You may have heard a few terms thrown around to describe gender: non-binary, gender fluid, genderqueer, trangender, cisgender, etc. But what does it all mean?
In this stream, sex educator Roan Coughtry, MSW — who identifies as a person who is queer, non-binary trans — talks all about gender.
First, you might be wondering what is the difference between sex, gender, and sexuality. Sex is the anatomy we’re born with — our sex organs, hormones, and chromosomes. If you have a penis, a doctor will assign you male at birth. If you have a vagina, you’ll be assigned female at birth. If your biology is ambiguous, you may be intersex.
Gender, on the other hand, is the societal idea of how you perform that sex. If you’re assigned male at birth, for example, you’re expected to dress like a boy, like sports, play with action figures, be attracted to girls, etc. Because gender is a social construct based on some biology, but not necessarily related to biology, it’s also a spectrum with a host of genders that exist between and outside the male-female binary. Sexuality is who you’re attracted to. They can be the same gender and/or sex as you, or a different gender and/or sex as you, or you could have no sexual attraction to anyone (asexual), or a sexual attraction to people based on who they are, not their gender (pansexual). There are many more ways to present sexuality.
To understand your gender, it can sometimes take a bit of experimenting to figure out an identity that resonates with you, if any do at all. Here’s just a few listed to get clear on what the various gender identities are.
You identify with your biological sex and the gender you were assigned at birth.
You do not identify with your biological sex and the gender you were assigned at birth. A trans person may or may not alter themselves physically — with clothes, hair and makeup styles, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or surgery — to present their identified gender to the world.
You change genders, pronouns, and gender performance as you see fit and as various genders speak to you at different times.
You do not subscribe to any gender as an identity or label. You may also be agender.
This is a way of saying you are non-binary, meaning you are not a man or woman, but inhabit qualities of both genders or qualities.
The idea that you can be all genders at once across the spectrum.
This term is used especially in Thailand for people who are trans or do not identify with being exclusively male or female.
This “is a indigenous umbrella term for the variance of gender and sexual identities found across Native American tribes,” says Coughtry. It’s used to reverently describe people who see across gender and do not identify exclusively as male or female.
There are many more genders you could identify with. The most important thing, however, is to simply attach yourself to the labels you find empowering. If none of these gender identities speak to you, then leave them all behind and just be you.