- Your biological sex is, simply put, the genitalia you were born with. Traditionally, sex is considered a binary condition—you are either male or female, no exceptions—but sex is now seen as a spectrum, with "intersex" in between and consisting of people who are born with characteristics of both male and female persons.
- Your sexual orientation consists of who you are attracted to. Some people like men, some people like women, some people like both—again, there's a spectrum. Notice, however, that there's only two extremes to the spectrum: you can like men exclusively or you can like women exclusively, but there are no additional points regarding what kind of junk you've got between your legs.
- Your gender identity has to do with your personality, actions and tendencies, and whether they trend towards patterns that are (traditionally) masculine or feminine. You may have a vagina, but that doesn't mean (anymore) that you are required to act in a girly fashion. It's also okay for men with penises to act womanly, though not nearly as okay.
Useful Notes / Homosexual
A "Homosexual" is a person, of either gender, who is sexually and often (though not always) romantically attracted exclusively to people of the same gender. There are multiple words for the trait. "Gay" is gender-neutral, but more likely to apply to men. "Lesbian" applies exclusively to women; this is a reference to the Greek isle of Lesbos, where poetess Sappho kept a collection of women with whom she was enamored ("Sapphic relationship" comes from this as well). "Queer" is gender-neutral, and has often been used as a derogatory slur, but is now being reclaimed by the radical queer movement. Then there's "homosexual" itself, but this word can carry negative connotations (not to mention five syllables) and is avoided outside of technical speak; the shortened version, "homo," is mostly used as a slur, as are "faggot" and "dyke." Current statistics claim that about one person in ten is homosexual. This has contributed to the historical view that it is unusual at best, a serious deviation at worst. Until 1973, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, basically the official textbook for abnormal psychology, listed homosexuality as a mental disorder * . Just about the only term that has escaped the pejorative label is "Bi", as in "Bisexual," meaning "attracted to members of both sexes". This is partially because the term is relatively new, as is the idea that sexual orientation is a spectrum; and it's also because bi people are still willing to sleep with people of the opposite sex, which is a big point in its favor. Since homosexuality is harmless as far as sexual abnormalities go, why is there so much hostility towards and/or disapproval of it? One interpretation has to do with conditions people have lived in through history. In the past, child mortality rates were horrific: on average, half of all children died before the age of fivenote . Death by Childbirth was also a major risk, which was even worse because it killed not only the mother, but every child she might have had thereafter. Long story short, you wanted every able-bodied male and female available to be involved in the process of continuing the species. Men and women not interested in reproducing (because they wanted to get busy with their own sex exclusively) added nothing to the process. It should be pointed out that in many cultures, however, having gay sex on the side was okay (in fact, sometimes man-on-man sex was considered a virtue. Women-on-women was seen as non-existent (as it was commonly believed in patriarchal societies that All Women Are Prudes and only have sex to procreate), or given a blind eye, as long as you were still pumping out babies. Many animal species include homosexual members, just like humans do; and since it's such a widespread phenomenon, biologists theorize that homosexuality in a population must be an adaptive trait despite the stigma. When the population equals or exceeds the food supply, homosexual (and asexual) members of a population can contribute to the well-being of the community, but do not add more children. The end result is that the children of the straight and bi members of the population have a better environment and a better chance of surviving because there are more people to support each child. Infant mortality goes down, and the next generation is smaller but healthier. And, of course, there is nothing to necessarily prevent homosexual people from reproducing themselves, even if the opposite sex isn't their preference (after all, as mentioned above, it was socially enforced that all people, regardless of desire, would have children—women especially). In other species, homosexuality actually does have very relevant evolutionary traits: in social mammals, like dolphins and lions, same-sex behavior helps reduce aggression among males, while in birds like black swans and seagulls, studies show that more chicks survive if raised by couples composed of the physically stronger sex (males in swans, females in seagulls). If this theory is correct, improved acceptance of gays and lesbians should eventually help mitigate the problem of overpopulation in crowded countries. Pleiotrophy may also be a factor, as the same gene can produce different phenotypes depending on other factors, including the carrier's biological sex. A direct correlation has often been found between a woman's ease of conceiving and carrying a child to term with the likelihood that her male relatives will be gay. So even if a gay man is not fathering any children himself, his mother, sisters, and female cousins will still ensure the continuation of the family line. The Squick factor is important too. Homosexuality is a concept many straight people do not understand, and as H.P. Lovecraft put it, "the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." Men who engage in same-sex relations, especially those on the "receiving" end of anal intercourse, are considered unmanly in most modern cultures, and sick weirdos for not appreciating the fairer sex. Suggesting that a man is gay is often the worst insult against him in any language (except maybe calling him a virgin or a cuckold). For lesbians, it's a little different but not by much. Girl-on-Girl Is Hot, and it's okay to ogle women making out, but seriously acknowledging a relationship between two women (ie, women who don't need love, or at least sexual fulfillment, from a man) is a no-go. And this is where you get cases of people trying to Cure Your Gays through torture, often incorporating The Ludovico Technique or Rape and Switch. Historical Context The term "homosexual," and indeed the entire idea of sexual orientation, is much Newer Than They Think. The first time "homosexual" appeared in print was 1869. Now, this is not to say that there have not been same-sex lovers since basically the beginning of time; in fact, as homosexual behavior is found in animals, it actually predates the human race. It's simply that, as explained earlier, humans placed a huge emphasis on making babies. As long as you were doing that, nobody cared what, or who, you did in your spare time, but it wasn't a lifestyle you could adopt, or identify with. You weren't gay; you weren't straight either. There was no category. As such, going to just about any historical figure and trying to describe them as gay or straight is inappropriate, since such social constructs didn't exist yet. Whether or not William Shakespeare liked boys, it's an absolute guarantee that he didn't think of himself as being gay. Like any good Englishman, he sired issue on his wife, regardless of what he would have liked to do if given the chance. Of course there were people who saw themselves as homosexual in the modern sense of the word, but they often received the same kind of ostracism that goes on today—even though most of them would have had to be rich, powerful, respected or privileged just to get away with it. They were considered, well, deviants. Expression and Gender Politics The concept of gayness or straightness seems to be pretty simple, on the surface, but there's actually a lot of complication to it. What does it say about behavior?, about dress codes, about friends, about... all the other questions of life besides "where you put your dick". Instead of addressing those complications, we're going to go on a brief lecture about some traits that all humans have. It may seem irrelevant right now, but trust us, it's not.