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What’s the difference between gender identity and sexuality?

Nov 10, 2022

What’s the difference between gender identity and sexuality? 

So this is such a complicated question to answer and I wish that I had even like had even more knowledge about queer studies, queer theory, queer history because the answer to this is that there are a lot of differences and there are no differences. 

To start with differences, someone’s gender identity may or may not have anything to do with their sexuality.

So for instance, someone may be a trans woman and be straight.

They are attracted only to men.

Someone may be a trans man and be gay, so they are only attracted to men.

Someone who is transgender is not necessarily someone who also identifies as gay or lesbian or bisexual.

They may identify under queer since queer is kind of a larger umbrella term and often a more political designation than a specifically like behavioral designation. 

But I think that there is a misconception that like people are transgender when they are so, so gay that they can’t be straight or even their own like assigned gender at birth.

And that’s not necessarily true.

And in fact, for many, many, many years, you could not get gender-affirming care including hormones or surgeries unless you were homosexual.

So like if you are assigned male at birth, you are only into men.

So if you a trans woman, you had to be a straight trans woman.

You couldn’t be a lesbian trans woman. 

And so, I think that there are ways in which for a lot of folks, there is this assumption that being extra gay is what makes you trans, and that’s not necessarily true.

People may be very, very gay and cisgender.

People might be trans and queer.

There is no necessary correlation in that way. 

However, I do think that a lot of the push that we see right now to distinguish between sexual orientation and gender identity comes largely from TERFs, people who are transphobes and who want to somehow say that gay and lesbian people and maybe bi people, they usually hate bi people too but they are like quieter about that. 

So like gay and lesbian people are fine.

It’s the transpeople we have issues with.

And that never seemed the case.

Trans is always the gateway into the rest of homophobia, which is why the umbrella term of queer is something that I prefer strongly over a lot of the acronyms because the reality is that acronyms are always going to leave people out and when it comes down to it, we are united by the ways in which we are not CIS HET more so than anything else. 

And transpeople and queer people of all flavors have way more in common in terms of their struggles in the society than they do differences.

So in terms of the differences you can generate into the sexuality in a political sense, in a coalition-building sense, there really isn’t one because anyone who has an issue with transpeople is going to eventually have an issue with queer people too.

They don’t tend to stop at transphobia and they would be like, “But we are actually totally fine with the gays.”

Usually, it goes all the way through from transpeople and once the transpeople are out, the get to start targeting the queer people. 

In addition, people who are nonbinary don’t tend to have an alignment along monosexual lines that makes a ton of sense because if we think of someone who is straight as a person who is attracted to people of their same gender, for nonbinary folks, we tend to be a whole set of flavors.

I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who has my same gender identity because it is a very personal experience of gender. 

So by that token, I couldn’t necessarily be gay and because every attraction that I have is just someone who has a different gender than mine that would maybe mean that I’m straight all the time.

But the way that I’m attracted to everyone is queer.

If I’m hooking up with a cisgender man,

I’m hooking up with them in a very queer way, not in a straight way.

I don’t tend to get along super well with cis straight dudes because they tend to need me to be a woman and I’m not. 

Likewise, a lot of times with like strictly lesbian-identified people, especially people who are drawn towards or identify strongly with lesbian separatism or the ideals that came out of that, they don’t tend to want to have a lot to do with me either because I’m not just a lesbian.

I’m not a woman, and I like having sex with people who have penises which a lot of lesbian separatists are not OK with it at all. 

So again, gender identity and sexuality are not completely separate.

They are also not exactly the same thing.

It is messy and complicated in terms of how they overlap.

And that’s why again, the umbrella term of queer I think is one of the most useful ones that we can use. 

There is a big push right now coming from predominantly straight transphobes to say that queer is a slur in a way that gay is not.

And I hate to inform you all but almost every term that queer folks use to talk about themselves was a slur that has been reclaimed.

Gay, definitely a slur, lesbian. 

There have been some people arguing that the poet, Sappho, would not qualify as a lesbian because she had attractions to people of a variety of genders.

So even though the term lesbian is named after Sappho, the poet from the island of Lesbos, a lot of modern lesbians who are TERFy think that she does not qualify as a lesbian because she would have been attracted to some men. 

So like when we look at a lot of the ways that people are trying to very discreetly divide identities, very discreetly divide these labels and these buckets for people, almost always it ends up being for bad reasons.

Labels at their best are there for us to help describe ourselves.

They are not there to define us or to prescribe how we should be.

The labels that we choose are descriptive, not prescriptive. 

And I think that we run into a lot of trouble when we start falling into discourse and dialogue that essentially says that the labels that you choose get to determine who you and what you do or should determine who you are and what you do, and that is just bullshit.

There is no world in which that is real or makes any sense. 

The labels that we choose are ones that fit for us.

And I think that again, the more we try to like granulate and have these tiny, tiny boxes and tiny, tiny labels, just be aware of like where it’s coming from and why people are doing it.

Are they doing it because they want better terminology to describe themselves?

Are they doing it to gate keep and exclude?

Because if they are trying to gate keep and exclude, that is bullshit.

You need to kill the cop inside your mind and stop that.

We don’t police each other’s identities here. That is not how we do things. 

So gender and sexuality, not the same, not completely separate, more aligned in terms of their struggles and their need for liberation than they are different.

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