By Akshita Nagpal:
Ek tha raja, ek thi rani (There was a king, there was a queen). We have all grown up on stories where there was a man and a woman and they fell in love. But what about people who don’t feel like a man or a woman? What about men who fall in love with men or women who fall in love with women?
Well, we don’t talk about them. Mostly, because we don’t talk about sex and sexuality at all – at home or at school. Our understanding of sex and related issues is shaped by what we hear from friends or watch in films. Sadly, a lot of it is plain bakwaas.
No, whatever your friend may have told you, all crossdressers are not hijras. All hijras are not gays. All gays are not feminine. Confusing eh? Indeed! Let us help you.
Gender identity is the way a person feels about the gender they belong to as compared to what they were marked as at birth (told at the hospital) – usually male or female.
A person who agrees with the sex they were given at birth are known as cisgender, or cis. So, a person who was assigned male at birth and identifies with his gender is a cisgender male or a cis man.
Similarly, a person, who is assigned female at birth and identifies with her gender is a cisgender female or a cis woman.
However, many people do not relate to the gender they were assigned at birth.
So a person who was assigned male at birth but identifies as a woman is known as a trans woman. A person who was assigned female at birth but identifies as a man is known as a trans man.
Bigender people identify with two gender identities. They can identify with one identity at a time or identify with both simultaneously.
A person who does not identify as any gender is described as genderless.
A person who is still exploring or questioning the gender they feel represented by may describe themselves as questioning. A person who is still exploring or questioning the gender they feel represented by may describe themselves as questioning.
Earlier, transgender people who underwent a surgery to change their sexual organs were known as “transsexual persons”. The term has now fallen out of use, because not all trans people choose the surgery option and many continue to live with the sexual organ they were born with.
Not all hijras identify as transgender. However, many transgender women are also a part of the hijra community. But the term hijra cannot be used to describe all transgender people. While some transgender people join the community willingly, many are given away as children by their families because they feel ashamed.
A person born with an ambiguous genitalia (difficult to identify as male or female at birth) is known as intersex. Intersex persons choose what gender they want to be known with or none.
Sexual orientation is about who does one feel emotionally, romantically and/ or sexually attracted to.
The LGB in LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual. These three words refer to sexual orientation. T stands for Transgender. Transgender people can be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual.
When a woman feels emotionally, romantically and/ or sexually attracted to another woman, she is described as a lesbian. Two women in a relationship will be described as a lesbian couple.
When a man feels emotionally, romantically and/ or sexually attracted to another man, he is described as a lesbian. Two men in a relationship will be described as a gay couple.
When a man feels emotionally, romantically and/ or sexually attracted to a woman and vice versa, he is described as straight. A man and a woman in a relationship will be described as a straight couple.
When a person is attracted to more than one gender, they are known as bisexual. This can include attraction to both men and women (cis and trans) or even to non-binary persons.
When a person feels little or no sexual attraction to anyone, they are described as asexual.
As evident, gender identity and sexual orientation are different things. The key difference between gender identity is what gender a person relates to with regard to themselves, while sexual orientation is defined by the attraction a person feel for others.
Another important thing to bear in mind is that whatever be a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, you cannot tell by looking at them. No gender or sexual orientation has any particular look.
It is a myth that if a girl has short hair and dresses in ‘men’s clothes’ she is a lesbian or a transman. Or if a man likes wearing pink nail paint he is a transwoman or gay. Similarly, long hair is no guarantee that a person is a cisgender woman or big muscles a sign of a ‘macho’ male. These are just personal dressing and grooming choices and have no relations whatsoever to a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
Many genderqueer people prefer to not be identified by pronouns used for males (he/him) and females (she/her), but by they/their, even for singular persons. Additionally, in place of titles like ‘Ms’ and ‘Mr’, ‘Mx’ might be preferable to some. It is best to ask a transgender person about how they would like to be addressed, and the title they would prefer, instead of assuming a pronoun for them. Queer is also used as a broad umbrella term for LGBT people.
This article was first published here on Love Matters India.
*To protect the identity, names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models.
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