Sexual orientation

An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.

Gender identity

One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender expression

External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

Gender transition

The process by which some people strive to more closely align their internal knowledge of gender with its outward appearance. Some people socially transition, whereby they might begin dressing, using names and pronouns and/or be socially recognized as another gender. Others undergo physical transitions in which they modify their bodies through medical interventions.

Gender dysphoria

Clinically significant distress caused when a person’s assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term – which replaces Gender Identity Disorder – “is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults.”

Gender identity

gender identity, an individual’s self-conception as a man or woman or as a boy or girl or as some combination of man/boy and woman/girl or as someone fluctuating between man/boy and woman/girl or as someone outside those categories altogether. It is distinguished from actual biological sex—i.e., male or female. For most persons, gender identity and biological sex correspond in the conventional way. Some individuals, however, experience little or no connection between sex and gender; among transgender persons, for example, biological sexual characteristics are distinct and unambiguous, but the affected person identifies with the gender conventionally associated with the opposite sex.

Basic gender identity (whether innate or constructed) is generally established in children by the age of three and is extremely difficult to modify thereafter. In cases where biological sex was ambiguous at birth and errors in sexing were made, it has been almost impossible to reestablish a conventional gender identity later in childhood or adolescence. Furthermore, a secondary gender identity can be developed over the core identity, as sex-associated behaviours may be adopted later in life; heterosexual or homosexual orientations also develop later.

Aspects of gender identity develop by means of parental example, social reinforcement, and language. Parents teach what they perceive as sex-appropriate behaviour to their children from an early age, and this behaviour is reinforced as the children grow older and enter a wider social world. As children acquire language, they also learn very early the distinction between “he” and “she” and understand which pertain to themselves.

Since the late 20th century the recognition that many people have gender identities that are not conventionally associated with their biological sex and that some people have nonbinary gender identities (i.e., neither or both man/boy and woman/girl) have broadened support for the general use in English and other languages of gender-neutral pronouns (they, them, and their) in place of masculine or feminine pronouns (he, she, him, her, his, hers). Such usage, it is argued, enables speakers and writers to avoid attributing a false gender identity to a person based on perceived biological sex.

The adoption of gender-neutral pronouns also has been advocated by those who object to the use of generic masculine pronouns and other masculine-gendered words to refer to people in general, as in “No one in his right mind would believe that” and “Man is a political animal.”


hypermasculinity, sociological term denoting exaggerated forms of masculinity, virility, and physicality. Scholars have suggested that there are three distinct characteristics associated with the hypermasculine personality: (1) the view of violence as manly, (2) the perception of danger as exciting and sensational, and (3) callous behavior toward women and a regard toward emotional displays as feminine.

Hypermasculine archetypes abound in the mass media, especially action films. The films of Clint Eastwood, for example, usually feature a strong, silent hero who exhibits no emotion as he dispatches his enemies. A female lead character with exaggerated “feminine” qualities is often added to accentuate the masculine traits of the hero.

Brandon Teena (American crime victim)

Brandon Teena, born Teena Renae Brandon, (born December 12, 1972, Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.—died December 31, 1993, Humboldt, Nebraska), biologically female individual who lived his life as a male and was murdered by two former friends after they discovered his biological sex. Teena and his story have been at the center of academic and public debates concerning gender and sexuality rights. While it is unclear whether Teena identified as transgender, transgender advocates and scholars have hotly debated the nuances of his story and claimed his embodied experiences as indicative of the continuing struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities.


Brandon was raised, along with a sister, by a single mother who lived off of disability payments. His father had been killed in an accident before he was born. It was later determined that he and his sister had suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle. Brandon rejected traditional female gender roles at an early age, adopting male dress and habits and dating women beginning in adolescence. He was expelled from high school and, from his late teen years, largely supported himself with menial jobs and petty crime, usually presenting as male. He had a number of romantic relationships with biological females, many of whom were not aware of his biological sex due to his use of male aliases and his masculine physical appearance. Following a number of convictions for check fraud that resulted in sentences of probation, Teena moved to Falls City, Nebraska, in November 1993.

There, identifying as a male, he found shelter with a young single mother, Lisa Lambert, with whom, by some accounts, he also had a romantic relationship. He fell in with a group of young people that included John Lotter and Marvin T. Nissen, both of whom had criminal records. Teena also began dating a young woman named Lana Tisdel. However, by December 1993, he had again been arrested for check fraud. A court appearance and subsequent notice in the local newspaper revealed his birth name and thus his biological sex.

This revelation infuriated Lotter and Nissen, who had viewed Teena as biologically male. On the night of December 24, the two men attacked Teena at a Christmas Eve party at Nissen’s home, forcibly disrobing him to reveal his biological sex to guests of the party, including Tisdel. In the early hours of the next morning they kidnapped Teena and raped him before bringing him back to Nissen’s home. Teena reported the rapes to local police and was subjected to a degrading interrogation. Ultimately no charges were filed against the men. However, incensed by Teena’s report of their actions, on December 31, they traveled to Lambert’s house and shot and stabbed Teena to death. They also murdered Lambert and a friend, Phillip Devine, leaving only Lambert’s child unharmed.

Nissen was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1995. Lotter was convicted and sentenced to death in 1996.


Teena’s story has been told through a number of media, including documentary and mainstream filmmaking, biography, music (Pet Shop Boys’ “Girls Don’t Cry”), and numerous academic articles and books. Teena was the subject of the film Boys Don’t Cry (1999), directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Hilary Swank in an Academy Award-winning turn as Teena and Chloë Sevigny as Lana Tisdel.

It has been argued that Brandon’s large archive has created a “new Brandon” that often situates queer life in small-town America in a misleading light. Indeed, as one researches Brandon’s life, the images, stories, and documents share a static quality, and, without thoughtful reflections on the dynamics of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and nation, they seem to make up a superficial analysis of the ways Brandon’s ordeal continues to have an impact on current gender and sexuality debates.

Institutional gendered and sexualized constraints are inextricably linked to the embodied constraints Teena dealt with on a daily basis. This ongoing conflict resulted in real and tragic consequences: Teena lost the right to embody space and express desire in his own way. Because he was marked as “nonnormative,” he lost access to the rights and privileges that “normative” people take for granted and ultimately lost his life.

Sexual orientation is usually divided into these categories:

  • Heterosexual: Attracted to people of the opposite sex.
  • Bisexual: Attracted to people of either sex.
  • Homosexual: Attracted to people of one’s own sex.
  • Pansexual: Attracted to people of any gender identity.
  • Asexual: Not sexually attracted to other people.



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