A glossary of terms relating to sex and gender

This article outlines facts about sex and gender in the simple form of a glossary of relevant terms. Please ask as many genuine questions as you like, but please note that any argument against gender diversity, or any form of discrimination or abuse against any of the LGBTQIA+ community will be removed immediately without discussion. You may also be reported and/or blocked.

Biological sex

Biological sex is a bio-physiological state made up of a combination of chromosomes, hormone production, internal organs and external genitalia. Human society determines biological sex at birth by observing only external genitalia, which leads to most of the population being observed as either male or female. More rarely, (though only as rarely as is ginger hair) biological sex is more complex than this, and an infant is identified as “intersex”.

Intersex

When someone is not simply male, or female, either identified due to complex external genitalia at birth, or through more complex investigations in regards to internal reproductive organs, hormone production or chromosomes. When identified at birth, it is common for parents and doctors to agree to assign either of the other binary categories. Sometimes doctors and parents may choose to have surgery to change complex genitalia.

*There are many articles from scientists explaining how biological sex is complex. Here is a link to a good one if you are interested.

Biologist Explains The Complexities of Biological Sex

Biological sex is not binary

Gender

Socially constructed identities created by a culture or society to categorise the way in which people think and behave, sometimes relating to their biological sex. In recent western society this is usually considered binary. Children are classified as boy (for males) or girl (for females), and adults classified as man (for males) or woman (for females). This is not true in all cultures, and historically has not always been the case. Many current or historic cultures have at least one other gender.

Commentary on the concept of gender binary:

In recent western society we have assumed how someone will think about themselves, judging this solely on our one observable aspect of their biological sex.  We assign gender at birth according to genitalia, assign it by choice where genitalia is complicated, or change genitalia so that we can assign binary gender.

Considering the inclusion of other genders in other cultures now and throughout history, and considering the complex nature of neuropsychology and biological sex, it is clear that the gender binary is false.

Gender identity

A neuro-psychological state made up of a combination of genetic and experiential neural-pathways, forming personality and determining how someone internally views, senses and experiences themselves in relation to gender.

Commentary on the complexities of gender identity:

Much of the time people’s gender identity does in fact “match” with their observed biological sex. This is why we have developed the assumptions we have, but it is the rigidity with which we have made these the only options that is problematic. It may be simple, but human are not always simple.

Sometimes people are intersex, which often makes gender identity more complex, and sometimes people are not intersex, and still their gender identity does not align with the expectations of society based on observed biological sex.

Some people identify as the opposite binary gender to the one they were assigned at birth, and some people identify as both or neither, or their internal experience changes.

Cis-gender

a term used to describe someone whose gender identity matches the identity that was assigned based on society’s assumption from their biological sex as observed at birth.

Non-binary

a broad term that people use to describe many gender identities that do not fit with the current binary paradigm. As mentioned above, there are many variations of this. Some people identify as being of an intermediate or “third” gender, some see themselves without gender (a-gender or non-gender), and some people’s gender identity fluctuates (gender-fluid).

Transgender

often shortened to “trans”. This is commonly used to describe anyone whose gender identity does not match entirely, or has changed from, that which was assigned to them at birth. This therefore includes anyone transitioning from one gender binary to the other, or any other change of gender, such as identifying as non-binary. However, some non-binary people do not consider themselves trans, or do not want to identify using this term.

Gender expression

a term that describes the way that someone chooses to express their gender to society through societal gender norms, which can include, their appearance, mannerisms, hobbies, their chosen career, and their role in society. 

Commentary on gender expression:

Gender expression can be influenced by gender identity but it needn’t be. A cis-woman can absolutely wear jeans and trainers and be a brick layer, without being any less of a woman. Similarly, whilst many non-binary people choose some androgynous expressions, this is definitely not always the case, and there is no reason why they need to.

Gender non-conforming

a term that describes people who do not conform to the gender roles and gender expression that society has attached to their gender, no matter what that gender is, and whether it was assigned at birth or not. 

Commentary on gender conformity:

There is absolutely no reason why a person has to express their gender as society expects. Although society’s oppressive expectations of gender expression conformity can lead to extremely difficult feelings about gender, especially in young people, this is not the same as gender dysphoria, or being trans. Those are separate issues.

Gender dysphoria

The most modern clinical diagnosis for someone who experiences significant distress due to a mis-match between their gender identity and their biological sex. This was previously called Gender Identity Disorder, but was re-named in the latest psychological manuals due to the stigma associated with describing it as a disorder. 

Commentary on gender dysphoria as a diagnosis:

Many people want this completely de-classified, because they consider it to be pathologising of normal gender variance. Others consider that removing this from clinical manuals would result in trans people receiving less support.

Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation is a term that describes to whom a person is sexually or romantically attracted, and/or with whom they want to have sexual/romantic relationships. There are many variations here too, of which many of the main terms are described below.

Heterosexual

people who are attracted to people of the opposite sex/gender.

Homosexual

An umbrella term for people who are attracted to people of the opposite sex/gender.

Gay

A term that is most commonly used to describe men who are sexually/romantically attracted to, and/or have sexual/romantic relationships with other men. Having said this, this term is also often used to describe anyone who is not heterosexual.

Lesbian

A term that is used to describe women who are sexually/romantically  attracted to, and/or have sexual/romantic relationships with other women.

Bisexual

A term that is used to describe people who are sexually/romantically  attracted to, and/or have sexual/romantic relationships with either men or women. This, in itself is not simple, as not everyone feels equally attracted to one or the other sex/gender. Some people confuse this with people who want to have relationships with more than one person at a time.

Polyamorous

A term for people who want to, and agree to with all parties’ knowledge, have sexual and/or romantic relationships with more than one person at a time. This can take many different forms.

Pansexual

There are two common definitions of this term. 1. Someone who is sexually / romantically attracted to people of all/any sexes or genders. 2. Someone for whom biological sex and gender do not factor into their sexual/romantic attraction. Since they amount to similar outcomes, the difference is much debated but often practically irrelevant.

Queer

Historically often used as a slur, this term has been reclaimed and is used by large parts of the LGBTQIA+ community as an umbrella term for everyone in that community. It is often sensible to be cautious using the term when referring to another person unless you know they are comfortable with this.

Ace-spectrum

An umbrella term for people who do not feel any, or much, sexual or romantic attraction, or have little to no sexual desire, either at all, or only in specific circumstances. This is very much a spectrum situation, but there are some useful terms to understand.

Asexual

Someone who does not feel any, or much, sexual attraction or sexual desire.

Aromantic

Someone who does not feel any, or much, romantic attraction or desire for romantic relationships.

Demi-sexual

Someone who only feels sexual attraction or desire for someone with whom they have already developed a deep personal connection and/or a romantic relationship.

About neurodivergence and gender

The human population is neurologically diverse; this means that although there is a typical way that brains are “wired” in the human population, there are many people who brains are wired in a number of atypical ways. Some people who are neurodivergent (have differently wired brains) manage just fine in society due to their differences fitting in with the systems we have developed, and others struggle. Usually those that struggle the most are diagnosed with any number of conditions such as Autism and ADHD, and due to their struggles, develop mental health conditions. As with gender dysphoria, there is a solid argument that we use conditions like Autism and ADHD to pathologise normal neurodiversity. However, when people struggle, the only way they can get support in this society is through diagnosis.

Correlation between gender diversity and neurodiversity

It is true that more neurodivergent people are LGBTQIA+ than is statistically true of the wider population. Some have implied or outright suggested that this is because autistic people are vulnerable to suggestion. This is utterly untrue, and somewhat absurd. When we consider that gender identity is entirely neuro-psychological, it is no surprise at all that people who have brains that diverge from the norm, also experience gender in a way that is not typical.

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