sexuality is not the same as gender

So gender is a complicated map. People have biological sex, as well as their gender identity, which is not binary. There’s also gender expression, which describes how someone presents themselves on a scale with masculine, feminine, androgynous, or any combination. Everyone falls somewhere on these maps, although not everyone thinks about it or chooses a label.

It’s very important to understand that these things are NOT the same as sexuality or sexual orientation!

gender= who you are

sexual orientation= who you are attracted to

We tend to think of them in the same light, but your gender or the way you express your gender has NO bearing on who you’re attracted to or who you form relationships with. Because of the gender binary, we’re socialized to think of feminine-presenting people as being attracted to masculinity, and vice-versa. For some people, that’s true, but not for everyone. we’re taught to, but you can’t assume anything about someone’s sexuality based on the way they look. and you shouldn’t–someone else’s sexuality and gender aren’t any of your business until they share them with you.

similar to gender, however, sexuality is more complicated than we typically think of it. mainstream culture is now generally aware than not everyone is heterosexual (although hetero is still considered “normal” and anything else is “other”).But it’s not just straight and gay. it’s a spectrum, or a map, or a cloud-thing depending on how you visualize it. the point is, like gender, human sexuality doesn’t fit into neat boxes and labels (although many people use labels). a spectrum/chart thing that shows sex, gender, presentation, sexual, and romantic orientation looks like this:

gender sexuality spectrum


I think this is pretty self-explanatory. it shows that there are more than two categories for all these identities. i like this chart because it separates sexual and romantic orientation as well as gender identity and expression.

This is just one way of visualizing or thinking about these different things.

so about sexual orientation: people can be attracted to any other type of person, everyone, or no one at all.

sexuality is enormously complex and different for everyone, so people use the terms that they feel work the best for them. here’s a little glossary of terms (this also has gender-related terms) from PFLAG, or Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Yeah, there’s a lot more different kinds of queer folks than just lesbians and gays, but still:

language is complicated, important, and constantly changing. all words are steeped in history, and can be derogatory based on their historical (or contemporary) use. if you’re unsure of what term to use, do your research. and also remember these things:

-don’t assume things about people’s gender or sexuality

-people’s gender and sexuality aren’t any of your business. if they want to share their identities or experiences with you, that’s great! but respect people’s boundaries. no one is obligated to discuss their personal stories and experiences with anyone else.

-sexuality is complicated and can change a lot over the course of people’s lives. if someone decides to start using different terms for themselves, respect it. they know more about themselves than you do, and it’s totally normal for preferences and identities to change.

-if you’re confused or curious, educate yourself! but always remember to be critical of every source you find. one person that uses a particular label doesn’t represent everyone of that identity. everyone has a different story.

-if you or someone you know finds a term or an identity that fits better than the current one, it’s okay to change. But publicly changing terms or “coming out” isn’t always the best choice depending on someone’s situation or environment. don’t pressure someone to come out, they will do it if and when they feel it’s right.

-think hard about the way you see people and think about sexuality. constantly reflect on what you think and why, how you were taught to think, and how it affects the way you interact with people. self-reflection is good!

that’s as much as i think i can write. i can’t speak for anyone else but me. educate yourself, find some different voices and listen!

Author: Bullshit Binaries

Talking & writing about the social binaries we've constructed and their consequences.

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