Identity, gender, sexual orientation: where are we?
We are probably not the only ones to find that all the debated notions surrounding gender, gender identity or sexual orientation make us dizzy, so we suggest you try to provide you with some leads to, on the one hand, to understand this chapter of Pluriel.le.s (it's not bad) and to try, on the other hand, to explore this subject serenely.
"You've been saying you're bisexual for 5 years, but you really don't know what that means"
Gender, sexual orientation: the difficulty of knowing what we are talking about
Let's start with a little detour to the basics:
Sex and gender : To make it “simple”, let's say that sex is a biological given, while gender describes what society, at a given time, defines as feminine or masculine. There is therefore a social construction around gender, unlike sex, which is defined by the genitalia.
Gender identity: It refers to the intimate and personal experience of our gender: to feel feminine, masculine, both, neither or otherwise.
Sexual orientation: A person's sexual orientation refers to the sexual attraction they may feel towards others, regardless of gender or sex.
For example: one can be born male (biological data = sex), feel female (so as women are defined at a time T in a society) (gender identity), and feel attracted to males (sexual orientation). And from there all combinations are possible.
Short glossary of the terms mentioned relating to gender and sexual orientation
Cis: This is the opposite of trans: cis in Latin means “on the same side”, while trans means “beyond, across”). It means having the behavior expected by a given society in relation to our birth sex. Ex: a person of female sex, female gender, heterosexual.
Trans: trans people are all those who do not identify with the gender associated with their birth sex, this also includes non-binary people.
Pansexual: A pansexual individual can be attracted to all sexes and genders. Ex: a pansexual woman can be attracted to another woman of masculine gender, as well as a man of masculine gender. His attraction is not defined by the gender or the sex of the person, but more often by personal characteristics.
Bisexual: A bisexual person is attracted to more than one gender (female, male) or to a person regardless of gender.
Lesbian: Refers to a female person who is attracted to women (regardless of their gender identity).
Fluid: Fluid people are people for whom their gender identity or sexual orientation will vary over time. We can also characterize as fluid any individual who will have an orientation or a genre that cannot be classified by the existing terms.
“I built myself as a straight Cis woman: it was very strong in my upbringing (...)”
Social norms and intimate, sexual construction
Through this testimony, it is the social dimension of gender identity and sexual orientation that is highlighted. What it tells us: there is a form of injunction felt, when one is born female in a society (ours for example), to adopt the behaviors expected in relation to this given sex . Basically, we can ask ourselves the question of whether, when you are a woman, when you wear dresses and you are attracted to men, it is because our society recognizes it as the "norm" for our sex and that we have been brought up to conform to it, or if it is really a reflection of our lived, intimate identity and our deep attractions. The answer is obviously not binary - no pun intended - you can imagine ;)
It is therefore the (dizzying) question of nature vs. culture that arises when we question the part of social construction inherent in the development of our gender identity and sexual orientation.
“If I say that I like women and in 3 years I meet a guy (…), what are we going to say? ”
Difficulties of identification and refusal of labels
Through these testimonies, it is just as much the difficulty of defining oneself as of refusing the labels that stand out.
The fear of being labeled and locked into a category seems to be one of the major obstacles to identification with existing “categories”… Which no doubt explains the proliferation of these.
Fluid identity, for example, is based on not freezing sexual identity or orientation over time, whereas pansexual identity is based on being attracted to any gender or gender. In both cases, these new identities embody the fact of not freezing sexual identity and letting it flourish according to encounters and time.
The end of the need for identification?
Beyond the refusal of labels, don't we always need to identify ourselves or at least to recognize ourselves ? Existing identities are so many landmarks that allow us to situate ourselves for ourselves, but also for others. Because if one can feel hampered, limited by belonging to an identity, isn't it also difficult not to succeed in recognizing oneself, in defining oneself, despite all the limitations that this may entail? We hear in this interview the relief (“Oh finally”) to recognize each other, to share common characteristics (even if they are precisely based on the fact of refusing them all).
“You keep finding names for me…but please just give me a break”
Lesbian? Pansexual? Cis? Give me a break!
Tired of labels, that we understood, so how to navigate between the social norms associated with our sex and our own feelings, our intimate experience, our attractions not always easy to assume, and their evolution?
First of all, why not try to consider existing identities as so many tools to (re)know and define ourselves rather than as “shackles” that lock us in?
Why not place these questions in the context of a curious and benevolent discovery of ourselves and our personal fulfillment, with all that this implies in terms of self-acceptance, and time...
Why not also give a little peace, and give it to yourself this famous break on our identity, our (our) orientation (s)...?
To explore the subject a little in a fun way: Let's talk, the game that (re)starts the conversation on sexuality without taboos and with kindness .
Through these questions that address all aspects of sexuality, the game was designed to start meaningful conversations , learn more about others and about yourself, rediscover what you thought you already knew.