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Author Topic: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101  (Read 1945 times)

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Offline alxnjshTopic starter

Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« on: May 05, 2010, 02:03:23 PM »
I serve on the Board of a non-profit organization that works to educate service providers about the unique challenges and issues that a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) elder experiences in life. Our primary format for this is through dissemination of a curriculum we developed. I wanted to share a piece of that curriculum. It was designed by researchers, practitioners and GLBT community members. It is by no way the only paradigm, but a good one for understanding sexual orientation and gender identity.

First, I use the acronym GLBT. That is because I am in the midwest. On the coasts the acronym that is used more often is LGBT. They are interchangeable and I mean no disrespect to other communities by putting G first. It is the social more in my region.

Sexual Orientation
Sexual orientation is your attraction to an individual.
Heterosexual: individuals attracted to people of the opposite assigned gender.
Homosexual: individuals attracted to people of the same gender.
Bisexual: individuals attracted to either people of the same or opposite gender. Often this is also called "Queer."

SO is a continuum that can be depicted as such:

Gender Identity
Gender identity can sometimes be a little more complex to grasp. This is probably due to the increase in awareness of the gay community and depiction of gay people in the media. This is not so for people within the transgender community. Gender identity is how you present yourself regardless of your assigned gender at birth.
Cisgender: individuals that express themselves as their biologically (or birth assigned) gender. (from cis meaning same)
Transgender: individuals that express themselves as the opposite of their biologically (or birth assigned) gender.
Gender Queer: individuals that do not associate with cisgender or transgender labels. Often these individuals utilize the pronouns ze (rather than he/she) and hir (pronounced here, rather than him/her).

GI is also a continuum that can be depicted as such:

Other terms and confused?

I have noticed that Elliquiy uses a wide array of terms including pansexual and others. The intent is inclusiveness. We should be respectful of how individuals define themselves. I merely am showing a paradigm that is accepted in the United States by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other national advocacy organizations.

The best thing you can do is be respectful and ask. Most people are willing to help educate people about gender identity and sexual orientation. The bottom line is it is all about respect.

Offline Torch

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Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2010, 04:39:09 PM »
Very informative read, Alex. Thank you!  :-)


Offline Pixilicious

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2010, 08:10:07 PM »
That was wonderfully explained, Alex!  It was very easy to understand.  Thanks for sharing!

~Pixi Kisses~

Offline alxnjshTopic starter

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2010, 09:45:54 PM »
Very informative read, Alex. Thank you!  :-)
That was wonderfully explained, Alex!  It was very easy to understand.  Thanks for sharing!

~Pixi Kisses~


Thanks Torch and Pixi  ;D

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Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2010, 10:36:38 PM »
Great read.
Thank you for posting that.

Offline Chelemar

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2010, 10:45:11 PM »
Nicely explained Alex, thanks :)

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Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2010, 11:08:24 PM »
Thank you for posting this, mate.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2010, 11:14:11 PM »
Thank you for posting this! Much appreciated!

(Although on a personal side-note I dislike the gender-queer pronouns, in my opinion we need fewer pronouns not more. But that is a discussion for another place.)

Offline Mnemaxa

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2010, 05:34:45 AM »
Very nicely done. 

As a side note, int he medical profession we were required to ask that  a person identify their gender as opposed to their sex; sexuality being their preference in partners or their gender identity as separate from their biological gender, largely so we didn't mess with any ongoing hormone treatments.

Offline Caeli

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2010, 06:02:35 AM »
It was a good read. Thank you for sharing the information; it really clarified some of the terms for me. :-)

Offline Jude

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2010, 08:30:19 AM »
I applaud your efforts on making this model and trying to come up with a schema for explaining LGBT issues to the general public, but assuming this is the appropriate forum to do so, I'd like to offer some (hopefully) constructive criticism.

A bit confused about the intersection between sexual orientation and gender identity.  You seem to have sexual orientation defined in terms of gender attraction, but then that doesn't account for attraction between and including people who are gender queer.  It seems to me that sexual orientation would have to be defined in terms of biological sex and not gender (which as I understand are two different concepts).

Even if you change that though, the linear model and an idea of a continuum only takes into account straight to gay, but not attraction to people who are intersexed.  Then there's people who don't have sexual feelings at all, pansexuals, etc.

I think that the problem is, no matter what model you come up with, it's going to fail.  Human sexuality is very complicated and in a lot of ways defies rigorous categorization.  It doesn't seem to be possible to come up with a model that's all-inclusive, and if one of the typical criticisms of social norms regarding sexuality and gender is lack of inclusiveness, then just about any other model that's created is going to be guilty of the same thing that it's judging popular standards by.

In general I think the whole, "we need to educate you" mindset to be easily taken as condescension (though I know that's your intention).  I also get the feeling that the term "cisgender" won't be received well by the general public if you guys try and promote this model.  I think the average person, who is less open minded about this sort of thing, is going to have an emotional reaction to it.  Something along the lines of, "We're the normal people, why are you calling us something so weird?"

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2010, 08:52:39 AM »
As a side note, int he medical profession we were required to ask that  a person identify their gender as opposed to their sex; sexuality being their preference in partners or their gender identity as separate from their biological gender, largely so we didn't mess with any ongoing hormone treatments.

You should be asking both. Gender is a term of identity. Sex is a term of genotype. There are (commonly) 2 phenotypes and (only) ~5 genotypes of sex. Sexual phenotype can be changed, sexual genotype can not. Gender is the more complex identity term. It is important to know both to provide proper medical treatment (e.g. regardless of hormones, genetic conditions can vary widely based on an individual having 1-3 copies of an X chromosome). Sexuality is an attraction to one, another, or both sexual phenotypes and not a matter of gender (although there is a common paraphilia for the trans-gender and the gender-queer).

In retrospect I think I have to agree with Jude on this, perhaps sexuality should be redefined in terms of sex, rather than gender. Which is actually what I think you are already doing (for instance the term bisexual is just wrong to apply to gender, as an attraction to all genders would be more than the 2 implied by the bi- prefix. Rather the bisexual is attracted to the 2 common sexual phenotypes, regardless of the individuals gender). It seems mostly a matter of semantics however.

I also get the feeling that the term "cisgender" won't be received well by the general public if you guys try and promote this model.  I think the average person, who is less open minded about this sort of thing, is going to have an emotional reaction to it.  Something along the lines of, "We're the normal people, why are you calling us something so weird?"

I don't think we should spare the feelings of people who can't grasp linguistics or scientific terminology, but that could just be my ivory tower opinion. I also think your example runs the risk of implying that the trans-gender and the gender queer do not regard themselves as normal people. We are normal people. We do not possess normative gender identity. There is a distinction.

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Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2010, 09:26:12 AM »
This was talked about the other night during a discussion of the LGBT forms as well as the QQI2S (Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Two Spirited) terms and glad to see that it is written on. Great information Alx.

Offline alxnjshTopic starter

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2010, 10:00:56 AM »
I applaud your efforts on making this model and trying to come up with a schema for explaining LGBT issues to the general public, but assuming this is the appropriate forum to do so, I'd like to offer some (hopefully) constructive criticism.

Questions and criticisms about the paradigm are welcome. This topic was not created to open a debate about belief systems or other philosophical discussions.

A bit confused about the intersection between sexual orientation and gender identity.  You seem to have sexual orientation defined in terms of gender attraction, but then that doesn't account for attraction between and including people who are gender queer.  It seems to me that sexual orientation would have to be defined in terms of biological sex and not gender (which as I understand are two different concepts).

Actually sexual orientation is defined in terms of attraction to sex or gender. A male (sex) that is attracted to a male (sex) is homosexual. A transgender man (gender) that is attracted to a female (sex) is heterosexual. For further clarification see my next point about this being a 101.

Gender is most often associated as a social construct and sex is most often associated as a biological construct.

Even if you change that though, the linear model and an idea of a continuum only takes into account straight to gay, but not attraction to people who are intersexed.  Then there's people who don't have sexual feelings at all, pansexuals, etc.

I think that the problem is, no matter what model you come up with, it's going to fail.  Human sexuality is very complicated and in a lot of ways defies rigorous categorization.  It doesn't seem to be possible to come up with a model that's all-inclusive, and if one of the typical criticisms of social norms regarding sexuality and gender is lack of inclusiveness, then just about any other model that's created is going to be guilty of the same thing that it's judging popular standards by.

What I've presented is the 101. I purposefully eliminated some of the complexity of the paradigm. Sexual orientation and gender identity are more appropriately (and complicated) plotted on a Cartesian coordinate system (basic grid) with the sexual orientation continuum on the y axis and the gender identity continuum on the x axis. Sort of like a big plus sign (+). That would then take into account the full spectrum of possible combinations of overlapping gender identity and sexual orientation.

For example, you can be a heterosexual transgender individual. If a man transitions to a woman, but is attracted to men, this individual is a heterosexual transgender individual (woman attracted to a man). This would be plotted in the lower left quadrant of the Cartesian coordinate system.

In general I think the whole, "we need to educate you" mindset to be easily taken as condescension (though I know that's your intention).  I also get the feeling that the term "cisgender" won't be received well by the general public if you guys try and promote this model.  I think the average person, who is less open minded about this sort of thing, is going to have an emotional reaction to it.  Something along the lines of, "We're the normal people, why are you calling us something so weird?"

Up until your last topic I felt this was constructive criticism about the paradigm. I'm not interested in a philosophical discussion about pedagogy and why education and sensitivity/cultural competence is important. If you want to debate why people shouldn't be educated in gender/cultural/racial/religious/etc. sensitivity please do so in the politics or other forum, not in my thread which is meant to be informative. This is Elliquiy U after all.

As for the term cisgender - you have to start somewhere. Rather than just pointing out the flaws, what would you recommend? My reaction to your question "we're normal people..." would rather snarkily be "I'm sorry you're uneducated. Let me teach you a new word." We are attempting to distinguish between people that are transgender and non-transgender. Would you prefer to be called non-transgender?

This was talked about the other night during a discussion of the LGBT forms as well as the QQI2S (Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Two Spirited) terms and glad to see that it is written on. Great information Alx.

Thank you Marguerite for this statement. I think the term "two spirited" is beautiful and captures it nicely. Gotta give props to native cultures for their systems. You also bring up a great point that often people refer to GLBT as GLBTQA or any other combination. It is complex  ;D

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Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2010, 10:21:04 AM »
Interestingly (from a sociology/linguistic point of view) calling the 'normal' people "non-transgender" actually takes away their normalcy by defining them in the terms of transgender. It's like defining something as "man" and "not a man" - it makes man the norm by its very use as a baseline. It would be extremely amusing, in my opinion, if this became widely accepted.

Regarding the acceptance or non-acceptance of 'cisgender', cis is part of my daily lexicon, and I am not alone. Given the prevalence of other scientific terms in society, cis is really not that weird. The public is sold on the concept of a retrovirus, and believes that science can eventually create Hal 5000. Genetic science has infiltrated the common consciousness, and 'trans' is already acceptable in conversation. I really don't think cisgendered would be that great of a leap.

That said, I think depicting sexuality as a spectrum is pretty intuitive and a little more correct than just sectioning off the orientations. I believe it's the Kinsey scale that has people hetero/homo in degrees (arguing that we are all, to some degree, bisexual) and I think that's probably the most accurate I've found stuff. I mean, how often have you heard the term "I'm not gay and even I would sleep with him?" or something to that effect?

It may not be perfectly definable, but I think we can't help but try to define things like this. We classify the world around us and we look for patterns. Good first step, alx.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2010, 10:28:59 AM »
That said, I think depicting sexuality as a spectrum is pretty intuitive and a little more correct than just sectioning off the orientations. I believe it's the Kinsey scale that has people hetero/homo in degrees (arguing that we are all, to some degree, bisexual) and I think that's probably the most accurate I've found stuff. I mean, how often have you heard the term "I'm not gay and even I would sleep with him?" or something to that effect?

Yay, Kinsey! (Kinsey just does not get enough exposure and credit).

Offline Jude

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2010, 11:42:42 AM »
Doesn't really matter what I prefer, was just trying to give feedback from a particular segment of the population.  As it was intended to be constructive criticism (and not an argument) I'm not going to respond to your responses (I think that would defeat the point).  Interesting read none the less.  Looking forward to see if you post anything else like this in the future.

Offline Remiel

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2010, 12:02:47 PM »
As someone who is fascinated by etymology, I wonder where the origin of the word "cisgender" comes from.  A quick search of the dictionary reveals:

cis-
prefix meaning "on the near side of, on this side of," from L. preposition cis "on this side of," related to citra (adv.) "on this side." Opposed to trans- or ultra-.
Ex: cisatlantic.


So that makes sense.  You learn something new every day!


Offline Trieste

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Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2010, 01:14:16 PM »
I don't know if it has usage elsewhere, but it's a chemistry term that's used quite often. You see it all the time in the nutritional world - you know how trans unsaturated fats are so bad for you? Well, the opposite would be cis unsaturated fats, which is how those fats occur in nature, without the partial hydrogenation (i.e. 'partially hydrogenated oil' that you see as an ingredient in things like Twinkies).

So, as a chimiste, when I heard the word cisgender, it made complete sense as an alternative to transgender. That was the point I was trying to make.

Here's a good overview page for it: http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/thalidomide/geometriciso.html Note that by "pi bond", they just mean a double bond between carbons.

Offline Transgirlenstein

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2010, 06:13:58 PM »
I love that chart.  I really want to print that out and show it to my family, especially my mother and father.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2010, 09:10:01 PM »
Perhaps I am being a little picky regarding the area of gender identity.  This does tend to be a very difficult area for many people to grasp.  That difficulty does not stem from any action by the gay community, but rather because gender and sex were considered interchangeable terms not so long ago.  Culture has influenced heavily the notion of gender being intricately tied to sex so that the two cannot be separated.  Many people have a hard time splitting the two apart.  Successful understanding of that concept requires knowledge about what gender roles are and knowing that traits associated with each gender are what the individual is attempting to identify.

Also, in your wording there you state presentation.  That is not an accurate use of the word since gender is a very introspective notion and is tied to self-identification.  Many transgender will not present this side of themselves for fear of ridicule.  There also comes the problem with the word presentation for people that do not identify with sexual characteristics they are portraying.  An instance could be found with a woman wearing a power suit.  Shoulder pads for broadness, cut wide in the chest and meant to reduce the feminine figure.  More harsh makeup, stark lines and cropped hair or well controlled hair.  The woman is trying to appear masculine, adopting masculine traits but does not identify as masculine.  Presentation is then misleading because by using this word comes the misunderstanding that she is transgender, when instead she is embracing traits to succeed in the work place.

Offline alxnjshTopic starter

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2010, 09:37:03 PM »
Also, in your wording there you state presentation.  That is not an accurate use of the word since gender is a very introspective notion and is tied to self-identification.  Many transgender will not present this side of themselves for fear of ridicule.  There also comes the problem with the word presentation for people that do not identify with sexual characteristics they are portraying.  An instance could be found with a woman wearing a power suit.  Shoulder pads for broadness, cut wide in the chest and meant to reduce the feminine figure.  More harsh makeup, stark lines and cropped hair or well controlled hair.  The woman is trying to appear masculine, adopting masculine traits but does not identify as masculine.  Presentation is then misleading because by using this word comes the misunderstanding that she is transgender, when instead she is embracing traits to succeed in the work place.

I both agree and disagree with you.

Gender is most often associated with a social construct. I stand by my framework that gender is the presentation of one's self-perceived sex (adding:) within a social realm. See my quote below:

Gender is most often associated as a social construct and sex is most often associated as a biological construct.

As such it is contextual to a specific society or culture. A woman wearing pants in Western culture may be very appropriate and not considered transgender, but in many cultures (African, Middle Eastern, etc.) it is not part of the social construct and as such would not be considered cisgender (probably considered something like "abnormal" or such). She does not present herself as the social construct says she should present herself. I would however note that 60 years ago this would not be true!

Transgender doesn't mean the person is living their life as a woman. The common example of this is a cross-dresser. There are men that are more comfortable wearing women's clothing. They do not see themselves as living as a woman, merely like to wear women's clothes. They are not medically altering their body through hormones or sex-reassignment surgery. Yet, in our society they would not be considered cisgender in the same way a woman who wears pants would.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2010, 10:56:30 PM »
I really do hate to sound haughty or anything of that nature.  While I do respect your desire to stand by the definition you present, that definition is in fact wrong.  Presentation has nothing to do with gender identity, hence the use of the word identity in the phrase.  Feel free to check the definition for gender identity and the words used in its description are self-awareness, internal, identifying and perspective.  All of these terms are subjective and introspective for the individual.  A person can be transgender without altering their body, wearing any particular clothing or showing any overt behavioral patterns.  The key characteristic has to do with which gender do they identify themselves as being. 

The example that was provided actually has nothing to do with gender identity except to show the confusion.  A woman in a business setting wearing such an outfit is conforming to norms set forth by their peers and institutions.  My purpose in giving that example is to show that without her identifying herself as male, she is not transgender despite a presentation of masculinity.  There by, presentation is not part of the definition for gender identity.  As you pointed out with cross-dressers, the defining difference is self-identification.

Offline alxnjshTopic starter

Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #23 on: May 08, 2010, 11:02:03 AM »
I can only stress that my intent is not to argue the paradigm I have suggested. It's an option and one that was developed by a committee of researchers and practitioners that specialize in GLBT studies.

You have the right to your opinion. Stating you hate to sound haughty and then sounding haughty is counterproductive. Start your own thread in politics and religion and pontificate I am wrong in it.

Thanks

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Re: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 101
« Reply #24 on: May 08, 2010, 11:10:37 AM »
And that brings a lock for a while. Easy, guys. :)