Comparing sexual orientation to gender identity is like… Comparing lemons and grapes. They’re both fruit but they have little to do with one another. Awhile back I wrote a blog titled “If I’m not lesbianed, then you can’t be transgendered…” One of my main points of this post was the grammatical incorrectness of saying ‘Transgendered’ – it just sounds bad. But often, you will hear people who know nothing about the LGBT community using the word transgendered, not because they have ill will towards the community but simply because they are lacking the education and awareness to know what they are saying is incorrect.
I don’t know about you, but I love Twitter. I am on Twitter daily conversing with many people. I had a recent Twitter exchange with a person who was annoyed, for lack of a better word, that I would make a comparison between sexual orientation (lesbianed) and gender identity (transgendered). As I just reiterated one of my primary points was to bring forward the grammatically incorrect nature of such an expression in hopes to get people on board with using the appropriate language.
But that person’s Tweet has prompted me to go a bit further and really clarify the different between sexual orientation and gender identity. I have certainly covered this in previous blog posts but I don’t know if I’ve entirely dedicated a blog to just this.
So for the average person reading this who is not part of the LGBT community, this might be confusing so my goal is to break it down in its simplest form so you can walk away more educated than from when you started reading this post. Let’s start with the fact that LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Lesbian, gay and bisexual all fall under sexual orientation. There are also a few others like asexual and pansexual, among others. The commonality here is that sexual orientation is about the sex you are attracted to. I am a female, attracted to other females, which makes me a lesbian. A male attracted to another male makes him gay. A male or female attracted to both males and females makes that person bisexual. Is this all-making sense so far?
Gender identity on the other hand has nothing to do with whom you are attracted to. It has to do with whom you identify as. I as someone who was physically born a female and identify as a female would be considered cisgender, which is really the correct term to use rather than saying I’m non-transgender (I wrote a blog on cisgender [link to article here] a while back – you can refer to that for more details on it).
Now someone who was physically born female but identifies as a male would be someone who is transgender. The appropriate language would be a transgender man or trans man. The same holds true for someone who was physically born male but who identifies as female. The appropriate language here would be a transgender woman or a trans woman. Transgender really is a person’s internalized sense of one’s self. I’ve had conversations with people who have asked me trans specific questions and usually an example is what gets the light bulb to turn on over their head.
Imagine being born a girl and everyone around you, your parents, your siblings, your teachers, and your family – all ooing and aahing over what a pretty little girl you are. Buying you pink everything and dolls and ponies, etc. But really you know that you are a boy. Even at the earliest age you know inside that you are a boy but everyone around you is telling you that you are a girl. That is what it is like to be transgender. There are many stories from across the globe of children coming out as transgender at very early ages, as early as 4 or 5. Fortunately nowadays there are resources available for children and parents who are going through this to help make the transition easier. To hear a very personal story of coming out as trans, click here to listen to my podcast interview with Tony Ferraiolo.
If someone is transgender that does not necessarily mean they share same sex attraction. A trans man could be straight, gay or bisexual. And a trans woman could be straight, lesbian or bisexual. The two truly have nothing to do with one another.
There are also differences between gender expression and gender identity, which you can check out here.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you agree, disagree, find this post enlightening? Comment below or leave a message on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. I love hearing your comments and having conversations with you.