Gender and sexuality are not the same thing. The concepts are complex, fluid, and shifting, but here are some basics:
Gender is “a social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity.”A ‘social construct’ means that gender is not something we are born with, but rather something we create. Gender theorist Judith Butler once wrote: “all gender…is drag.”
Culture, history, institutions, and family all influence what we think it means to be male, female, and anything beyond.
Gender includes everyone – even straight white guys. We are all influenced to some degree by culture. When we know this and own it consciously, gender expression can become positive, liberating, and empowering. It is my passion and commitment to be both an advocate and an ally for sex-positive and gender-affirming health care.
Sexuality is “a medically constructed category…often assigned based on the appearance of genitalia.”
We sometimes make assumptions about sexuality – that a boy will want to remain a boy, for example, that a girl will be attracted to boys, or that a baby who is born intersex must choose along the gender binary.
The idea that we influence the meaning of sexuality extends to more than just body parts, however. Our culture is fascinated with sexual expression – it’s everywhere from media to music to video games. Still, attitudes about sexuality can perpetuate fear and harm. This may take the form of rape myths that hold a person responsible for sexual violence inflicted upon them, or misconceptions that some people have about sexually transmitted infections.
Judgements about sexuality can prevent us from being open with others. We may absorb those messages, believing there is something shameful or wrong about who we are.
By sharing our truths, we invite open conversation. We emancipate from cultural messages about sexual shame, freeing us for more authentic ways of being. To read more about healing sexual shame, check out this article on my blog.
This stunning film celebrates the entire LGBTQA Alphabet: twenty-six ways to share who you are and how you love. Because all voices deserve to be heard.