Hospital lobby
  • What is gender?

    Society has come up with tons of social and cultural rules attached to someone’s assigned sex at birth. In Western culture, this means two gender categories: boys and girls. These binary expectations based on your body can be overwhelming! Being told how to act, what to wear, what’s considered masculine or feminine- no thank you! But, here’s the truth: gender doesn’t have to be a strict either/or situation. Think of it more as a buffet of choices. You get to pick all the identities, mannerisms, fashion, hobbies, social roles, and personal pronouns that feel good to YOU. 

    Gender presentation is all about discovering and embracing yourself, as you are, without feeling boxed in by societal pressures and norms. Some people are cisgender, which means they feel like their identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. People who are transgender feel most closely aligned with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. Others may find that exploring outside of these labels feels most comfortable and true to themselves. Some people describe this as being non-binary, genderqueer, or a whole host of other terms. It’s also important to remember that people change! What fits someone at one point in their life might evolve into something different later on. Let’s celebrate all explorations and expressions of identity.

  • What about pronouns?

    Pronouns go beyond just grammar - they’re a personal choice reflecting someone’s gender identity. In English, pronouns like she/her and he/him are common, but not everyone feels that these fit. That’s where alternatives come in, such as they/them, which is gender-neutral, or no pronouns at all, with some opting to be referred to by their name. There are also other options like Ze/Hir or Xe/Xir for those seeking something different. 

    It’s all about personal preference, and respecting these choices is crucial for showing respect to others. If you’re unsure of someone’s pronouns, a simple, “What are your pronouns? Mine are ___” does the trick. It’s easy, respectful, invites others to be themselves, and avoids assumptions.

  • I think I might be trans/non-binary. How do I know, what do I do, and where do I go?

    Yay! Discovering you might be trans or non-binary is a significant step in understanding yourself better, and it’s awesome that you’re exploring who you are. Gender diversity adds so much richness to the tapestry of human life and finding your place within it is something to celebrate. Remember, this journey is yours, and you get to dictate its pace and direction. Be patient and kind to yourself. You’re learning about a fundamental part of who you are, and that’s a courageous thing to do. 

    If you’re in your exploration/questioning phase, sometimes trying on a new name, pronouns, or clothing can help you figure out what feels best. Reflecting with journaling or art, or even getting a gender workbook can be helpful. Reading about others’ experiences or meeting other people exploring the same questions can also be really affirming. Your school or city may have an LGBTQ+ club or center with hangout/support groups, and many of these are also online. You can find LGBTQ+ resources on our service finder, as well, just click the link here. 

    If this feels really overwhelming or you’re struggling with your emotions, consider talking about this with someone you trust to have a non-judgmental attitude, or seek support from a therapist or counselor who can provide guidance and help you navigate your journey of self-discovery. A supportive teacher, guardian, or other adult can help you tell others about things like a new name or pronouns, and make sure you are safe and supported.

  • What is sexuality?

    Sexuality and sexual orientation are terms used to describe who you’re attracted to physically, emotionally, and romantically. There are many terms that people use to describe these attractions, including “queer,” which is a term that is often used loosely to encompass many different non-heterosexual or non-cisgender identities. You might have also heard of gay, lesbian, pansexual, bisexual, and demisexual, to name a few. There are also folks who don’t experience these types of attractions, and they might identify as asexual. It’s important to remember that people change! What fits someone at one point in their life might evolve into something different later on.

  • What does queer sex actually look like?

    Queer sex is sex that queer people have. On one hand, it’s as simple as that! But here’s a bit more context. We live in a heteronormative, cisgendered culture, which means that historically, genders were considered binary (male or female); and that “straight” (i.e. heterosexual) sex between males and females was the only way to have sex. But, since the dawn of time, people have been having all different kinds of sex, so this narrow definition doesn't make sense for a lot of people. We tend to think of sex in broad, general terms – there's oral sex, which involves contact between a mouth and penis or vagina; anal sex, which means an anus (butt) is involved; and so much more! Queer sex might mean that there are more than one penis, more than one vagina, and WAY more than one definition of sex.  Really, any form of touching your body or your partner’s body in order to feel good could be considered sex–you get to define it!

  • I have questions about my sexuality. How do I know if I’m queer, what do I do, and where do I go?

    Discovering and understanding your sexual orientation is a personal journey that can take a lifetime. Some people ‘just know’, some people figure it out later in life, and some people change over time. For now, take some time to reflect on your attractions, emotions, and fantasies. If this feels really overwhelming or you’re struggling with your emotions, consider talking about this with someone you trust to have a non-judgmental attitude, or seek support from a therapist or counselor who can provide guidance and help you navigate your journey of self-discovery. It's important to be patient, kind, and accepting of yourself throughout this process. You are the expert on your own feelings and experiences, and it's ultimately up to you to embrace your sexual orientation in a way that feels authentic and true to you!

  • What if I’m not sure how I identify or change my mind about how I identify?

    It’s okay if you don’t want to be labeled. It’s okay if you’re not sure how you identify. And it’s okay if you change your mind. This is all a part of growing up, growing older, building your identity, and discovering who you are! Some people are sexually and/or gender fluid, which means they are less permanently set in their identity and they actually shift their sexuality or gender identity. It can be frustrating to not know where or how you fit in, but try to enjoy the ride as much as possible. Try things out, be kind to yourself and others, and take time to reflect on and honor your feelings.

  • How do I come out as queer if I'm worried about my family and friends' reactions?

    Everybody comes out in different ways, at different times, to different people. There really isn’t a “right way” to come out. You don’t have to come out to anyone you don’t want to, or before you are ready. Maybe you are ready to shout it from the rooftops, (and if so, SHOUT IT!) but that is not always the case for many people. If you are worried about your family and friends’ reactions, think about who you trust to be welcoming and non-judgemental, and come out to them first. If you want more resources on this, we recommend The Coming Out Handbook by the Trevor Project.

  • What if I'm thinking of transitioning?

    There isn’t one way to transition to a different gender; it’s more like an individual journey that you take yourself. There are a few ways to think about beginning to affirm your gender: internal, social, legal, and physical (and this can be medical or non-medical). But remember, transitioning isn’t a requirement for being trans, nonbinary, or having any gender identity. If you’d like to learn more, check out this resource from Planned Parenthood on transitioning.

  • What is gender-affirming care?

    Gender-affirming care is an umbrella term for a whole bunch of services that include mental health care, medical care, and social services. Just like any other form of healthcare for any other person, gender-affirming care helps transgender and non-binary people live safe and healthy lives. 

    • Social services may include things like legally changing your gender marker or name, or protecting your rights in your workplace or housing. 
    • Mental health providers are a great resource to help explore and celebrate your own identity, and support you through any challenges that may arise for you. 
    • Common medical affirming care includes things like hormone medications, surgeries, and hair removal.

  • Do my parents or guardians have to consent to gender-affirming care?

    If you are under 18 in California, your guardian has to consent to hormone prescriptions and surgery. But remember, there are ways to affirm your gender that don’t include hormones. There is other potentially affirming care you can access confidentially. For example, if your period is causing gender dysphoria, you can use a birth control method that stops your period. Your provider may also confidentially help you access things like a binder or gaff that makes clothing fit in a more affirming way for you.

  • How old do I have to be to start hormones as a part of gender-affirming care?

    There is no set age limit for starting hormones with guardian consent. Sometimes people are started on a hormone called a puberty blocker right when their puberty starts. Others are started directly onto estrogen or testosterone hormone treatment if puberty is already underway or complete. The exact hormone plan is a case-by-case basis. If you want to start hormones without guardian consent, then you need to be 18 (which is the age of consent for general medical care) in California.

  • What can I do to explore my gender outside of a medical or mental health setting?

    Exploring and celebrating your identity doesn’t need to include a provider, or even the healthcare system! 

    • Many people find lots of affirmation in choosing clothes or accessories that reflect their identity, trying new haircuts or hairstyles, shaving or growing out body hair, or picking a new name or pronouns. 
    • There are also different clothing accessories designed to help clothing fit in a more affirming way. For example, there are binders that flatten or masculinize a person’s chest appearance, and gaffs that flatten or feminize a person's groin appearance. People also explore packing or stuffing their clothing, which means they use material to create the appearance of more breast tissue or a groin bulge. 
    • Meeting other queer-identified people can also be very affirming and celebratory. Most cities have an LGBTQ+ center that may host social events or more formal support groups. Local restaurants or community spaces also have themed dances, trivia nights, and events to help bring queer people together. Search for these kinds of events in your community!

  • Can I buy hormones online or share hormones with a friend or partner?

    • If you want to take hormones as a part of your gender-affirming care journey, but they aren’t accessible to you, that can be super frustrating. But you should never use unregulated or illegal hormones. 
    • While hormones in general are safe to take, they do require laboratory monitoring to be taken safely. If someone is illegally selling a prescription medicine, this is unmonitored and it is hard to know if it actually contains what they say, or if it is contaminated. 
    • If you are over 18 and your regular doctor won't provide gender care, you can seek out a local planned parenthood, or use one of the several telemedicine options below.

  • Are there any telemedicine options for gender-affirming care?

    Yes! If you live someplace where gender-affirming care is harder to access, aren’t sure how your primary doctor might react, or you simply want the convenience of it - telemedicine can be a great way of finding exactly what you need. Parental/guardian consent is required for youth or adolescent gender care by law, so if you are under 18, you will need consent. Here are some websites for you to explore:

  • If I am on gender-affirming hormones, do I need birth control?

    Gender affirming hormones are not effective birth control options. If you are having sex with sperm and egg involved, or sex that can lead to pregnancy, you should also be thinking about pregnancy prevention. You can talk to your provider about which one(s) would feel good and work alongside your gender-affirming hormone care.

  • Do I need to use a condom if there’s no chance that someone will get pregnant?

    Yes! Condoms are awesome because not only do they help prevent pregnancy, but they also protect people from swapping sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So, if you’re having vaginal or anal sex, it’s still a great idea to use condoms (or dental dams for oral sex) to protect you and your partner from STIs.

  • How do I protect myself from STIs if my partner(s) and I don’t have a penis? (i.e. What are the other protection options besides condoms?)

    • Dental dams are kind of like condoms because they form a barrier between the vagina or anus and the mouth during oral sex. 
    • Make sure you and your partner get tested for STIs regularly (ideally every 3 months).
    • And remember to make sure you've been vaccinated for HPV. If you haven’t, get that started now!