Charley Lane McElroy
Sexual orientation and gender identity can be a complicated area to navigate, especially if you have never, or have never had to question your own. Sometimes labels are helpful in understanding who you are and embracing it, and sometimes no label will fit, or you may not want to be labelled, and that’s okay too. Below are terms that many of you will be familiar with, and some that you may never have heard of before.
Heterosexuality: An easy one. You probably know this but I’ve got to start somewhere. Attraction to the opposite gender; straight.
Homosexuality: Usually referred to as gay or lesbian. I wouldn’t refer to someone as a homosexual, probably the easiest way to look out of touch.
Bisexuality: ‘Bi’ is Latin for two. Bisexuals are attracted to two genders. Bisexuality can really encompass any ratio of guy/girl attraction level, so a bisexual might favour one gender slightly over the other (see the Kinsey scale).
Pansexuality: ‘Pan’ is Latin for all. Pansexuals are attracted to all genders.
Demisexuality: A demisexual can’t be attracted to someone unless they know the other person. It’s like an attraction to personality. This isn’t really an LGBTQIA+ label, but interesting nonetheless.
Asexuality: Asexuals are people who experience no to little sexual attraction, but may still want to pursue a romantic relationship. There are lots of different types of asexuality: the umbrella term is usually called ‘grey ace’.
Transgenderism: Transgender are those with gender identities that differ from their biological sex. The LGBTQIA+ community will probably already know many abbreviations used by the trans community like FAAB and MAAB which describe the genders transfolk were assigned at birth.
Cisgenderism: When someone’s gender identity and biological sex match. ‘Cis’ was created to refer to non-trans people in a way that’s respectful to people that aren’t Cis.
Intersex: Intersex people are those born with ambiguous or mixed sex characteristics who used to be referred to as ‘hermaphrodites’.
Genderqueer: Genderqueer describes how someone may identify as outside the gender binary. They might consider themselves some combination of male and female inside, or neither.
Genderfluid: A genderfluid person might identify with different gender identities over time. They might feel feminine one day, masculine the next. There is no specific time frame either, so genderfluidity can vary dramatically.
Agender: Agender people experience no gender identity.
Labels are ways to help people understand themselves, and, just as importantly, so people can understand others. The more we familiarise ourselves with these terms, the greater our understanding and respect will become for those of different sexualities, and different genders.