breaking through the Binary: Gender Explained Using Continuums” article (http://bit.ly/YuPRyq) or book A Guide to Gender (2nd Edition) (www.guidetogender.com). Many of the terms are clarified in our vocab activity and the definitions can be used word-for-word in the lecture.