Before our very eyes our world is expanding and a new paradigm of individual sovereignty is unfolding.
As sexual beings, who we are attracted to (if at all), how we communicate our sexual desires, how often we have sex, and what kind of sexual activities we enjoy, all vary hugely from person to person.
Throughout modern recounts of history in Western society, sexuality and gender have gone hand-in-hand, with the gender binary of male and female, “straight” and “gay” comprising the extent of our education. Some scholars say this is largely due to the institution of Christianity, but inarguably, these ideas benefitted the introduction of colonial and capitalist systems. With the past decade of accelerated Trans rights activism and a greater focus on intersectional liberties, particularly on social media, history is frequently being revisited to challenge these constructed ‘norms’.
A quick Google search will tell you about the existence of the third and beyond genders in ancient cultures spanning every continent. In Ancient Greece, the Galli priests attempted to disconnect from their physical embodiment as cis-males. In Indigenous Native American civilisation, “Two-Spirit People” have long been recognised; not dissimilar from the way in which the Australian First Nations community acknowledged “sistergirls” and “brotherboys” before European invasion. The gender binary only ever comprised one part of a broader spectrum, whereas whole human essence was governed by a blend of masculine and feminine energy.
One overwhelming positive of social media is that we are becoming more open towards these unique identities and are able to peer into alternative ways of being far more easily than we ever have before.
While there are times when these differences can feel challenging and hard to process, exploring these differences allows us to flourish as fully realised individuals and have the kind of experiences we want and deserve to have. And by learning about the language that others around us use, we can be more supportive, compassionate allies of everyone around us.
For some people, these sorts of definitions and labels, whether denoting gender or sexuality, can be a great way to feel validated, seen, and free. For others, labels can be a source of significant discomfort and stress and can lead to feelings of alienation and divisiveness.
As advocates for uninhibited sexual expression, we recognise that definitions for something so unique and fluid as sexuality and gender are never entirely comprehensive nor absolute. We believe that one day these definitions will become less overt and more passive as equality is forged, but for now, we all have a responsibility to do the work of re-educating ourselves and our spheres of influence (peers, home, workplaces).
Many of the below terms have been used in derogatory ways, and individuals and communities have worked hard to reclaim and re empower themselves using this language.
When denoting sexuality, queer is an umbrella term for anybody who does not identify as heterosexual. Using the word Queer can feel safe for people who don’t feel represented by any other language or those who are still coming to understand their sexuality as being ‘non-straight’.
Gender-queer is a term owned by people who do not identify within a binary gender structure. Gender-queer people may use they/them pronouns or any combination of pronouns that they feel represents their energy best.
A person who experiences sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to people of the opposite gender.
A person who experiences sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to people of the same gender.
Bisexual people are people who experience sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to more than one gender. Bisexual people may fluctuate in which gender they are attracted to most predominantly at any time, but just because a person has only dated males or females in the past, does not discount their bisexuality.
A person who can experience sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to any person regardless of their gender or sexuality, based on personality and character first and foremost. Pansexual does not mean polyamorous, it just means that a person’s scope of what they are attracted to looks outside definitions of gender and sex.
Asexual is an umbrella term for people who experience little to no sexual attraction for any gender or sexuality. People may experience periods of asexuality in seasonal ways, or they may be asexual for the majority to all of their life.
The feeling of comfort, certainty, joy, or excitement about your home in your body. Gender euphoria is the right of every individual to feel connected to who they are.
The feeling of discomfort or distress that occurs when an individual’s biological sex and gender identity do not align.
A non-binary person may identify as neither male nor female or both male and female, or any combination in between. The non-binary community is incredibly and beautifully diverse, and within it, people may feel connected to gender in a fluid way or feel permanently detached from gender structure all together. Non-binary people tend to use pronouns that indicate neutrality, steering away from she/her or he/him in many cases. Some non-binary people undergo different medical procedures to feel more congruent within their innate gender, but non-binary does not necessarily mean trans or always include cross-dressing. Some other language used within the non-binary community include genderqueer, genderf*ck, neutrosis, agender, gender-fluid, bigender and third gender.
Not everyone is born male or female. In fact, 1.7% of the world’s population is intersex. That’s roughly the same amount of people born with red hair. Being Intersex has nothing to do with being transgender, and it is not something that needs to be “corrected”. Some intersex people are born with genitals or internal sex organs that sit outside the male/female categories whereas some Intersex people are born with genitals that fit inside such categories, but their internal hormones don’t match. Some people may have a binaric sex assigned to them by doctors when they are infants, for the individual to find that it misrepresents their development later on. There are many organisations working to increase Intersex visibility and equality so people are not subjected to the trauma of being misgendered or having “corrective” surgery forced upon them at a young age.
Trans is an umbrella term short for transgender used to describe someone who is not cis-gendered. It can include trans-men, trans-women or trans-non binary people. A trans-woman is someone who doesn’t feel aligned with their sex assigned at birth and instead has a sense of self that is female. In any case, the trans community is largely made up of individuals who have found their own unique reality of gender outside of the binary of male and female. Being trans does not always mean pursuing medical changes to affirm gender, however hormonal treatments and cross-dressing are sometimes an important part of a trans person’s journey towards gender euphoria.
Pronouns are used in language to denote people, their actions and their belongings usually related to a person’s gender. Whilst she/her and he/him are what we have traditionally relied on, more and more people are beginning to use different pronouns to distinguish themselves in their unique gender identity. In fact, there are officially 78 recognised gender pronouns including a host of neo-pronouns designed to represent new gender understanding.
Please note that using people’s pronouns is not a show of extraneous effort, it is the bare minimum level of respect. If you get someone’s pronouns wrong, the most important thing to do is acknowledge your mistake and correct yourself on the spot. You are not expected to be perfect, but practicing people’s pronouns is easy to do with a little bit of mindfulness, and it makes the world safer for everyone.
Some gender neutral pronouns you can expect to come across:
“Arlo left their things at my house. I should call them and let them know when they can come and collect!”
ze/zir/zem- pronounced “zee/zeer/zem”
“Tids has zir show tonight and ze is playing bass. I can’t wait for zem to blow-up as an artist.”
Xe/ xyr/ xem/ xyrself- pronounced “zee/zeer/zem/zeerself”
“Penelope has been going through a hard time with xyrself. Xe might need a little support to get back on xyr feet”
ze/hir/hirs – pronounced “zee/heer/heers”
fae/faer/faers – pronounced “fay/fair/fairs”
ey/em/eir – pronounced “ay/em/hei
As we reawaken our collective identity, it’s important to remember that despite an ever-growing bank of terminology and definitions, sometimes neither sexuality nor gender are truly measurable, and definitions should only apply if they feel freeing to you.
You choose what makes you feel good, even if that’s choosing nothing.