There are a kajillion subsets that we like to use to organize and measure certain information about society. We use socioeconomic status, age, race, ethnicity, culture, and language to name a few. We also use the subset “sex.” Sex refers to male, female, and other/intersex. From here it can get a little tricky for some people who conflate the term “sex” with the gender spectrum and sexual orientation. It’s not all the same.
While they do intersect, gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, and romantic orientation aren’t synonymous with one another. They aren’t lumped under one big umbrella marked “gender.”
Sex assigned at birth refers to just that- the sex someone was assigned to when they were born based on the presentation of their genitals.
Someone’s gender identity may or may not be the same as their sex. If someone was assigned female at birth and they also identify, she might use the term “cisgender” to describe her gender identity. (This term was coined around 1994 and is credited to biologist Dana Leland Defosse, “cis” meaning “on this side of.”) If someone was assigned male at birth but identifies as female, she might use the term “transgender” to describe her gender identity. (This term was coined between 1969-1971 by American transgender activist Virginia Prince “trans” meaning “across, beyond, or on the other side of”.) Not everyone identifies using the neat and binary terms of cisgender and transgender. Some people identify as agender, gender queer, gender nonconforming.
So, then what exactly is gender? Gender identity refers to woman/female/girl, man/male/boy, and other gender identities. Gender expression refers to feminine, masculine, and other. Gender is a limitless spectrum that can often be influenced by our experience of ourselves and of the world, our culture, and our sex assigned at birth. Some people identify with the sex they were assigned at birth (cisgender) and choose not to conform to the gender norms created by their culture. Some people identify as transgender and also choose not to conform to said gender norms. As many people as there are on earth is how many gender expressions there are. People identify as trans, but don’t take hormones or do take hormones, but don’t have surgery. Some people identify as cis but have surgery to alter their bodies to fit how they feel. It is limitless.
In all of this, nowhere did sexual orientation surface. This is because it’s a different part of us- different, but related. Sexual orientation refers to someone’s sexual attraction to men, women, and other genders. Romantic orientation refers to someone’s romantic attraction to men, women, and other genders. Someone can identify as bisexual, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, queer, questioning, and other identities. If someone is trans, it does not mean they identify as queer or gay or lesbian, etc. People can be trans and straight, trans and gay, trans and queer, cis and queer. We can identify as cis, straight, and romantically attracted to women. The combinations are nearly endless.
This post is by no means exhaustive on the subject of gender, sex, and sexual orientation. It’s a bit of a window out of which you might consider who you are, who we are, and the ways in which we can express this to ourselves and the world.
Love and Be Loved,