DISCUSSION: Sexuality Terminology

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Thread: Sexuality Terminology

  1. #1
    Let's get funky! Gama's Avatar Former Head Administrator
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    Default Sexuality Terminology

    I chose the prefix "DEBATE" for this thread, but I am hoping it will be more of a reasoned discussion than an actual debate. Also, needless to say, discriminatory users should leave now.

    So, I was chatting with a friend of mine about the words "homosexual" and "heterosexual". ("Bisexual" intentionally excluded for reasons that, I hope, will become more obvious as this post goes on.)

    I have a few issues with them. Firstly, as signifiers of sexuality, they are not actually hugely helpful. Ultimately, the information that your sexuality gives to someone is which people you are attracted to, but the terms "homosexual" and "heterosexual" only give you this information if you also have someone's gender. Granted, in most cases it's quite easy to determine someone's gender, but sometimes it's not, and it just seems weird that one piece of information being useful is contingent on the knowledge of another piece of information. That's generally not how explanations of identity (or really anything) work anywhere else. (For example, you wouldn't expect political views to apply reversely for men and women, ie. it would be crazy if female Democrats were left-wing while male Democrats were right-wing, and female Republicans were right-wing while male Republicans were left-wing.)

    It's also highly problematic for people who don't obviously fall within the gender binary. While trans people might be broadly alright (though this is an issue for them), as a trans man who is attracted to men might be able to describe himself as homosexual, it's particularly difficult for intersex or genderqueer people. If I am someone who identifies neither as a man nor a woman, but I am attracted to women, how do I convey that? I'm certainly not homosexual (attracted to the "same"), but neither is "heterosexual" (attracted to the "other") a useful term because both men and women are "other" to me.

    More useful terms, I feel, would be androsexual and gynosexual. ("Andro-" and "gyno-" meaning to do with men and women respectively.) In this way, your sexuality is not determined by a compound of both who you are attracted to and your gender, but simply by who you are attracted to (as one would assume sexuality would be).

    The main objection to these terms being used to the exclusion of "homosexual" and "heterosexual" that I can think of is that it disempowers LGBT+ equality movements as the term "homosexual" can be useful in expressing a group of people who occupy a similar social position, as female gynosexuals and male gynosexuals would obviously not face anything like the same issues (at least not for their sexuality or gender).

    A few responses to this, though. Firstly, the very fact that I referred to the movement as "LGBT+" rather than "gay rights" is quite telling, as it, to me at least, shows that you don't need to have the overarching word "homosexual" to unite you.

    Additionally, usage of these terms would address some of the problems within the LGBT+ movement: that being that issues facing the 'G' part of it are often taken to be the issues of everyone in the movement. While this change in terminology would probably do relatively little for the 'BT+' part (except perhaps by extension), I think it would at least help the 'L' part. I think it's easier to distinguish between the issues facing Gs and Ls when they are referred to as male androsexuals and female gynosexuals rather than by the umbrella term of 'homosexual'. The fact is that female gynosexuals face loads of issues that are unique to them, eg. double glass ceiling, trivialisation of sexuality, additional objectification, corrective rape, the list goes on...

    I feel like it might also help in highlighting that bisexual people face distinct issues from either Ls or Gs as opposed to just being a bit less homosexual, but I don't know about that one. That would be more of a positive externality of the use of these terms to be honest.

    There's also no reason it would necessarily have to be used to the exclusion of old terms (which, of course, would be effectively impossible anyway), so that's worth considering too.

    So, yeah, thoughts?

  2. #2
    SHSL Gambler CrackFox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    I think the terminology we have now is sufficient. I kind of get what you mean but it doesn't seem necessary at all. Say, as you suggested, there was a transexual man who thought of himself as a woman, when describing his sexuality, it would entirely depend on how invested he was in the transition. If he was confident enough in his new gender, he could call himself straight, if he was still on the fence and still holding onto the male belief system, he could describe himself as homosexual. Technically he will always be homosexual because those words are used to describe fact, not just how someone sees themselves. It's like say, a man having lots of operations to make himself a cat (that actually happened). Technically he would always be a human being. A transexual man who had a gender swap and dated other men, would still technically be gay because he would still be biologically male. How someone describes themselves or sees themselves is up to them, but my point is, I think we have enough terminology for every situation, and if you're going to mention your sexuality at all, I'd think it was standard practice to introduce your gender first.

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    Let's get funky! Gama's Avatar Former Head Administrator
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by CrackFox View Post
    I think the terminology we have now is sufficient. I kind of get what you mean but it doesn't seem necessary at all. Say, as you suggested, there was a transexual man who thought of himself as a woman, when describing his sexuality, it would entirely depend on how invested he was in the transition. If he was confident enough in his new gender, he could call himself straight, if he was still on the fence and still holding onto the male belief system, he could describe himself as homosexual. Technically he will always be homosexual because those words are used to describe fact, not just how someone sees themselves. It's like say, a man having lots of operations to make himself a cat (that actually happened). Technically he would always be a human being. A transexual man who had a gender swap and dated other men, would still technically be gay because he would still be biologically male. How someone describes themselves or sees themselves is up to them, but my point is, I think we have enough terminology for every situation, and if you're going to mention your sexuality at all, I'd think it was standard practice to introduce your gender first.
    Okay, I have several issues with what you've said.

    First one is more of an aside: gender generally refers to your gender identity as opposed to sex which refers to your biological sex. I suppose you could be saying that sexuality should be based on someone's sex rather than someone's gender, but the complications that causes just seems to me like further justification to transitioning to terminology that is significantly less complicated and confusing.

    But anyway, the homosexual trans man was an example of someone who doesn't fit into the gender binary who wouldn't be hugely affected by the existing terminology. My examples of people who do have unnecessary difficulty registering their sexuality under the current dominant terminology are people who are either intersex (somewhere between each sex or neither) or genderqueer (essentially similar but more based on gender identity). Since these people do not have a clear gender/sex, how can they be heterosexual or homosexual? It's hard to imagine really.

    Also, even if it is "standard practice" to introduce your gender before your sexuality, I don't see why it should be. In fact, I think part of the reason this is the case is because the dominant form of sexuality terminology is for some reason tied up with gender.

    Anyway, I think this just makes things a hell of a lot clearer. I thought of a better analogy to politics too (I'll use Conservative and Labour this time since you're English too): assuming an overwhelming two party system, it would be like the main way of saying who you support being to identify as either an "Assenter" (support whoever is in power in your constituency) or a "Dissenter" (support the major party that is not in power in your constituency). Then to figure out who you support (which is the only really important information) you need to know both who is in power in your local constituency and whether you are an Assenter or a Dissenter, when it'd be a hell of a lot more simple for people just to say the party they support.

    I think it says a lot (of bad things) about our society that we feel the most important distinction to make in sexuality is between "hetero" and "homo" rather than between "andro" and "gyno". The latter is the distinction between who you are attracted to, the former is a distinction effectively between whether you are normal or not. Lesbians and gay men effectively have the least reason for interinvolvement out of any gender/sexuality combo, but are grouped together merely because they are "different". I don't think that's cool.

    Also, I was pleased to find out that androsexual and gynosexual are existing, but rarely used terms, that other people have come up with independently of me, so that's cool.
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    In the flesh Lacquer Head's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    Personally, I DO find them 100% outdated and very inaccurate. Even the Kinsey Scale is silly. I believe everyone has unique and individual sexual identities that fall in different areas. The current systems also seem to exclude transgendered people, keep to traditional gender roles and so on. Personally, I'm attracted to feminine features and gender doesn't matter. Would that make me straight? I don't think so, but I'm also not bisexual and so on. It's just far more complex than that. Then there are paraphilias, fetishes and so on. It certainly seems like attractions based on genitals are...outdated, for lack of a better term. Why bother identifying as a term invented by someone else? You like what you like.

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    SHSL Gambler CrackFox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    @Gama; I see what you're saying more clearly now. I guess I agree. Sexual identity has never been an issue in my life, not just with me but with anyone I know. That's not to say I don't have lots of gay friends.

    I think it says a lot (of bad things) about our society that we feel the most important distinction to make in sexuality is between "hetero" and "homo" rather than between "andro" and "gyno". The latter is the distinction between who you are attracted to, the former is a distinction effectively between whether you are normal or not.
    I have to disagree. 'Hetero' and 'homo' are just dictionary words. It's society that has potentially deemed them offensive. If words like 'andro' and 'gyno' were used more commonly, in a few years they could also be seen used in a bad light. A similar thing has happened with the word 'metrosexual'. It has been used out of context and even as an insult. People seem to think these words are the bad thing, it's not. It's how society chooses to use them in context. Hetero and Homo are not words that are there to express abnormality, they're there to describe. It would be liking an Atheist saying the word atheist was offensive because it was depicting him/her as not normal, everything needs a label so we can comprehend it. There's no judgement in the words themselves, it's us and how we use them.

    Other than that, I agree with your point :)

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    Let's get funky! Gama's Avatar Former Head Administrator
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by CrackFox View Post
    I think it says a lot (of bad things) about our society that we feel the most important distinction to make in sexuality is between "hetero" and "homo" rather than between "andro" and "gyno". The latter is the distinction between who you are attracted to, the former is a distinction effectively between whether you are normal or not.
    I have to disagree. 'Hetero' and 'homo' are just dictionary words. It's society that has potentially deemed them offensive. If words like 'andro' and 'gyno' were used more commonly, in a few years they could also be seen used in a bad light. A similar thing has happened with the word 'metrosexual'. It has been used out of context and even as an insult. People seem to think these words are the bad thing, it's not. It's how society chooses to use them in context. Hetero and Homo are not words that are there to express abnormality, they're there to describe. It would be liking an Atheist saying the word atheist was offensive because it was depicting him/her as not normal, everything needs a label so we can comprehend it. There's no judgement in the words themselves, it's us and how we use them.
    My point was more in the implications of the dichotomy between "homo-" and "hetero-" as opposed to the dichotomy between "andro-" and "gyno-".

    In the former case the distinction is made between whether you are attracted to people of the same gender or the opposite gender. It's ultimately a confusing and unnecessary distinction to make if homosexuals are considered equal to heterosexuals. I mean, the only reason the distinction between being attracted to your own gender or the opposite can be significant is if you care about whether someone is gay or not.

    In the latter case the distinction is made between whether you are attracted to men or women. You could care about this distinction because which gender someone is attracted to (particularly whether they're attracted to your gender ;) ) can be very relevant for non-offensive reasons.

  7. #7
    SHSL Gambler CrackFox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by Gama View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CrackFox View Post
    I think it says a lot (of bad things) about our society that we feel the most important distinction to make in sexuality is between "hetero" and "homo" rather than between "andro" and "gyno". The latter is the distinction between who you are attracted to, the former is a distinction effectively between whether you are normal or not.
    I have to disagree. 'Hetero' and 'homo' are just dictionary words. It's society that has potentially deemed them offensive. If words like 'andro' and 'gyno' were used more commonly, in a few years they could also be seen used in a bad light. A similar thing has happened with the word 'metrosexual'. It has been used out of context and even as an insult. People seem to think these words are the bad thing, it's not. It's how society chooses to use them in context. Hetero and Homo are not words that are there to express abnormality, they're there to describe. It would be liking an Atheist saying the word atheist was offensive because it was depicting him/her as not normal, everything needs a label so we can comprehend it. There's no judgement in the words themselves, it's us and how we use them.
    My point was more in the implications of the dichotomy between "homo-" and "hetero-" as opposed to the dichotomy between "andro-" and "gyno-".

    In the former case the distinction is made between whether you are attracted to people of the same gender or the opposite gender. It's ultimately a confusing and unnecessary distinction to make if homosexuals are considered equal to heterosexuals. I mean, the only reason the distinction between being attracted to your own gender or the opposite can be significant is if you care about whether someone is gay or not.

    In the latter case the distinction is made between whether you are attracted to men or women. You could care about this distinction because which gender someone is attracted to (particularly whether they're attracted to your gender ;) ) can be very relevant for non-offensive reasons.
    Ok, well on the whole, I agree with you.

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    In the flesh Lacquer Head's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by CrackFox View Post
    Ok, well on the whole, I agree with you.
    THAT'SWHATSHESAID

    To make this not spam, I figured I'd mention a related argument I heard yesterday. Someone was claiming that since a person can only be in one relationship at a time, bisexuality is impossible. Apparently open relationships, polygamy and orgies are just myths...

    Also, this whole conversation reinforces my point that pretty much any definition for a sexual identity is just inaccurate, though I suppose explaining your sexuality is just as complex...

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    SHSL Gambler CrackFox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacquer Head View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CrackFox View Post
    Ok, well on the whole, I agree with you.
    THAT'SWHATSHESAID

    To make this not spam, I figured I'd mention a related argument I heard yesterday. Someone was claiming that since a person can only be in one relationship at a time, bisexuality is impossible. Apparently open relationships, polygamy and orgies are just myths...

    Also, this whole conversation reinforces my point that pretty much any definition for a sexual identity is just inaccurate, though I suppose explaining your sexuality is just as complex...
    Bisexual just means a romantic attraction towards males and females. You don't have to be in a relationship to be one. You could be a virgin and still be bisexual.
    I'm not in a relationship but I regard myself as heterosexual because I have no psychical attraction towards females. Polygamy and open relationships still exist today, so they aren't mythes unless i'm missing something? You're right, it's not easy to define sexual orientation in some cases, but in the majority of cases it's pretty straight forward. If a collection of people in society don't feel like there is an accurate way to describe theirs, sure, new terms could be invented.

  10. #10
    In the flesh Lacquer Head's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by CrackFox View Post
    Polygamy and open relationships still exist today, so they aren't mythes unless i'm missing something?
    You're missing sarcasm ;P I said it's something I heard someone arguing yesterday.

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    Default Re: Sexuality Terminology

    I've identified as androsexual ever since I started identifying as genderqueer, which was about a year ago. It gets a little annoying explaining it to people, and I get a lot of "so you're attracted to robots" and then I have to explain the etymology behind android, but despite that, I really feel that androsexual fits me a lot better than gay or straight.

    Another important distinction I feel should be made is the distinction between sexual attraction and romantic attraction. I'm only sexually attracted to men, but I can be romantically attracted to anyone of any gender. So I identify as androsexual and panromantic.
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