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This excerpt from MCC's Trans-Etiquette Guide highlights complexities around sexuality and romantic relationships.

Reid Vanderburgh, MA., LMFT, unpacks the complicated relationship between gender identity and sexual orientation in this essay.

This (somewhat dated) chart from PFLAG outlines some of the significant differences between the experiences of transgender people and the experiences of non-transgender gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

This website page from the Center for Gender Sanity shows a common approach to distinguishing between physical gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, using 4 spectrums.

This 20 minute video, called "Transgender Basics," does not address issues of faith communities, but provides an excellent, audio-visual overview of transgender issues. Developed by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center (New York, NY). Available for free, on-line.

Gender vs. Sexuality

Key Points

There is often confusion between sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

  • Gender identity refers to who you are.
  • Sexual orientation refers to who you are attracted to.

Going Deeper: Who is a straight? Who is an ally?

While same-gender-loving people and transgender people have been grouped together in acronyms like "LGBT" (i.e. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender), the terms there refer to very different aspects of our human experience.

  • "Lesbian," "Gay," and "Bisexual" (and "Heterosexual") refer to sexual or affectional orientation -- what kind of person they are attracted to romantically.
  • "Transgender" refers to the individual gender experience and identity -- who they are.

There are good reasons for these categories to come together in one community of solidarity. However, conceptually the LGBT acronym obscures some important issues.

In terms of attraction, transgender people can be same-gender-loving (i.e. gay or lesbian), bisexual, heterosexual (i.e. "straight") -- or express their sexuality in other ways. Knowing that someone is transgender doesn't tell you anything about their sexual orientation.

It is common in LGBT communities to talk about "straight allies" as if that category describes all people outside of the LGBT community.

  • While some transgender people are also lesbian, gay, or bisexual,
  • Many transgender people are in fact "straight allies" to their LGB siblings in the community...
  • And there are some transgender people may distance themselves from LGBT community altogether, precisely because the don't want to be misunderstood as anything other than heterosexual.

The more accurate term for people outside of the LGBT community is "straight and cisgender allies," which avoids the trap of erasing heterosexual transgender people.

Trans Basics
Gender vs. Sexuality
Beyond the Binary
Labels and Vocabulary
Myths and Sterotypes
Children and Youth
Is it an Illness?