Lesbian - A woman who is attracted to other women
Gay - A man who is attracted to men
Bisexual - A person who is attracted to people of their own gender, and one or more others
Transgender - People whose birth sex doesn’t match their gender. They will typically be ‘AFAB’ or ‘AMAB’ (Assigned Female/Male At Birth) and are now Trans/Trans-Masc/Man/Trans-femme/Woman. Folk who’s gender does match their birth sex are cis-gendered. You may be a cis-gendered man or woman.
Intersex - “Intersex people have innate sex characteristics that don’t fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies” Human Rights Australia https://ihra.org.au/18106/what-is-intersex/
Queer/Questioning - Reclaimed umbrella term
Folk who are questioning their sexuality and/or gender identity
Asexual/Aromoantic/Asexual - Folk who don’t experience: romantic attraction, sexual attraction or have any feelings of gender
Pansexual - Folk who experience attraction to people, regardless of or despite gender
Non-binary - “Not two” (Maughan, 2022)
Abrosexual - Folk with changing sexualities
The problem with the above definitions
The list above implies definitive definitions of gender and sexuality. However, language and definitions are never definitive. These letters sometimes represent different labels and identities – sometimes people add Ally to the A; and sometimes people define the labels in different ways. They also evolve. When I first experienced queer culture, bisexual meant a person was attracted to two/both genders, in a way that assumed there were only two genders. But our understandings of gender have evolved and with it, our definitions of bisexuality. Our language is living and evolving just like any other.
Every person gets to select their own label, and letter, that best describes their gender and sexuality from their own experience. Not all women in relationships with women call themselves lesbians. Not all lesbians are exclusively attracted to other women. Don’t impose your assumptions or labels onto others. Listen to the label they use and use this when referring to them (when its necessary and appropriate) and to think about them.
Let's look at this in practice (introducing myself)
I am Rachel and I am Queer. Queer is the word I use to describe my sexuality. I don’t have a gender. None of the gender words feel right. I am AFAB - assigned female at birth by doctors and my parents. Female is my birth sex. And I was socialised as a girl and then woman. My biological sex is really important clinical information. For me personally, it has affected the kinds of immunisations I have received, the different health screens I present for, as well as the kinds of antidepressants that are more likely to be effective. The fact that I was assigned female at birth, and have been socialised as a girl and then woman was also important information for my psychiatrist when diagnosing and understanding my ADHD.
Sex and gender matters. Sometimes they don’t align, and for some people, gender and sexuality don’t stay the same across their lives.
My gender doesn’t currently align to my birth sex.
In the past I have identified as a girl, a female and later as a woman. But it’s always been an uncomfortable part of my identity. The term ‘Lady’ has always felt weird – and I remember when I was a teacher and our management team called us ‘ladies’ on Educa it made me squirm. I’ve never felt like I did ‘woman’ well. And its always felt uncomfortable and I’ve always felt on the outside looking in. I used to try really hard to be feminine, but it felt weird and I looked uncomfortable.
But I am not traditionally androgynous or masculine. I don’t want to be a man. I often shave my head, I love elaborate fashion and clashing traditional masc and femme styles, I am great at cooking and terrible at taking the bins out. For me, this feels like home.
But non-binary doesn’t feel right.
So now I just don’t identify with gender. I am happy to say I am female, but none of the words that describe gender feel like me. For me, any label of gender – even gender queer or a-gender – communicates a relationship to gender. And as I said earlier, gender is simply not on my disco ball; I am not on the gender continuum. I guess when pushed I say I’m Gender Anarchist.
TBH I’ve really always just felt like Rachel. And now, finally, thankfully, there’s a way to express that. I no longer need to squirm and feel unseen.
I’d like to pause for a moment – again – to give you an insight into the history of our LGBTIQA+ community. I know my gender identity and use of the queer label causes distress to some in our broader community. For decades, lesbians fought to broaden definitions and ways to ‘be’ a woman. They fought for lesbian visibility and I know for many of them, it feels like younger folk who use terms like queer and identify with non-binary gender identities are taking for granted their work, and rendering them invisible. I’d like to pay my respects to this group of fierce women and thank them for their work. Your work has radically changed my life and I will always be grateful for the path you trod before me.
But Queer feels right, in this particular historic, social, political, environmental and economic moment.
In terms of my sexuality, I am sexually, romantically and aesthetically attracted to women, and I am in a relationship with a cis-woman (a person whose birth sex matches her gender). I have also been in relationships with transwomen (women who were assigned males at birth) and I used to date men and married a man briefly in my 20s. Sexuality evolves!
This is just my story. I am not the owner of queer culture or identity. Like any community, the community of folx with diverse genders and sexualities is as broad as any other culture. That’s why I’ve drawn on broad sources of information and knowledge in preparing this session.
We know there’s not one way to be ‘Australian’ or ‘Atheist’ or ‘White’ or ‘teacher’ or ‘from Perth’ or any other identities really. There’s also not one way to be part of the LGBTIQA+ communities. So, what I present today isn’t definitive series of fact and uncontestable knowledge, it is a collection of what professionals who I have worked with have told me they want to know, and a collection and synthesis of how folk in the LGBTIQA+ communities have responded to the questions raised by EC professionals, as well as other things they want to share. We also acknowledge that this is captured at a point in time – these are perspectives I’ve gathered in 2022 and are a product of this particular context. Our culture(s) will continue to emerge just as any other and all the cultures you belong to.