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LGBTQIA+ Community - A Spectrum of Possibilities

Sex and Gender - Same or Not?

Sex

  • Sex is defined as the sexual biology of an individual, identifed based on sex organs, at birth or in an ultrasound during pregnancy

  • Categories of human sex:

    • Male

    • Female

    • Intersex

Gender 

  • Gender is defined as the way a person presents themselves to society, either as a male or a female

  • Sex is who you are born as and gender is how you present yourself to society

  • Gender can change according to time, place and context and exists on a spectrum rather than being binary (male or female)

  • Sex and gender are not synonymous and should not be used interchangeably

Intersex

  • Intersex is a broad term used to refer to the individuals who are born without a clear biological sex (male or female)

  • 46, XX Intersex

    • The chromosomes of the individual are of a woman 

    • The genitalia are incompletely formed, ambiguous or male

  • 46, XY Intersex

    • The chromosomes of the individual are of a man 

    • The genitalia are incompletely formed, ambiguous or female

  • True Gonadal Intersex

    • The individual has both male and female reproductive tissue

    • They can occur as separate gonads (one testis, one ovary) or as a single gonad (ovotestis)

  • Undetermined Intersex

    • Chromosomal organisations like (45, XX) or (46, XY) can result in intersex patterns

    • There can also be an excess of chromosomes: (47, XXY) or (47, XXX)

      • There may be no particular external genitalia distinctions

      • Considerable fluctuation in sex hormones is seen, which leads to further complications

Sexuality

  • Sexuality is a broad term used to refer to how you express your sexual fantasies, desires, eroticism and expression of your gender

  • Sexuality is not limited to relationships between opposite genders

  • It is fluid and it can be expressed on a spectrum 

  • Due to the massive stigma surrounding other sexual orientations, several terms have been defined to explain different types of sexual orientations. 

 

Sexuality

Description

Gay

  • Refers to individuals who experience physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to the same gender

  • Applies to any same gender relationships (men and men OR women and women)

Lesbian

  • Refers to same gender relationships between two women

Bisexual/ Bi

  • A person who can experience physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to those of the same gender as their own, or people of the other gender

Pansexual

  • A person who can experience physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to any person, regardless of gender identity

Queer

  • An adjective used by young people who are not heterosexual

  • This is not a very widely accepted term in the LGBT community

Asexual

  • A person who does not experience any sexual attraction

Allosexual

  • People who experience sexual attraction towards others

Aromantic

  • Used to describe people who do not experience romantic attraction

Heterosexual/Straight

  • People who experience physical/romantic/emotional attraction to people of the opposite gender.

Homosexual

  • An outdated term used to refer to gays and lesbians and is considered offensive/derogatory

Androsexual

  • Refers to an individual who finds masculine traits/masculinity attractive

Bicurious

  • People who are exploring whether or not they are attracted to people of the same gender or the opposite gender

Gynesexual

  • Refers to an individual who finds feminine traits attractive

Polyamorous

  • People who have consensual relationships with multiple partners

Skoliosexual

  • Being attracted to sexually, romantically and/or aesthetically transgender, genderqueer and/or binary people

 

Gender Identity

  • Gender identity refers to how a person perceives their own gender

  • Gender identity might not align with the person’s sex at birth but some people do choose to perform gender affirmation surgeries (GAS)

  • Gender Identity exists on a spectrum

 

Gender Identity

Description

Agender

  • People who do not have a specific gender or do not prefer to identify with a specific gender

Bigender

  • People who fluctuate between traditional “male” and “female” gender roles

Cisgender

  • People who have the same gender identity as the one they were assigned at birth

Gender Fluid

  • A person who is gender fluid

  • Feels like a “woman” some days and as a “man” some days

Genderqueer

  • Broad term for any person who traditionally does not identify as a cisgender

Gender variant

  • A person who does not wish to conform to any gender roles assigned by the society

Transgender

  • A person who does not identify with their sex assigned at birth

  • The person can experience a detachment from their own bodies if an open environment is not provided

Third Gender

  • Term for a man who does not identify as a “man” or a “woman”, but as some other third gender

  • It is very subjective and it means different things to different people who use it

 

Gender Expression

  • Gender expression is the portrayal of an individual’s gender using the way a person acts, dresses and interacts

  • “Gender expression” is how you present your gender and “gender identity” is how you think of your own gender

  • A person’s gender expression need not match with their biological sex

  • It exists as a spectrum where the 2-extreme ends of the spectrum are: “masculine” and “feminine” and anything in between is “androgynous”

 

Gender Expression

Description

Masculine

  • People who particularly express masculine traits (commonly associated with gender roles assigned to a man)

Feminine

  • People who particularly express feminine traits (commonly associated with gender roles assigned to a woman)

Androgynous

  • The intermediate mix of both masculine and feminine gender expression

 

 

Gender Pronouns

  • Gender pronouns like “he” or “she” are used to attribute a gender to an individual

  • Gender neutral pronouns are pronouns which do not conform an individual to a gender

  • There are very few gender-neutral pronouns in the English language

  • It is respectful to wait for an individual to introduce their gender pronouns that can be used to address them

  • It is also important for an individual to try and determine an appropriate pronoun for themselves, in line with their gender identity

Commonly Used Terms

 

Term

Description

Coming Out

  • The process of revealing your sexual orientation and/or gender identity to the society

LGBTQIA+

  • Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual PLUS

  • The plus stands for all the other types of people on the spectrum

Cis-normativity

  • Societal acceptance solely reserved for cis-gender individuals

  • This leads to the creation of a lot of stigma against LGBTQI+ people

Gender Roles/Norms

  • Certain gender expression traits assigned to men and women

  • For example, people assume that all men do not like the colour “pink” or do not like makeup

Out

  • People who openly express their gender identity or sexuality

Closeted

  • People who are not open about expressing their gender identity or sexuality

 

Homophobia

  • Homophobia is a term used to refer to any form of discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA+ community - mental, physical or emotional

  • Homophobia exists primarily because of the following factors:

    • Ignorance

    • Gender norms

    • Fear

    • Patriarchal beliefs

  • Homophobia shows up in three broad arenas:

    • Institutional Homophobia

      • Laws which suppress members of the LGBTQIA+ community are still commonplace in most institutions

    • Social Homophobia

      • The greater society is still very un-accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community, leading to their social exclusion

      • This leads to a suicide rate that is 4 times higher than normal in the LGBTQIA+ community

    • Internalised Homophobia

      • When members of the community begin to hate themselves because of societal norms and institutional norms, it manifests as a hatred against one’s own sexual orientation/gender identity

Can I Be More Sensitive?

  • Some professional/college/school forms have sections where they confuse “sex” with “gender” and do not provide any other option than “male” and “female”

    • Clarification - Intersex people are forced to select between either “male” or “female” under the criteria of “sex” and this is derogatory for them

 

  • Using words like “gay” and “lesbian” as an insult 

    • Clarification - Using “gay” and “lesbian” as a joke or as a slur/insult is extremely derogatory to the people of the LGBTQIA community, causing mental trauma and even suicides

  • Using the word “hermaphrodite” to refer to an intersex individual

    • Clarification -  Hermaphrodite was a Victorian-era word used when there was no way for finding out the sex of intersex people. They assumed that they had both male and female reproductive organs. 

    • This is not scientifically correct and thus, hermaphrodite is considered as a derogatory word

    • Use the word “intersex” instead

 

  • Assigning the gender to a kid at birth and encouraging them to express conventional “masculine” or “feminine” roles

    • Clarification - Assigning biological sex at birth is not wrong. However, gender identity is something a child will slowly assign to oneself, through a process

    • It is wrong to encourage notions like “men will be men” or “only women like the colour pink” to children based on their biological sex

    • This approach does not account for the psychological health of the child and can cause major psychological distress due to dysphoria

 

  • Using words like “faggot” as an insult

    • Clarification - Faggot is a derogatory term associated with homophobia since decades. This kind of language should never be encouraged

 

  • Telling LGBTQIA+ people that their sexuality or gender expression is a “choice”

    • Clarification - Sexuality is not just influenced by societal factors. WHO defines sexuality as an interaction of societal, emotional, personal, cultural, genetic, environmental, ethnic, economic factors

    • It is wrong to assume that people can change all these influences in their lives and just adapt to another sexuality by choice

 

  • Asking transgender people to get surgery or find ways to “fit into society”

    • Clarification - This is a very wrong assumption. Transgender people can choose for themselves if they want to go through Gender Assignment Surgeries to make their biological sex align with their gender identity

    • Some people might choose not to go through the surgery. It wrong to ask them to just “become more passable” as a man/woman

 

  • Using the word “dyke” or “masculine” when referring to lesbians

    • Clarification - Not all lesbians are conventionally masculine in their gender expression

    • Moreover, “dyke” is considered as a derogatory word and is not used anymore

  • Using religion to promote homophobia

    • Clarification - Many people claim that the LGBTQIA+ society is against “god” or against “nature” because of their sexuality/gender identity

    • It is wrong to use religion to spread stigma against people. There are many members of the LGBTQ+ community who are religious and they are not being morally wrong while doing so

  • Assuming two close friends of the same gender to be “gay”

    • Clarification - Assuming somebody else’s sexuality, based on societal notions, can be extremely harmful for the individual

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