“Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?”

This is a research question asked of young people in multiple cultures and countries,  And commonly the outcome remains the same, as reported in the book  “Life isn’t binary: on being both, beyond and in-bewteen ” , by Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi

Nearly half of young people see themselves on a spectrum  of sexuality somewhere between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Commonly they identify as “Bisexual’ And over a third of people experience themselves as being the “other” gender, “both” genders and /or “neither” gender.

Welcome to the world of non -binary. The most common word for non-binary sexuality is bisexuality.  Today more people identify as bisexual/non-binary than lesbian /gay. So that gets rid of those neat little gay/lesbian boxes and in its place is the large landscape of flexible, fluid sexuality and gender.

In a 2018 Gallup poll the percentage of American adults identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) increased to 4.5% in 2017, up from 4.1% in 2016 and 3.5% in 2012 when Gallup began tracking the measure. The latest estimate is based on over 340,000 interviews conducted as part of Gallup’s daily tracking in 2017.

The percentage of millennials who identify as LGBT expanded from 7.3% to 8.1% from 2016 to 2017, and is up from 5.8% in 2012.

Women continue to be more likely to identify as LGBT than men, and this gender gap expanded last year.

Overall, 5.1% of women in 2017 identified as LGBT, compared with 3.9% of men.

The LGBT percentage has risen among all race and ethnic groups since 2012, although not on an equal basis. Hispanics and Asians have seen the greatest increase, thus contributing the most on a relative basis to the uptick in LGBT identification nationwide. Whites and blacks have seen the least change.

I am inviting you to step out of your rigid perspective of ‘either/or ” and consider the uncertainty of your sexuality and gender as  non- binary. Let’s begin with an  example as I really want you to get a good basic #101 understanding of your own sexuality and gender.

John , aged 39 years, consulted with me as finally his wife , Ann, had threatened to divorce him. They had not been sexual with each other for over 10 years. When they initially met, john knew he was attracted to men but was too shy and scared to ever admit this to anyone, not even to himself. He and Ann began  a  satisfying sexual relationship and married a few years later.  The sex got less frequent and once the children were born and John’s career grew more demanding, he stopped asking Ann for sex. He continued to watch porn and masturbate. He masturbated to sexual images of men and men having sex with men. He told me that he is gay.

I want you to consider your own sexual orientation. Use these categories>

 Sexual identity :this is how you identify/label your sexuality . for example, gay, straight, bisexual. asexual, aromantic, sapiosexual, pansexual, etc.

Sexual Attraction : this is to whom you are attracted, whom you fantasise about .  This can be men , women or  more than one gender-

Sexual behaviour “:  this is with whom you have sexual encounters, which can be  with one or more genders

Fascinating results emerged from a  study  of  USA predominantly heterosexual  adults, called  the 2015 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. The study  aimed to assess relationships among self-identified sexual identity, sexual attraction, and sexual behaviors.

Concordance between sexual identity versus sexual attraction and past-year sexual behaviours was 94% and 96%, respectively, So if someone identified as “heterosexual” their sexual  attractions and encounters were mostly with opposite sex people.

Interestingly women and sexual minority individuals reported greater discordance across sexuality-related measures than men and heterosexual individuals.

Younger adults (aged 18–24 years) were more likely to report sexual behaviors discordant with sexual identity compared with older adults (including those ages 25–34 years). Higher levels of educational attainment were significantly associated with less discordance of reported recent sexual activity and sexual identity.

How concordant are you ? How much consistency is there in your own sexual identity, attractions and sexual behaviour? Do you identify as gay and get turned on when watching heterosexual porn and even engage in threesomes with another man plus a woman? 

 Allow me to introduce you to Terri.

Terri asked to be addressed by the pronoun  “they” as  they were gender neutral .Gender-neutral pronouns are defined by the LGBT Resource Centre as providing an identity for a singular person who does not identify as he/him or she/her. It is a way of avoiding social stereotypes , and discrimination . Terri identified as “non-binary” , not fitting into the  either/or male/female box, nor fully into the transgender box.

Non – binary is the umbrella term for al the gender expressions , identities and experiences that fall outside of the binary gender system: boy/girl

Terri was born with female sexual characteristics and assigned into the  ‘female” gender box.  From about age 3 years old, they felt an incongruence between their genitals and their felt sense of their gender. They began wearing male clothes, playing with traditionally considered male toys and asked to  be called Terri, not Tracey. When I met Terri they had had upper chest surgery(removal of breasts) and wore very traditional masculine clothing and they were working as a fork lifter in a factory.

Consider your own gender. Are you cisgender , which means that you feel congruence between your assigned sex  and your gender experience, or are you non -binary?

> What is your gender identity – that is,  sense of who you are?

> What is your gender role? How do you interact with the world around you according to gender norms?

>How do you express your gender? In other words, how do you manifest your gender through clothes you wear, mannerisms, hairstyle etc

> What is your  gender experience in the world, that is how do you navigate the world because of your gender ?

There are no longer the same  rules , nor boxes, on who you should be and  whom you should love, sex and enter into some kind of relationship.

Unless well navigated  alone, with family,  or with the assistance of health care providers, and  support networks , being non binary can be deeply painful, stigmatising and a threat to one’s mental health .

Being non binary can be confusing — and wonderfully  liberating. As you see from the research cited, it is the fastest growing relationship structure, sexual orientation and gender.

For more information on non binary, contact me.