Sex is complicated and today there are many things that are blurring the lines that defines what it is that makes a man a man and what it is that makes a woman a woman. Sexual orientation is a person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted, which is usually heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. Sexual orientation is a term used to describe our patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction and our sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions. Sexual orientation describes a long term, persistent romantic and sexual attraction to another gender. There are a bunch of identities associated with sexual orientation and this is not the same as gender, but it is one aspect of gender. A person’s sexual orientation is not a black or white matter, as sexual orientation exists along a continuum, with exclusive attraction to the opposite sex on one end of the continuum and exclusive attraction to the same sex on the other. Gender identity is about who you are.
Sexual orientation is about who you want to be with. Heterosexuality is an attraction to members of the opposite sex, like women who are attracted to men and men who are attracted to women are in the group who often call themselves straight or heterosexual. People who’re attracted to the same gender often call themselves gay or homosexual. Gay women may prefer the term lesbian. Bisexuality is a term used by people who are attracted to both men and women thus they exhibit an attraction to members of either sex. Although these three categories are the most common, they are by no means the only categories in the world of sexual identification labels. Some people have sexual attractions that span across many different gender identities (male, female, transgender, gender queer, intersex, etc.) and these people will often refer to themselves as being pansexual or queer. Queer is useful for its non-specificity to orientation, and this acts as an umbrella term. People who’re unsure about their sexual orientation may call themselves questioning or curious. People who don’t experience any sexual attraction for anyone often call themselves asexual.
The term transgender refers to people whose sense of their own gender differs from what would be expected based on the sex characteristics with which they are born. A transgender person may identify as a woman despite having been born with male genitalia, for example, and some transgender people do not specifically identify as men or women. Transgender people may ultimately transition physically and socially in ways they feel are congruent with their identity. This might include physical procedures (involving surgery or hormones), changes in the way one dresses or behaves, and new markers of identification (such as a different name or gender-related pronouns). A person may also identify as transgender without making such changes. The term transsexual is older, but it is still used by some to refer specifically to those who seek or have undertaken a medical intervention to change their bodies.
Today we live in a post-gender world where the boundaries between the sexes are being blurred. What we understand as being a transgender person (in its many different forms) has been understood quite differently at various periods of time. Gender transgression including gay, lesbian or bisexual love is often vilified today, but at one time it was respected and at times even encouraged. MTF male to female priestesses were often castrated to become eunuchs, so they could preside over the women in a royal house, and these men that became women were usually held in high esteem.
Distinct from transgender people, cross-dressers identify with the gender label they receive at birth but occasionally wear clothing associated with a different gender. The term transvestite originated in 1910 from the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. Transvestite should not be confused with transgender or transsexual, as transvestites are often happy with their gender and have no desire to change their sex, but they simply enjoy being able to cross-dress from time to time.
Today girls don’t always wear pink and play with dolls and the boys are not all wearing blue and playing with toy soldiers. Females are no longer being depicted as always being hysterical, stupid or naïve and in the same way men are no longer presented as being technically skilled, strong or business savvy. Now there is a push for gender mainstreaming, or the erasing of lines between the sexes and this involves calling for laws to make sure that everything, including language, is gender-neutral. This is not only meant to promote equality for women and gender minorities, but also to break the dominance of males.
Written for 2/17/18 Linda G. Hill’s ‘Life in progress’ Stream of Consciousness Saturday where the prompt is his/hers.