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Easily confused: sexuality and gender

When it comes to writing about sex, sexuality and gender, there are some easily confusable terms. This is the first in short series of blog posts looking at those easily confusable terms to help writers, editors and proofreaders understand the differences.

This blog post looks at sexuality and gender.


As always, language is constantly evolving. This article is a simplified explanation of two easily confusable terms. As with all language relating to groups, there is much nuance and diversity in usage and that changes over time. If you spot an error in my explanations, please feel free to get in touch.


Last week, we discussed the difference between a person’s sex and their gender identity and expression. This week, we will look at the confusion there can be when it comes to somebody’s sexuality and gender identity.

Sexuality is a term we use to describe someone’s attractions (or lack of). How is this confused with gender? Well, the term LGBTQ+ can cause that confusion. How? As a term, “LGBTQ+” encompasses a lot of people – all those who are not heterosexual and all those who are not cisgender.


Sexuality

A person’s attraction, or not, is described as their sexuality. Like gender, sexuality is a spectrum. Anything that falls outside of the heterosexual experience, “straight”, can be found within the LGBTQ+ community. Gay, lesbian, bisexuality, pansexuality and asexuality are some of the more common sexuality labels but others exist.

How, I hear you ask, is that confused with gender?


Don’t forget the T

When it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, there can be so much focus on sexuality (L, G, B, Q, +), trans people can sometimes be overlooked. Trans men are men, transwomen are women and nonbinary people exist.

Do not confuse someone’s gender identity with sexuality.

Trans and nonbinary people have a sexuality – whether that is queer or heterosexual – and it is important to remember that there is a distinction. Do not assume!


Why does this matter?

When it comes to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, trans people have been at the very forefront of that struggle. And they continue to be. Their impact on the whole LGBTQ+ rights movement has been amazing.

As trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming continue to struggle, the continuing conflation with sexuality does not help. Gay marriage, for instance, is great and it was fought for. But by confusing gender and sexuality, we are suggesting that one battle is won and, therefore, every battle is won.

As writers, editors and proofreaders, we have a responsibility to ensure that our language accurately reflects the issues at hand. If you are discussing queer rights, being specific about whether that is gender inclusive rights or sexuality inclusive rights.


Too long; didn’t read


Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.

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