HOME    l    ORGANIZATION    l    NEWS    l    INFO    l    TOPICS    l    RESOURCES    l    LINKS    l    INDEX


Sex and Gender Issues


48 Things Men Hear That Are Bad for Everyone

48 Things Women Hear in a Lifetime That Men Just Donít

Gender Bender

Ted Talk: Gender is Not a Straight Line

Katie Couric: What I Learned About Gender

Video: Gender Roles Taught at Home

Feminine: A Short Film

Dar Williams: When I Was a Boy

Beyonce: If I Were a Boy

Cher: Men Aren't Necessary

Ted Talk: Gender Fluidity

Gender: A Short Film

Children on Gender Roles

Pink & Blue: Communicating Gender to Children

Ted Talk: Why is Gender Identity so Important?

Is Gender a Social Construct?

Is Our Language Too Genered?


More Than Just Physical

Sex and gender are terms that are often used interchangeably and frequently seen as synonymous.  For purposes of a discussion that leads to greater understanding of human sexuality, letís consider sex and gender as separate concepts. Additionally, letís examine variations and aspects of sex and gender. And letís further consider the notion that oneís sex and gender may not be defined in the extremes but instead along a continuum. 


Sex and gender can be discussed and understood in terms of physical, psychological, social, and emotional perspectives.  What do the various labels mean?  What is meant by sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation? This is an attempt to delineate the differences and clarify the terminology.


SEX (Physical)

Male or Female

 Sex is described with regard to physical elements and in terms of oneís biology and anatomy. A personís sex is defined as his or her medical assignment as manifest through organs, genitals, hormones, and chromosomes. 

A person might be male or female.  Or a person might be intersexual or transsexual (hermaphroditic).


GENDER IDENTITY (Psychological)

Man or Woman
Gender identity is oneís psychological understanding of self. It is defined in terms of roles, perceptions, and self concept. A personís gender identity can be described as the way in which he or she views him or herself. 

A person might be a man (boy) or a woman (girl).  Or a person might be two-spirited or third-gendered.



Masculine or Feminine
Gender expression is a social construct. It can be defined with regard to societal expectations and interpretations. A personís gender expression can be described as the way in which he or she communicates his or her gender to others. It is manifest through outward appearance, mannerisms, clothing, hair style, and speech pattern. 

A person might be masculine (butch, top) or feminine (femme, bottom).  Or a person might be androgynous (transvestite).



Homosexual or Heterosexual
Sexual orientation is described as oneís emotional identity. It can be defined in terms of oneís romantic or erotic response. A personís sexual orientation is described with regard to sexual behavior and is manifest through attraction, affection, relationships, and love. 

A person who is attracted to persons of the same sex are homosexual (gay, lesbian) and a person who is attracted to persons of the opposite sex are heterosexual (straight).  A person might also be bisexual (both sexes), asexual (neither sex), pansexual (all variations), or omnisexual (all variations).


Sex & Gender Model
Center for Gender Sanity
Diagram of Sex and Gender
Wikipedia: Gender Identity

Gender Identity Development
Sexuality and Gender Identity


Definitions and Terminology

Biological sex includes external genitalia, internal reproductive structures, chromosomes, hormone levels, and secondary sex characteristics such as breasts, facial and body hair, and fat distribution. These characteristics are objective in that they can be seen and measured (with appropriate technology). The scale consists not just of two categories (male and female) but is actually a continuum, with most people existing somewhere near one end or the other. The space more in the middle is occupied by intersex people (formerly, hermaphrodites), who have combinations of characteristics typical of males and those typical of females, such as both a testis and an ovary, or XY chromosomes (the usual male pattern) and a vagina, or they may have features that are not completely male or completely female, such as an organ that could be thought of as a small penis or a large clitoris, or an XXY chromosomal pattern.


Gender identity is how people think of themselves and identify in terms of sex (man, woman, boy, girl). Gender identity is a psychological quality; unlike biological sex, it can't be observed or measured (at least by current means), only reported by the individual. Like biological sex, it consists of more than two categories, and there's space in the middle for those who identify as a third gender, both (two-spirit), or neither. We lack language for this intermediate position because everyone in our culture is supposed to identify unequivocally with one of the two extreme categories. In fact, many people feel that they have masculine and feminine aspects of their psyches, and some people, fearing that they do, seek to purge themselves of one or the other by acting in exaggerated sex-stereotyped ways.

Gender expression is everything we do that communicates our sex/gender to others: clothing, hair styles, mannerisms, way of speaking, roles we take in interactions, etc. This communication may be purposeful or accidental. It could also be called social gender because it relates to interactions between people. Trappings of one gender or the other may be forced on us as children or by dress codes at school or work. Gender expression is a continuum, with feminine at one end and masculine at the other. In between are gender expressions that are androgynous (neither masculine nor feminine) and those that combine elements of the two (sometimes called gender bending). Gender expression can vary for an individual from day to day or in different situations, but most people can identify a range on the scale where they feel the most comfortable. Some people are comfortable with a wider range of gender expression than others.


Sexual orientation indicates who we are erotically attracted to. The ends of this scale are labeled "attracted to women" and "attracted to men," rather than "homosexual" and "heterosexual," to avoid confusion as we discuss the concepts of sex and gender. In the mid-range is bisexuality; there are also people who are asexual (attracted to neither men nor women). We tend to think of most people as falling into one of the two extreme categories (attracted to women or attracted to men), whether they are straight or gay, with only a small minority clustering around the bisexual middle. However, Kinsey's studies showed that most people are in fact not at one extreme of this continuum or the other, but occupy some position between.




Dar Williams: When I Was a Boy

Beyonce: If I Were a Boy

My Son Wears Pink

Domenick Scudera: Sissy Boy

Butch: Not a Dirty Word



Sexual Attraction

Attraction to men, males, and/or masculinity.


Attraction to women, females, and/or femininity.


Attraction to genderqueer and transsexual people and expression (non-cisgendered people).


Defined Categories
--Cisgender Man
--Cisgender Woman






Relevant Information












The LGBTQ Movement is Not Just About Sexuality


For a great number of people their sexual orientation does match their romantic orientation -- but not always. The LGBTQ+ movement has managed to conflate sexual and romantic orientation through the decades and yet this risks leaving many people confused about where exactly they fit.

The narrow definitions and conflation of identities have been so clearly shown by the treatment of aromantic and asexual people within the LGBTQ+ community. Aro and ace communities have been far better at recognizing different nuances of identities than the wider LGBTQ+ movement. The grey scale is a term in itself which clearly shows the wonderful world of complicated and personal identities. It is an acceptance that there are not just 'on' or 'off' switches with sexuality and romantic experiences. Yet ace and aro people face erasure regularly within the LGBTQ+ community. Conversations are designed around sexuality, the right to always have sex but excluding those who do not have the same desires. It is all about sex with members of the same gender. Queer spaces are so often simply pulling spaces, particularly when centerd around alcohol.

LGBTQ+ people do need places to fulfill sexual and romantic desires free from harassment but that shouldn't be the sole focus of spaces claiming to be for all identities. We also need to address our terms, not only is crying that we're for 'the freedom of love' incorrect as it erases trans people, but it also erases aromantic people which immediately says that this movement is not for them.

The shift to make LGBTQ+ politics respectable has risked abandoning many people who should be embraced into the community. The constant focus on presenting LGBTQ+ people as always in stable, loving, same gender relationships (especially marriages) and with children presents a very one dimensional idea of who belongs in this community. If you don't want a romantic relationship but just want sexual partners then there is the implication that you're doing harm to the reputation of the community. If you don't want sexual relationships with someone of the same gender then the implication is you don't fit in at all. Everything is designed around making LGBTQ+ people's presentation as acceptable as possible to cisgender heterosexual people.

This is also an issue for many who do not identify as asexual or aromantic. For instance: it is entirely possible to experience sexual attraction to one gender but romantic attraction to another gender. One may be heterosexual but that doesn't mean that are automatically heteroromantic. I myself am bisexual yet homoromantic (although because I experience romantic attraction exclusively to women then that means I often find far more acceptance in the LGBTQ+ community than other bisexual women I know because they are heteroromantic).

The LGBTQ+ world has become a marketing machine. Our images and PR campaigns whether it comes to marriage equality or floats at Pride have become carefully crafted over the years. Gone are the radical political elements that wanted to smash binaries and capitalism and in its place is the LGBTQ+ happy family presented in a very narrow and manipulated way.

LGBTQ+ organizations have become solely focussed on selling the Disney story: where two white, middle class cis guys or two cis girls fall in love, get married and have wonderful children. We've forgotten why we started this fight. It was not for cis, straight, white, middle class people to finally be able to tolerate us but for the complete liberation from narrow binaries and prejudices that dominate society. It was not just for 'gay love' but for people to be treated and recognized as human beings who deserve nothing more or less than total respect for their identities. It was for all those outside of the norms society tried to force upon us and that includes all of the variations of sexual and romantic attractions that are not solely heterosexual or heteroromantic.


(From Huffington Post, Jan 2016 / Stephanie Farnsworth / Charity Worker and LGBTQ Rights Activist / Follow Stephanie on Twitter:



Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
According to the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health (Formerly Planned Parenthood of Canada)...  "You have a right to be exactly who you are. People express their sexuality in many different ways; there is no right or wrong way to be. You have the right to identify with the gender and sexual orientation of your choice without fear of discrimination in education, healthcare, social and political participation; and to live free of verbal and/or physical assault."  They offer helpful information and resources on a variety of sexual health subjects, along with this discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation...


Gender Identities: At birth, we are assigned one of two genders, usually based on our visible genitals. For many people this gender assignment fits and feels comfortable and they never think about it further. Others do not feel as comfortable with their assigned gender, either because they find the two-gender system too limiting or because they feel more identification with the gender opposite that to which they were assigned at birth. People deal with this discomfort in many ways, sometimes only in personal ways, and sometimes in ways visible to others.

Sexual Orientation: Sexual orientation refers to one's sexual and romantic attraction. Those whose sexual orientation is to people of the opposite sex are called "heterosexual", those whose sexual orientation is to people of the same sex are called "homosexual" (or lesbian or gay), and those whose sexual orientation is to people of both sexes are called "bisexual." Sexual orientation is not necessarily the same as sexual behaviour.

GLBTT2IQQ Ė what does it mean? 

Gay - A man who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with other men; also used as an umbrella term for everyone who has same-sex romantic/sexual attractions or relations. 

Lesbian - A woman who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with other women.

Bisexual - A person who is romantically/sexually attracted to or involved with both men and women.

Transgender (or trans) Ė is an umbrella term that includes people who do not fit traditional male or female roles and expectations, and/or who identify with a gender other than the one assigned at birth (e.g., women who feel like men, or men who feel like women). Transgender does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation. Individuals in the transgender community express themselves in different ways. This can include adopting the clothing and/or behaviours of the opposite or both genders, use of hormones and/or gender reassignment surgery. 

Transsexual Ė Individuals whose gender identity is not in keeping with their physical bodies. They may desire to, or have modified their body through hormones and/or surgical procedures in order to bring their body closer to their gender identity.

2Two-spirited is a term for individuals who are considered to be neither women nor men among many First Nations groups. It often implies a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit living in the same body. It is also used by some contemporary gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex First Nations people to describe themselves. There are many indigenous terms for these individuals in the various First Nations languages.

Intersex - A person whose sex chromosomes, genitalia and/or secondary sex characteristics (e.g. facial hair, breasts) are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. An intersex person may have biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes. The intersex community has generally rejected the term Ďhermaphoditeí as out-dated. Intersex people may or may not identify as part of the transgender community. 

Queer - Some people prefer to be called queer rather than gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans. For some people the term queer is positive and empowering.

Questioning - People who are either experimenting with or exploring their sexuality, or who refuse to label their sexual orientation.




HOME    l    ORGANIZATION    l    NEWS    l    INFO    l    TOPICS    l    RESOURCES    l    LINKS    l    INDEX



Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama