Sex, Gender and Sexuality Defined!

Sex, gender and sexuality are part of our everyday identities. Understanding what is considered a sex, a gender, or a sexuality is an integral aspect of society. Knowing what they mean, and the terms that fall under each category, can help foster a sense of community that is inclusive and understanding of one another. This article will break down the meanings of each category, as well as define identities that fall under each of the three groups.


The words “gender,” “sex,” and “sexuality” have gotten a lot of media attention in recent years. People are discussing them more often and more publicly on social media as well as with friends and family. But even as discussing these topics becomes more common and more socially acceptable, their true meanings can get lost and distorted in the process. Which is why we thought a breakdown would be useful—an explanation of all these terms and what they mean, to help you understand these issues better and prepare you for unexpected conversations with your loved ones. So, let’s get started!


Why are gender, sex, and sexuality so important?


Gender, sex, and sexuality are a part of who we are, whether we realize it or not. All of us have a gender, a sex, and a sexuality—we just usually aren’t thinking about them. Especially when our gender and sex align, or when our gender is obvious to the people around us because of the way we look. For others, however, it isn’t so straightforward.


Moreover, sexuality is a hidden trait; it isn’t obvious just from looking at someone. And for many, figuring out their sexuality is complicated, or more difficult. They’re also an integral aspect of the society we live in. So knowing what these words mean, and the terms that fall under each category, can not only help us understand ourselves better, but also foster a sense of community where understanding and acceptance are the norm, and exclusion is not.


Sex

Sex refers to one’s physical attributes, typically assigned at birth. A person’s assigned sex is called their ‘natal sex’ and is broken down into three options:


  • Male → a man or boy that typically is capable of producing sperm due to physical attributes of having a penis and testicles


  • Female → a woman or girl that is able to reproduce or produce eggs due to physical attributes of having a uterus and vagina

  • Intersex → a person born with a variety of differences in their sex traits both in and out of the body. This can include differences between genitals, chromosomes, internal sex organs and more!

Gender

Gender is a spectrum and is based on how someone chooses to identify. People can identify with a gender that is the same or different than their sex assigned at birth. We’ve already defined male, female, and intersex, but below are more gender identities and what they mean:

  • Transgender → someone who’s gender identity is different than the sex they were assigned at birth. Some people may operate on specific body parts so their physical characteristics match how they feel on the inside.

  • Nonbinary → someone who may not identify exclusively male or female. Non-binary people may identify as both man and woman, as outside these categories, or somewhere in between!


  • Genderqueer → People that identify as genderqueer typically reject binary categories and embrace the fluidity of gender, just as how we discussed gender being a spectrum. Genderqueer people may see themselves as being both male and female, outside the category, or neither male or female

  • Agender → someone who does not identify as having any particular gender


  • Cisgender → a term used to describe someone who’s gender aligns with their sex assigned at birth. Majority of the population tends to identify as cisgender.

  • Genderfluid → someone whose gender is constantly changing/adapting – the person does not identify with having a fixed gender


Sexuality

Sexuality is related to a person's gender identity because it relates to which gender or genders they are typically attracted to. Just like gender, sexuality is also a spectrum with many different identities. Below are a handful of sexual identities and their definitions:

  • Gay → A person who is attracted to someone either emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually of the same gender. The word ‘gay’ describes men attracted to men, but is also used as an umbrella term to describe anyone of the same gender attracted to each other.

  • Lesbian → a woman who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to other women

  • Bisexual → Someone who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to more than one gender identity. Typically this refers to someone that has attraction to someone of the same sex or opposite sex of their own


  • Asexual → Someone who has complete or partial lack of sexual attraction or lack of interest in sexual activities with others. Like sexuality, asexuality is on a spectrum, so some people may experience some, little or no sexual attraction, but may still experience romantic attraction.


  • Pansexual → Someone who is sexually, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to people regardless of their sex and gender identity. Pansexual people sometimes describe themselves as “gender-blind” because someone’s gender and sex aren’t determining factors in their attraction to the person.

  • Queer → the term queer is often used to express a wide variety of gender identities and sexualities that counter mainstream genders and sexualities (ex. straight male).


  • Demisexual → describes someone who gains sexual attraction to someone AFTER they gain an emotional attraction to the person. Someone who is demisexual can be gay straight, bisexual, pansexual, etc., but still must gain emotional attraction before sexual intimacy is introduced into the relationship


Overall, sex, gender and sexuality are all things to be celebrated! Whoever you are, who you like or what you identify as is something to be proud of. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable with your identity, remember that things take time and this is a journey for yourself to discover. The list above are all just labels, and if you’re not comfortable with a label then that’s okay, too! However, whatever someone chooses to identify as should be respected as a way to foster an inclusive and safe environment.



Want to learn more? Have other questions about sex, STIs, HIV/AIDS, or contraception? Remember you can chat with Nivi on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger any time. It’s private, confidential, and free!


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