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A Bucknell Student’s Guide to Talking About Gender

Over the last couple of years, there has been more representation of all identities in the media. This change is empowering and brings hope for a more accepting world. This also leaves a lot of and defining some of these terms for the straight, cis gendered population who may be unfamiliar.


Defined by the Human Rights Campaign, cisgender is a term “denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender.”

Gender vs. Sexuality

Though the two are intertwined, they are actually quite different. Gender is the way in which a person identifies (ex: male, female). Sexuality is the orientation that a person identifies as (ex: gay, straight, lesbian). Caitlin Jenner stated, “sexual orientation is whom you go to bed with. Gender identity is whom you go to bed as.”

Gender Inclusive Pronouns

As of late, zie, zim, zir replace he/she, him/her or his/her. They can be used for any description of males and/or females and are being used more commonly (including by professors at Bucknell!).

Defining LGBTQIA

Lesbian = a female-identifying individual attracted to other female-identifying individuals

Gay = typically describing identifying males attracted to other males, but can also cover anyone attracted to their own sex

Bisexual = individuals attracted to both sexes

Transgender = someone born a different gender than the one that they identify as

Queer = a more general word for someone who

Intersex = a person who is born with a sexual anatomy that does not fit the standard definitions of male and female

Asexual = an individual who is not sexually attracted (or at a very low level) to any sex


We also discussed with GSA president Morgan Muller (also featured this month in Campus Celeb!) on information about GSA and, overall, how to be a better ally in the Bucknell community!

What are ways in which Bucknell students can become better allies?

The Bucknell Gender and Sexuality Alliance has been an extremely welcoming community for my close friends and myself. We welcome and celebrate people of all sexual orientations and genders, and we try to provide events and activities that are interesting and engaging for everyone.

What would be something you would say to students who are interested in joining GSA and how can they become more involved?

I’d highly encourage anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ or wants to learn more about the community to stop by one of our meetings or come to our events. We have a really amazing community of people and we’re always happy to welcome new members. In terms of being an ally, my strongest advice would be to listen to LGBTQ people. Educate yourself using queer sources and don’t ignore your LGBTQ peers when they talk about the discrimination they face. If a queer person gives you advice on how to be an ally or tells you that something you’re doing is hurtful, don’t think you know better. Listen. Second, be actively inclusive. Simply not being actively hateful is not enough to call yourself an ally. It is a journey and you must continually take steps to learn and grow as a person. Engage with and learn from the community and integrate those experiences into your everyday life.


Other helpful tips:

– If you plan events on campus, be mindful of how LGBTQ people will be affected differently by certain aspects of your event.

– Being invited into a space is not the same as being welcomed. Simply allowing LGBTQ people into a space will not necessarily make them feel welcomed or wanted. You must take active steps to make queer and trans people feel truly equal in your organization or group.

– Use your privilege as a straight and/or cisgender ally to call out problematic behavior. Do not let homophobia and transphobia go unaddressed. Queer and trans people often feel unsafe challenging this behavior themselves, so it’s important for allies to step up.

– If you have any questions on how you can be an ally or wish to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, feel free to contact a member of the GSA exec board or Bucknell’s Director of LGBTQ+ services, Bill McCoy.


Emma Sheehy is a senior English major at Bucknell University. Now washed up, she can be seen running around Lewisburg, people watching on the first floor of the library and drinking wine in her apartment. She prefers to send snail mail, call people rather than text (to the dismay of her friends) and loves nighttime walks. To see more of her "stuff" check out her personal blog on life at Bucknell at http://www.emmasheehy.com.
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