I’ve been studying gender for about three years now, and to be honest, it still confuses me. People have been learning so much about gender and sexuality in the last few years, it’s pretty hard to keep track of all the developments in understanding. So here are a few brief definitions to help you get your head around gender. Keep in mind that gender and sexuality are much, much more complex and nuanced than these cursory definitions might imply.
While this stuff is really confusing, it is so, so important that we do our very best to understand and to be accepting. Life is hard enough without having people judge and discriminate based on basic aspects of who we are. EVERYONE is affected by society’s unkind “rules” and gender and sexuality, so let’s do our best to breakdown the shitty rules and create a new, accepting understanding.
Biological sex: A person’s sex is simply the genetic and anatomical make-up. This includes chromosomes, organs, and hormones. Biological sex is not a binary of male/female, rather it is a spectrum wherein no two people are alike.
Gender Identity: This is your concept of self and how you identify on a scale of masculinity and femininity. This could mean identifying as male, female, both or neither. Like biological sex, gender identity is not a binary, but a spectrum.
Gender Expression: This is how you outwardly express your gender identity. This includes, what you wear, how you talk, your behavior and haircut. This is also how people infer your gender.
Gender Roles: These are essentially a set of rules, created by society, that dictate how men and women should act. Our society has just two gender roles (male and female), but this is not true of every society.
Transgender: This refers to a person whose gender identity does not match the gender that they were assigned at birth.
Sexual Orientation: This refers to where your sexual interest lies. For some, attraction is focused on those of the opposite gender (heterosexual), for some it’s focused on those of the same gender (homosexual). Sometimes attraction is based solely on personality (pansexual) and sometimes attraction doesn’t exist at all (asexual). There are many, many more types of sexual orientation.