This month is so much more than rainbow flags and glitter in marches. In this month, known popularly as Gay Pride month, the struggle for equality that so many people fought in history is recognized and the privilege of living our sexuality freely is celebrated.
But it’s also a time to bring forth the inequities that still exist and are endured by LGBTIQ+ people in many parts of the world. With celebration comes protesting.
I think that this month those of us who don’t march have at least the duty to get informed. To become educated to tolerate and respect what is different to us. To educate ourselves to educate others and accept each other more.
A few years ago, the acronym of the community was LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans). But, the perceptions about sexuality and gender are constantly evolving and that evolution involves including new letters. Now we’re at LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Agender or Ally, and all the diversities that aren’t included).
I admit that it’s hard to follow up sometimes, that’s why I wanted to put together a little list of terms that we should all know.
But before we do that, I would like to introduce queer theory briefly (it’s a different term than genderqueer, which I will explain later on).
Queer theory became popular in the decade of the 90’s and was born in academia through women’s and alternate sexualities studies. The base of queer theory is that sexuality in individuals is fluid and dynamic, that it can transform and change constantly in the span of a lifetime. This theory seeks to break with the idea that people have to exist in two straight and rigid categories (men/women) and that biology determines our destiny. Queer theory believes that gender and sexuality exist in a spectrum.
This theory has opened a space where there are always new terms and definitions that attempt to represent the diversities of individuals in the spectrum of sexuality. That’s why a new letter is always being added to the acronym, as a way to include all the different words that people use to identify themselves.
Okay, let’s begin.
#1. Gender vs. sexual orientation (sexuality)
These are two distinct but related aspects of an individual. Sometimes they are used interchangeably but that’s incorrect.
- Sexual orientationis interpersonal. This is about who we are attracted to in a physical, emotional or romantic way.
- Gender is personal, is how we look at ourselves.
- Gender has three dimensions:
- Body. Your experience with your body and the way society perceives it.
- Identity. The internal perception about who you are and the name you give your gender.
- Expression: The way in which a person presents their gender to the world and how culture and society perceive and interact with that expression.
- Gender has three dimensions:
*It’s important to highlight that norms about what gender is and its expression fluctuate between cultures and eras. For example, the idea that long hair is for women and short for men has really changed throughout history. Remember when men in Europe used to wear wigs?
Another example: It wasn’t until the middle of the XX century that pink started to be used for girls and blue for boys. Other colors where used before to identify a baby’s sex based on other symbolism.
#2 Binary gender
The idea that only two genders exist and that people have to be one or the other. Male or female. So basically the idea that our biological sex determines our gender and who we will be in the world (which by the way, queer theory totally disapproves of).
People whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned at birth. So basically someone who was born as a woman and feels comfortable identifying like such.
‘Cis’ comes from latin and means ‘from this side’. ‘Trans’, for example, means ‘on the opposite side’.
An identity that is not exclusively masculine or feminine. It reflects the possibility of a spectrum and rejects the binary (male/female).
This term has two uses. One is for identity, a person can identify as queer. The word is also used as an umbrella term for non binary identities.
Someone that doesn’t present as specifically male or feminine. This is different from being agender, which is someone who doesn’t have a gender identity.
A person that is attracted emotionally, romantically or sexually to more than one sex or gender.
Used in general terms for people that have a distinct gender from the one assigned at birth. It also serves to identify people that transition from a binary gender (like male or female) to the opposite one.
#9 Gender transition
The actions someone takes, like social, psychological and medical processes, to transition from a gender to another. It’s a complex journey that occurs in a long period of time.
A person that is attracted to people in romantic, emotional or sexual ways regardless of their biological sex or gender identity.
#11 Heteronormativity o heterosexism
Attitudes, prejudices or discrimination to non-hetero people. It comes from the assumption that heterosexuality is and should be the norm. It can occur through small situations like thinking a woman should have a husband (could be a wife) or a man has a girlfriend. It’s different from the term homophobia, because homophobia includes hate and fear. You may not be homophobic, but you can discriminate by being heteronormative.
Again this word, because it’s so important! Historically, the word queer was used as a derogatory term but recently the community has appropriated it.
Today, the word queer reminds us that gender and sexuality are fluid and ever changing. There is no need for anyone to fit in the box of male or female the way society dictates. The labels that society imposes are just that, labels.
This month of Pride is a reminder that if we want to be free and want others to be free as well, we have to accept and love each other for what we are.
Now, what words do you think should be added to this list?
*This list is not aiming to be exhaustive nor definitive. Its purposes are purely educational and its definitions can always change.