First of all, HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!!!
The world of genders and sexualities is a glorious yet heavily misunderstood topic. As the world is moving forward in terms of progression with equality in the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important that cis people and – heck – everyone else help keep that momentum going by educating yourself and becoming more open minded and accepting of what you may not have previously understood. For those that don’t know, LGBTQ+ is an acronym for: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. People of all sexualities under the LGBTQ+ umbrella may also identify as queer. They may use the term “queer” to reclaim it, as historically many have used the term as a slur. Unless a person is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it is generally not a good idea to use this term.
Although it looks like we have come far in terms of the western world for example, gay relationships are now broadcasted on television, as are gay and trans actors. However, same-sex marriage is only legal in 29 out of 195 countries in the world (just under 15%), it’s still illegal to be LGBTQ+ in 70 countries, and you could be given the death penalty in 12. Therefore, we as humans, still have a long way to go to help get these people in the LGBTQ+ community the respect and rights that they deserve – all over the world.
Sexuality/ Sexual Orientation
A person’s sexuality, or sexual orientation, determines whom they do, or do not, feel attraction toward. This attraction is typically sexual or romantic. Sexual attraction typically describes a person’s desire to have sex or form a sexual relationship with other people. It also often describes physical attraction, or lack thereof, toward others. Romantic attraction can describe a person’s expression of love within a relationship. This relationship does not have to be sexual, and a person does not have to experience both romantic and sexual attraction in order to have a sexuality.
There are a lot of sexual orientations, and people who identify with one or more may find that their sexuality changes over time. This is perfectly normal — a person’s orientation can be fluid. They may also sit under an umbrella term but not find a label that accurately describes their experience. Some terms you may have heard more of recently are, pansexual (people who feel attraction toward people of all genders and sexes), bisexual (have an attraction to both men and women), and asexual (lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity). For someone who is searching for the perfect word to describe their sexual desires, this could take them a step closer to finding sexual liberation.
It all boils down to education. People are people. Love is love. As long as the relationship is between two consenting adults, it really is nobody else’s business. Discriminating or judging someone over how they choose to look or live their life really says more about you, than it does them. You should be free to live life how you want to, and if you don’t want to live life as the gender you were assigned at birth, you now have the option to change that. As a cis person you will never thoroughly understand because you’ve never experienced that feeling, but if you listen to some trans people’s stories it can help give you an insight to their realities as a trans person; their life before and after. ‘Pose’ on BBC iPlayer and ‘It’s A Sin’ on Channel 4 are two really good drama series which takes you back to what being gay or trans in the 80s was like and the torment they had to go through just to be able to be themselves.
So, what is gender identity? Gender identity is how a person chooses to identify their gender. Seems simple, right? However, there are lots of genders on the spectrum way more than just two, but in our society the genders that are most recognised are male and female (called the gender binary) and usually it is based on someone’s anatomy (the genitals they were born with). This is gender assignment and it is based on an assumption that someone’s genitals match their gender. However, gender isn’t about someone’s anatomy, it is about who they know themselves to be. There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, and all, none or a combination of these.
Why Are Pronouns Important?
Even if you do identify with the sex assigned to you at birth, as an ally, it’s important to understand the language behind gender-related terms. It’s also important to remember that similar to sexuality, gender can be fluid. For this reason, you must keep in mind that someone’s gender identity may change over time. And that’s okay.
Pronouns are important because you’re respecting the person you’re addressing. By mis-pronouning someone you’re disrespecting them, whether you think so or not. By assuming a person’s pronouns, you’re projecting a message that people must look a certain way to be able to use their pronouns. Just ask!
So whether you identify with one of these terms or just want to become a better ally, here are 11 terms and definitions essential to creating a more inclusive, understanding and respectful environment for everyone.
|Agender||A person who identifies as agender might experience an absence of any gender feelings or affiliation. (Remember that “a” as a prefix means “absence of something,” so agender = absence of gender.)|
|Sex||If we’re talking about someone’s sex, we’re talking about what they were assigned at birth, based on external genitalia.|
|Gender||While sex is based on biology, chromosomes, and what doctors assign at birth and write on the birth certificate, gender is a social construct, meaning something that was created by humanity, complete with its own set of “rules” and expectations. As such, individuals may identify with a different gender than what they were assigned at birth.|
|Cisgender||Often abbreviated to “cis” refers to people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. So if you were born with a penis and you feel and consider yourself to be male, you’d be a cisgender male.|
|Transgender||Often abbreviated to”trans” refers to someone whose gender does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender man is someone who was assigned female at birth but has transitioned (or is transitioning) to expressing a male gender identity, and a transgender woman is someone who was assigned male at birth but has transitioned (or is transitioning) to expressing a female gender identity.|
|Genderqueer||A genderqueer person may identify as neither gender, both, or a combination. They do not subscribe to the traditional gender binary.|
|Non-Binary||Non-binary is an umbrella term for people whose gender is not just male or female. This word may have different meanings to different people. Non-binary is anyone outside of gender, or someone who is transgender, or people who don’t fall strictly within the binary at all. Someone can be trans, gender fluid, genderqueer, and non-binary all at the same time.|
|Orientation||Sexual orientation is completely separate from gender identity. One refers to who you’re attracted to, while the other refers to your gender. This is important and often misunderstood. While someone who is non-binary or trans may identify as gay or bisexual, various gender identities can also have a heterosexual sexual orientation.|
|Gender Fluid||A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more male some days, and more female other days.|
|Asexual||An adjective used to describe people who do not experience sexual attraction (e.g., asexual person)|
|Polyamorous||Describes people who have consensual relationships that involve multiple partners. Polyamorous people talk openly with their partners about having, or having the desire to have sexual and/or emotional relationships with multiple people and often set ground rules for their relationships.|