Introduction to Queer Identity | Being.LGBT Introduction to Queer Identity - Being.LGBT
Introduction to Queer Identity

A look into how Queer identity manifests, and what forms it takes.

Added to Library, on 14 July, 2015

Introduction to Queer Identity

Identity is a very complex thing.

In general, a person’s identity is typically made up of three things: biology/physical factors, self-identity and reflection (how one sees themselves), and how other people perceive them, based on their appearance or behaviours.

Sexual and Gender Identity take a similar route; however, they too can be complex, as they can often be contradictory.

Imagine if you will this scenario: a child is born to mixed-race parents. The child grows up, and is asked to what race he or she identifies with. Of course, they can say that they are mixed-race – but the complexities lie in the way other people identify them. Typically, if the said individual has a skin colour which isn’t white, many people will perceive them as being the race is most “obvious” – for example, on appearances alone, that this individual is “Black”.

But this ignores a vital part of their identity.

Sexuality and Gender Identity is similar, and a person’s sexuality or gender identity cannot always be perceived by appearances alone.

Identity ModelAbove: The Identity Model – the aspects that work together to bring about
sexuality and gender identity. (Click to enlarge).

When figuring out Sexuality and Gender-Identity, there are four core parts.

Physical Anatomy & Biological Sex:

The gender an individual was assigned at birth. Typically: male, female or intersex.

Appearance & Perception (Gender Expression):

How other people perceive the individual, based on behaviours, traits and appearance. Typically, perceived as male or female, with some individuals being perceived as ‘somewhere inbetween’.


How the individual identifies themselves, and what they identify with. This could be any number of options from the Sexuality & Gender Identity spectrum.

Romantic & Sexual Attractions:

What an individual is typically attracted to. Typically, we assign this as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual – but there are many other sexualities that have come into existence.


Queer Identities


Queer Identities arise when any of the four aspects of Identity are misaligned or out of the socially-considered “norm” (see Gender Binary).

Society typically believes this to be the norm (heteronormativity) :

An individual’s self-identity and appearance are aligned with their biological sex. They are then attracted to people of the opposite gender.

For example: an individual is born and is assigned the gender of ‘female’ at birth because she has a vagina. It is then expected that she will grow up to see herself as a woman, to be feminine in appearance,¬† and be attracted to men.

For many individuals, this is indeed the case. These people are heterosexual¬†(attracted to the ‘opposite sex’) and cisgender (they identify with their biological sex).

Queer Identities are when the above statement is not true of an individual, and this can vary in different degrees.

Queer Sexualities

As stated before, it is expected than an individual should be attracted to members of the “opposite” sex; that is, that men should be attracted to women, and women attracted to men.

An individual who is attracted to people of the opposite sex.

An individual who is attracted to people of the same sex.

An individual who is attracted to people of both sexes; or, an individual who is attracted to people of the same gender as themselves, or people of a different gender.

An individual who does not feel sexual and/or romantic attractions towards other individuals.


The above sexualities are known as Binary Sexualities, because they are reliant on Gender Binaries (ie “male or “female” – although bisexual as a Binary Sexuality has since been disputed, with some claiming it can reject gender; and, asexual has also been disputed as a Binary Sexuality as ‘gender’ may not have a role in asexuality).

Although the above sexualities work well for people who fall within the Binary, they are problematic for those who don’t.


Queer Gender Identities


Individuals who do not identify as cisgender; that is, individuals whose self-identity and perceived identity are different from their biological sex are referred to as transgender or, sometimes simply as non-binary.

The prefix trans is defined as:

trans-: “across, through, beyond, to or on the other side of, outside of”.

And so, a transgender individual is someone whose gender identity and expression is simply different to their biological sex. Some non-binary individuals – particularly those who identify as non-gender or agender, however, reject the notion of being transgender because it relies on a concept on gender in the first place.

The degree to which an individual is transgender varies, and some individuals may still identify as cisgender although all three gender concepts are not aligned, for example:

> A female individual may still identify as being a woman, although she is perceived as having non-feminine behaviours, traits and appearance. As a result, this individual may simply be known as being ‘butch‘ or a ‘tomboy’.

> Similarly, a male individual may still identify as being a man, although he is perceived as having non-masculine behaviours, traits and appearance. As a result, this individual may simply be called ‘femme‘, ‘effeminate’, ‘camp’ or ‘sissy’.

The two above scenarios are particularly common within the Gay & Lesbian community (e.g. “butch” and “femme”), but also among heterosexual individuals. However, such individuals in the Queer community are still considered Queer because they do not follow the “norm” of being attracted to the “opposite” sex only. Although they may identify as cisgender, it is the perception based on their behaviour and appearance that questions their alignment on gender binaries.

But the above Binary Sexualities are considered problematic for people who fall outside the Gender Binary – simply because the conditions of “same” and “opposite” sex rely solely on two pre-defined, rigid, opposite genders.

Gender Identities become increasingly complex because they rely on an individual’s identity, as much as on their perception by others.

There are five basic binary gender identities:

Cisgender male:
An individual with a male anatomy/birth-sex, who identifies as male, and is perceived as others to be male.

Cisgender female:
An individual with a female anatomy/birth-sex, who identifies as female, and is perceived as others to be female.

Transgender male:
An individual who was born with a female anatomy/birth-sex, but identifies as male, and may wish to be perceived by others as such.

Transgender female:
An individual who was born with a male anatomy/birth-sex, but identifies as female, and may wish to be perceived by others as such.

An individual who was born with a combination of male and female anatomies. An intersex individual may, or may not, have aligned themselves with one gender (or, in some cases, may have had the decision made for him at birth by parents and medical practitioners).

Furthermore, there may be individuals who identify as cisgender, but engage in transgender practises, such as:

A cisgender individual who wears the clothes as the opposite sex, either for enjoyment, sexual pleasure or relaxation.

The deliberate blurring of gender boundaries and lines for aesthetic or personal purposes.

However, for individuals who fall outside the binary:

An individual who was born with either male and/or female anatomy, and identifies as being somewhere along the gender spectrum; that is, not exclusively male or female. “Genderqueer” may be further broken down into sub-identities.

An individual who was born with either male and/or female anatomy, and identifies as being a mixture of both, and/or is typically perceived by others being Androgynous. Many self-identifying cisgender people may be perceived as being androgynous, or dress in such a way.

An individual who was born with either male and/or female anatomy, but does not identify as having any gender. May be perceived by others as another identity, or as genderqueer/androgynous.

An individual who was born with either male and/or female anatomy, and identifies as being both male and female, or, identifies with having two genders (may not specifically be male or female).

An individual who was born with either male and/or female anatomy, and identifies as being multiple genders, at the same time, or at different times.

(There are more gender identities than this, take a look in the Quictionary for more)

When Genders Don’t Align


For many individuals, the contradiction of their birth-sex and gender identity can cause them much pain and conflict. Transgender individuals who live their lives as their gender identity, rather than the birth-sex are known as transsexual – although they may wish to be known simply as transgender, trans, or, not have their transgender status known at all (identifying solely as their gender identity, with no mention of their transition). Such individuals may take the route to have Gender Realignment, also known as Gender Reassignment Surgery, Sex Reassignment Surgery, or ‘The Op’.

Not all transgender individuals have the intention of seeking medical realignment. Many transgender people live fulfilling lives in their gender identity without the need for medical intervention.

These are a series of medical procedures that may be taken by transgender individuals to correct this. These can range from hormone therapies to surgery. This is a journey known as ‘transitioning’. Not all transgender individuals take this route, however. Many transgender individuals live, dress and behave as their gender identity, without taking hormones or having surgery at all. Others may take hormones, but not have surgery. It is a decision solely made by the individual themselves.

Non-Binary Sexualities


Because there are individuals who reject the binary, instead embracing a Gender Spectrum (or no Gender at all), sexualities like homosexual and heterosexual become irrelevant, because it relies on the notion that there are only two fixed, opposite genders. As a result, further sexualities have been defined:

An attraction to masculinity or male-identifying people.

An attraction to femininity or female-identifying people.

An attraction to both masculinity and femininity.

An attraction to individuals regardless of gender identity (some bisexual people define bisexuality similarly).

An attraction to non-binary individuals.


There are many other sexualities, and proposed sexualities, which can be found on the Quictionary page.

Asexual Identities


Further still, the gender binary – or rejection thereof – still ignores the problem faced by asexual individuals: that is, that they lack a ‘sexual identity’.

Asexuality has thus been further sub-defined in the asexual community. Many asexuals may classify themselves with these sub-sexualities, or, if they have romantic, non-sexual attractions, describes themselves as asexual coupled with a description of their romantic attractions (e.g. homoromantic, heteroromantic, biromantic, etc).

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Introduction to Queer Identity