Understanding Your Gender and Sexuality

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Explanation of gender identity as a spectrum

Gender is often mistaken for a binary, or something that only has two possibilities: “male” and “female,” with nothing in between the two and no other options. However, gender is more akin to a spectrum, with “male” and “female” being either endpoint or pole of the spectrum. Between the two exist endless possibilities for gender.

Binary and nonbinary trans people and

When someone says that they have a nonbinary gender, they are saying that their gender falls somewhere in the space between the poles of the gender spectrum.  The recognition of nonbinary genders creates space for people to exist outside of and/or in between the binary “male/female” classification system.  

When someone is transgender, it means that they were given the wrong gender at birth. Because being transgender has to do with gender, which is a spectrum, being transgender is also a spectrum. There are binary transgender people and nonbinary transgender people, but because their gender is not the one they were assigned at birth, they are all considered transgender.  

Some transgender people choose to transition, or change how they are on the outside, to be more like they are on the inside. This can be a social change, a physical change or both.  

When a binary transgender person chooses to transition, they will usually work toward the opposing pole on the gender spectrum.  So, a binary transgender male would be moving toward the “male” pole of gender, away from the “female” pole. A binary transgender female would be moving toward the “female” pole of gender, away from the “male” pole.  

When a nonbinary transgender person chooses to transition, they usually won’t have a goal presentation visible to anyone but themself. It is possible that they don’t know where they’re going, or that their unique presentation hasn’t been done before, or that only they really know themself.  

Understanding gender identity

Your gender is a very personal picture of who you are inside: How you see yourself and how you want others to see you. Gender isn’t just about how you look on the outside or how you dress. Instead, gender is a big mix of different things about you that you feel best fit who you are. This makes each person’s gender unique and personal.  

Since gender identity is a personal journey for everyone, your understanding of gender may change as you grow. Some transgender people know from a very young age that their gender is different than what they were assigned at birth, and they are very firm and constant in telling others about their gender. Some transgender people don’t know, or don’t know how to talk about it, until they are older.

If you are trying to sort gender out, it’s OK. Taking time to sort things out is common, and getting to know yourself is a process that you’ll continue to go through your whole life. Even if you know your gender or are still trying to figure it out, you don’t have to take it all on by yourself. It’s OK to share or look for help. 

If you want questions to ask yourself when considering your gender, you might like to read this article: “Gender Confusion: Being Unsure Doesn’t Have to be a Bummer.”

 If you want to read more deeply into gender, you may enjoy reading ​“Understanding Gender.”

LGB-identified trans teens

Another very personal part of a person’s identity is their sexuality. A person’s sexuality is related to their gender, because it puts their gender against the gender of people they find attractive.

 While sexuality and gender are reliant on each other, you can’t know a person’s sexuality just from knowing their gender, even if the person is transgender. If you know that someone is a male, transgender or not, you don’t know his sexuality unless you know who he is attracted to. A male, transgender or not, who is only attracted to females is straight (heterosexual) regardless of the gender they were given at birth. Similarly, a male, transgender or not, who is only attracted to other males, is gay (homosexual) regardless of the gender either was given at birth.

For nonbinary people, sexuality can be a little harder. Because sexuality, like gender, is very personal, it can be unique from person to person, so nonbinary people define their sexuality how it feels best for them. Many times, this is by the binary pole of the gender spectrum they are closer to, but that is not always the case. Being unsure about your gender or sexuality can be uncomfortable or stressful, but it’s OK.  Getting to know yourself is an important part of life, and allowing yourself to be unsure will let you stretch and try things out to get to know yourself better.