Understanding LGBTQIA+ Terminology : Sexual and Emotional Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Intersex
The terms used to identify and describe individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community can be complex and confusing, especially for those who are not familiar with them. It’s important to understand and respect these terms to foster inclusivity and promote acceptance for all individuals. In this article, we will explore the specificities of different terminologies used to describe individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Sexual and Emotional Orientation
Sexual and emotional orientation are the terms used to describe the sexual and emotional attraction that a person feels towards other people, generally based on biological sex and/or gender. Examples of sexual orientation include bisexuality, asexuality, pansexuality, homosexuality, and heterosexuality. It’s important to note that orientation is not only a question of sexuality but also of feelings. A person’s sexual orientation does not necessarily always correspond to their affective orientation. A person may, for example, be sexually attracted to both genders but only fall in love with people of the same gender (it is, therefore, possible that they identify as homoromantic bisexual). Distinguishing these two aspects, sexual orientation and affective orientation, makes it possible to better understand and acknowledge experiences and feelings.
Gender identity refers to the gender a person identifies with, which may or may not correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth based on their biological sex. The majority of people identify with the gender assigned to them at birth (for example: a person assigned female at birth who identifies as female). These people are said to be cisgender. However, some people do not identify and/or question the gender they were assigned at birth. These people sometimes define themselves as being transgender. It’s important to note that not all transgender people necessarily want to take hormones or undergo gender-affirming surgeries. Additionally, gender identities go well beyond the binary model, with some people defining themselves as non-binary, gender fluid, agender, etc. Ultimately, each person is free to define themselves as they wish, and this can evolve during their lifetime.
Gender expression refers to the way a person presents themselves to the outside world, such as their choice of clothing, language, attitudes, etc., whether or not they match their gender identity. A person can identify as a woman while adopting a masculine appearance or vice versa. Gender expressions are multiple and are not fixed. For instance, some people adopt a temporary or occasional gender expression that does not necessarily correspond to their everyday gender expression, such as drag queens/kings.
Intersex refers to individuals born with sexual characteristics (genital, chromosomal, etc.) that do not correspond to the traditional definitions of female or male sex. Intersex covers many situations and can take various forms, and it’s important to understand that it’s not a medical condition or disorder that requires “treatment.” To learn more about intersex, visit the website of the International Intersex Organization.
The acronym LGBTQIA+ is often used to represent the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual or romantic communities. All these terms are important because they help individuals identify and express themselves. It’s important to note that the term “queer” is a reclaimed term that was previously used as a slur. However, it has been reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community as an umbrella term that is more inclusive of individuals who do not fit into traditional gender or sexual identities.
Understanding and respecting LGBTQIA+ terminology is essential to create an inclusive and accepting society. It’s important to recognize that the terms used to describe individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community