Sex, Gender, and Personal Identity Concepts

Group of people standing smilingDuring a recent staff workshop at my school, the presenter shocked and confounded most of the crowd when she used the word “pansexual”. Most of the teachers in the room had never before heard this term. “Bisexual” they could wrap their heads around: someone sexually attracted to people of both genders. But pansexual… someone sexually attracted to people of all genders? A handful of the workshop participants were unable to resist scratching their heads and looking around quizzically.

The truth is, there are scads of people who do not identify solely as male/masculine or female/feminine. They may have strong affiliations with both sides, which puts them somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum. Or their biology may not “match up” with their internal sense of themselves. Personal identity variations cover a much broader spectrum now than our traditional dichotomous understanding acknowledges.

I created the following chart to describe and clarify concepts of sex and gender coming into common usage, in order to help us all understand the new definitions of “normal”.

Sex, Gender, and Personal Identity Concepts







Traditional Terms





Modern Terminology


A social construct dictating “typical” physical traits and attitudes of human males and females. We used to think these aligned naturally with a person’s sex, but now we know that gender actually corresponds more closely with people’s inner perception of their own nature rather than with their genitalia or reproductive organs. Feminine


Transgender- People who identify with their birth sex, but do not conform to traditional gender expectations.

Androgynous– People who exhibit both masculine and feminine characteristics.

Intergender, Bigender, Ambigender, and Genderqueer are also commonly used, among others.



Many others…


A category to which every person is assigned at birth based upon their physical and reproductive anatomy. (Not to be confused with sexual activity. The word “gender” is often used when “sex” is truly more appropriate, probably due to sensitive associations with the word “sex”.)



Cissexual– A person whose sex from birth aligns with their traditionally expected gender.

Intersex– A person born with ambiguous physical or reproductive features or organs, or traits related to both sexes.

Transsexual– A person  who changes their sex anatomically to bring it into alignment with their internally experienced gender.

MTF=Male to female transsexual

FTM=Female to male transsexual

Sexual Orientation

The focus of a person’s romantic and/or sexual attractions. Sexual orientation is not determined by a person’s sex or gender.

Heterosexual– People attracted to the “opposite” sex.

Homosexual– People attracted to partners sharing their same biology (gender may be open).

Monosexual– Interested in one sex.

Bisexual– Interested in both sexes.

Pansexual– Interested in any combination of sexual and gender perception and expression.



Many other slangs

Sexual activity

Activities directed toward achieving sexual gratification. Intercourse, masturbation, etc. Any variety of methods for receiving sexual pleasure involving partners, objects, media, oneself, etc.Sexual preference refers to a person’s favored sexual practices, NOT their sexual orientation.


© Copyright 2011 by Karen Kochenburg. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Olive

    December 6th, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    All I see with this is that the definition of what is “normal” gets broader and broader every day.
    I guess I’m ok with that. But I know that there are far more people out there who just stand around scratching their heads and wonder what is up with all of that.
    I come from a set of parents who would die if I did not bring home a guy in a traditional suit and tie. I know that they would flip if he was visually anything less than what they had imagined for me.

  • Kenneth

    December 8th, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Many people just go about hating others just because of what they are.Things such as these need to be all around such people,really.They need to realize the worth of all such people too.Just because they are close-minded does not mean they can hate and ridicule others.

    I have seen many such verbal attacks and many times I have asked them to mind their own business and stop bothering the other person.

  • Alison McKeane

    December 9th, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    It’s a very uncommon term, basically meaning you are attracted to everyone regardless of their sex or gender identity. In all honesty it’s not that surprising when you consider how many things people can be attracted to.

  • MurielCase

    December 9th, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    I was under the impression that Butch was a lesbian woman who was the “top” in a relationship, and not a gender identity thing. With all due respect, are you sure about that? Because I think you mixed up sexual ‘hierarchies’ with gender. If not, please explain the difference. Thanks.

  • s.c.d

    December 9th, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    Monosexual seems to be very redundant. By definition, aren’t straight and gay individuals interested only in one sex? Monosexual is just taking the word sexual and adding a prefix that isn’t really needed imho.

  • Eugene Carmelo

    December 9th, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    @s.c.d–I concur. Until we evolve to have more than two sexes in our species it will be a completely redundant word. I can’t honestly think of any situation where it would apply unless we had three or four sexes in nature.

  • Caroline Carruthers

    December 9th, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    @s.c.d and Eugene: It isn’t redundant at all. If we define bisexual, then we need to define monosexual, trisexual, quadsexual, and so on so that there’s a term for it. I know it may appear to be highly redundant but how else would you class gays and straights?

  • Barry P. Dunsmore

    December 9th, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    @s.c.d–Just a minor but important observation here: we already do have four sexes in nature. Male, female, hermaphrodite, and genderless. Hermaphrodites however only tend to appear in lower lifeforms like slugs, and genderless things are even further down the scale, being bacteria and other single-celled organisms.

  • Karen D. Kochenburg

    December 11th, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    To Muriel: “Butch” is a term that refers both to a woman’s internal sense of herself as well as potential actions that she may take. There are plenty of passive, less-dominant, or “bottom” butches. It often refers more closely to a woman’s physical presentation and attitude than particular sexual preference.

  • Scott H. Small

    December 11th, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Huh. All this time I thought that sexual preference and sexual orientation were the same thing, and that a fetish or kink was what things turned you on or otherwise aroused you in some way. You learn something new every day. :)

  • RosieKnowles

    December 11th, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    Only time I hear the word androgynous used is in reference to a handsome woman or a beautiful man, never as a description of one who has both masculine or feminine characteristics. Interesting.

  • helenwillow

    January 26th, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    I am an MTF transgender. However, the first endocronoligist I went to said there is a very good chance I am intersexed. I have no brow ridge, no adams apple, a slight hour glass figure a womens hip area and legs shaped like a woman, amoung other things. Most people have told me to not look into being intersexed because it would make getting my surgery to fully be a woman extremely difficult. Am I just so curious, I was also borns with almost no opening in the head of my penis, and the muscle walls in the genital area are abnormal. Does it make the transition process harder if one in intersexed?

  • Brett Blatchley

    April 20th, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Some thoughts:

    Transgender is a much less specific term than the way it’s used on this page. Transgender refers to anyone who’s gender identity and possibly gender expression is different from their birth-assigned sex.

    In my case, I am a MtF transsexual who has chosen to remain in (nominally) male form out of love for my spouse and my marriage vows to her and God. At the same time, I live as a “blended,” openly transgender person, expressing myself on the well to the feminine side of androgynous. I would prefer to transition to live as a women (as I am inside), but I live as a woman driving a male body. Here is how I describe it:

    I am a female soul, clothed in the form of a male: Transition to female-form and identity was my first choice, but I have accepted God’s challenge to live content in this blended-form. My task now is to remain committed to this challenge, accepting it as a gift, learning to express my femininity in the context of a male body: I want this to be a winsome and comely expression, unique to me, with the force of feminine beauty, grace and sensibility, yet not unbecoming of the male form, nor denying the masculine parts of my soul. God has promised to make me beautiful, graceful and congruent, certainly in eternity, but also (I believe) here in my life on earth as well.

    I’ve recently started female hormones as a way to my body be more congruent with who I truly am (the real part of me that transcends my body’s form).

    Also, I think that “asexual” should be included among the list of sexual orientations. “asexual” is a bit nebulous, but there are a number of people who are not sexually attracted to males or females (or people in between). This, despite the fact that I’m married, is the way I am.

    Hope this is helpful!

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