Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Someone whose gender identity is different from the one they were assigned at birth might identify as transgender. Sometimes trans or transgender gets used as an umbrella term for gender diverse people. However, not everyone uses it to describe themselves. When in doubt ask, and always honor someone’s personal terms when it comes to gender identities.
Cisgender is a term to describe someone whose gender matches what they were assigned at birth. For example, they were assigned female at birth based on being born with a vagina and know themselves to be female.
Someone who does not identify as a man or a woman, or solely as one of those two genders. It’s often used as an umbrella term for identities that fall outside the male/female gender binary. Being non-binary means different things to different people, so this definition is purposely broad.
Someone may identify as genderqueer if their gender identity is neither male nor female, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. This identity is often related to or in reaction to the social construction of gender, gender stereotypes, and the gender binary system.
Gender fluid may refer to a gender that varies over time. Someone who identifies as gender fluid may fluctuate between genders or express multiple genders at the same time. Their gender may also vary at random or vary in response to different circumstances.
Gender expression is about how someone acts and presents themselves to the world. For example, does someone wear makeup? Do they wear dresses? Do they prefer to only wear pants? Gender expression is not related to someone’s gender or sex, but rather about personal behaviors and interests. A cis man may wear nail polish or a trans woman may not like wearing dresses. Sometimes people don’t express their gender in the way they would like to because they don’t feel safe to do so. This is why it’s important to not assume someone’s gender just based on how they look, but rather by checking in with them. Gender expression is also deeply tied to culture. What Euro-Canadian culture codes as being either ‘male’ or ‘female’ can be different than what other cultures may code as being ‘male’ or ‘female’.
Sexual orientation is a term used to refer to a person’s emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to individuals of a gender (male or female).
Sexual orientation is usually divided into several categories and these are the four that are most talked about.
An adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite gender. Also straight.
Homosexual / Gay:
The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions are to people of the same gender (e.g., gay man, gay people). Sometimes lesbian is the preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals,” an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people.
A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.
A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, or emotional attractions to any person, regardless of gender identity. Pansexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be pansexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as pansexual.
An adjective used to describe people who do not experience sexual attraction (e.g., asexual person).
Gender dysphoria is a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.
In adolescents and adults gender dysphoria diagnosis involves a difference between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, and significant distress or problems functioning. It lasts at least six months and is shown by at least two of the following:
- A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
- A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
- A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender
- A strong desire to be of the other gender
- A strong desire to be treated as the other gender
- A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender
Treatment options for gender dysphoria include counseling, cross-sex hormones, puberty suppression, and gender reassignment surgery. Some adults may have a strong desire to be of a different gender and to be treated as a different gender without seeking medical treatment or altering their body. They may only want support to feel comfortable in their gender identity. Others may want more extensive treatment including hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery leading to a transition to the opposite sex. Some may choose hormone treatment or surgery alone.
Individual therapy can help a person understand and explore his/her/their feelings and cope with distress and conflict. Couples therapy or family therapy may be helpful to improve understanding and to create a supportive environment. Parents of children with gender dysphoria may also benefit from counseling. Peer support groups for adolescents and adults and parent/family support groups can also be helpful.
Is your own, internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary). Sexual orientation describes a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person (for example: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual). When we think about sexual orientation, what probably comes to mind for most people are the three listed in the well-known acronym: LGBTQ+. Those five letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. (Keep in mind that transgender is a gender identity, not a sexual orientation. Someone can be both transgender and straight, or transgender and bisexual, for example.) The “+” encompasses those who aren’t straight but aren’t covered by those five letters, either — for example, asexual, pansexual, or questioning. LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning. These terms are used to describe a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
It is a more inclusive term than LGBT for people with non-mainstream sexual orientation or gender identity. The letters in the LGBTQIA+ acronym stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual. The + symbol in LGBTQIA+ refers to the fact that there are many sexual orientations and gender identities that are part of the broader LGBTQIA community but aren’t included as part of the acronym. Pansexual, A term that describes individuals who can experience sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction to any person, regardless of that person’s gender, sex, or sexuality. Asexual identity or orientation includes individuals who don’t experience sexual attraction to others of any gender. Also referred to as “aces,” some people who are asexual do experience romantic attraction to people of one or multiple genders.
A woman whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay or as gay women.
The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex. Sometimes lesbian is the preferred term for women.
A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms— including transgender. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures.
An adjective used by some people, particularly younger people, whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. Typically, for those who identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel don’t apply to them. Some people may use queer, or more commonly genderqueer, to describe their gender identity and/or gender expression. Once considered a pejorative term, queer has been reclaimed by some LGBT people to describe themselves; however, it is not a universally accepted term even within the LGBT community. QUESTIONING, Sometimes, when the Q is seen at the end of LGBT, it can also mean questioning. This term describes someone who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.