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By Dr. Tiffany Lange, Psy.D. (she/her/hers)

In a society where conformity is expected and non-conformity must be “explained”, there are many misperceptions about the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and related identities) community. Biology and nature are not binary categories, our world is full of spectrums. Yet, society often oversimplifies people and identities into binary categories: we’re either “this” or “that.” Known as social categorization, this tendency is the foundation of stereotypes and prejudice because it leads to viewing a single individual as representative of an entire group of people.

The LGBTQ+ community is diverse with unique needs and the language used to explain identity is constantly evolving. Some terms that may have been common in the past are increasingly being updated to reflect current knowledge more accurately. Since changes in language occur gradually over time, it is essential to move beyond the binary and prioritize learning about the natural variation of the human experience across identity continuums (i.e., sexual orientation, sex assigned at birth/biological sex, gender identity, and gender expression; a useful teaching tool for explaining the identity continuums is “The Genderbread Person”).

A foundational way to challenge the societal binary is through language; the words we use communicate our assumptions, biases, viewpoints, and openness to learning. Consider the ways that the English language can exclude the LGBTQ+ community by making assumptions (also known as heteronormativity or cisnormativity), especially in our use of pronouns; some examples include greeting a group of people by saying, “Hey guys!”, or asking about someone’s husband/wife instead of the gender-neutral terms of “spouse” or “partner.” Using inclusive language in our daily interactions – even before we know someone’s identity – reinforces and affirms the diversity of people.

Society has made significant strides in the visibility and understanding of LGBTQ+ identities however, many of our systems remain binary. A prominent example of this occurs within the armed forces in which performance and grooming standards are based upon a binary view of sex: “male” or “female”. Even with current open military service for sexual orientation and gender identity, the spectrum of the human experience remains confined to binary categories. As such, there remain several barriers and obstacles in affirming LGBTQ+ identities when our systems continue to be based on binary assumptions.

While you’ll never fully know someone’s identity and lived experience, you can remain an active listener and trust what people share. Consistently updating your understanding of the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community can better prepare you to interact with individuals across identity continuums and become an effective ally. Furthermore, taking a lifelong learner stance can help you to promote inclusivity while creating safe spaces for everyone.

We want to thank Dr. Lange for contributing to our OneOp blog posts! Stay tuned for more potential guest contributions throughout 2023 and 2024. For access to all of OneOp’s blog posts, see a list of all our blog posts here.

Blog Post Image: [Airmen Celebrate Pride Month by Master Sgt. Joe Harwood, June 6th, 2021, CC0]


Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.) Glossary of terms. HRC Foundation. Retrieved from:

LoBue, V. (2022). Why we sort people into boxes. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: (n.d.). What and why pronouns matter. Retrieved from:

This blog post is a guest blog contribution from Dr. Tiffany Lange, PsyD (she/her/hers). Dr. Lange is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and earned a doctoral degree from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. She completed an advanced fellowship in Women’s and LGBTQ+ Health within the Veterans Health Administration and has served in senior leadership roles in non-profit, government, and private healthcare organizations. Dr. Lange presented in two webinars for OneOp entitled “Providing Affirmative Care to the LGBTQ+ Military Community” and “Care Considerations for the Transgender and Gender-Diverse Military Community.”