Sexual diversity and gender pluralism
Realities associated with sexual diversity and gender pluralism
Naming and identifying oneself
People who are not heterosexual, whose gender identity does not correspond to the sex assigned at birth, or whose body or gender experience is not defined in binary terms can use a variety of terms to identify themselves and with their different communities.
To represent this diversity based on the sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation and gender identity, you may have seen acronyms such as:
- LGBTQ+ for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and others;
- LGBTQI2SNBA+ for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (but sometimes for “questioning”), intersex, bispiritual, nonbinary, asexual and others.
The LGBTQ+ acronym is currently one of the most used terms of identification.
Sexual diversity, orientations and identities are multiple. Although there are many terms to identify them, some people may not feel represented by any of these terms.
It is important to:
- note that the terms used on this page are not exhaustive. The definitions can vary from one group or one reference to another. The vocabulary associated with the diversity linked to the sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation and gender identity is always evolving;
- remember that it is up to the individuals to choose the best words to designate their sexual orientation and gender identity, and not up to others.
Affirming one’s sexual identity or gender identity, also called coming out, starts with unveiling the truth to oneself. After this first step, many people start to share this information with others in varying ways. This affirmation is made at an important time and throughout the person’s life with each person this information is shared.
People with sexual diversity and gender plurality must be able to reveal their truth at their own pace, and to the people with whom they wish to share this information. They may decide not to share their sexual orientation or their gender identity out of fear of intimidation, stigmatization or discrimination.
Coming out during adolescence
The realization that one is part of a sexual or gender minority can be a source of anxiety, especially in a society in which heterosexuality and being cisgender is the norm. Many adolescents will react with denial upon discovering their sexual orientation or gender identity. They may even have romantic and sexual relations with people of the other gender to hide their true sexual orientation or even convince themselves that they are heterosexual. Some people may hide their gender identity by adopting behaviours that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a trans girl designated a boy at birth might adopt male behaviours because those around her see her as a boy.
LGBTQ+ youth often have fears associated with revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are particularly afraid of disappointing their loved ones, that their loved ones will deny their assertions or not take them seriously, or that they will reject them.
It is important to note that not all youth experience distress regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity, many of them accept it and handle it rather well.
Revealing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not always lead to a family crisis. Parents may experience a wide range of feelings, but not all of them are necessarily negative. For some parents, the revelation will be an opportunity to support their child, and consequently strengthen family ties.
For more information, see the Coming out for lesbian, gay & bisexual youth document created by the LGBT+ Family Coalition, GRIS-Québec and the Ministère de la Justice.
Coming out during the senior years
For senior LGBTQ+ people, it can be difficult to come out and reveal their sexual orientation and gender identity to the public. They lived in a time when homosexuality and identifying as trans were crimes punishable by prison; a reality that persists in many countries. For many religions, this constituted and still constitutes a mortal sin, which is significant since many seniors are believers.
On the one hand, senior LGBTQ+ people who reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to their loved ones might feel relief that they no longer have to hide and can really show who they are. On the other hand, they are more exposed to stigmatization and discrimination.
Some LGBTQ+ people are no longer in contact with their family because their family doesn’t accept their sexual orientation or gender identity. For these people, friends and romantic partners are so important in their life that they consider them family. They are referred to as their “chosen family.”
Realities of trans and non-binary people
Some people feel that their gender identity does not correspond with the sex assigned to them at birth. These people are trans, which also includes people who identify as both men and women, and those who identify as neither (non-binary people).
Trans people can transition on a social, legal and medical level.
- There can be a social transition in the personal or professional environment. It can be expressed by a change in first name and pronoun for addressing the person. The social transition can also impact how people express their gender, which is unique to each individual. This can influence different aspects of a person’s appearance (clothing, hairstyle, actions, etc.).
- A legal transition means a change in first name and designation of sex on a person’s identity papers. For further information, see the Change of sex designation page.
- A medical transition involves different medical interventions: surgical, hormonal, etc. For further information on this aspect, see the Trans-specific Surgeries page.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression and its effects
Sexual orientation and gender identity or expression count for two of the fourteen prohibited grounds for discrimination as set out by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec.
LGBTQ+ have gained rights but that does not mean that they also have gained social acceptance. There is still a lot of prejudice, and many LGBTQ+ people are victims of stigmatization, discrimination, injustice, heterosexism, cissexism, and sometimes even homophobic and transphobic acts. Thus, although advances in rights have been a great victory for the LGBTQ+ community, there is still a lot of work to do in terms of their acceptance in society.
For information about homophobia and transphobia, see the following pages:
- Homophobia and transphobia;
- L'intimidation vécue par les personnes de la diversité sexuelle ou de genre – Institut national de santé publique du Québec [Intimidation experienced by people with sexual or gender diversity - National public health institute of Québec] (French only).
If you are a victim or witness of a homophobic or transphobic act, you can first talk to people who are likely to advise you or offer help (loved ones, teachers, caseworkers for an organization, in the health and social services network, etc.).
To file a complaint, see the resources listed in the Assistance section.
Any user of the health and social services network can also report a situation or file a complaint within their health and social services establishment.
Conversion therapies, which are intended to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of persons, are prohibited by Québec and Canadian professional orders. They are also considered unethical by the American Psychological Association because they pose a risk of harm for LGBTQ+ people. Everyone has the right to self-identify and live according to the sexual orientation they choose.
On December 9, 2020, the government of Québec adopted the Act to protect persons from conversion therapy provided to change their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression . In particular, this Act prohibits anyone from soliciting a person to engage in conversion therapy.
Impacts of discrimination on the health and wellbeing of people with sexual diversity and gender plurality
Impacts on youth
LGBTQ+ youth can be victims of intimidation based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Given that youths’ personalities are quickly evolving during this period of their life, experiencing intimidation and violence could have a negative impact on their development.
Mental and physical health problems and social challenges
Health problems and social challenges are more prevalent for LGBTQ+ people. These problems and challenges are influenced by acceptance of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression by their social circle and society. These problems are also associated with homophobia, transphobia and the stigmatization they experience.
Regarding mental health, LGBTQ+ people are at greater risk of having suicidal ideations or attempting suicide because of the isolation, stigmatization, discrimination, homophobia or transphobia that they may face. Some specialists associate the step in which they reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity with the possibility of presenting depressive symptoms and an increased risk of suicidal ideation. Moreover, cases of mood disorders (in particular, depression) or anxiety disorders are more common in the LGBTQ+ population than in the heterosexual and cisgender population.
Regarding physical health problems, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) hit LGBTQ+ persons hard, particularly men having sexual relations with other men, since the start of the HIV pandemic.
Regarding the social challenges, note that LGBTQ+ people, particularly young people, are overrepresented among the homeless population.
Moreover, LGBTQ+ people can also present other vulnerability factors, depending on where they are from, whether they belong to a racial or religious minority, their age, their socio-economic status, etc. The accumulation of these factors considerably increases the risk of being a victim of stigmatization and discrimination. For example, a senior LGBTQ+ person who is also black may experience homophobia and transphobia, as well as racism and ageism.
This web page is taken in part from the Guide d’intervention psychosociale ponctuelle - Diversités sexuelles et pluralité de genre created by the CIUSSS du Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean Centre de recherche appliquée en intervention psychosociale (CRAIP). We thank CRAIP for its permission to use this material.
Last update: April 11, 2022