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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Safe Zone?
Safe Zone is a program at UMSL which identifies and trains faculty, staff, and students who are aware and affirmative about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues. After completing the initial training, all Safe Zone participants receive a symbol which identifies them as being supportive points of contact for others on campus with questions related to sexual orientation.

Why do we need this program at UMSL?
UMSL is a campus that values and celebrates diversity. Sexual orientation is but one part of the diversity found on this campus. Safe Zone provides a tangible way of letting sexual minority students, faculty, and staff know that they are welcome at UMSL. The Safe Zone symbol allows for easy identification of persons who are willing to discuss sexual orientation issues in a supportive and non-judgmental manner. Safe Zone participants also offer a positive and affirmative message about sexual diversity in response to societal homophobia.

What does it mean when I see a Safe Zone sticker on campus?
A Safe Zone sticker indicates that the person displaying it is open to hearing questions and providing information about LGBT issues. Safe Zone participants come from a variety of backgrounds, but tend to have the following qualities in common:

I'm interested in talking to a Safe Zone participant. How can I find one on campus?
Participants are identified by a sticker or button with the Safe Zone logo. Many have also agreed to have their contact information posted on this website. Click here for an alphabetical listing of Safe Zone participants, and here to see participants listed by campus office.

Is a Safe Zone meeting the same as a counseling session?
No. Safe Zone does not train participants in providing personal counseling. SZ participants can provide information and resources, but most are not professional counselors. UMSL students who wish to discuss their personal concerns with a counselor can contact UMSL Counseling Services .

I'm interested in becoming a Safe Zone participant. How can I get involved?
The first step is to register for a Safe Zone training session. The training lasts for 3 hours, and is an interactive program designed to enhance awareness of LGBT issues and experiences. Training sessions are open to all interested students, faculty, and staff at UMSL. Those interested may register for a training session by calling 314.516.5711.

(Portions of the information on this page were adapted from a publication of the VACUHO Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues Task Force.)

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A person (typically heterosexual) who identifies her/himself as being openly supportive of LGBT persons and issues.

A term that generally refers to a combination of both masculine and feminine qualities.

A person who is emotionally/ romantically/ physically attracted to both men and women.

A slang term used to refer to a person (often to a female) who is masculine in appearance.

The opposite of being "out," being closeted means taking steps to ensure that a person or group of people does not know one's sexual identity, or erroneously presumes one to be heterosexual. Because of repressive laws, discrimination in employment and housing, violence and harassment, and other kinds of oppression and abuse, most non-heterosexual people elect to closet themselves at some points in their lives or with some groups of people all their lives.

Coming Out
This phrase refers to the act of acknowledging one's sexual orientation or identity (e.g. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered.) "Coming out" can occur privately, to oneself, or publicly, to another person or group of people.

A person who enjoys wearing clothing typically associated with the opposite sex. See also "Transvestite."

Drag King
A woman who presents herself as a man (or with a combination of male and female attributes), either on- or off-stage. Drag King performers may display exaggerated or stereotypically "male" attitudes as part of their act.

Drag Queen
A man (usually gay) who dresses up as a woman, sometimes as part of a drag show performance.

A slang term used to refer to a person (often to a female) who is feminine in appearance.

A term used to refer to a man who is emotionally/ romantically/ physically attracted to men. Also used as a general term for persons attracted to the same sex.

Gay Pride
This is a common name for celebration commemorating the Stonewall riots. In most cities (including St. Louis), Gay Pride is held in June. Activities usually include a parade, booths, speakers, workshops, picnics, and musical entertainment.

Gender Identity
A person's view of his or her social/ interpersonal self as male, female, or a combination of the two.

Hate Crime
Assault, rape, arson, and murder are crimes under any circumstance, but when the victim of such a crime is chosen simply because of his or her affiliation with a minority group, the FBI considers the crime a "hate crime." In some states, hate crimes carry an additional penalty beyond the standard penalty for assault, murder, etc. Missouri's hate crimes protections cover those who are victimized on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Sometimes, even if individual people are not bigots or homophobes, institutions and cultural norms may still be discriminatory or even oppressive by favoring heterosexual people at the expense of non-heterosexual people. Such institutions and norms are heterosexist, and people who do not protest against them or resist them may also be said to be heterosexist.

The fear of homosexuality, LGBT persons, and of all things associated with being a sexual minority. Some people who experience homophobia simply avoid gay and lesbian people, places, events, and topics of conversation; others actively abuse non-heterosexual people verbally and physically.

A generic term referring to those attracted to same-sex partners. This term initially emerged in a (now outdated) context of pathology, and is viewed as derogatory by many gay men, lesbians, bisexual persons, and allies.

Intersex Person
This term is most commonly used to describe a person who displays physical/sexual characteristics of both genders, either at birth or during the process of sex reassignment surgery. In the latter case, the phrase "transsexual in transition" is sometimes used.

An abbreviation sometimes found in references to sexual minorities. The letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex. Other combinations of letters are also used, including LGBT and GLBT.

A woman who is emotionally/ romantically/ physically attracted to women.

To "out" someone is to declare their sexual orientation/identity publicly, without their permission.

An acronym for the national organization Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Originally a derogatory term (and still viewed as such by some people), this term is sometimes used by non-heterosexual persons who wish to describe their sexual orientation using an alternative to the standard labels (gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.)

Refers to an individual who is in the process of learning about their sexual/ affectional orientation, and who may not yet have incorporated a specific view of themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, etc.

Sexual Identity
A person's view of him/herself as being physiologically male, female, or a combination of the two.

Sexual Orientation
One's emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction- either to same-sex, opposite-sex, or both-sex partners.

On June 28, 1969, New York City police attempted a routine raid on the Stonewall Inn, a working class gay and lesbian bar in Greenwich Village. Unexpectedly, the patrons resisted, and the incident escalated into a riot that continued for several days. Most people look to this event as the beginning of the American Gay Liberation Movement and all subsequent LGBT movements.

Transgendered Person
A broad term used to describe individuals who view their gender differently from the gender which they were assigned at birth. The term is sometimes applied to more specific groups, including transvestites, transsexuals, and androgynous individuals. Many transgendered people have heterosexual identities, but since both the legal system and the general public tend to discriminate against them in ways similar to the discrimination against other sexual minorities, many work with lesbian, gay, and bisexual organizations, and many of these organizations have enlarged their mission statements to include transgendered persons.

A person who identifies as being of the opposite sex from the anatomical sex with which they were born. Some transsexuals choose to undergo surgical and/or hormonal alterations, so that their external appearance matches their internal identification. Transsexuals are described according to the gender with which they identify. Thus, a person who was born with male genitalia but identifies as being a woman would be called a transsexual female, or MtF.

A person who enjoys wearing clothing typically associated with the opposite sex. Most but not all transvestites are heterosexual.

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Myths and Facts about Sexual Orientation
[Please note that the following information is adapted (with a few revisions) with the kind permission of the Counseling Services office of the State University of New York at Buffalo. It is taken from the self-help section of their website:].


Does being "different" sound like a positive or a negative experience to you? For LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual) persons, daily living can be a frustrating and painful experience in our society. Because they are different in their sexual orientation, LGB persons have been oppressed. They suffer social, religious, economic, political and legal discrimination. Much of this discrimination is based on the myths people believe about those who do not identify as heterosexual. For LGB persons to be treated equally in our society, we need to dispel these myths. What is most needed is the elimination of the irrational fear and hatred some people have for intimate, same-sex relationships. This irrational fear and hatred is called homophobia.

Myth #1
It's OK to call LGB persons names like "queer," "faggot," and "dyke" because they are "deviant."
Fact: A gay man or lesbian is someone whose primary sexual and affectional preference is for a member of his or her own sex. This is different from the statistical norm, but difference does not equal deviance. If it did, blue-eyed people and left-handed people - who are also in the statistical minority - would be considered deviant. Male homosexuals generally prefer to be called "gay," while female homosexuals generally prefer to be called "lesbian," although the term "gay" is often acceptable for both sexes. To be called "queer," "faggot" or "dyke" is derogatory and insulting. [Note that some people within the LGB community have adopted the word "queer" to describe their non-heterosexual orientation. For some in the community, this term is used as a political statement.]

Myth #2
LGB persons are mentally ill.
Fact: Homosexuality is considered normal in most of the world's cultures. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders and declared that homosexuality is as healthy as heterosexuality. Like anyone else, however, LGB persons can become maladjusted when they are treated with hostility.

Myth #3
LGB persons are not "normal."
Fact: Sexual behavior and orientation exist along a continuum that ranges from people who are exclusively attracted to members of the same sex, to people who are equally attracted to members of both sexes, to people who are exclusively attracted to members of the opposite sex. All are normal.

Myth #4
LGB persons are few in number and "hide out" in careers like theater, interior design and cosmetology.
Fact: A generally accepted statistic is that approximately one in 10 persons is gay or lesbian. Gay men, lesbian women, and bisexuals are found in all walks of life and in all professions. For example, consider the following professional associations: the National Lawyers Guild Gay Caucus, the Association of Gay Psychologists, the Gay Nurses Association, the Association of Gay Seminarians and Clergy, the Gay Airline Pilots Association, and the Gay Prize Fighters of America Association, to name but a few.

Myth #5
Gay men like to dress as women; gay men wish they were women and lesbians wish they were men.
Fact: Gay men and lesbians, for the most part, are comfortable with their identities as men and women and have no desire to change their sex. Some gay men dress up as women (e.g. for drag shows.) Many men who enjoy dressing up in women's clothing (transvestites) are heterosexual.

Myth #6
LGB persons are a menace to children.
Fact: The overwhelming majority of child molestation cases - 90 to 95 percent - involve heterosexual men and are committed against females under the age of 18.

Myth #7
LGB persons are promiscuous.
Fact: LGB persons are neither more nor less sexually promiscuous than heterosexuals. Like heterosexuals, many gay men and lesbians are involved in monogamous relationships, considering themselves partners and committed to each other for life. Some gay men and lesbians may also choose to remain celibate, and others may have multiple partners, just as some heterosexuals do.

Myth #8
Parents cause their children to become gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Fact: Reasons that a particular sexual orientation develops are unknown. Current research indicates that it is a very complex matter that involves both biological and environmental influences. Just as we cannot explain what makes some people heterosexual, we do not understand what makes other people gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Myth #9
If a gay man or lesbian could just meet the "right" member of the opposite sex, then he or she could fall in love and be "cured."
Fact: Many gay men and lesbians have dated members of the opposite sex but find it more fulfilling to date members of their own sex. Most LGB persons have no desire to change their sexual orientation. Those who do are usually reacting to negative societal attitudes toward homosexuality.

Myth #10
If a friend tells you he or she is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, then that friend is coming on to you.
Fact: Being gay involves more than a person's sexual activity. When friends "come out" (reveal their sexual orientation) to you, they are essentially inviting you to know them as whole people. If a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person chooses to come out to you, then that person has decided to share part of his or her identity with you. Such a disclosure means only that this friend trusts you, not that he or she would like to become sexually involved with you.

Myth #11
If you have friends who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, that must mean you are also gay.
Fact: Liking or loving someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual does not make you gay any more than liking someone who is Catholic or Jewish makes you Catholic or Jewish.

Myth #12
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a gay disease.
Fact: AIDS is caused by a virus. Viruses infect all kinds of people, regardless of their sexual orientation. Worldwide, the majority of HIV transmission occurs through heterosexual contact. AIDS is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen and breast milk. Some people have contracted AIDS from sharing intravenous needles. While AIDS has been contracted by a large number of gay men in the United States, it has also been contracted by heterosexual men and women as well as and children and even infants. Associating with gays does not mean you will get AIDS. For further information about AIDS, contact the National Gay Task Force Hotline (1-800-221-7044) or the National AIDS hotline (1-800-342-AIDS.)

[The above is taken from information written by Counseling Services, State University of New York at Buffalo. Special thanks to Dr. David Gilles-Thomas.]

Some additional Myths and Facts…

Myth: Sexual orientation can be changed.
Fact: Research has shown that one's sexual orientation cannot be changed. While it is possible for persons (of any sexual orientation) to change their behaviors, e.g. by choosing to act or not act on their sexual feelings, one's underlying orientation remains constant. For more information, see or

Myth: Gay men and lesbian women are unfit to be parents.
Fact: Research has shown that the available data do not support negative stereotypes about same-sex parents. For example, children raised by gay or lesbian parents are not more likely to be gay or lesbian themselves, and not more likely to experience problems in development or in relationships with friends/peers compared to those with heterosexual parents. For more information on research related to same-sex parents, please see or .

Myth: LGB and Ally political organizations are asking for "special rights."
Fact: LGB persons want the same rights as heterosexual Americans, including the right to live and work in an atmosphere free of discrimination, the right to be protected from violence and harassment, and the right to form life-long, committed partnerships.

Myth: Gay marriages or civil unions are a threat to heterosexual marriage.
Fact: There is no evidence to support the belief that same-sex unions would undermine heterosexual marriages.

Myth: LGB persons should not be schoolteachers, because they would bring their sexuality into the classroom.
Fact: Sexuality is neither more nor less a central or defining part of an LGB person's life than it is for a heterosexual person. Thus, sexuality would not influence an LGB person's teaching any more than it would for one who identifies as heterosexual.

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Answers to questions about sexual orientation:

Answers to questions about being an ally:

Coming out as LGBT:

When a friend comes out to you:


Gender Identity 101: A Transgender Primer:

LGBT Anti-Racism Info:

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Manual for Safe Zone Allies

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