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Gay/Lesbian Issues/Why do orientation and gender matter?



Why do so many people feel strongly about gender identity and sexual orientation? (I do not mean to sound critical towards gay or trans, etc. people-straight, cis, etc. frequently do this too.) I have never cared about these things in myself or others. I don't see them as part of who I am.

If I woke up one morning with a different gender or sexual orientation, I do not imagine I would be upset by it, aside from the inconvenience. In my Human Sexuality class, the professor asked how we would feel if this happened to us, and nearly all of the class said that they would feel angry and want to change back. When I answered, a few people interrupted to say I did not understand and was being insensitive.

I was in the LGBTQIA Club in my school for 3 semesters and I never had much to say, but it seems that these issues are so important to some people, but for all of my listening during meetings and questions to individual members, I cannot grasp why.

Thank you for your time.

Greetings Ayla,

Thank you for sharing your question and thoughts with me. Yes, identity whether gender or attraction can be very important for some people. For yourself, I'm hearing that you may not share the same values as others which is absolutely fine and valid. Each person has a different relationship to/with their identity. Some people it can matter a lot, others not so much. For some, gender and orientation is a significant part of who they are, for you no so much. Again both are fine and valid.

There are several complex reasons why these issues are important. Below are my thoughts based on studies, experiences and the dynamics of social relationships:

- Some people feel that their gender identity doesn't match what is expected of them or assigned to them. To have the chance to be valued as your true and authentic self is not just a privilege but a right. The world can be mean and bigoted place and if someone is visibly trans. They may experience many forms of rejection because of their gender not being respected such as their pronoun and name. With that rejection comes the inability to use washrooms, ability to change their legal identity, inability to access gendered spaces. Some are rejected by family, employment and housing. In an ideal world, all identities would be honored and respected as it's a part of what makes our unique selves. So as you can see, there are very real consequences when one's gender isn't validated or valued.

Sexual orientation:
- Similarly, not being acknowledged or treated with the same respect as the majority of people can create a lot of stress, hurt and anger. Studies have shown that the more a person is respected as who they are, the less mental health issues with overall health being better. Acknowledging someone's sexual orientation means that a person's love for the same gender is valued and respected. Or not valuing a person's sexual orientation can mean that you aren't valuing a person's authentic self and that only some parts of person is okay and other parts are not.

Perhaps you have the support system in your life that if your gender or sexual orientation changed or "if you had the choice" it wouldn't have a significant negative impact on you. For others they may have to choose between being honest to themselves or being dishonest in order to keep their families, jobs, housing, children, friends, faith community, etc. Studies have also shown that when identity is important to that person, the accumulation of rejection of identity increases suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety.

As you can see, this can be complex. We can't take away how one has a relationship with their identity (strongly tied to only casual tied to identity) but we can try to empathize why it's important or not so important in that person's life.

You may want to ask yourself what exactly do you need to grasp other than just hearing where a person comes from and honoring their own history with their identity. It may take away that angst of having to understand. Maybe shifting from trying to understand it to simply honoring and accepting where a person is at in their journey or relationship to/with their identity may be helpful. It's like a hetero person needing to understand why or how can a person be attracted to the same gender? In this example, there is an absolute need to understand why but maybe it just a matter or recognizing that there is in fact human sexual diversity.

I hope that these insights have helped provide you with other things about the importance of identity to think about.

All the best in your journey.  

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Reece Malone


I can answer questions on sexual orientation, gender identity, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual sexuality (youth and adult), coming out and disclosure, transgender and gender-non conformity including transition process, how to support a partner of someone GLBT, sexuality and faith/spirituality/religion, safer sex and harm reduction, comprehensive sexuality education, and questions from service providers working with LGBT individuals and families.


I'm currently a full time sexuality educator and facilitator specializing in sexual orientation and gender identity. I hold the positions of the Education Program Coordinator at the Rainbow Resource Centre (supporting LGBTTQ individuals, families and allies) as well as clinical sexologist at Four Rivers Medical Clinic in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. My roles include: sexuality education, counseling/therapy, media spokesperson and consultant. I have sat on several non-profit sexuality organizations as well as been a consultant to the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization as well as the Public Health Agency of Canada. For more information visit:

American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists, The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, The American College of Sexologists, The Canadian AIDS Information Treatment Exchange, The Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health, The Sexual Health Educator's Network (Manitoba), The International Society for Sexual Medicine.

Malone, R. (2010). "ShoutOut Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Heterosexism." Rainbow Resource Centre. Winnipeg, Canada. Malone, R. et al (2010). "Your Questions Answered. Gender Identity in Schools." Public Health Agency of Canada. Ottawa, Canada.

Undergradate degree in sociology - specialized focus on human sexuality Masters of Public Health (Sexology) Doctorate of Human Sexuality

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