Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom an individual is sexually and romantically attracted, this can include attraction to individuals of one's own sex, other sex, and/or both sexes.

Please be aware of the following resources that provide important information regarding your rights, including federal and state laws, as well as campus resources to assist students, staff, and faculty.

Federal & State Laws, Definitions & Resources


Faculty & Staff*

Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity, the EEOC and courts have said that sex discrimination includes discrimination based on an applicant or employee's gender identity or sexual orientation.

Campus Resources


Check out these 5 easy steps for how to be a better ally to LGBTQ+ people, provided by the Human Rights Campaign!

  1. Be honest: It's important to be honest with yourself - acknowledging your feelings and coming to terms with them. And it means being honest with the person who came out in your life - acknowledging you aren't an expert, asking them what's important to them, seeking resources to better understand the realities of being an LGBT individual so that you can be truly informed and supportive.
  2. Send gentle signals: Showing and sharing your acceptance and support can be very easy. Many people often don't realize that LGBT people watch for signs from their friends, family and acquaintances about whether it is safe to be open with them. It can be as subtle as having a LGBT-themed book on your coffee table.
  3. Have courage: Just as it takes courage for LGBT people to be open and honest about who they are, it also takes courage to support your LGBT friends or loved ones. We live in a society where prejudice still exists and where discrimination is still far too common. Recognizing these facts and giving your support to that person will take your relationship to a higher level and is a small step toward a better and more accepting world.
  4. Be reassuring: Explain to someone who came out to you that their sexual orientation or gender identity has not changed how you feel about them, but it might take a little while for you to digest what they have told you. You still care for and respect them as much as you ever have or more. And that you want to do right by them and that you welcome them telling you if anything you say or do is upsetting.
  5. Let your support inform your decisions: It's about working to develop a true understanding of what it means to be LGBT in America and trying to do your part to help break down the walls of prejudice and discrimination that still exist - for example, by supporting businesses with appropriate anti-discrimination policies, saying that you don't appreciate "humor" that demeans LGBT people when it happens or learning about where political candidates stand on issues that have an impact on the LGBT community.

Human Rights Campaign offers a resourceful guide that answers initial questions and shares facts, strategies, and ways to show your support as an ally in the fight for LGBT equality. 

Definitions of Terminology Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity**

  •  Agender - People who do not identify themselves as belonging to a particular gender
  •  Asexual - People who are not interested in or do not desire sexual activity
  •  Bisexual - A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or toward people regardless of their gender
  • Cisgender - A person whose personal identity and gender corresponds to their same-sex assigned at birth
  • Gay - A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender
  • Gender - A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity
  • Gender Expression - How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress, mannerisms, and/or behaviors that society characterizes as "masculine" or "feminine"
  • Gender Non-Conforming - People who do not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society
  • Gender Queer - A person's whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant social norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders or is some combination of them
  • Heterosexual/Straight - A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of a gender other than their own
  • Intersex - A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male
  • Lesbian - A woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender
  • Transgender - Used most often as an umbrella term; for someone whose gender identity or expression does not fit within dominant group social constructs of assigned sex and gender; a gender outside man/woman binary
  • Trans Man/Trans Male - A female-to-male (FTM) transgender person who was assigned female at birth, but whose gender identity is that of a man
  • Trans Woman/Trans Female - A male-to-female (MTF) transgender person who was assigned male at birth, but whose gender identity is that of a woman

Please note, The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is committed to creating and maintaining an educational, working, and living environment that is free from discrimination and harassment. University programs, activities, and facilities are available to all without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, physical or mental disability, religion, protected veteran status, genetic information, personal appearance, or any other legally protected class.

*Source: UMD Office of Civil Right & Sexual Misconduct

**Adapted from the University of California Office of the President.