What Is Intersex?

Many people have probably never heard of the term intersex. It is not a well-known condition. It is estimated that about 1.7% of the population is intersex. This statistic might make it sound pretty rare, but a person is as likely to be born intersex as they are to be born with red hair.

So, what does intersex mean? It is sort of a catch-all term for a diverse set of conditions where a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit into the standard male/female categories. While intersex people are born with these conditions, they may not be obvious from birth. Someone who is intersex may not discover it until later in life.

Generally speaking, intersex is divided into four categories:

  • 46, XX Intersex – genetically and internally female, but externally appears male; a person with this condition has two X chromosomes and ovaries, but external genitalia does not appear female
  • 46, XY Intersex – genetically male, but external genitalia is underdeveloped, appears female or is ambiguous
  • True Gonadal Intersex – a person with this condition has ovaries and testicles.
  • Complex or Undetermined Intersex – a catch-all diagnosis for conditions that fall out of 46, XX or 46, YY chromosome makeup; this could include people who only have one X chromosome or people who have XXY or XXX chromosomes

What Is an Intersex Person?

Someone who is intersex is born outside of the typical male/female sex. This could be shown in that person’s genotype (genetics) or phenotype (appearance). A person’s hormones could also indicate whether or not they are intersex. For example, an intersex person might be someone who has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. This occurs when a person’s genetics are male, but their bodies either can’t use certain or all male hormones. This causes them to externally appear female or androgynous.

That being said, it is important to remember that sex and gender are two different things. Gender is typically seen as what someone identifies as, not what they were born with. An intersex person could identify themselves as male, female, trans, intersex, etc. The same thing is true for sexuality. An intersex person might identify as gay, straight, pansexual, bisexual, etc.

How Common Are Intersex Conditions?

Generally speaking, intersex conditions are about as rare as having red hair. Estimates suggest that 1.7% of the population is intersex. It is also estimated that about 1 in every 2,000 births will exhibit an intersex trait. However, intersex is a general term for many different types of cases, so the individual conditions might be more or less likely.  For example, Klinefelter Syndrome, where someone is born with XXY chromosomes, occurs in 1 out of 1,000 births. Whereas Complete Gonadal Dysgenesis occurs in 1 out of 150,000 births. So some intersex conditions are much rarer than others.

How Do I Know If I Have an Intersex Condition?

Sometimes a doctor will know someone is intersex as soon as they are born. However, it may be that a person does not discover they are intersex until later on in life. Here are some signs that you might have an intersex condition:

  • Genetically you are one sex, but external reproductive organs appear to be the opposite sex or androgynous.
  • You were born with an extra sex chromosome, either 47, XXY or 47, XXX.
  • You were born with only one sex chromosome 45, XO
  • You may be genetically female, but have an enlarged clitoris
  • You may have a condition called “micropenis”; this is a condition where a person is genetically male but has very small external genitalia.
  • You may have an imbalance in male or female hormones.
  • Many babies who are born intersex undergo surgery, so you may have scars around your genitalia.

The best way to know if you have an intersex condition is to talk to your doctor. If you suspect you might be intersex and want to know for sure, it is a good idea to seek out medical advice.

Is Intersex Part of the Transgender Community?

The short answer is yes and no, depending on the person. People with intersex conditions are not the same as transgender and should not automatically be grouped into that community. Intersex is its own unique community and the people in that community have different needs than people who are transgender. However, an individual who is intersex might identify as transgender. Intersex people can have any sexual identification. Grouping intersex with transgender is dangerous because it causes intersex people to become invisible and their needs and rights won’t be met.

Is Intersex the Same Thing as a Hermaphrodite?

No, intersex people should not be confused with hermaphrodite people. The term hermaphrodite refers to someone who is completely male and completely female. It is a myth and considered to be a derogatory term. It would be similar to calling a lesbian a “dyke”.

Summary

Someone who is intersex is born with a condition that makes their reproductive and sexual organs different from what we typically think of as male/female. That being said, being intersex is a completely natural variation in sex. Sex is considered to be a spectrum and people who are intersex fall somewhere in the middle. It is important to remember that someone who is intersex can have any gender identity or sexual orientation. Because of this, intersex people should not just be lumped together with transgender people. It is also important to remember that intersex and hermaphrodite are not the same things. Calling an intersex person a hermaphrodite is offensive.

If you think that you have an intersex condition, you should talk to your doctor. There are also organizations out there that can provide you with support and advice.

What is Bisexuality?

When someone hears the word bisexual, what does it mean? The textbook definition of bisexual is someone who is romantically or sexually attracted to both men and women. Someone is considered bisexual if they are attracted to both genders. Bisexuality is often confused with pansexuality. Generally speaking, bisexual implies that there are only two genders, male and female, whereas pansexual is an attraction to all genders, male, female, cisgender, transgender, etc.

How Many People Are Bisexual?

It is believed there are about nine million LGBT Americans in the United States, about 3.5% of the population. Bisexual people make up a slight majority of this number. About 1.8% of the population consists of people who identify as bisexual, compared to the 1.7% who are lesbian or gay. That being said, bisexuality is more common in women. Bisexual women comprise more than half of the bisexual and lesbian population. Bisexual men, on the other hand, are the minority compared to gay men.

What Are the Signs of Bisexuality?

How do you know if you are bisexual? Signs of bisexuality in males and females tend to be similar. Below is a list of factors that may help you to identify as bisexual:

  • You experience a romantic or sexual attraction to men and women.
  • You have had sexual relations with someone of the same sex and the opposite sex and enjoyed both.
  • You fantasize about being with people of both genders
  • Identifying as bisexual feels right or gives you a feeling of belonging.

It is important to note that bisexuality may not be an equal attraction to both genders. Often, people think that if someone identifies as bisexual, they are attracted to men and women equally.  This is not always the case. It could be that you find yourself being attracted to one gender more often. Sexuality is a spectrum and even though people might identify as the same sexuality, this does not mean that they have the same experiences and feelings.

Bisexual Vs. Pansexual: What’s the Difference?

What is the difference between bisexual and pansexual? How do you know if you are one or the other? Well, for one, pansexuality is less common and isn’t as well known. The two types of sexuality are similar but are by no means the same. As stated before bisexuality usually implies there are just two genders: male and female. It does not take into account people who are transgender, intersex, asexual, etc. The difference between bisexuality vs. pansexuality is really just inclusion or perception of gender.

Pansexual is considered to be more inclusive than bisexual. Bisexual people describe themselves as having an attraction to men or women. Pansexuality, on the other hand, is considered to be an attraction to all genders. Pansexual people describe themselves as having an attraction to people, no matter their gender expression.  That being said, as we will discuss below, there are bisexuals who may start relationships outside of the usual binary gender expression bisexuality tends to be known for. It is important to note that people who identify as bisexual can be attracted to the same gender as people who identify as pansexual.

Types of Bisexuality

Most people do not consider it, but there are actually various types of bisexuality. Sexuality is not rigid, it tends to be a spectrum, and this includes bisexuality. Just because two people both identify as bisexual does not mean that they have the exact same sexuality. The list below consists of different types of bisexuals.

  • Heterosexual-leaning: Someone who often has greater romantic/sexual attraction and feelings toward people of the opposite gender.
  • Homosexual-leaning: Someone who has greater romantic/sexual attraction and feelings toward people of the same sex.
  • Varied type: Someone who experiences more physical attraction toward people of one sex, but also has more sexual attraction towards the other sex.
  • 50/50: While no one really experiences a true even split of attraction between genders, there are those that get close to experiencing an even split in sexual and physical attraction toward both genders.
  • Outside of binary: Someone who does not put off a lot of weight on their partner’s gender expression. There are bisexuals who don’t find their partner’s sexual expression to be a “deal-breaker” in the relationship.  These people have a greater chance of entering relationships with people who consider themselves to be part of a gender other than male or female. These individuals might also identify as pansexual.

As mentioned before, not every person who identifies as bisexual is going to have the same feelings. In fact, someone who considers themselves to be bisexual could be any one of these types.  Figuring out what type of bisexual you are will include examing your own experiences and feelings.

Summary

Bisexuality, while it is defined by the attraction to both genders, can be more complicated than it’s definition implies. There are different types of bisexual, meaning that even if you and someone else both identify as bisexual, you might not have the same feelings and experiences.  Bisexuals make up a majority of America’s LGBT population, so it is important for us to understand what that means for us and the people around us. Being able to distinguish between pansexuality and bisexuality is also important, as they are not the same. They are, however, similar which can lead to a lot of confusion between the two.  Whereas bisexuality tends to imply there are only two genders, pansexuals tend to not care as much about their partner’s gender. Often times, they will describe themselves as people who feel attraction to a specific person, not a specific gender, usually based on their partner’s personality. If you suspect you or someone you know is bisexual, make sure you do your research. The best way to discover your sexual identity is to be knowledgable about the subject and open with yourself and your feelings.

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Asexuality: Definition

What does asexual mean? The term is defined as a person who has no sexual feelings and whose sexual desires are not associated with sexual attraction.  Asexuality is a broad spectrum of sexual identity. While there are some asexuals who feel no sexual desire, there are others who just have very specific desires.  Many asexuals do have sexual desire and engage in sex with partners or masturbate. The difference is that an asexual’s libido is not associated with a sexual attraction towards another person.  Someone who is asexual may feel aroused, but not have any desire or inclination to act on those feelings. Below, we will get more into what it means to be asexual and what the characteristics are.

What Does It Mean to Be Asexual?

So, how do you know if you’re asexual? What does it mean to be an asexual person? Well, it’s a complicated question to answer. As mentioned above, there is a kind of a spectrum of asexuality. Firstly, just because someone is asexual doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t be in a relationship. There are plenty of asexuals who enter relationships to experience companionship, affection and intimacy, just without a sexual aspect. Let’s look at some of the categories someone who is asexual might find themselves in. These include:

  • Heteroromantic – has romantic attraction to people of the opposite sex
  • Homoromantic – has romantic attraction to people of the same sex
  • Aromantic – does not experience romantic attraction
  • Biromantic – has romantic attraction to two or more genders

Asexuality can be a complex topic, but the above categories offer a good list of what being asexual might mean for you. That being said, there are some exceptions. For example, someone who is aromantic might not be asexual. They might feel sexual desire, they just don’t feel romantic attraction towards others.

Characteristics of Asexuals

Before we talk about the characteristics of asexuality, let’s talk about facts. To really understand asexuality, it is important to separate fact from stereotype. Let’s go over some of the facts of asexuality.

  • It isn’t a disorder: Mental health professionals, according to the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does not consider asexuality a mental illness. It is considered a sexual orientation.
  • You can be asexual if you’ve had a sexual experience before: In fact, a large majority of people who identify as asexual have had sexual experiences with partners in the past. There are also asexuals who choose to have sex with their romantic partners. They simply lack sexual desire towards others.
  • You can also be asexual if you masturbate: Asexuality does not equal a lack of sexual desire altogether. Many asexuals still feel desire, just not towards others.
  • Asexuality can be a reality for many different types of people; It is important to not to excuse asexuality in anyone who is disabled or transgendered with the struggles they go through. It is entirely possible for someone who is disabled or transgendered to identify as asexual. Nor should anyone’s sexual identity be dismissed because of race or gender.

These facts debunk many of the stereotypes that are associated with asexuality. But, do they necessarily help us answer the question, “Am I asexual?” Well, not exactly. There are a few signs that you may identify as asexual.

  • You may never have had a “crush”, or you rarely develop them.
  • The “hype” around sex might be confusing to you.
  • You aren’t really interested in sex, or the idea of a purely romantic relationship appeals to you.
  • Or you may not be interested in relationships at all.
  • You may be more interested in people’s personalities rather than looks.
  • Engaging in sex feels boring for you.

All of these are potential characteristics of someone who is asexual.

Why Are People Asexual?

Now that we understand more about what asexuality is, let’s talk about why certain people are asexual.  There are generally two groups in this conversation. Some people believe that asexuality is a result of external factors.  For example, some say that asexuality is a behavior people develop due to societal shame and pressures regarding sexuality. Others believe that asexual people have hormonal imbalances.  While still others relate it to experiences or trauma during childhood.

However, others consider asexuality to be genetic.  Many people who are asexual or support asexuality argue that individuals who are asexual are born that way, just like someone is who is straight or gay was born to be that way.  Several studies have been done on asexual individuals. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, asexuality is not a mental disorder. There is not any solid proof that asexuality is a learned behavior or a hormone imbalance.  Also, there are many people who identify as asexual that did not have any negative experiences or trauma when they were young. Science cannot tell us why exactly why people are asexual, but studies are continuing to be done.

How to Be Asexual

We’ve gone over causes and characteristics. But how do you become asexual and aromatic? What does becoming an asexual mean for you? Well, simply put, it means being yourself. If you are not asexual, you can’t turn yourself into someone who is and vice versa. Being asexual means being true to who you are and understanding what you want from yourself and from a partner. Another important reminder is not to get too bogged down by labels. As mentioned above, asexuality is a spectrum on the sexual orientation spectrum so one label might not fit perfectly.

The first step to discovering if you are asexual is research. Understand what asexuality is and what it means. Maybe talk to others who are asexual. See if you can relate to their experiences. Take a deeper look at your own feelings and thoughts as well. No one can identify a person as asexual except themselves. So, it is important to understand what you think and feel. And finally, figure out what that means in relation to others. What do you want from a relationship? Do you even want a relationship? These are important questions to ask yourself. But the most important thing is being true to who you are.

How to Have a Happy & Healthy Relationship as an Asexual Person

So how do you have a relationship with an asexual person? Or, if you identify as asexual and your partner doesn’t, how do you have a relationship with someone who isn’t? Like all relationships, communication is important. In order to have a great relationship with a chosen partner, both parties need to understand what they want out of that relationship. Your partner also needs to have an understanding of asexuality that they might not have at the beginning. They may need you to explain the difference between romantic and sexual attraction. While the topic is becoming more openly addressed, most people still grow up with the idea that these two types of attractions coincide; that you can’t have one without the other. There’s also no shame in looking to other sources for advice on asexual dating. Open communication is the most important thing.

Summary

Asexuality is not considered to be a disorder or illness. Medical professionals consider it to be perfectly normal, not something that needs changing or addressing. While asexuality is mainly defined as a lack of sexual attraction, it is important to remember that asexuality is a spectrum. You might not find that perfect label that tells you exactly who you are, and that’s okay. If you feel like you or someone you know might be asexual, researching and understanding asexuality is essential. The same goes for if you are in a relationship with someone who is asexual. There are organizations out there that support asexuality and can offer knowledge and advice to you.

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What is Homosexual?

So what does homosexual mean?  Homosexuality is defined as a sexual attraction between two people of the same sex.  So, a homosexual is a man who is attracted to other men, or a woman who is attracted to other women.  Men and women who are homosexual often identify as being gay, though women may also be referred to as lesbian.  There are also those who experience sexual attraction to both genders; these people identify as bisexual. Studies show that 3.5% of Americans (about 11.7 million people) identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Is Homosexuality Genetic?

One of the most common, and most controversial, questions out there is, is homosexuality genetic or a choice?  Unfortunately, there is no one answer for whether homosexuality is related to genetics or not. There are some who believe that there is a gene or genes that make someone gay, meaning it is just the way they were born.  However, there are others who insist that being homosexual is a personal choice, with no relation to genetics. Some people say that the environment someone grows up in can lead them to have a homosexual orientation later in life.

While there is not yet a definitive answer, research is currently being done on homosexualism.  Scientists are looking further into the topic to see if they can identify exactly why someone is homosexual.  They are attempting to figure out if being gay is related to environment or genetics, and if it is related to genetics, they are working on isolating what genes are associated with it.

Why Are People Homosexual?

As mentioned above, no one is exactly sure what causes someone to identify as homosexual.  Nor if there are different things that cause homosexuality in males than in females. However, there are some theories as to what could cause homosexuality in people.  Below are some of the most common theories on the causes of homosexuality:

  • Genetics – While there is not yet a definitive answer, genetics has been one of the most common theories towards the origins homosexuality.  Studies are currently being done to see if scientists can confirm and identify a genetic disposition to being gay.
  • Social – There are those that believe social influences could have a major impact on sexuality.  Interactions during childhood, peer pressure and social values have all been thought to have some type of influence.
  • Environmental – Some people believe that environmental factors could be related to homosexuality.  While none have been definitively identified, things such as hormones, stress, chemical exposure, diet, or exercise could have an effect.
  • Mental – Another theory is that being gay could have something to do with the brain.  Some studies have shown differences between how the brain is wired in a heterosexual person versus a homosexual person.

Is Homosexuality a Mental Illness?

There has been a lot of arguments in the past on whether or not homosexuality is a mental illness or not.  It was, at one point, considered to be a mental illness, and there are still some that consider it one to this day.  It was even in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders at one point, which is acknowledged by a majority of the world as a leading authority in the diagnosis of mental illness.  However, it was removed from the DSM in 1973, due to both empirical data and social and political change.

Today, homosexuality is, generally speaking, not considered by mental health professionals to be a mental illness.  That isn’t to say individuals who identify as homosexual cannot suffer from mental illness; rather, being gay in itself is not considered a type of psychopathy.  Homosexuality is not considered to be a disease or disorder.

Signs of Homosexuality

So, now that you know more about homosexuality, how do you know if you or someone you know is gay?  Well, first things first, we should probably separate stereotype from fact. Someone who acts outside of their gender role is not automatically gay.  Men who have more feminine voices do not have to be gay. The same goes for women who dress in more masculine clothes.

With that being said, what are some signs that a person is gay?  Signs of homosexuality in men and women are very similar. These include:

  • Strong emotional feelings/bonds to those of the same sex
  • Sexual/Physical attraction to someone that is the same sex
  • Considering having a relationship with a person who is the same sex
  • Having past same-sex experiences
  • A lack of sexual/physical attraction to people of the opposite sex

These signs work well in identifying sexual orientation in adults, and to an extent, teenagers.  However, what about the early signs of homosexuality in boys and girls? Could playing with trucks versus playing with dolls be the first signs of homosexuality?  Well, like the other theories, nothing is definitive. There are some studies that have found children who do not participate in “gender-conforming” play are more likely to identify as gay later on in life.  That is, boys who play with dolls rather than trucks and girls who play with trucks rather than dolls. However, parental gender bias could have impacted how the results were reported, and there are many who dispute this.  There are many people that believe how children play is not a sign of what is called prehomosexuality. That being said, there are also many that do believe in it.

The bottom line is that sexual orientation can be difficult to define as a teenager or adult, and there are no obvious, definitive, or proven signs that show prehomosexuality in children.  It is agreed upon by most that the only way to know for sure is an internal exploration of your orientation and feelings.

Summary

A homosexual is someone who feels attraction to a person that is the same sex.  Why people are homosexual is unknown at this point in time, though there are several theories.  One of the most common, and most discussed, theories is that being gay is related to genes. There are many who think that homosexuality is something someone is born with, not something they choose.  Other theories include social, environmental and mental factors. That being said, most professionals do not consider homosexuality to be a mental disease.

Generally speaking, the easiest way for someone to identify their sexual identity is to look into their own sexuality.  If you have been in multiple relationships with the opposite sex and they all lack that “spark”, then it might be prudent to ask yourself if you might be gay.  Especially if you do find yourself feeling a sexual or physical attraction to those of the same sex. There are plenty of support organizations out there for the LGBTQ community.  They are available to help if you or someone you know is struggling with sexual identity.

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