Understanding sexual orientation, gender identity, & gender expression continuum

Understanding sexual orientation, gender identity, & gender expression continuum

What we hear about sexual orientation or gender identity is not very accurate information.Awareness about these aspects is very rare and often follows the stigma around it.There is a lot of misinformation regarding these aspects.The social taboos not only restrict the information being passed, but whatever is being passed is very different from what it really is.



Determining sexual orientation and gender identity

There are different theories on how a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation can be determined. The specialized people in the field agree that it is a complicated matter of genetics, biology, psychology and social factors. There is no ’cause that is determined, but it is important to note that there is no one specific factor, which is a reason behind it. For most people, sexual orientation or gender identity both are formed at an early age.

Understanding the inclusive language

To have a greater level of awareness for sexual orientation and gender identity, it is very important to know that these areas are complicated. Knowing the language of the field will help you become more empathetic and will also ease out your process of reading about and hearing about these aspects from others. However, there is no comprehensive list, but it can be a beginning towards acknowledging the vast sphere of the language.

Words related to sexual orientation



Sexual orientation: This word describes a person’s inclination to romantic, sexual, emotional, and relational attraction to another person.

Heterosexual: ‘Straight’ is another term for this. Heterosexuals refer to those people whose sexual orientation are primarily towards the opposite sex.

Homosexual: People whose sexual orientation and inclination are for the same sex.

Gay: The word gay is majorly used for men or women who are emotionally, romantically and intimately more inclined towards the members of the same sex. This word is used in casual conversations. Majorly used for the men, this word is also sometimes interchanged with the word homosexual.

Lesbian: This refers to a woman who is emotionally, romantically, sexually and relationally attracted to women.

Bisexual: The term will sometimes be shorten to “Bi” and refers to men and women whose sexual and romantic feelings are for people of both sexes.

Questioning: Refers to a person who is the process of exploring their sexual orientation.

LGBTQ: LGBTQ is an acronym for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer.

Queer: This word that is inclusive of people who are not heterosexual. In the past, this term was used in a derogatory manner by people who were not homosexual. However, a younger generation of LGBTQ+ people have embraced the term and reclaimed it in a positive way.

Homophobia: Homophobia refers to an intense, internalized and/or “acted out” fear, hatred, and/or distrust of homosexuals, homosexuality, or any behavior which does not conform to “normal” standards.

Heterosexism: This is the assumption that everyone is heterosexual, and if not, they should be.

Internalized Homophobia: This refers to the self-identification of society’s stereotypes by a LGBTQ+ individuals, causing them to dislike and resent their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Coming Out: This refers to the process a person goes through in which they acknowledge, accept, and appreciate their sexual orientation or gender identity and publicly declare it to others.

In the Closet: Conversely, “in the closet” describes a person who hides his/her sexual orientation in order to keep a job, housing situation, friendship, significant relationship, or just to survive.

Terms related to gender identity



Birth Assigned Gender/Sex: A person’s biological sex at birth.

Sex: Refers to the anatomy and biology that determines whether one is male, female, or intersexed (formerly called hermaphroditic).

Gender Identity: A person’s internal sense of being either male, or female, or something other or in between and may not necessarily fit with their physical gender characteristics. Gender identity and sexual orientation are exclusive off each other.

Gender Expression: Outward behaviors and appearances (e.g. hair, clothing, voice, body language) by which people manifest their gender identity or gender choices.

Gender Role: This is the socially constructed and culturally specific norms of behavior and appearance expectations imposed based on biological sex (i.e. femininity and masculinity).

Intersexed: Intersexuality is a naturally occurring condition that affects the reproductive and sexual system. Intersexed people are born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or internal reproductive systems that are not considered “standard” for either male or female. The existence of intersexuals shows that there are not just two sexes and that our ways of thinking about sex, i.e. thinking only in terms of male or female, are largely socially constructed.

Transgender: People who have gender identities, expressions or behaviors not traditionally associated with their birth sex. As an umbrella term, transgender includes male-to-female and female-to-male transsexuals, male and female cross-dressers, and others who differ from conventional gender expressions.

Transsexual: A term referring to a person whose gender identity differs from what is culturally associated with their biological sex at birth. Some, but not all, transsexuals wish to change their bodies to be congruent with their gender identity through sex reassignment surgery. This term is considered outdated and is a medical term. Most transsexual people refer to themselves as transgendered.

Female-to-Male (FTM): People who are born with female bodies, but have predominantly male gender identity.

Male-to-Female (MTF): People who are born with male bodies, but have predominant female gender identity.

Transphobia: The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, people whose gender identity or gender expression do not conform to cultural gender norms.


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