by Shelby Mitchell/New & Opinion Editor
Throughout high school, I was under the impression that gender was as simple as girl, boy, or trans, and thought people could only be straight, gay, or bisexual. I was, for the record, hugely, impossibly, terribly wrong. I was not being ignorant on purpose – I was raised in a small, close-minded town, I did not know any better. That said, not everybody has the means of knowing just how wide gender and sexual orientation span. So, I am here to tell you all the things I have found out.
Sex is what you are born with, what is put on your birth certificate – female, male, or in some cases, intersex. Gender is what you choose to see yourself and be seen as. “Cis” is when you identify as what you were designated at birth – a cis female was born female and is happy being female, and so, identifies as such. Transgender is when one identifies as a different gender than they were assigned at birth, but has not yet or does not plan to undergo hormone treatment – and transsexual means that they have. Now, we will get into the ones you may not have heard of.
Genderqueer is the blanket term for all non-binary (female and male being binary) genders. Genderfluid means that they switch between genders according to how they feel at any given time. Androgyne or bigender means they go by both “binary” genders. Neutrois, agender or non-gendered means that they identify as no gender. Pronouns are how each person likes to be addressed – he, she and they (it is grammatically correct, I am not an English major for nothing, trust me) are some examples, though there are many others and if you are unsure of someone’s pronoun, it would be best to politely ask rather than misgender them.
Onto sexuality. We know the basics – straight means you are attracted in the opposite gender, gay means you’re attracted in the same gender, bisexual means you’re attracted to two genders. Now onto the others. Polysexual means that you are attracted to more than two genders but not necessarily all of them. Pansexual means that you are attracted to any gender. Asexual means you are not sexually attracted to any gender, and aromantic means you are not romantically attracted to anyone. Off of that, heteromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, polyromantic and panromantic all mean you are only romantically attracted to those of your preference. Demisexual means you are only sexually attracted to those with whom you have formed a strong bond and relationship.
Queer – that word that people sometimes only hear used thrown as an insult – is the umbrella term for all sexualities that are not heterosexual and all genders that are not binary. It is still offensive to call someone “a queer,” but one can definitely refer to themselves as queer for their gender or sexuality. Most importantly, always remember that the most important thing to do is what makes everyone feel comfortable and included. Ask to make sure you do not use the wrong pronoun, ask if certain words offend them and refrain from using them if they do and if you make a mistake, acknowledge and rectify the mistake. We live in a tough world – be kind.