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Overview of Queer Identities: Part 1

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Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:04 am
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Kale says...

This is a general overview of sex and gender identities. This is by no means a complete list of all such identities, and it should not be treated as such. I strongly recommend that you do your own research into sex and gender since there's a lot of nuances to each of the identities and sexes mentioned here as well as less common identities that I had to omit for the sake of keeping this a reasonable length.

In other words, THIS IS NOT A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE, nor does this pretend to be as such. This is intended to be a starting point for future research into the topics presented here, among others.

Gender, Sex, and the Identities Linked to Them

When dealing with sex, gender, and the identities related to them, there are a few basic points to remember:

- Sex and gender are NOT synonymous.
- Sex is biologically-based.
- Gender is socially-based.

Basically, gender is the set of roles and attributes society assigns to a particular sex, as well as the gender a person individually identifies as. As a result, gender expressions and presentations vary between cultures and individuals, as do the number of recognized genders and sexes.

Important Notes: It is worth noting that gender identity and gender presentation/expression are two separate things. How a person does or does not appear as a particular gender is often, but NOT always, matched to a person's gender identity, though it is not uncommon for a person to present as a different gender than they identify with, often due to very real concerns about their safety should they present otherwise. For example, a person may dress, act, and sound like a stereotypical man while identifying as a woman because presenting as a woman would incite the people around her to violence.

One of the most pervasive fallacies when it comes to sex is that there are biologically only two. This is FALSE, for while XX and XY are the most common chromosome combinations that determine an individual's sex, there are also combinations like X0, XXX, XXY, and so forth. Additionally, individuals may be physically ambiguous when it comes to their sex (intersex); comprised of more than one genetically distinct individual (chimera); or have a condition that affects the development of primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (such as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or AIS).

With how complex the biology is, is it really any surprise that gender would be similarly complex? While modern Western society conflates gender and sex in addition to only recognizing male and female as being valid genders/sexes, various cultures worldwide and throughout history have recognized more than two genders/sexes, such as the two-spirits of many Native American tribes and the kathoeys of Thailand.

It is also worth nothing that English, as a language, has had multiple gender-neutral pronouns throughout its history, such as "a", "ou", and "thon". Although these pronouns gradually fell out of use, there has been a continuous call for a common gender-neutral pronoun dating back centuries, with there being a recent resurgence of old pronouns in addition to the synthesis of new ones. Additionally, English has always retained "one" as a gender-neutral pronoun, without the dehumanizing connotations of "it"; and the singular "they" has been in continuous use since the days of Middle English, with roots going back to Old English, predating the use of the generic "he" by at least five centuries.

Long story short: gender-neutral pronouns in English are a lot older than a lot of people realize. Also, the singular "they" is really, really old.

Your physical appearance, usually defined by the state of your genitals.

Possessing the primary sexual characteristic of a vagina.

Possessing the primary sexual characteristic of a penis.

Intersex people are generally born with anatomy that can't be clearly classified as male or female. A lot of intersex people are assigned a sex at birth, with "corrective" surgery being a farily common practice. While intersex people have been referred to as "hermaphrodites" in the past, aside from being a slur (which should NEVER be used), the term is biologically incorrect as hermaphrodites by definition posses and are capable of reproduction with both sets of reproductive organs.

Gender Identity
The gender you identify as.

Agender (ska Neutrois)
Literally meaning "without gender", agender people may identify as lacking a gender, not caring about gender, having a gender that is between/outside of the male-female binary, having an unidentified gender, or lacking a term that fits their gender. There is a lot of overlap with the much older identity "neutrois", with "agender" generally being a bit more inclusive of ambiguous and unknown genders.

Literally meaning "two- or double- gender", bigender people experience two gender identities, either simultaneously or in alternation. Bigender people may identify as being multigender, genderfluid, and/or non-binary, among others.

When a person's gender aligns with their physical sex.

Female (aka Feminine, ska Femme)
Characteristics socially associated with the female sex. Traditionally considered the complement of male. "Femme" specifically is used by and applied to queer people and genderbenders.

When a person's gender identity varies with time. Some genderfluid people are stable in their variance, with a set range of genders they vary between, while others are less predictable.

When a person's gender does not conform to the male-female binary. "Genderqueer" is an umbrella term as it includes a wide range of gender identities and expressions within its scope in addition to being its own identity.

Male (aka Masculine, ska Butch)
Characteristics socially associated with the male sex. Traditionally considered the complement of female. "Butch" is specifically used by and applied to queer people and genderbenders.

When a person identifies as being multiple genders, either simultaneously or varying over time. The latter description overlaps with "genderfluid".

Pangender (ska Omnigender)
Literally meaning "all genders", pangender people experience being many genders, including non-binary ones and those without terms to describe them.

When a person's gender does not align with their physical sex. "Transgender" is considered an umbrella term as it includes a wide range of gender identities and expressions in addition to being its own identity, though until recently, it was almost perfectly synonymous with "transsexual". Because of this, "transgender" is sometimes considered to be less inclusive than "genderqueer".

When a person's gender does not align with their physical sex. Unlike "transgender", "transsexual" is used exclusively in the context of the male-female binary, and it is one of the oldest recognized identities. It's worth noting that not all transsexual people desire a sex change or present themselves as the other sex.

Important Notes: Genderbenders (ska Genderf*ck) are people who play around with gender as a social concept. While some genderbenders also identify as being trans or genderqueer, not all gender benders are trans or genderqueer. This distinction is important as while a male genderbender will be in drag when he puts on a dress and makeup, someone who is born male but identifies as female is NOT crossdressing while wearing a dress and makeup.
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