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Let’s Talk Sex: Appendix A: Sexuality/Gender Terms and Definitions

On this page, you will find more information describing the terms you will be going over with your students beyond the standard definitions that exist on your students’ matching sheets (Appendix B). You can choose to share this information with your students if questions arise about the terms. If not, it is up to you to share or not based on your timeframe.

 

Sexual Orientation

  • The type of sexual, romantic, and/or physical attraction someone feels toward others. Often labeled based on the gender identity/expression of the person and who they are attracted to. Common labels: lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, etc.
  •  People need not have had specific sexual experiences to know their sexual identity; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as LGBTQIA +.

Queer

  • The term “queer” can relate to sexuality and/or gender (as in “genderqueer”). It’s an indentity label used by some people whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. Typically, for those who identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel don’t apply to them.
  • If a student says or implies that queer is a derogatory term:
    • Queer was historically a derogatory/insulting term and that some LGBTQ+ people (usually depending on age and geographic location — older generations and/or people in more rural areas) still feel this to be true. However in recent years/decades queer has been largely reclaimed by people in the LGBTQ+ and turned into an empowering term for their sexual orientation.

Bisexual

  • People may experience this attraction in differing ways (sexually attracted to men, romantically attracted to women, etc.) and degrees (more attracted to women than men, or men than women, etc.) over their lifetime.

Lesbian

  • Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay (adj.) or as gay women.

Gay

  • Sometimes lesbian (n. or adj.) is the preferred term for women.
  • Homosexual: Clinical and outdated term, gay is modern term, not offensive.

Pansexual

  • Pansexual people may or may not identify gender as a factor that influences their romantic or sexual attraction. Some pansexual people are attracted to numerous or all genders and some consider gender as they would any other physical characteristic.

Asexual

  • Asexuality is a sexual orientation defined by a lack of sexual attraction or intrinsic desire for partnered sex. While other sexual orientations are defined around the gendered direction of attraction (e.g. heterosexual = sexually attracted to the opposite gender), asexual people simply don’t experience the “sexual” part towards anyone of any gender.
  • Another way of wording it is as being sexually attracted to no gender; the wayheterosexuality (attraction to opposite gender) and homosexuality (attraction to same gender) are inverses of each other, asexuality (attraction to no gender) can be seen as the opposite of bi/pansexuality (attraction to multiple/all genders).
  • A person can also be aromantic, meaning they do not experience romantic attraction. Alternatively, a person can be homoromantic, heteroromantic, biromantic, etc. In these cases the person may not experience sexual attraction to another person, but may be romantically attracted to someone of the same gender, opposite gender, etc.
  • Demisexual: people who do not experience sexual attraction to another person until they have built an emotional connection. (under the umbrella of asexuality).
  • Common misconception: asexual people do not have sex. They can and do! They just do not feel aroused by anything gender related.

Sex

  • At birth, infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy (this is what is written on the birth certificate). A person’s sex, however, is actually a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics. We often mistakenly associate a gender to a person based on that biological sex (like when the doctor says “it’s a boy!”–they are looking at male sex characteristics, and assume the identity/role of boy and the expression of masculine personality traits in this baby human).

Gender/Gender Non-Binary

  • Look at the completed genderbread person worksheet for more ways to understand these terms/concepts.
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