Sexual Identity

College can be an exciting time of personal discovery. Many students come to more clearly understand their sexual orientation/identity while in college, while others enter college with this part of their identity explored and more developed. Wherever you are on your journey of sexual identity, we hope the following information will help. The SJSU LGBT Resource Center is a great place to find community and many discussion groups related to specific topics under the LGBTQ umbrella. We also welcome you to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), where there is a knowledgeable and affirming staff available if you would like to discuss your experience in a confidential space. Personal counselors are available at CAPS in the Student Wellness Center, Room 300B (third floor), to consult, vent, and explore your identity and the coming out process.  Please call us at 408-924-5910 to schedule an appointment or come in to our office.  For emergency/crisis walk-ins our hours are Monday, Thursday and Friday from 8:00am-5:00pm; Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:30am-5:30pm. Please call 408-924-5910 for more information.


  • Ally: A person who is an advocate and supporter of the LGBT community and LGBT individuals.
  • Asexual: A person who is not sexually active and/or is not sexually attracted to others.
  • Biphobia: A fear or hatred of bisexual individuals, which may result in prejudice and discrimination.
  • Bisexual: An individual who is romantically, emotionally, physically, or sexually attracted to two sexes or two genders.
  • Coming Out: Acknowledging and/or declaring one's sexual identity to oneself and/or others.
  • Dyke: A once derogatory term that has been re-claimed as a political statement by some lesbian and bisexual women to identify their sexual identity.
  • Gay: One who is romantically, emotionally, physically, or sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex or gender. Typically refers to masculine-identified individuals who are attracted to other masculine-identified individuals. May also be used as an umbrella-term for LGB people.
  • Heteronormativity: The assumption and norm that all individuals are heterosexually-identified.
  • Heterosexism: The system of oppression that discriminates against LGB individuals. Based on the belief that heterosexuality is superior.
  • Heterosexual: An individual who is romantically, emotionally, physically, or sexually attracted solely to someone of a different sex or gender than their own.
  • Homophobia: A fear or hatred of LGB individuals, which may result in prejudice and discrimination.
  • Homosexual: An individual who is romantically, emotionally, physically, or sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex or gender. This term is most often used in clinical, medical, or religious discussions about sexuality. Thus many LGB individuals may prefer not to be identified with this term.
  • In the closet: Keeping one's sexual identity a secret from others.
  • Lesbian: One who is romantically, emotionally, physically, or sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex or gender. Typically refers to feminine-identified individuals who are attracted to other feminine-identified individuals.
  • LGBTQQIA: Acronym that refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Ally Community
  • Outing: Exposing someone's sexual identity as being LGB.
  • Pansexual: the potential for sexual attractions, sexual desire, or romantic love, towards people of all gender identities and biological sexes
  • Queer: A once derogatory term that has been re-claimed as a political statement. Frequently used as an umbrella-term used to refer to all LGBTQQIA people or individuals who do not identify as heterosexual.
  • Questioning: The individual process of contemplating whether one may be LGBT.
  • Sexual identity/ Sexual orientation: How one identifies with regard to romantic, emotional, physical, or sexual attraction. Based on who one is attracted to.

Please Note: It is very important to respect the way in which individuals identify their sexual identity. Thus, please refrain from making assumptions, but rather ask how others identify and then refer to their identity as such. Also note that these definitions pertain to sexual identity. Although, at times sexual identity and gender identity (how one identifies on the masculine-feminine spectrum) do intersect (sexual identity may influence the label one uses to identify oneself regarding gender and/or sexual orientation), gender identity is an identity that is separate from sexual identity. Please see the gender identity page for gender identity definitions.

Questioning Your Sexual Identity & Coming Out

Questioning your sexual identity and “coming out” (realizing within yourself and/or informing others about your identity) as gay, lesbian, bisexual/pansexual, and/or queer can be very exciting and fun. It involves discovering more about love, romantic relationships, who you are attracted to, and your sexuality. Exploring different identities, and who you are as a person, allows you an opportunity to define yourself on your own terms and to be true to yourself and your desires. As with questioning any aspect of identity, it may also be a stressful time in one's life - at times, discovering your sexual identity can be overwhelming due to the societal pressures and discrimination that some individuals face.

If, and when, you feel that you are ready to come out to others, it is recommended that you first come out to those who are more likely to be supportive. You may also want to find other LGBQ people of your cultural and religious background to seek support from others experiencing similar multicultural identities as you. Your coming out process does not need to follow a specific timeline or happen quickly. It is more important for you to explore who you are and to choose what feels most comfortable to you. Also, be mindful that you do not have to come out to everyone if you do not feel ready.

Navigating your Multicultural Identity

Most of us identify with more than one aspect of our identity. We may identify with a specific racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural group, and/or we may identify with a specific academic or extracurricular field of interest. These aspects of our identities can add additional layers of emotions when combined with identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Sometimes our religious background, family culture, and ethnic backgrounds may provide expectations or ideas for “who we should be” that create an additional layer of complexity as we question our sexuality. For example, many people struggle within themselves when they are attracted to a same-sex partner and also identify with a cultural or religious group that is not accepting of LGBQ people. Many students find comfort in talking with others who are experiencing the same combinations of identities, for example Asian American queer identified students or Christian LGBQ students. Some of these groups exist at San Jose State! (See the resource list above.) No matter how you are feeling, know that you are not alone, and if you are feeling confused or stuck, consider visiting Counseling Services to talk things through with someone knowledgeable and supportive.

Athletic Identity as an LGBQ Person

Playing sports is an important part of the educational experience for many people. Prejudice and discrimination still limit access to sport, and experience of sport participation. Making sure that sport is a safe and respectful place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is an on-going quest for sport equality. Many LGBQ identified sportspeople hide their identities and endure anti-gay prejudice, discrimination, and fear that the discovery of their sexual identity or gender identity would put an end to their careers in sports. Many LGBQ athletes have had to exchange invisibility for the opportunity to compete and coach. However, while there are many reports of invisibility, there are also opportunities to come out to a supportive team and/or teammates, and have a positive environment that fosters respect and acceptance. The below articles and references bring to light some of the LGBQ identified athletes within the sporting world, the opportunities to have conversations with coaches and teammates about LGBQ identities, and the impact that sexual identity may have on career in sport and personal identity outside of sport.

Websites & Books



Campus Support at SJSU

  • LGBT Resource Center:
    • LGBTQQIA Discussion Group

      This group is co-sponsored by Counseling Services and the LGBT Resource Center. SJSU students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, gender variant, and transgender are welcome.

    • LGBT Resource Center

      The campus respurce center provides numerous activities including: game night, social events, political events, student groups based on cultural identity, and trans/gender variant student groups. The office can also provide a list of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Stop by Building BB for more information. The center is located in Building BB. Contact Bonnie Sugiyama ( for more information.

    • Peers In Pride:

      This mentoring program pairs returning SJSU LGBTQQI-identified students with incoming (first year and transfer) LGBTQQI students. Students interested in mentoring or being matched with a mentor can contact one of the two sponsoring agencies: Counseling Services ( or the LGBT Resource Center (

    • QTIP (Queers Thoughtfull Interrupting Prejudice)External Link that Will Take User Outside SJSU Domain

      This student group coordinates many political and social activities on campus. Meetings are held weekly.

Community Support in San Jose

  • South Bay Queer and Asian - Offers a safe and fun environment for queer APIs in the south bay to discuss their identities as API LGBTQQI, and to be visible in the greater community:
  • PFLAG - Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays:
  • Billy DeFrank Center - Aims to provide community resources and support to LGBTQQI individuals by promoting health, inclusiveness, diversity, and other support services. Has an LGBTQQI youth program (25-years-old and younger) as well as other community events (e.g., Bingo):
  • Prolatino - Non-profit organization offering educational programs and STD prevention programs to GLBT community members in Santa Clara County. Support and empowerment to LGBT Latino individuals who are at high risk, or are living with, HIV/AIDS: