Introduction to gender and sexuality

While gender and sexuality are commonly known words, they have garnered fear due to strong prejudices and misconceptions about them. The truth about gender and sexuality is that there is nothing to fear, but there is a lot to learn.

These topics may be complex, but that does not mean they are not important. The more that people know about gender and sexuality, the more understanding and empathetic society will become.

Within the subject of gender there are some important terms to know. Those terms include transgender, cisgender and non-binary. Transgender refers to a person who does not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, while cisgender refers to a person identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth. Non-binary refers to a gender that falls outside of the binary system of boys and girls. Non-binary can include genders such as genderfluid, agender and more.

“I guess gender is how you feel and how your body feels, like what feels best for it,” senior Victoria Moreno, who identifies as genderfluid, said. “Sexuality is what you like and what you love, like what you feel (is) most comfortable. It’s just like what you feel above all else.”

As far as sexuality, there is a common belief that the only options are gay and straight. This is a false belief, as sexuality is very complex and there are different layers of attraction. A basic list of sexualities include bisexuality, asexuality, pansexuality and gay. There are more sexualities than just those listed here, but these cover a fairly wide range of them.

Bisexuality is an attraction to two genders, whether that means men and woman, or your own gender and another. Pansexuality, while similar, is not the same. Pansexuality is an attraction regardless of gender. Asexuality is an absence or lack of sexual attraction, and gay is an attraction to the same gender.

“Sexuality is just like who you find attraction to whether (it) be like sexual or romantic,” senior Leslie Altamirano, who identifies as pansexual, said. “And with that too, (people think) there’s only gay or straight and then everything else doesn’t exist.”

Overall, gender and sexuality are complex topics that take time to understand. It can be a lot of information to take in at once and it may not all make sense the first time around. What is important is that these identities are treated with respect and that people take the time to be helpful rather than hurtful.

While taking the time to learn about gender and sexuality is important, that does not mean that every queer person is free to answer any question a person has about gender and sexuality. Some questions are too personal, and boundaries should be respected no matter how a person identifies.

Moreno and Altamirano have both heard plenty of offensive questions in regards to their identities, ranging anywhere from “Are you attracted to pans?” to deeply personal and grotesque questions about their sex lives.

“ ‘What if you’re saying f*ggot but like not in a way to offend someone? Like is it okay to use then?’ (I have been asked) that type of question,” Altamirano said. “There’s so many (bad questions).”

With this in mind, it is important for non-queer people to remember to not overstep their boundaries.

Some of these issues simply arise from a lack of empathy or knowledge on the part of cisgender and straight people.

“(People think) ‘I don’t understand the feelings you’re talking about, therefore they do not exist,’ ” senior Mariah Bussard, who identifies as pansexual, said. “It’s just the lack of empathy and attempting to understand.”

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