Figuring out who you are, in relation to your gender and sexuality, can be a long and painful process. For some people, it happens long before/during adolescence whilst, for others, it can happen much later in life. Having an identity that doesn’t align with being heterosexual, being cisgender or the gender binary can feel extremely challenging. Whether you yourself are questioning your identity, or you are someone that is trying to gain a greater understanding of someone who is, this webpage helps breakdown the terminology around sexuality and the plethora of ways we may identify using the popular 'Genderbread Person '.
Biological sex is medically determined by the chromosomes and reproductive organs an individual is born with. There are three categories for sex assigned at birth those are:
- Female (XX chromosomes) born with vagina
- Male (XY chromosomes) born with a penis
- Intersex (XXY or other chromosomal variations) born with genitals that might not match their reproductive organs, or they may have traits of both
Gender identity is determined by the person themselves. The 'gender binary' assumes that the only options for gender are ‘male’ and ‘female’. However, historically a spectrum of gender identities have long been celebrated pre-colonalism, with many cultures traditionally recognising the broad spectrum that gender identities can fall under.
Native Americans celebrated 'two-spirited people and recognised over 100 gender identities.
There are three categories for someone’s gender which are:
- Female – She/her pronouns
- Male – He/him pronouns
- Non-binary – They/them pronouns or may use neo-pronouns such as Xe/Xem
It’s important to note that gender is a spectrum with Non-binary containing many different identities in itself e.g. demi-girl, genderqueer etc. Furthermore gender isn't always experienced as being ‘fixed’, some people experience fluidity whereby a person’s gender identity or expression changes over time.
- cisgender/cis - where a person's biological sex and gender align
- transgender/trans - where a person's sex and gender do not align
Some Non-binary individuals do not wish to identify at trans whilst some do.
Someone’s sexuality refers to the presence/absence of attraction to certain genders. Attraction can be considered romantically, emotionally and physically. There are loads of sexualities, even more than the ones listed here:
- Heterosexual – An attraction to the opposite gender
- Homosexual – An attraction to the same gender
- Lesbian – Women that are attracted to other women
- Gay – Men that are attracted to other men. It's important to note that some lesbian women prefer to identify as gay.
- Bisexual – An attraction to people of both genders
- Pansexual – Attraction is not limited to a person’s sex or gender
- Asexual – Lack of some or all forms of attraction
- Questioning – process of a person exploring their sexual orientation and/or gender identity
- Queer – Broad term used by people that may prefer not to use labels. Was once used as a homophobic slur but has recently been reclaimed and embraced by many members of the community
Somebody’s expression is how they express themselves physically. It’s about how they appear to others based on how they talk, how they dress and their general mannerisms and behaviour. The categories are:
- Feminine – displays traits associated with female gender
- Masculine – displays traits associated with male gender
- Androgynous – displays traits that are neutral – not associated strongly with either gender
People can wrongly use a person’s expression to assume their gender or sexuality however, a person’s sexuality or gender are valid REGARDLESS of how they express themselves.