Supporting Gender Identity: A Beginner’s Guide for Friends, Family, and University Staff

Amber Hager, MA
Dec. 1, 2014

Gender what?

Gender identity: the internal sense that you have of your own gender, which is not as simple as it may seem to some.  Perhaps you know someone who is transgender, gender-nonconforming, gender non-binary, or gender fluid, or maybe you have read about or seen someone on TV who identifies this way; however, perhaps you do not know (or do not think you know) anyone who identifies as anything but cisgender (when one’s gender identity and gender assigned at birth are congruent).  Perhaps you are confused by all the different terms that have appeared in just a few sentences- that is okay, because this is exactly what this article will address, so read on!

Gender identity is not as simple as a doctor labeling someone a girl or a boy at birth, and we know this because not everyone who is assigned boy or girl at birth grows up to identify as male or female, respectively.  While we may intellectually understand this, we may still face challenges, judgments, or biases in understanding and celebrating gender fluidity in our friends, family, students, and colleagues.  What is important to understand is that transgender people face considerable discrimination, risk of poverty, risk of suicide and suicide attempts, and employment discrimination, and these risks are increased for transgender people of color.(1) Because of these risks, and because there is evidence that more transgender or gender non-conforming students are visible on college campuses, it is vital to provide support and campus resources for these students.(2)

Where to begin?

A thorough explanation of terms and recommendations is not possible in a short article, but the following is a short and non-exhaustive list of suggestions and resources as a starting point.

Do your research.

As noted earlier, there are a variety of terms that are associated with gender identity (as well as with sexual orientation, which will not be covered here, but is often lumped together with gender identity).  Instead of expecting someone to educate you on their identity, try seeking out your own information.  Here are some websites that can help:

Be respectful of an individual’s affirmed gender identity, name, and pronouns. When in doubt, ask! You may be afraid of making a mistake or offending someone, but continuously misgendering someone can be upsetting and non-supportive. It is as simple as saying: what gender pronouns do you identify with? A term to avoid is preference, which is sometimes used to describe sexual orientation and gender identity that differs from majority identities (such as heterosexual and cisgender). Preferences apply to things like music, food, and TV shows, and is not an appropriate way to describe someone’s identity.

Be an ally and advocate. Whether you’re a family member, friend, or university staff or faculty member, you can help improve the life of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals by being open about your support of gender identity diversity and making yourself aware of the issues and services that are relevant the transgender community, including those on college campuses. (2) Speak up when you hear someone saying something offensive, advocate for policies that improve the campus climate for gender non-conforming students, listen to the voices of those students, and make yourself aware of the resources on campus and in the community that serve the transgender community. (2, 3)

Get additional support if needed. As noted, this may all be new and it may take time to incorporate new information into your way of understanding the world. Seek out assistance by talking to a counselor who has knowledge of gender identity diversity, finding a support group for those with a transgender loved one, or finding an online community for support.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS; can provide counseling to students and consultation to staff and faculty on gender identity, as well as provide trainings on LGBTQ issues and workshops on becoming an ally.

On-campus Resources:

Gender & Sexuality Center

LGBTQ Support and Educational Services

The Intercultural Center


1: Grant , J. M. , Mottet , L. A. , Tanis , J. , Harrison , J. , Herman , J. L. , & Keisling , M. ( 2011 ). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey . Washington , DC : National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force .

2: Beemyn, B. (2003). Serving the needs of transgender college students. Journal of gay & lesbian issues in education, 1(1), 33-50.

3: McKinney, J. S. (2005). On the margins: A study of the experiences of transgender college students. Journal of gay & lesbian issues in education, 3(1), 63-76.

Sexual Assault Reporting

Callisto-College Sexual Assault Reporting

CALLISTO is a college sexual assault reporting website specifically designed and available for USF students to connect to resources, learn about reporting options, and to create a secure, private record of what happened to them. 


If you are in the midst of an emergency, please call USF Public Safety at 415-422-2911.

Medical Care

If you need immediate medical attention, please visit:
Trauma Recovery Center / Rape Treatment Center(TRC/RTC)
San Francisco General Hospital
2727 Mariposa St., #100
San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 437-3011

On-Campus Free and Confidential Support:

USF Counseling and Psychological Services(CAPS)
Gilson Hall, Lower Level
(415) 422-6352

University Ministry (ask to speak to a clergy member)
Toler Hall, Lower Level
(415) 422-4463

San Francisco Resources

San Francisco Women Against Rape: (415) 647-7273 or

Community United Against Violence (CUAV) - (415) 333-4357 Serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning communities

Domestic Violence - Riley's Center Crisis Line - (415) 255-0165 Advocates available for victims of domestic violence

La Casa de las Madres - Adults – (877) 503-1850;
Teens – (877) 923-0700
Counseling, information, resources, and referrals for survivors of domestic violence

Rape Treatment Center - (415) 437-3000
Those who have suffered from trauma, violence, and loss

Suicide Prevention - (415) 781-0500 Helping people who are having suicidal thoughts

WOMAN, Inc. - (415) 864-4722
Serving battered women in San Francisco and the larger Bay Area

24-Hour Crisis Lines

National Domestic Violence Hotline - (800) 799-SAFE
Advocates available for victims of domestic violence

National Sexual Assault Hotline - (800) 656-HOPE
Advocates available for victims of sexual assault

Victim of Crime Resource Center - (800) 842-8467
McGeorge law students provide resource and referral information to victims and their families, victim service providers, and other victim advocates.

Youth Crisis Line - (800) 843-5200
Youth needing assistance or in crisis situations

Digital Abuse

Domestic/Dating/Intimate Partner Violence

Abused Women's Services, Marin

(415) 924-6616 (crisis)
(415) 924-3456 (Spanish crisis line)

(415) 457-2464 (main office)

(415) 457-2421 (TTY)

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Intimate Partner Violence

Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse(CORA), San Mateo
Languages: English and Spanish
(800) 300-1080 or (650) 312-8515 (crisis)

(650) 259-1855 (legal services line for victims only)

(650) 652-0800 (office)

Languages: South Asian languages
(800) 215-7308 (help-line message machine will return calls in 24 hours)

(510) 444-6068 (office)

National Institute of Justice: Intimate Partner Violence

Office for Victims of Crime
Domestic and Family Violence

A Safe Place, Oakland

(510) 536-7233 (crisis)

(510) 986-8600 (office)

Shalom Bayit
Counseling for Jewish Women

(866) SHALOM-7 (help-line toll free)

(510) 451-8874 (office)

STAND! against Domestic Violence, Concord

(925) 676-2845 (office)

(888) 215-5555 (crisis)

Victim of Crime Resource Center
(800) 842-8467

Health Services

HealthRight 360
558 Clayton St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 746-1950

Lyon Martin Health Services
Provides health care to women, lesbians, and transgender people
1748 Market St, Suite 201
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 565-7667 

San Francisco City Clinic
356 7th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 487-5500

San Francisco Free Clinic
4900 California St.
(Cross street 11th Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 750-9894

Trauma Recovery Center / Rape Treatment Center(TRC/RTC)
San Francisco General Hospital
2727 Mariposa St. #100
San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 437-3011

Women's Community Clinic
1833 Fillmore St, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 379-7800 

Law Enforcement

San Francisco Police Department
Emergency: 911
Non-Emergency: (415) 553-0123

Note: When calling 911 on a cellular phone near a highway, the call is connected to The California Highway Patrol (CHP) dispatch center. In other areas in San Francisco, the call will connect directly to SF dispatch. You can also dial directly to SF dispatch: (415) 553-8090

Legal Help

Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic(CROC)

(415) 864-1790 (office)

(415) 252-2844 (intake line)

US Department of Justice, Office of Violence against Women

US Department of Justice, Defending Childhood

U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
(regional office)
50 Beale St., Suite 7200

San Francisco, CA 94105

(415) 486-5555
(877) 521-2172

U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
(national office)
(800) 872-5327

Victim Services Division(SF DA’s Office)
850 Bryant St. #320
San Francisco, CA 94103

(415) 553-9044

Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (call for available intake times)


Community United Against Violence(CUAV)
427 South Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94103

(415) 333-4357 (safety line)
(415) 777-5500 (office
Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Male Survivors

Male Survivor

Sexual Assault / Rape

Bay Area Women Against Rape(BAYWAR)
470 27th St.
Oakland, CA 94612

(510) 845-7273 (24-hour crisis line)
(510) 430-1298 (office
Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

California Coalition Against Sexual Assault(CALCASA)
1215 K. St., Suite 1850

Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 446-2520

Rape Abuse & Incest National Network(RAINN)
(800) 656-HOPE (4673)

San Francisco Women Against Rape(SFWAR)
3543 18th St. #7
San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 647-7273 (24-hour hotline)
(415) 861-2024 (office)

Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Trauma Recovery Center / Rape Treatment Center(TRC/RTC)
San Francisco General Hospital
2727 Mariposa St., #100
San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 437-3011


Asian Women's Shelter
Languages: multiple Asian languages spoken

(415) 751-0880 (crisis)
(877) 751-0880 (crisis)

(415) 751-7110 (office)

La Casa de las Madres
Languages: Spanish and English

(415) 503-0500 (office)

(877) 503-1850 (crisis)

(877) 923-0700 (teen line)

Riley Center and Emergency Shelter

(415) 255-0165 (crisis)

(415) 552-2943 (office)



(866) 331-9474
text "loveis" to 22522

Stalking Resource Center

Street Harassment

Cards Against Harassment

Hollaback!(San Francisco)

Stop Street Harassment(San Francisco)
(571) 449-7326

Other Support Organizations

A Call To Men

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

Men Can Stop Rape

My Strength

Office on Women's Health