A brief terminology primer on the complexity of Sexuality and Gender…
GENDER ROLE: The way you express yourself, in regard to socio-culturally formed expectations (stay with me here…). This is guided by traditional and often stereotypical Masculine/Feminine attributes and behaviours. e.g. stay-at-home mum, Mr. Fix-it
Whether or not you assume a traditional gender role is neither good or bad, what IS important is that it’s your choice.
GENDER IDENTITY: Your internal experience of the world & your Self, and how you identify with all, or any gender expressions. This may be vastly different to the roles that you engage in.
SEX: generally used to describe the biological sex you were born with. This isn’t as clear-cut, such as the various types of Inter-sex people (not to be confused with trans!).
Importantly (and the crux of all this gender talk):
Biological sex DOES NOT, and should not, dictate a persons gender self-expression.
Really, it would be like telling a boy something silly like, he shouldn’t cry because he has a penis, or telling a girl that they MUST wear pink and play with dolls… because, you know, they have vaginas… wait a second… people do that don’t they??
These factors can be expressed in traditional ways, or can be contrasting. The take-home message here is:
Gender is not biologically defined. It is a way in which we experience and present ourselves to the world, and how we interact with the world around us. It is informed by social expectations, tradition and culture. It is fluid and changeable, and the degree of changeability and variation is ultimately up to the individuals inner world.
ROMANTIC: Who you are romantically, emotionally attracted to
SEXUAL: Who you desire to have Sex with
SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR: Who you actually have Sex with
Remember all of these things can be straight forward and interconnected, or they can all be vastly contrasting with each other. An example of this is within the community of “men who have sex with men” (MSM); many men that identify as heterosexual also enjoy sexual activity with men.
Alternately, many people that experience homosexual attraction may remain in heterosexual relationships, for many possible reasons, such as shame or internalised homophobia.
Labelling a person as solely one orientation (or gender) or another can be harmful, as it can pigeonhole a persons sexuality, something which is often fluid and can change throughout a lifespan. This type of stigma can be harmful and limit a person from freely expressing themselves.
(I’ll be writing more about topics like Bisexuality, Pronouns and Misgendering in later posts!)
The Genderbread Person!
The take-home here, is that every factor of a persons gender and orientation exists on a separate spectrum. Its like making a delicious recipe!
Although it doesn’t include sexual behaviour, this is probably the best infographic for this topic, in my opinion.
You can read more about the Genderbread Person, gender and sexuality at this great website:
This is also a great resource organisation:
We are all sexual beings, who experience and express sexuality and gender in infinite other ways. That should be celebrated and not limited.
Everyone is different, that’s the beauty of Love & Sex
Feel free to share how you are expressed and oriented!