“What is the difference between sex, gender, and sexual orientation?”
Sex is what you assigned at birth. Doctors determine your sex through a relatively arbitrary method of guessing what your sex, and thereby gender, by examining your genitals. Society assumes that people’s gender (by sheer coincidence) will align with their sex assigned at birth. This is why gender and sex are often misconstrued. While they are both social constructs, sex is based on your genitalia, chromosomes, secondary sex characteristics, and hormones; your gender is something that only you can know and express.
It’s then easy to understand why gender, something you self-identify as is then conflated with sexuality and romantic orientations. Gender is what you go to bed as while sexuality is has to do with your feelings towards other people.
So, if you were assigned female at birth, then society said you were of the gender woman and let’s say you believed that until you were 25. Up until you were 25, you were attracted to woman. However, let’s say you realized that you were actually a man. 1 day you identified as a woman, the next day you identified as a man and for the rest of your life. For most, you’d still be attracted to woman, regardless of your changing gender.
Sexual orientation can be fluid but, for many, simply transitioning and/or identifying as another gender doesn’t magically change your sexual orientation. It does change how society labels you. In the example, you’d probably first be labeled as homosexual/lesbian and then labeled as heterosexual. However, you may identify as a lesbian because you feel a deep connection to the identifier.
Compare: transgender, trans(*), and transsexual
Transgender: when your sex assigned at birth doesn’t align with your gender identity
Trans* (priorly trans): includes all transgender, non-binary, gender nonconforming, transvestite and gender queer people
Transsexual: refers to those whose gender identity doesn’t align with their sex assigned with birth; they often transform their bodies hormonally or surgically to reflect their inner gender (often seen as derogatory)
“All transgender people feel as if they’re trapped in the wrong body.”
While some trans people may feel that level of discomfort with their bodies, it isn’t the same for everyone. Some trans people feel entirely comfortable in their own bodies and do not seek out transitioning of any physical kind. There are other trans people who feel a discomfort towards part of their body (ex. chest) but they love the rest of their body. It depends from person to person.
“Transgender people loath their body and genitalia.”
Similar to the stereotype above, not all trans people have such a difficult relationship with their body’s.
“Transgender people are just gay.”
Being trans involves your gender identity- how you see yourself- in other words. Being gay is a sexual orientation- how you feel towards other people of your preferred gender(s).
“Transgender people are confused.”
That is incorrect. This notion likely comes from the confusion of cisgender (gender aligns with sex assigned at birth) individuals trying to understand trans people. Many trans people have found after transitioning and/or presenting as their preferred selves that they feel natural and validating while living in their previous presentation was uncomfortable and painful. Trans people may question their identities for a while and switch between identifiers but that doesn’t mean they are confused.
This confusion of cisgender people also leads to the feeling that cisgender people can refer to trans in whatever way they wish, even disregarding a trans person’s identity to instead use the one that the cis person is comfortable with. This is simply unacceptable. It invalidate’s a trans person’s hard fought gender identity just because of some ignorance and confusion on the cis person’s part. You should respect/affirm trans people’s and non-binary people’s genders.
(Note: Many trans people question their gender for a long time but if they tell you what they’re gender is simply trust that they know they best– even if the person telling you is your child and younger than 18 years of age.)
“Transgender people are mentally ill.”
The medical community has perpetuated the notion that being trans is a mental disorder for decades when being trans is simply a disconnect between an arbitrarily assigned sex to a self identified gender. In the past, it was called Gender Identity Disorder and now it is called Gender Dysphoria. These obsession with diagnoses and control over trans people’s bodies forces trans people to receive the Gender Dysphoria diagnosis for them to transition. Trans people who know themselves better than anyone else are told that they can’t transition until they get the official diagnosis by a therapist. In many places (like the Seattle area), there are efforts to allow trans people to transition without the diagnosis or letter of consent, instead trans people do informed consent. Basically, informed consent is when you sign that you understand the risks like people who go through cosmetic surgery or any other surgery and then you can transition (if you have the money).
Note: Some trans people’s mental health can suffer from like anxiety, depression, etc. whether this is a result of discrimination or of pre-existing conditions.
“Transgender people perform in drag shows.”
Drag shows are a performance. They usually are exaggerations of society’s definition of femininity and masculinity, caricatures, etc. Many drag queens and kings are cisgender people who only put on the show but drop the makeup and clothing to return to their everyday life. Being trans is to always present as you want to present (unless safety or circumstances prohibit you). Being trans isn’t a show or a performance.
“You can tell someone is transgender just by looking at them.”
This disregards the fact that many cisgender (sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender) don’t conform to the gender norms. In fact, many gender non-conforming individuals often are mistaken for trans but are perfectly comfortable with their assigned sex-gender.
“Transgender people aren’t “real” men or “women.””
First, woman and man refers to your gender identity. Your gender identity comes from how you see your gender which some trans people can identify as man, woman, another identifier or don’t identify as anything. Whether you’re a trans person or a cis person, you gender identity relies on you, not your sex assigned at birth. Many of these ideas of a trans people not being “real men” or “real women” comes from the idea that you have to be born with particular genitalia, sex organs, chromosomes or hormones.
As of currently, ideas of sex assigned at birth are changing as idea of intersex enters the mainstream consciousness. The idea that there are more people can you think who don’t entirely fit into the definition of a female or male so figuring out your gender from your sex assigned at birth isn’t so black and white.
-Some of these misconceptions and stereotypes are applied to non-binary trans, non-binary and genderqueer as well.-
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