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Sex

Sexual orientation and identity

4 components for defining yourself

Here are 4 concepts that will help you talk about sexual and gender diversity. Each concept is independent and each one helps you define yourself. Furthermore, each one is a continuum, which means that people usually aren’t at one end or the other but somewhere in between. In other words, these aren’t binary concepts (I’m either one thing or the other). You can be located at different points on each continuum (I’m a bit like this and a bit like that). That’s why there are so many ways to define yourself: being a woman, a man, a bit of both, or even refusing to identify as one or the other.

Details and examples

Some useful definitions

Trans

The prefix “trans” here is short for the words “transgender” and “transsexual.” It means “on the other side.” So a trans person is a person whose gender expression and gender identity don’t correspond to the sex assigned at birth. For example, a person born in a male body might feel that she’s really a woman and decide to take on the appearance of a woman.

Cis

The prefix “cis” refers to people identifying themselves as cisgender or cissexual. It’s the opposite of the prefix “trans.” A cisgender person has a gender identity that matches their gender expression (for example, I feel that I’m a woman and I dress like a woman). A cissexual person has a gender identity that matches their biological sex or the sex assigned at birth (for example, I feel that I’m a woman and I belong to the female sex).

Queer

Being queer means having a gender identity or sexual orientation that is unconventional or fluid. In short, it means identifying with a different reality than the heterosexual norm and the social construction of man versus woman. “Queer” used to be an insult used for people with unconventional identities. It has become a symbol of liberation for LGBT communities, which took back the word and made it a positive one.

Nonbinary

Person whose sexual identity doesn’t correspond to female or male and who self-defines outside the man-woman duality. More information here.

Intersex

An intersex person has both female and male biological characteristics, which may be visible or invisible. They may affect the external or internal genitals, ovaries and testicles, hormones, or chromosomes. For example, a child may be born with both a penis and ovaries. Studies indicate that about 2% of children are intersex.

Transvestite

A transvestite person presents a gender expression contrary to their usual gender identity, either occasionally or permanently. A transvestite person doesn’t necessarily identify as trans and doesn’t necessarily want to transition to the other sex. For example, it might be a man who takes on the appearance of a woman or vice versa.

Asexual

Being asexual means that you don’t feel any sexual attraction. Asexuality is a sexual orientation. It’s not the same thing as abstinence, which is a choice. It also doesn’t mean that you just want to be friends. In fact, some asexual people want to have intimate relationships and romantic feelings for another person but without the sexual dimension.

Answers to frequently asked questions

Do I have to come out?

Your sexuality is nobody’s business but your own. You can choose not to talk about it or to talk about it when you feel ready. Ask yourself the following questions: Why do you want to come out? Are you sure of your sexual orientation and identity? Are you ready to deal with people’s emotional reactions (for example, if your parents don’t accept it)? Is it your own choice to reveal your sexual orientation or identity or do you feel pressure to do it? Start by talking to someone who can listen without judging you. It could be a friend or a person who has already come out, for example. You can also contact Tel-jeunes to talk about it.

I’m scared of telling my parents about my sexual orientation.

Before revealing your sexual orientation, be sure you feel ready to do it. Choose a time when your parents are available to listen and a place that’s suitable for a private discussion. If you prefer, you can also tell them what you’re feeling in writing. It’s possible that your parents will find this news hard to accept and they may need time to take it in. Often, a negative reaction is because of fear of difference, judgment, and rejection. Remember that you have no control over how people react but you are entitled to respect.

Are gays effeminate? Are lesbians masculine?

No. These are gender stereotypes: preconceived ideas that people have about gays and lesbians, because they’re shown in the media, TV series, and movies, among other things. Some gay men are very masculine and some lesbians are very feminine. Others adopt a unisex look. And some straight guys like things that are usually associated with girls, and vice versa. It’s got nothing to do with sexual orientation. In addition, tastes are closely connected to culture so they vary depending on where you are.

Is being bi just a phase?

No. Being bisexual is a sexual orientation. Some people are attracted only to men or to women, while other people are attracted to both. If a person is bisexual, their experiences with people of the same sex may be separated by long periods of time, or they may not. As well, it’s important to know that sexual orientation isn’t carved in stone: it can change during your life, based on your reflections, experiences, or encounters. Some people don’t find it important to belong to a specific category, especially if they feel they don’t really fit there. Everyone decides on the orientation they want to identify with. It’s a very personal choice.

Any more questions about sexual orientation and identy?

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