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Let’s Talk: Sexual Orientation and Gender

Terms You Should Be Familiar With:


We live in a world where gender and sexuality play a huge role in our lives and over the past couple of decades, we’ve started to create labels to best help us find ourselves and who we are. The reason to this is that because sexuality is fluid, it’s hard to fit into a precise mold or label because everyone is so unique. Sexual orientation and gender are complicated because we tend to describe ourselves and categorize however we feel comfortable with. Listed below are a few terms but by any means these aren’t all of them -and it isn’t anywhere near a comprehensive list. Instead, look at this as a beginners guide to terms we all should be familiar with.


SEXUALITY -defined as, “An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.” Here are some basic terms to get the conversation started:


  • Heterosexual: In other words, straight. We all know this term because it appears to be the most “accepted” by society.

  • Homosexual: Another term we are all pretty familiar with, which is a substitute for gay or lesbian.

  • Bisexual: Individuals who identify themselves as bisexual feel attracted to both male and female gender, regardless of whether they themselves are a man or a woman. Now, this is where most tend to have a difficulty understanding what makes a person bisexual, but simply put, if you are attracted to both men and women, you are a bisexual. Just because a woman has only had relationships with men, that doesn’t negate or cancel her attraction towards other women. Bisexual people tend to get pushed a side or categorized as greedy and promiscuous because “they can’t choose” and are often left forgotten because they don’t fit an either/or category.

  • Pansexual: Not to be confused with bisexual. Pansexuals are attracted to one or more genders as well, however, they can feel attracted towards male, female, androgynous, queer, transgendered and many other gender identities. Pansexual is not bisexual, it’s all sexual. (see end of article)

  • Asexual: Often defined as the absence of a “traditional” sexual orientation. Asexuals have little to no sexual attraction towards people. Some refer to it as a “lack of a sexual orientation”, but this is still up for debate. Asexuals can, however, feel emotional attraction towards others and they can still engage in sexual activity and have meaningful, long term relationships -even though they might not feel sexual attraction towards their partner.


GENDER -it can be defined by gender identity and gender expression. Gender identity can be defined as one’s concept of self; how people perceive themselves and what they call themselves. And your gender identity can be the same or different from the sex that was assigned to you at birth. Now, gender expression is the external appearance of our gender identity. This is usually done through behaviour, clothing, voice or haircut, and what may or may not conform to “socially defined” behaviours and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine or neither.

  • Male: No need to explain, but in case you need clarification -a male is an “organism is the physiological sex that produces sperm.” Simple enough. Someone who identifies as a male will often see themselves as a boy or a man.

  • Female: A female organism is that has the ability to produce non-mobile ova A.K.A. egg cells. Those who identify themselves as female will often see themselves as a girl or a woman and sadly will suffer face a few misjudgments, but this will only make her stronger. #FemalesAreStrongAsHell

  • Transgender: An umbrella term for individuals whose gender identity is different from what is typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Transgenderism is a gender identity, not a sexual orientation, therefore no assumptions should be made as a result.

  • Androgynous: The combination of both masculine and feminine characteristics. Gender ambiguity is often found in fashion, gender identity, sexual identity or even sexual lifestyle.

  • GenderfluidGenderfluid: I’m gonna let bad ass Ruby Rose explain this one: “Gender fluidity is not really feeling like you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other,” she said. “For the most part, I definitely don’t identify as any gender. I’m not a guy; I don’t really feel like a woman, but obviously, I was born one. So, I’m somewhere in the middle, which — in my perfect imagination — is like having the best of both sexes. I have a lot of characteristics that would normally be present in a guy and then less that would be present in a woman. But then sometimes I’ll put on a skirt — like today.”

  • Queer: Gender queer is an umbrella term that covers any feelings about gender alternative to society’s traditional expectations. Queer has many facets. Some use it to encompass all non-heterosexual, non-cisgender identities. But though queer might cover some part of that spectrum, it is not limited to it. I am not gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender. I am not anything other than just queer.


Now, we know we just gave you a lot of terms and labels and we hope it helps. But if you feel like you don’t fit into any of these categories, don’t worry about it! That’s totally fine. You don’t need a label or to fit into a box to determine who you are. You are who you are and at the end of the day what matters is what’s on the inside.

It is important to familiarize yourself with gender and sexuality to better understand not only your own views but the views of those around you as well. You never know who is struggling to identify themselves and feel accepted by doing such.



Being pansexual I have never felt comfortable in my sexuality. I felt like I wasn’t quite completely straight, but I wasn’t completely gay either. Gender expression has never affected how I feel about a person platonically, romantically, or intimately. In a sea of labels, I couldn’t find an identifier- I couldn’t find a group of people that felt the way I did. Being pansexual often gets misconstrued because of the conversation and opinions surrounding the idea of sexuality and gender even though pansexuality as a concept is simple. If I like you as a person enough to want to date you, I will.


There’s a stigma attached to any sexuality that doesn’t have have a preference in regards to attraction. Both being bi and pansexual get the stigma that those who identify as such are sluts or whores who can’t choose their partner and just want to sleep with anyone and everyone. This is not the the case, although I don’t have much regard to the sex or gender of those that I like this doesn’t mean I’m going to just sleep with anyone. Discretion is used regardless of your sexuality.


Image Credits: 1 2 3 4 5


Andrea Gáez

PS Behrend '19

From Panama.xx
Senior at Penn State Behrend Studying Secondary Education in Mathematics  Full time dog mom and taco lover. I love long walks through target and the smell of new purses.
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