That Gender and Sexual Orientation Post

Apparently I have to redraw the lines. Again.

Highly personal rant to follow, so. But helpful, I think.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve identified as a woman and as a bisexual woman. There were many reasons why I wasn’t comfortable with being labelled as straight (heterosexual) or as demisexual, pansexual and the like. Before yesterday my main criteria was by example; that is, I identified myself as heterosexual the moment I dreamt of marrying a prince (still a standing dream) and then as a bisexual when I first met Keira Knightley (in a very particular movie). So I can’t admit to any other identity because I’ve never had any occasion to do so. When anyone asks, though, I always say I identify as bisexual because life is too short to limit ourselves, because people are people no matter their gender.

But I always had to brush off the question: why am I bisexual, then? If my reasons were true, I should be able to find any member of the gender variance attractive, regardless of sex or gender. In fact, I actively swerved away from this dissonance, ignoring the way I could not explain why I was attracted to men and women, but not to men and women who were transitioning (for example). To me, being in a relationship with someone who identified as neither a man nor a woman is unthinkable.

Boy was I in for a lesson. I can’t remember what led me to watching her or his works, but there I ended up anyway: repeating the same YouTube video over and over again because I could not understand how a person could be so attractive in entirely two different and incredibly confusing ways. !!! If you haven’t watched the video yet, scroll back up and watch it now. !!!

So androgyny is now part of the question. I’ve been passingly aware, of course, but thanks to Erika Linder and Andrej Pejic (whom I’ve heard of before, but now I am truly enlightened), I find myself crushing on people who have indeterminate gender and who have publicly stated to subscribe to not only one gender, but either, both or none. Life-changer right there, because.

Well, I can’t call myself trisexual now, can I? I mean, I’m perfectly within my rights to call myself trisexual, i.e. attracted to members of three sexes: male, female and (n)either. But it sounds ridiculous and vaguely questionable (what do you mean by trisexual? Do you mean man, woman and potato fries? Or man, woman and that sweater you were drooling over? It’s okay. Sexual attraction to anything is acceptable. No kink-shaming here. Etc.)

Might as well just call me nothing and be done with it, because I’ve realized that people really can be attractive and charismatic and successful, even, without being boxed by a specific gender (surprise!). And I am so happy for this realization, to relearn something about myself. I guess now I know that, if the timing and person is right, I can very well be attracted to a transitioning person, or a disgender, or a nongender, a hermaphrodite, a queer. Or a potato. You name it. It really doesn’t matter. And I don’t have to worry.

*Throws confetti into the air*

Jari’s Guide to Respecting People
(I’ve always wanted to do one of these)

I’m done with the personal part. Hi.

  1. Labels can be necessary or harmful. They give a sense of belonging and security, especially for previously unconventional identities who are struggling against a predominantly patriarchal world. But they do become harmful when they are used to either draw lines of division and discrimination or to hurt someone as a slur.
  2. It is always harmful to assume. If they are openly queer and you are unsure about their identity, ask them what pronouns they’d prefer. If they seem queer or non-heterosexual, don’t ask outright. They might not be ready to come out of the closet yet, or you’re misjudging. Badly.
  3. All identities are valid. There is no such thing as an invalid identity, or one that is less important. Respect. Accept. Love.
  4. Research. I’m not actually an authority on this.

Quick-read Glossary

Sex: biologically determined by the set of primary and accessory reproductive organs you were born with, chromosomes (XX, XY, XXY, XYY and so on) and hormones.

  • Male – penis, more defined muscles, higher levels of testosterone, XY
  • Female – vagina, easier fat accumulation, higher levels of estrogen, XX
  • Intersex – with ambiguous organs, usually as a result of a difference in chromosome number; sometimes referred to as “hermaphroditism”

Gender: the social and cultural attitudes associated with a biological sex, e.g. masculinity (buff, mechanically competent, breadwinner, territorial) is associated with a man. This is expressed as gender identity, the psychological identification of a person as a man or a woman or neither, which can align or not align with biological sex and which describes the societal role a person will take. The form of gender expression differs by culture and the role expectations of a particular society. The spectrum of possible genders includes but is not limited to:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Transgender – an umbrella term for people who experience and/or express their gender differently from what is socially expected; people who are transgender may or may not undergo sex-reassignment surgery (in which case they may be called transsexual persons) or may cross-dress.
  • Androgyny – neither male nor female traits dominate
  • Multi-gendered, e.g. bigender and trigender persons
  • No gender, e.g. nongender and agender persons
  • Third gender – people who live up to a societal role different from male and female; these are usually evident in certain cultures of set societal expectations

Orientation: the aesthetic, physical or emotional attraction of a person to people of another gender. There is a distinction that can be made between sexual orientation (attraction involving sexual activity and physical pleasure-seeking) and romantic orientation (attraction involving emotional attachments and relationships). Some orientations include:

  • Heterosexual or heteroromantic – commonly referred to as “straight”; a person is attracted to a person from the opposite sex and gender
  • Homosexual – commonly referred to as (and limited to) the term “gay”; a person is attracted to another of the same sex and gender — includes the general terms Lesbian and Gay (of LGBT fame)
  • Bisexual or biromantic – attracted to members of the male and female sex
  • Pansexual or panromantic – attracted to people of any biological sex or gender
  • Demisexual – sexually attracted to people only when emotional attachments have already been formed
  • Asexual or aromantic – does not experience sexual or romantic desire towards other people

Other terms:

  • Cis – stands for cisgender or cissexual, the state wherein an individual’s experienced and expressed gender identity matches their assigned biological sex. Cisnormativity is evident in society
  • Queer – umbrella term for non-binary identities
  • Heteronormativity – cultural bias in favor of and assumption of the heterosexual condition; may also encompass the cis man and cis woman expectation
  • Gender binary – classification of sex and gender into two distinct quantities (male and female)
  • Patriarchal society – our enemy; the enabler of harmful social constructs which lead to fear of the unknown and discrimination


And Erika Linder makes music. And live twitcams. Goodness.

IMPORTANT EDIT 23.08.2014: on the definition of “bisexuality”: bisexuality is not limited to an attraction to the two binary genders. It is more relevantly defined as the attraction to more than one gender (but not necessarily all). The definition and frame of this whole post as I wrote it was working under the (misconceived) notion that bisexuality is just about the two genders.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Erika says:

    This post!! Not that anyone has ever asked, but I somehow personally do not identify myself as straight per se. I’m also open to every possibility. (Except I haven’t really been attracted *to the point that it counted* to another girl, and also that I’m pretty much emotionally attached to a guy who I may think is “the one” *call me silly* BUT I DEFINITELY GET YOU!) And I love this post. So much. Those rules, terms and everything are gold.

  2. It’s awesome when you find out new things about your friends (and even more about yourself)! Thank you for liking this post, and good luck with that guy *wink wink*.

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