Gender and Sexuality 101

Well hello again. So nice of you to join me here 🙂

In my first blog post I introduced myself as a transgender man named Kleos. Now if you were previously uninformed as to the meaning of “transgender” and subsequently did your research, great job; if not, fret not, I’ll give you a primer on gender and sexuality with a bit of my experience and perspective thrown in (Transwave also explains it in simple terms here and the Human Rights Campaign has a handy mini-glossary here).

Biological Sex

– refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex. Biological indicators include one’s chromosomes, hormones and the gametes they produce.

I was designated female at birth. And it is, inarguably, this one simple fact that has brought me so much grief. Had I identified with my body parts, then I would be a cisgender woman; but because I don’t (along with other things) the American Psychiatric Association has described me as having gender dysphoria and subsequently, as a transgender individual. Do I have a medical condition? Technically, transgender persons are just another variation of the homo sapien species; but because our discomfort with our bodies can cause such egregious stress and inhibit our ability to function well, the APA along with other allies, has opted to retain it in the DSM such that the transgender community can receive sufficient health care to alleviate said discomfort and enable us to lobby for said care to covered by our various insurance providers.

Why the discomfort with my body? Because it does not reflect who I perceive myself to be; who I AM.

I have struggled, and am struggling (the struggle is real folks), with my anatomy and this has led to anxiety (in conjunction with other things) in situations that cisgender folk never think twice about. Take the act of dispensing waste from one’s body for example. We all know that one should utilize the bathroom for this purpose, but which one? For cisgender persons the answer is easy – they pick the one associated with their sex; but what happens when your sex and gender identity are incongruous, and your presence in either bathroom makes persons uncomfortable and potentially exposes you to harassment?

Gender Identity

– is one’s internal perception of self in relation to how their society defines “man” and “woman”. This self-perception may or may not align with the sex they were assigned at birth and persons may identify as neither, or a variation or combination of both.

One question I get asked multitudinous times is “So…how do you know you’re a man?” Well, how do you know that you are a man or a woman? It all boils down to the way YOU feel about YOURSELF based on the manner in which the society you inhabit presents either gender. Of course, because all of this is about how you feel and not a testable scientific fact, persons will sometimes try to argue that you are misguided, mentally ill and dictate that you “correct” your mistake and start living as the gender normally associated with your birth sex. I ain’t got time for that. I have spent enough years working on self-acceptance and living my truth to go and revert to leading a miserable dual-life. I will continue to present myself to society in ways that are innate and express my gender identity; thank you very much. Which leads me to…

Gender Expression

– is an outward presentation of gender by an individual. This may or may not be in alignment with their gender identity. Gender expression includes external characteristics and behaviours which includes dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. It is typically denoted as masculine, feminine or a combination of both. 

My gender expression is undeniably masculine and it has generally always been that way (one can only imagine the magnitude of my antipathy towards the mandatory dresses and tunics I wore to church and school throughout my pre-college years). I recall occurrences of a female friend and I donning male clothing and assigning ourselves boy names while we hung out on Saturday afternoons. Those moments were treasured as I felt like I had discovered a kindred spirit with whom I could be my true self. However, I grew over time to realize that her motivations for cross-dressing weren’t quite the same. While it was an honest expression of my gender identity, she simply liked to wear male clothing on occasion.

The response to my masculine self-presentation has been met with varying responses. Some persons figure I am just a tomboy, some that I simply fancy male clothing, some understand that it is a display of my gender identity while others, quite incorrectly,  use it as an indication of sexual orientation. You already know what’s coming next….

Sexual Orientation

– an individual’s enduring physical and/or emotional attraction to individuals of the same and/or opposite gender

I am a heterosexual man. I’ve been telling persons this for years only to be met with hearty laughs of dismissal.

“What do you mean you’re a straight man? Come on Kleos, you’re a butch lesbian! “

Personally, I’ve always found the term “butch” to be quite offensive when used to describe me. It was as if the person was implying that I was only playing at being a man and that I wasn’t truly one. That in my relationships I always endeavoured to be the “man” I could never be in reality.

(Which brings me to something I’ve always found miffing – why do persons insist that there MUST be a man in a LESBIAN relationship? It’s like asking a pair of chopsticks “So who is the fork?”)

This kind of blatant dismissal of my gender identity naturally incited annoyance and possibly a touch of anger. After all, who are you to refute who I am after I have showed you my true self? Tis the pinnacle of disrespect! I have always been told by my mother that when people show you who they are, believe them; so what evidence do you have to the contrary?

You mean that “boyfriend” I had back in high school who was truly one of my best friends more than anything else? (Twas the longest non-sexual “relationship” I ever had lol) Oh. Okay. To be fair, when I was in my teens I did my fair share (or possibly more) of experimentation with both males and females. I had conjured the idea that if I could present as being bisexual, that my mother would have an easier time accepting my fondness for women. This plan clearly did not work out, but it taught me a lot about who I am and what my preferences are. Also, my momz has adjusted rather well now. It might have taken her half a dozen years, but at least she got there 🙂

“But Kleos, if you fooled around with men and women you must be bisexual!”

Nay! I say! Let’s explore…

Sexual Behaviour

– refers to an individual’s engagement in sexual acts and with whom.

It is paramount that I highlight the fact that sexual orientation and sexual expression (sometimes used interchangeably with sexual behaviour) are distinct. Consider this, a lesbian who experiences romantic and sexual attraction primarily to women, may engage in sexual encounters with men. This may be sporadic or it may be as a result of her choice of livelihood. For whatever reason, her participation in said encounters does not render her bisexual; she does not experience the same enduring feelings towards men as she does with women. Similiarly, a heterosexual woman who sometimes has sex with women is not automatically bisexual; she’s simply a woman who has sex with women (WSW). Males have their own term for such behaviour too: men who have sex with men (MSM). In both cases, their sexual orientation is heterosexual, but they sometimes engage in homosexual acts.

Which brings me to the end of my primer; I hope it provided you with even the slightest bit of clarity.

Class dismissed. (Sorry. I couldn’t help myself 🙂)

By the way Kleos is a heterosexual, masculine-presenting transgender man who believes women are the Universe’s greatest creation and loves them dearly….

The invention of the Internet I attribute to man and not the Universe..else..you know…

Questions/comments? Leave a reply below 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Gender and Sexuality 101

  1. Wonderful explanations and differentiation reflected with the terms biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Your personal story gives a vivid understanding and drives home further the intricacies of what it means to be transgender.

    Like

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