Gender Terms and What they Mean

by Ms. Daphne of



I am privileged to talk to such an amazing variety of folks, many of whom are in varying phases of exploration, questioning or transition and these words – Sex, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation – often end up in a jumble of confusion. It’s time to fix that! 

The Venn Diagram above demonstrates that each of those words have zero to do with each other. Each is completely independent of the other.

Biological Sex = What is between your legs at birth. 

Gender Identity = What your brain tells you you are: Boy? Girl? Both? Neither?

Sexual Orientation = Who you are attracted to: Men? Women? Both? Trans* folks? All of the above?

(Some lists about these terms include Romantic Orientation as well. Your Romantic Orientation might differ from your Sexual Orientation. A straight ciswoman who falls in love with a lesbian, for example.)


Where Gender Term Confusion Occurs

Because of the great majority of readers, I am focusing on being born with a penis instead of vagina, but if you were born a biological female, switch the words around to work for you. And I am not ignoring Intersex folks at all! There are a significant number of folks born with both a penis and a vagina. You are on my radar. I promise.)


If your birth body has a penis (SEX), but your brain/heart tells you you are a woman (GENDER) and you desire to only have sex with men, this makes you straight (SEXUAL ORIENTATION).

Say you were born with a penis (SEX), but know you are really a woman (GENDER), and are only attracted to women, that would make you a lesbian (SEXUAL ORIENTATION).

Another variation… you were born with a penis (SEX), but your head assures you that you are a woman (GENDER) and are attracted to men, women and even trans* folks (any combination of the spectrum of trans* people: Cross Dressers, Sissies, transwomen [pre-op or post-op], etc.)… this is called Pansexual (SEXUAL ORIENTATION)

I am sure there is a mathematical number somewhere, but the numbers of combinations is practically endless!


Types of Gender Identities

Please note! This list is not inclusive and gender terms are added to our vocabulary almost daily. Also, definitions vary depending on source. When in doubt, ask the person in front of you their definition! I will update as I learn them… and feel free to let me know if I have missed anything.

gender identity

Androgynous – A person who has a combination of both male and female qualities.

Bigender – A person who fluctuates between both male and female genders, sometimes even embracing something called a “third gender.”

Cisgender – A person whose sex (genitals) and mind (gender) align. A person who is not transgender is cisgender.

Gender Binary – The belief there are only two genders: male and female. I put this here because I wanted to note that society embraces the Gender Binary, but many, many do not fit that description. If you are one of those that doesn’t fit either male or female, know that you are perfectly normal and, happily, today, we have other options (words/descriptions) available to us. Many of the terms are new and can be confusing, especially to those we are talking to outside of the LGBTQIetc. family, but hang in there. You are no longer alone!

Gender Fluid – Some people feel one gender some days and another on other days.

Genderqueer – People who feel neither male or female, sometimes not feeling any gender at all (agender).


Gender Terms: Types of Sexual Orientations

gender identity2

Straight – When a male person feels sexual towards a female person. Generally a Binary experience.

Gay/Lesbian – When a male has sexual desires for another male; when a female has sexual feelings towards another female.

Bisexual – Having sexual feelings for both (binary) genders.

Asexual – Not having sexual feelings towards any person at all.

Pansexual – Feeling sexual towards all genders.

Know that all of this can be fluid for each person as they explore each part of the Venn Diagram or Triangle. You might slide through different self-descriptions, trying each one on to see if it fits or not. Take your time! Don’t let anyone try to shove you into a gender or sexuality, especially based on your biological sex. This is your life and you -and ONLY you- get to name your gender and sexual orientation. 

I am always glad to talk with you about these issues and explain these gender terms to you. They are very close to my heart.

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