I want to plead for us sharpening the terms we use in the area of sexuality. I’m not seeking a discussion — who has time for that? Not you.
Nuances are important in therapy but not so for our discussion about better basic phrases so I’ll talk in broad terms. Let’s acknowledge though, that adopting the crude categories Cis/Trans and Straight/Gay/Bi can be liberating to some, but oppressive to others.
I would like to request that you stop (co-)using the term “gender dysphoria” since there are two wrong words in this two-word phrase.
1. It’s not the gender that gives displeasure, but rather a deviating biological sex does. So, if anything, it should be called “sex dysphoria.” (Or to distinguish it from sexuality, “biological sex dysphoria,” BSD.)
Using “gender dysphoria” says that the essence would be the biological sex and that if there is a difference with the gender, the gender is the trouble-maker, makes trans people unhappy. That is untrue because trans-gender identity can’t be changed while sex appearance can be.
2. Who says that a difference between gender and biological sex must give unhappiness? When someone’s body doesn’t look like the way they see themselves, this may give others confusion and potentially stress. But are they “obligated” to be stressed about that themselves? Some people hate Jews but that doesn’t make me “dislike” being one.
Please, instead, (suggest to) use: “Gender Sex Discrepancy” (GSD). It’s pure and truthful, I believe. It also makes clear that much of the stress around Trans comes from Transphobia, not from any GSD.
NB: The whole idea that trans people should look like either female or male is a dictatorship of normalcy all over again. For more: Is It Rational to Be Transgender?, Thinking About Policy – Hormones and Operations.
Much of the confusion around the term Gay comes from it being used indiscriminately for two completely different things: 1. Sexual preference (dreams, wishes, self-identification) and 2. Sexual practice.
It’s not true that all gay practice betrays gay sexual identity (like in a case of a straight guy with an addiction to or habit of gay sex or in case of “situational” or “pseudo-homosexuality”). And, reversely, sexual preference may not always translate into matching sexual action.
It seems that therapists and researchers almost exclusively use Gay for sexual action. This obfuscates the deeper issue of sexual preference. Sexual habits can be changed, to a certain degree, but sexual orientation cannot. It is neuro-anatomically imprinted from a young age.
I understand that action is easier to measure, especially because so many people lie about their sexual preference (but also about their sexual activities). But still, using Gay mostly for action makes one miss the essence, that there is immutable sexual preference/orientation.
NB: In case of Trans people, the words Gay and Straight can be very confusing. Shall we popularize the terms androphile and gynophile? These words could also change our perspective by grouping Straight Cis Women with Gay Cis Men and Gay Cis Women with Straight Cis Men.
The same counts for the term Bisexual. Bisexual activity doesn’t always mean: no sexual preference. There is a world of difference between 1. the many Straight men who also enjoy Gay sex on the side, 2. the high percentage of Gay (wo)men who try their luck at Straight sex, 3. the small number of Straight women who want to get away from sex with men in favor of intimacy with women, 4. people who can have pleasant but calm sex with both genders, and 5. the tiny percentage of men and larger percentage of women who can have intense sexual feelings and attachment regardless of the gender/sex of their sexual partners.
For more on the difference between sexual action and sexual being, see point 1. and 2. in: There are four completely distinct reasons for outrage about reparative therapy.
D: Deep Attachment
The liberal attitude that therapists should espouse that in sexually all is possible, may make us forget that sexuality can help many people to bond deeply. I know that sex can be done in many ways, including outside of steady relationships. Yet, in steady sexual relationships, bonding through sex is a powerful possibility. Our awareness that sex can be done in endless numbers of ways may make us less aware of what really lies at the core of sexual preference: bonding. I’ll explain.
There is a major misunderstanding that neuro-anatomically ingrained sexual orientation would express itself quintessentially in a (partial) inability or dislike for sexuality with one gender. If this were true, there would not be such a thing as immutable sexual orientation since inability and dislike are for many people very much open to therapy and change.
Rather, sexual orientation towards one and only one gender must mean that one is capable of having intense sexuality leading to a deep attachment to sexual partners of the gender/sex of one’s sexual preference but not to the other. It seems that real love, commitment, and sexual satisfaction may still be possible with the other gender/sex but for that person not, cementing the relationship. (But if the other partner does have a partner in accordance with their sexual preference, s/he alone may bond alright.) This lack of sexual fusion leads many dis-orientated partners, sooner or later, to look for an appropriate partner, fitting their sexual orientation because the loneliness becomes unbearable, and not for lack of true love, commitment or sexual satisfaction.
I wonder if the terms sexual orientation and sexual preference should not be upgraded to sexual gender preference (SGP). Other preferences, like for body type or eye color, seem often modifiable by therapy or just change over time while sexual gender preference does not.
A sharper use of terms could help against confusions that could make us unhappy.