My “what is” series was initially designed to understand terms that are sometimes viewed as social justice jargon. However, as this series has gone on, I’ve come to realize that it is not just terms, but also acronyms, at times, that make people feel a little confused or lost.
One such acronym is TGNC. This acronym stands for transgender and gender nonconforming.
Before going any further in this post, it is worth defining what the terms transgender and gender nonconforming mean, as well as defining what birth sex, gender, and gender identity are:
While gender can be a challenge to define, the best definition I’ve heard about gender (in relation to one’s birth sex) is that birth sex is “between the legs” while gender is “between the ears.” In other words, birth sex refers to the sex one is assigned at birth, based on one’s body parts (e.g. seeing a penis and determining that it is a boy; hence, between the legs). As for gender, it refers to one’s own sense of how they align internally with masculinity, femininity, a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither masculinity or femininity (hence, between the ears).
A person’s gender identity is a person’s sense of what they understand their gender to be.
A transgender individual is someone whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
A gender nonconforming individual is someone whose gender doesn’t conform to the norms expected of them based on the sex they were assigned at birth.
This acronym is that it is meant to cover people who do not have the experience of feeling like they have a gender identity that falls perfectly in line with the sex they were assigned at birth. In other words, it’s an acronym that covers transgender and gender nonconforming people.
Even though not everyone who identifies as transgender also identifies as gender nonconforming, and even though not everyone who is gender nonconforming identifies as transgender, the TGNC acronym can still be useful. The reason is that many TGNC individuals, regardless of whether they identify as transgender or gender nonconforming, have that shared experience of being treated awkwardly or poorly, in one way or another, because of their gender identity. And, speaking as someone who knows a number of people in that community, many of those experiences are similar, whether you are transgender or gender nonconforming. In a way, the TGNC acronym is one meant to capture people with two different identities who have, in many cases, similar experiences.
A few of my readers may ask the following: What about people who identify as non-binary? After all, individuals who are non-binary—people who feel they don’t fall into one of the typical “binary” categories for gender (male and female)—also have that experience of feeling like their gender does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth (an experience shared with transgender and gender nonconforming people). To answer this question, TGNC is usually the acronym I see when talking about people with the aforementioned experiences, which is why my “what is” post is on what TGNC stands for. However, some prefer to use the acronym of TGNCNB (transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary), in order to include individuals who identify as non-binary. Regardless of which acronym you prefer, we should not lose sight of the use of this acronym, which is to talk about people with a shared experience not held by people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.
So, with all of this in mind, I wish individuals in the LGBTQ+ community a Happy Pride Month in June, and I hope individuals not in the LGBTQ+ community come away from this post a little better informed than they were before reading this.
 I should note that how one presents oneself in terms of clothes, makeup (or a lack thereof), hair, etc., doesn’t necessarily determine one’s gender identity, though for some how they present themselves can relate to how they identify themselves gender-wise.
I was absolutely overwhelmed with the response to my “what is” post last week about gaslighting. I never know when a post will resonate with my readers, and I could tell that my post resonated with quite a few of you. It’s unfortunate that so many related to the post because of their experiences as victims of gaslighting, but I’m also hopeful that some people will come to a better understanding of their experiences through reading that post.
However, I think it is worth doing a follow-up post because of things I’ve learned even since last Monday, and things people should learn as well, about gaslighting in contexts other than one-on-one relationships with other people.
In saying this, it is worth remembering that gaslighting is “a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions.”
Phrases like the following can be commonplace:
“Of course that didn’t happen. You’re being crazy.”
“Your mind must be playing games.”
“It’s all in your head.”
“You’re being too sensitive.”
These challenges to one’s reality, memory, and perceptions happen a lot in relationships, as I said in my post last Monday, but they can also happen in other contexts.
One other context in which gaslighting can happen is politics—something that a couple of the comments in response to my post pointed out last Monday. When a politician makes a person, or a whole group of people, question their own reality, that is political gaslighting. In fact, as controversial as it may be for me to say this, I think that the American people are a victim of President Donald Trump’s gaslighting regarding the election results—he is trying to get the entire country to doubt the basic reality that he lost, so that he could be president for four more years (or for life). Thankfully, no amount of gaslighting can result in giving Trump an election that he undoubtedly lost, but in the meantime the American people have to deal with the fact that he has successfully convinced a group of people of a reality that simply does not exist. And, when you have someone with a large platform who engages in an act of political gaslighting, the result is that a group of people gets convinced of a reality that does not exist (as is the case here with the election and President Trump).
Yet another context that gaslighting can exist is in the experiences of people with disabilities, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and other groups that face discrimination. Reading a post from Jackie at Disability & Determination helped me recognize that gaslighting absolutely exists in this context. Jackie’s post talked about gaslighting in the context of the disability community—it is painfully common in the disability community for someone to question or doubt the reality that there are certain things you aren’t able to do, or at least not do in the same way, as an able-bodied individual (or dismiss the reality of the disability in general). It can exist in the context of LGBTQ+ individuals through people who counter their perceptions of their sexual or gender identity, in the context of Black people through people who try to divert attention to how difficult they also have things in life, in the context of poor people by countering any notion that they are working hard yet struggling to still get by (saying that they simply need to work harder), and much more. Groups of people face discrimination and are gaslit about their own experiences of discrimination—a double whammy.
There may be other major manifestations of gaslighting that I did not cover either in last week’s post or this post; if so, please let me know in the comments section below. However, it is clear to me now that in addition to gaslighting rearing its ugly head in relationships, it can also rear its ugly head in other forms, such as in politics and the experiences of people in groups that face discrimination.
Back in February, I said that on my blog, I would publish posts on major issues relevant to the election that are either misunderstood or not talked about as much as they should be.
By working on such posts, I found myself getting some insights into the upcoming election for President of the United States that I would otherwise not have. Because of those insights, as well as the fact that my blog talks about injustices that need to be addressed, I thought I would end these posts by talking about who I will vote for and why.
I’m voting for Joe Biden because, of all the candidates in the race, I think he gives the best shot at playing a role in addressing injustices. His past track record, while imperfect, gives me that belief.
On the issue of ableism and disability justice, Biden cosponsored some important legislation on this issue. He was a Senate cosponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was landmark legislation for people with disabilities. Earlier in his Senate career, he cosponsored the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which required equal educational access in all public schools for kids with physical and mental disabilities. While there is still much to do to make all corners of our country as accessible as they need to be, the passage of these laws, which was made a bit easier by Biden’s support and cosponsorship in both cases, was nevertheless useful. His support of such legislation gives me hope that with disability rights issues, he would reject the argument that something is “too expensive” or “too impractical” to be made accessible—arguments I often hear against making certain things accessible.
Those who are familiar with human trafficking issues would know that arguably the most important piece of American legislation when it comes to anti-human trafficking laws is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)—without its existence, traffickers couldn’t be prosecuted as easily, and victims wouldn’t be protected as easily. The person who introduced the reauthorization of the Act in the Senate in 2008 was…Joe Biden. As someone who used to help with anti-human trafficking education myself, I think it’s important for me to set the record straight on this issue because it has only come up in this election in the context of a sex trafficking conspiracy theory (one that Trump has praised the supporters of) that has complicated the work of organizations that are trying to combat human trafficking.
Speaking of Biden authoring things, while his authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill was controversial in many ways, one major positive of that overarching bill was the Violence Against Women Act, which among other things helped establish a Domestic Violence Hotline. A hotline that has come of great use during the pandemic exists in large part due to Biden’s efforts.
On environmental issues, Biden, while not perfect, is still eons better than Trump. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has a scorecard that grades politicians based on which environmental measures they do or do not support, as well as which environmental regulatory rollbacks they do and do not support. Biden’s lifetime score is 83%, which is not as good as the 91% held by Bernie Sanders or the 96% held by Elizabeth Warren. But, his main opponent is Trump, who in LCV’s own words, said about Trump’s environmental grade in his first year in office that: “However, to simply award Trump an ‘F’ does not come close to capturing both the breadth and depth of his administration’s assault on environmental protections and the harm it is causing communities across the country – all to provide favors to the wealthiest corporate polluting interests.”
These are some of the positive things on Joe Biden’s record, and I’m not even coming close to mentioning all the positive things (just a few that should be highlighted). However, as I said, his record is not perfect. I mentioned his Crime Bill on my blog, which is part of a larger dubious record he has when it comes to racial justice issues; there’s also the fact that he supported restrictions that prevented openly gay individuals from serving in the military, supported the Defense of Marriage Act (restricting marriage so that it’s between one man and one woman), and poorly handled the Anita Hill hearing, to name a few of the more problematic parts of his record. A charitable view of Biden’s record is that when someone is in public service for nearly five decades, there are bound to be some major mistakes within that record. A less charitable view would look at his record as evidence of his being a person who would add to injustices, instead of resolving them.
I tend to take a line down the middle—yes, he’s been in public service for a long time, but he does have some injustices to answer to. He has answered by expressing regret for how he handled the Anita Hill situation as well as for past anti-LGBTQ+ positions and the Crime Bill.
More cynical individuals may think that such expressions of regret are just for political expediency and/or are woefully inadequate; I most certainly understand the cynicism because politics can be so cynical at times. However, unlike President Trump, Biden has demonstrated the capacity to not just apologize but back it up with actions to show that he has learned from past mistakes. Of note was the fact that not only did he end up regretting his past positions that were unsupportive of LGBTQ+ rights, but he backed it up by: a) supporting same-sex marriage and b) forcing President Obama’s hand on support of same-sex marriage (by the admission of Obama administration officials). On a number of issues, but particularly racial justice, I sincerely hope that Biden demonstrates a similar capacity to back up his remorse for certain past stances of his (such as authoring the Crime Bill) with action (such as trying to find solutions to the issue of mass incarceration against people of color that many believe he helped create).
Even with the positives I found with Biden, some may be wondering why I’m not suggesting voting for a third party or not voting at all. Especially since I live in New York, some might argue that I could do either without having an impact on the election.
The answer is that I am voting third party, as I will be voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line (a third party that exists in some states, including New York). I think that it is important for me to vote for Biden and I think it is important for third parties to have a voice as well—by voting for Biden on the Working Families Party line, it’s the best of both worlds as far as I am concerned.
I also never considered not voting. I never considered that for two reasons: first, because I was able to distinguish key differences between Trump and Biden on issues that matter to me; and second, because I want my voice to be heard on local elections too (even though all my seats locally are heavily Democratic overall).
So there’s my breakdown of how I judged between the two major party candidates, and how I decided to vote for Biden. While I’m not as enthusiastic about Biden as some people are, I’ve concluded that it’s the best choice out of all the choices presented to me in this election from the standpoint of addressing injustices. And, given the fact that Biden seems more willing than Trump to follow the science when it comes to COVID, it’s a choice that I hope will save some lives.
I will be interested to hear others’ thoughts on the election, though! Feel free to comment below.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this post are my opinions alone and does not represent an endorsement by any organization with which I am associated.
 I know many people have already voted. But this post is directed at those who have not already voted (or those who have but are curious to hear what I have to say).
 I am focusing on his past track record because I think looking at a track record of nearly five decades can be instructive in determining what sorts of issues he may stand for in the next 4-8 years—potentially even more instructive than looking at his platform.
 I am not going to use tons of space in this post talking about Trump. There are lots of posts on the internet talking about Trump’s negatives. Instead, I’m going to use space here to talk about some positive elements of Biden’s record, because it’s important not just to vote against someone, but for someone.
As readers can probably guess by the content I have on my blog, I am LGBTQ+-affirming and do the best I can to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. When I say that I am affirming, it means that I believe that LGBTQ+ identity is valid, that a consensual same-sex relationship is not wrong, and that a change in gender identity can be in the best interests of someone’s mental health (to name a few key items).
However, it was not always that way. In fact, for a long time, it was the opposite—I was highly rejecting of anyone who identified themselves as being in the LGBTQ+ community. Given how divided many opinions still are on LGBTQ+ issues, and given the lessons that I think can be drawn from my story, I am opening up on here (after lots of encouragement from friends) about my journey from rejecting to affirming of LGBTQ+ individuals.
As many people know, I am a Christian. More specifically, I am a Catholic Christian. Growing up, two of the things I heard over and over again were that homosexual actions are a sin and that changing your body from the way it was created is also sinful. I never heard a single Christian say otherwise until I started to know fellow Christians who, like me, were affirming of people with LGBTQ+ identity—something that only happened in the last few years. I wasn’t taught about things like same-sex marriage and changing one’s gender identity as anything other than as a sin.
Given that fact, when I did talk about LGBTQ+ issues in high school and for some of college, what I said reflected what I had heard. For example, just as the things I was taught were against same-sex marriage, I gave a speech in front of a class at a summer camp that was also against same-sex marriage. The homophobia of that speech is one of the biggest regrets of my life, and I sincerely hope that speech didn’t emotionally harm anyone who listened.
So, what changed with me? Actually, a number of personal events and happenings listed here (not in chronological order), as well as some personal events and happenings not listed here, helped change the way I thought about LGBTQ+ issues:
On multiple occasions, I felt a call from God to reach out to someone who just so happens to identify as LGBTQ+ with encouragement, support, and love. That call from God was on multiple occasions quite possibly the difference between life and death for the person I reached out to. Yes, I’m saying that there are people who might not be alive today if I remained homophobic and transphobic.
Speaking of people who are not alive today, I learned a few months ago about a blogger I followed who died by suicide, and apparently one of the contributing factors in them deciding to take their life was how others treated them for identifying as transgender. This reinforced to me (as if I needed any further reinforcement) the fact that the way we treat LGBTQ+ people can literally be the difference between life and death.
Even when love and support was not the difference between life and death, that posture of love and support still made a major difference. For example, my friend Joe, who I first got to know because of a mentor-mentee program that my college’s chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship had with a chapter of InterVarsity that was trying to form on another nearby campus, had struggled with the fact that he’s gay. However, he came out to me, and since then, I can tell that his coming out to me helped him love himself for who he is.
Speaking of Joe, it has also helped to get to know friends (including Joe) who identify as LGBTQ+. Getting to know LGBTQ+ people changed my perspective in so many ways, ranging from my exposure to the harm caused by homophobia and transphobia, to my exposure to various LGBTQ+ terms I had not known of before (something that Joe, to his credit, worked with me on…a lot).
I used terms such as love and support throughout these four events and happenings. Therefore, one may be tempted to ask: “Brendan, why then are you affirming instead of loving but not affirming?”
While the personal events I mentioned above were certainly helpful in forming my current attitudes, learning various facts about LGBTQ+ topics and mental health also helped solidify my mindset. For example, I learned that gender-affirming procedures significantly improve mental health outcomes for people who identify as transgender. I also learned that being in a legally-recognized same-sex relationship, and particularly a marriage, appears to have positive mental health outcomes for those couples. Given my experience with having LGBTQ+ friends on the brink of suicide, as well as my awareness of the statistics when it comes to LGBTQ+ people and suicide, I am all for anything that can decrease the chances of suicide.
This is my story on how I became affirming, but why should my story matter? For a while, I wasn’t sure why (or if) my story would matter, and I certainly didn’t want to drown out the voices of people who tell their stories of being LGBTQ+; these were two major reasons why it took this long for me to share. However, I think that there is value in this story for people struggling with LGBTQ+ theology, and for people who are LGBTQ+ and struggling to find people who they can talk with. I also think that the extent to which homophobia and transphobia harms people is a “blind injustice.” Most of all, I think there is value in showing how much of an impact we can have when we let love win.
This post is dedicated to the memory of the aforementioned blogger who took their life. In their second-to-last tweet on Twitter, one of the things they asked for after they were gone was for people to love everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
If you are an LGBTQ+ individual in immediate crisis (regardless of whether you are a runaway, are contemplating suicide, or are finding yourself in some other difficult situation), I encourage you to consult this list of hotlines compiled by PFLAG: https://pflag.org/hotlines
 I believe that it was a call from God for me to do what I did. That being said, I understand that there are skeptics and nonbelievers who might be reading this. If you are among the skeptics or nonbelievers, the purpose of the usage of God here is not to convert you to my faith, but to show you how my faith played a major role in my story.
 I followed this blogger for a relatively short period of time, so I don’t know what the blogger’s preferred pronouns were. Therefore, I’m going with gender-neutral they/them pronouns here.
 I got Joe’s stamp of approval to share all that I share about him here.
 One of the most well-known aspects of Catholic theology is the commitment to all human life, from conception to natural death. This refrain is usually used for abortion, but this refrain is relevant to me for LGBTQ+ issues as well, since I realize that our treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals can make the difference between life and death.
Over the past several months, I have written posts about stereotypes associated with some of the major identities in the LGBTQ+ community; namely, stereotypes associated with identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.
When I started this series, I planned for it to coincide with a number of big events this calendar year, such as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June, but I had no idea quite how much this series would coincide with some other major events related to the LGBTQ+ community. For example, in July, Olympian Caster Semenya, an athlete born with intersex traits, was barred from defending her world title in the 800-meter race; that was part of why my post on intersex stereotypes weighed in on whether Semenya was being unfairly treated. I was also unaware that, before the end of this series, the United States Supreme Court would start yet another term where LGBTQ+ issues were up for consideration. There were probably other things that came up between the beginning of this series and now, but those two developments come to my mind.
If anything, these events show that understanding yet rejecting these stereotypes associated with different groups in the LGBTQ+ community is as important as ever. The rights, livelihoods, and lives of many people in the LGBTQ+ community depend on our rejecting such stereotypes.