A Few Definitions: Gender and Sexual Identity

Photo Credit: jwyg

Biological Sex: Your biological sex is the way your body was made. Most people’s bodies are male or female.

  • Male: Most mammals, including humans, are genetically determined by their chromosomes – males have an XY sex chromosome
  • Female: Females have an XX sex chromosome
  • Intersex: It is also possible to be XXY or have other chromosome arrangements. These qualities are reported to be as common as red headedness (about 2% of the population)
  • Gender: Gender is how society and the cultures in which we live deals with the differences between males and females. Gender is what we as a community think of as being a man or woman. Often times, our thoughts on gender rely upon what we think of or are taught as masculine (or manly) and feminine (or lady-like) behaviors.

Gender Identity: Your gender identity is who you feel you are on the inside (man, woman, both, neither, flexible). Your gender expression has to do with how you show your identity to the rest of the world (how you walk, talk, sit, or dress; whether you’re more masculine, feminine, some of both, etc.)

Transgender: Some people call themselves transgender (or “trans,” “tranny’) because they feel they were born biologically one sex, but emotionally and spiritually feel like they are of another gender. Transgenderism can refer to how people choose to dress and appear. It can also include taking hormones or having surgery to change one’s sex organs and appearance to match they gender that they feel.

Sexual Orientation: Your sexual orientation has to do with whom you mostly find sexually, emotionally, and romantically attractive (guys, girls or both).

  • Straight – Heterosexual: People who are attracted to people of another gender; a man who loves a woman or a woman who loves a man
  • Gay – Homosexual: A “gay” man is someone who is physically attracted to other males
  • Lesbian: A “lesbian” is a woman who is physically attracted to other females
  • Bisexual: People are “bisexual” or “bi” if they are physically attracted to both men and women
  • Questioning: Some people experiment with people of both sexes at different times in their lives, but by having a sexual experience with a person of the same (or opposite) gender does not mean that you are gay (or straight).
  • GLBTQ: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning
  • Two-spirit: Many Native Americans, both past and present, identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, transvestites, transsexuals, or transgender. Traditionally, many tribes had multiple gender systems (recognizing more than two genders), and it was understood that there were people who occupied a social and spiritual position somewhere in-between men and women. Many other cultures around the world also had or have multiple gender societies. Native American cultures shared this outlook on humanity that acknowledged the value and contributions of all people in a community. “Two Spirit” is a contemporary term used to refer to these people in some tribes. This term implies that someone has both male and female aspects within them, not that they are physically both male and female (e.g., intersex). Many tribes have words in their languages for these people.

You can learn more about LGBTQ and Two Spirit health HERE.

Special Thanks: Tommy Chesboro, Hannabah Blue, Tony Aaron Fuller

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Why would the spirits of Native Americans visit me every night as a child? Every night before my parents moved us they came from my closet and would surround my bed and touch my ears or my mouth. They looked as real to me as my parents. Why???

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