A Few Things Writers Need To Know About Sexuality, & Attraction, & Gender

A few basic things people should know and remember about attraction and gender, particularly where LGBTQA folks are concerned!

Last update: November 5, 2020

About Attraction & Sexuality

Way, way back in the day we were told that girls like boys and boys like girls, and eventually they grow up and get together and make some babies, and that's just that.

But reality's never been so simple. For as long as people have been peopling, women have been pining after other women, men have been yearning for other men, and many, many people have had it bad for both. You might even know some of them from history. And some people haven't longed for even one solitary soul a single day in their lives.

All right, so here's some basics.

First, non-sexuality isn't a personality trait any more than straightness is a personality trait. Sure, some non-straight folks have some "stereotypical" traits and tastes, but there's just as much variety among non-straight folks as there is among straight folks. Just like there's straight women who have short hair and wear biker jackets, there are non-straight women who like long hair and skirts. Just as there are straight men who enjoy musicals, there are non-straight men who enjoy hunting.

So, let's talk about a few types of non-straightness. First, there's plain and simply being attracted to the same gender, and the same gender alone. There's bisexual folks, who are attracted to two or more genders. And then there's pansexuality, where somebody's attracted to people irrespective of gender. Also, sexuality is fluid! People's attraction can change over time.

Non-straight people aren't inherently more lustful or obsessed with sex than straight people, either. And being non-straight doesn't mean that they automatically want to bang every member of whichever sex they find attractive. In fact, non-straight people can have a very low sex drive, or even be asexual.

"Wait a second," some bewildered individual begins, "How does that work? I thought this was about who you were attracted to!"

Well, here's the thing: there's sexual attraction, and there's romantic attraction. Sexual attraction is basically a desire to get down 'n dirty with somebody, while romantic attraction is more about the desire to do things like wine, dine, and cuddle together. Thus, an asexual person can be homoromantic. Some asexuals don't mind having sex with someone they're romantically attracted to, but some find the idea of sex entirely repulsive.

Conversely, someone can be sexual and aromantic - they feel a desire for sex, but have no interest in the romantic bits. Someone can be asexual and aromantic - they don't feel any kind of desire for anyone, period. No, they don't need someone to warm them up. They don't need to just meet "the right one." They're perfectly fine!

There's also demisexuality, where some people don't experience the primary sexual attraction that other people feel while infatuated, but only develop it after they've developed an emotional bond.

Neither asexuality nor demisexuality have anything to do with celibacy (intentionally abstaining with sex), nor with being a "prude" or being "virtuous." Asexual people just don't feel any desire for sex, and demisexual people just don't feel it for anyone they haven't developed an emotional bond with.

About Gender (And Trans Stuff!)

We live in a culture that very aggressively insists that people born with one kind of body are female while people born with another kind of body are male. Hence we have the terms "Assigned Female At Birth" (AFAB) and "Assigned Male At Birth" (AMAB).

Most people born in AFAB bodies feel perfectly female, and most people born in AMAB bodies feel perfectly male. But many don't. And these people are what we call trans.

Transgender comes in many forms. Some trans people have a fully male or female gender identity, while others have a fluid (IE, shifting) gender identity. Some people don't identify with any gender, while others identify equally with both, or identify primarily as one with a splash of the other. There's simply no single way to be trans.

Gender dysphoria is a sense of discomfort or unease that results from a sense of being in the wrong body. It's far deeper than a sense of simply not liking how your body look; instead, it's a feeling that your body is fundamentally not you. Gender dysphoria affects different trans people to different degrees. One trans woman might be perfectly with the genitalia she was born with, while another might experience severe dysphoria whenever she has to look at herself. A nonbinary person might feel no dysphoria whatsoever, but another might feel dysphoria over their chest.

When dysphoria happens, it's always a stressful experience. In severe cases, it can lead to depression. For this reason, it's vitally important to allow trans people to dress however they like, address them by their chosen names and pronouns, and give them access to surgery and hormone therapy should they want it.

A trans person's gender is separate from their sexual orientation. A trans man who is exclusively attracted to women is a straight man; he is not a lesbian in denial or some kind of "super-lesbian" who "just wants to be a man." A trans man who is attracted to other men is a gay trans man. A trans woman can be a lesbian, and a cisgender (IE, not trans) lesbian can be attracted to trans lesbian, and the cis lesbian is no less of a lesbian for it. Also, bisexual genderqueer folk do indeed exist.

Transgender people are not crossdressers. Crossdressers simply enjoy dressing in clothing associated with other genders, but do not consider themselves members of that gender.

Cisgender folks should also be aware that "trans woman" and "trans man" should always have a space in them. Writing them without is a transphobic dogwhistle. Also, "transgenderism" is also a transphobic term, so don't use it.

And speaking of transphobia, let's tackle the myth that trans people are trying to "deny biology." Literally no trans person is trying to deny that some bodies are biologically and biochemically different from one another. Instead, what's being challenged is what those biological differences should mean to us. A couple of good articles on the subject include Stop Using Phony Science to Justify Transphobia and Transgender People and "Biological Sex" Myths.

Another transphobic myth is that being transgender is a form of mental delusion. This is utter nonsense, as gender dysphoria and delusional belief are entirely different things. The article Being Transgender is Nothing Like Having a Psychotic Napoleon Delusion explains things pretty well.

In closing

Obviously, this is a very surface-level article primarily written for cishet (cisgender, heterosexual) people who are unfamiliar with queer topics. It's definitely not a substitute for consulting queer people on what's respectful representation or not. Still, I hope it can help a few people start to get a grasp on a few things.

If you're queer and feel like anything here is wrong or offensive, let me know! I'm queer myself, but I'm definitely not perfect.

Thanks for reading!

See also:

Representation: Why It Matters, & How To Do It Well
How To Challenge Toxic Masculinity As A Writer

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