Provides a few basic terms and examples to help educate the differences between sexuality, sex, and gender.
A lot of people have the idea that sex, gender and sexuality are all the same thing. Maybe you’re even one of them. If that’s the case, let’s stop you right there. Sex and gender are not even close to the same thing.
Sex, in this society, tends to be pretty wrapped up in genitals. If you have a penis, you’re considered male. If you have a vulva, you’re considered female. Anyone with an anomaly of their reproductive organs is considered intersex. You might think, but that’s really rare! It’s not quite as rare as you think, 1% of the population is estimated to be intersexed in one way or another.
I could go into all the complications of this sort of thinking but that might be better suited for a Gender 102 article. Either way, most people are considering male or female based solely on what is in their pants.
Lots of people assume that gender is the same as sex. If you have a penis, you’re a man. If you have a vulva, you’re a woman. This could not be farther from the truth. If you are privileged enough to identify as the gender that is typically associated with your sex, congratulations! A lot of us weren’t, however.
There are males who identify as women, females who identify as men, and a whole host of folks of any sex who identify as something entirely different. Rather than being a binary set of roles, like you’re pretty much taught from birth, gender is a continuum.
Look at it like this. At one spot on the continuum is a male bodied person who identifies as male, at another is a female bodied person who identifies as female. But then there are people who identify as female who have male parts, people who have a female anatomy who identify as both genders, and intersexed people who identify as no gender. There are literally 100’s of combinations of genders, and this is something most people just do not know.
As an aside, people who identify with the typical gender for their anatomy, they are considered cisgender. The rest of us? Transgender. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, as well.
When it comes to sexuality, what this refers to is people you are attracted to. You might be a cisgender male who dates women. In which case, you’d probably identify as straight or heterosexual. You might a transmale who dates other males, in which case you’d typically identify as gay or homosexual. You might even be a cisgender woman who could care less about the gender of her partners (pansexual) or someone who doesn’t find themselves interested in sex at all (asexual).
Basically, sexuality does have some intersecting with gender and sex, but they are two very, very different things.
On we go. I explained cisgender and transgender above but there’s a lot more to it. There are a million different types of people who identify as trans, but let me give you a few definitions to help out.
Trans* - This is an umbrella term that includes all members of the transgender community. Trans without the asterick simply applies to transmen and transwomen; the asterick is what include everyone.
Transsexuals – This is a designation for someone who does not identify with their assigned sex at birth, rather they identify with the opposite sex. These people opt to change their physical sex through hormones, surgery and/or other methods in order to match the gender identity in their brains.
Crossdresser – Someone who opts not to pursue surgery or hormones but wears the clothing associated with the opposite sex of the one they were assigned at birth.
Trans man – Someone who is assigned female at birth but identifies as male.
Trans woman – Someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies as female.
Genderqueer – Someone who does not identify on the binary (male/female) scale. They may identify as more than one gender, no gender at all or an utterly different gender.
Androgynous – Someone whose gender identity is not clear just by looking at them.
This is not a full list of all identities found in the trans* community. However, I hope this gives you a little more insight into the basics of gender, sex and sexuality; specifically in relation to being transgender. It might even give you a little more insight into yourself.