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Each of us has a biological sex — whether we are female, male, or intersex. Our gender is our
social and legal status as men or women. And sexual orientation is the term used to describe
whether a person feels sexual desire for people of the other gender, same gender, or both
Each of us has a gender and gender identity. Our gender identity is our deepest feelings about our
gender. We express our gender identity in the way that we act masculine, feminine, neither, or
both. Some of us are transgender — which means that our biological sex and our gender identity
do not match up.
Each of us also has a sexual orientation. You may be bisexual, gay, lesbian or straight. Or you
may be !uestioning" — unsure about your sexual orientation.
#he more you understand biological sex, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, the
more you may understand yourself and how you relate to other people. $ecause sex and gender
are so complex, you may ha%e many !uestions. You may wonder about your own sexual
orientation or gender identity, or you may wonder about someone you &now. You may ha%e
!uestions about how society %iews sex and gender — including homophobia, sexism, and
We hope these pages gi%e you the facts and tools you need to better understand sexual
orientation and gender. 'f you ha%e more !uestions or concerns, we can help. (lanned
(arenthood pro%ides high)!uality, sensiti%e, and appropriate reproducti%e health, general health,
and sexual health ser%ices to all of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender *+,$#- patients.
Staff at your local (lanned (arenthood health center can tal& with you and help you find the
information, ser%ices, and resources that you need.
Female, Male & Intersex at a Glance
• $iological sex is our anatomy as female, male, or intersex.
• 't includes our internal and external sex organs, chromosomes, and hormones.
• Some people are intersex rather than female or male.
Our biological sex is how we are defined as female, male, or intersex. 't describes our internal
and external bodies — including our sexual and reproducti%e anatomy, our genetic ma&eup, and
't.s normal to ha%e !uestions about biological sex. /ere are some of the most common !uestions
we hear about what it means to be female, male, or intersex. We hope they help.
What Is Biological Sex?
$iological sex identifies a person as either female, male, or intersex. 't is determined by a
person.s sexual anatomy, chromosomes, and hormones. $iological sex is often simply referred to
Our biological sex is established when an egg is fertili0ed. 1ost often, men e2aculate two types
of sperm. One type has 3 chromosomes and the other type has Y chromosomes. 1ost often
• When sperm fertili0es an egg, its 3 or Y chromosome combines with the 3 chromosome of the
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• A person with 33 chromosomes and female sex and reproducti%e organs is biologically female.
4pon reaching puberty, that person will produce hormones that will cause breasts and other
female characteristics to de%elop and menstruation to begin.
• A person with 3Y chromosomes and male sex and reproducti%e organs is biologically male.
4pon reaching puberty, that person will produce hormones that will cause sperm production and
other male characteristics to de%elop.
Sometimes, a child is born with sex chromosomes that are different from the usual 33 of the
female or the 3Y of the male. #he child may de%elop sex and5or reproducti%e organs that are
ambiguous — not completely female and not completely male. Ambiguous sex organs can
de%elop for other reasons, as well. #hese are called intersex conditions.
1ost people agree that babies with intersex conditions should be assigned a gender at birth.
Some people belie%e that assigning a gender means performing surgery on the baby6s genitals,
while others belie%e that a baby can be raised as a girl or boy without surgery. Some people
belie%e surgery should be postponed until intersex people are old enough to decide for
'f you ha%e a child who is intersex, open con%ersation about gender is important throughout your
child6s life — whether or not your child has sex)assignment surgery. 't can help your child
de%elop a healthy gender identity and body image.
Whats the !ifference Between Sex and Gender?
't.s common for people to confuse biological sex and gender. Our sex only refers to our sexual
anatomy and chromosomes. Our gender is our biological, social, and legal status as girls and
boys, women and men. Each culture has standards about the way that people should beha%e
based on their gender. 7or example, many cultures expect and encourage men to be more
aggressi%e than women.
Our gender identity is our innermost feelings about our sex and gender. Some people ha%e a
gender identity that strongly conflicts with their biological sex — they are called transgender.
"ow #ommon $re Intersex #onditions?
't is common to belie%e that all people fall into one of two categories — female or male. $ut that
is not true. Some people are born with external sex organs that are not easily identifiable as
female or male. Other people ha%e sex chromosomes that are different from the usual 33
*female- or 3Y *male-. (eople whose biological sex is not clear in these ways ha%e intersex
conditions. About 8 in 9,::: people born in the 4.S. is intersex. #here are many different ways
that intersex conditions appear.
,enitals that are not easily identifiable as female or male are sometimes apparent at birth. $ut
sometimes it is not ob%ious until puberty. (eople with intersex conditions may be considered
sexually ambiguous in different ways;
• #hey may ha%e sex organs that appear to be somewhat female or male or both. #hey do not,
howe%er, ha%e complete female genitals and complete male genitals.
• #hey may ha%e a large clitoris — more than two)fifths of an inch long.
• #hey may ha%e a small penis — less than an inch long.
Some babies are born with both o%arian and testicular tissue.
Some people ha%e chromosomes that are different. #wo common chromosomal intersex
• #urner Syndrome < 3O
• =lienfelter.s Syndrome < 33Y
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#here are other differences a person could ha%e that cannot be found without testing
chromosomes and hormones, or examining internal sex organs. Sometimes the difference is
ne%er noticed, so some people ha%e intersex conditions for their whole li%es and ne%er &now.
Some intersex people are transgender, but intersex does not necessarily mean transgender, and
transgender does not necessarily mean intersex.
• "ow !o !octors %reat Intersex Ba&ies?
Sometimes a female or male sex is assigned to a baby through surgery. 4p to fi%e of
these surgeries occur e%ery day in the 4.S.
1ost people agree that babies with intersex conditions should be assigned a gender at
birth. Some people belie%e that assigning a gender means performing surgery on the
baby.s genitals, while others belie%e that a baby can be raised as a girl or boy without
surgery. Some people belie%e surgery should be postponed until intersex people are old
enough to decide for themsel%es.
'f you ha%e a child who is intersex, open con%ersation about gender is important
throughout your child.s life — whether or not your child has gender)assignment surgery.
't can help your child de%elop a healthy gender identity and body image.
Gender and Gender Identit' at a Glance
• ,ender is our social and legal status as girls and boys, women and men.
• ,ender identity is how you feel about and express your gender.
• >ulture determines gender roles and what is masculine and feminine.
What does it mean to be a woman or man? Whether we are women or men is not determined 2ust
by our sex organs. Our gender includes a complex mix of beliefs, beha%iors, and characteristics.
/ow do you act, tal&, and beha%e li&e a woman or man? Are you feminine or masculine, both, or
neither? #hese are !uestions that help us get to the core of our gender and gender identity.
#here are few easy answers when it comes to gender and gender identity, so it is normal to ha%e
!uestions. /ere are some of the most common !uestions we hear about gender and gender
identity. We hope our answers are helpful.
What Is Gender? What Is Gender Identit'?
Each person has a sex, a gender, and a gender identity. #hese are all aspects of your sexuality.
#hey are all about who you are, and they are all different, but related.
• Sex is biological. 't includes our genetic ma&eup, our hormones, and our body parts, especially
our sex and reproducti%e organs.
• ,ender refers to society6s expectations about how we should thin& and act as girls and boys, and
women and men. 't is our biological, social, and legal status as women and men.
• ,ender identity is how we feel about and express our gender and gender roles — clothing,
beha%ior, and personal appearance. 't is a feeling that we ha%e as early as age two or three.
Some people find that their gender identity does not match their biological sex. When this happens, the
person may identify as transgender.
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What Is Feminine? What Is Masculine?
7eminine traits are ways of beha%ing that our culture usually associates with being a girl or
woman. 1asculine traits are ways of beha%ing that our culture usually associates with being a
boy or man.
W()!S #(MM(*+, -S.! %( !.S#)IB. F.MI*I*I%,
• sexually submissi%e
W()!S #(MM(*+, -S.! %( !.S#)IB. M$S#-+I*I%,
• sexually aggressi%e
>learly, society.s categories for what is masculine and feminine are unrealistic. #hey may not
capture how we truly feel, how we beha%e, or how we define oursel%es. All men ha%e some so)
called feminine traits, and all women ha%e some so)called masculine traits. And we may show
different traits at different times. Our cultures teach women and men to be the opposite of each
other in many ways. #he truth is that we are more ali&e than different.
(eople who express masculine and feminine traits e!ually are sometimes called androgynous. Among
androgynous people, neither masculine nor feminine traits dominate.
What $re Gender )oles?
,ender roles are the way people act, what they do and say, to express being a girl or a boy, a
woman or a man. #hese characteristics are shaped by society. ,ender roles %ary greatly from one
culture to the next, from one ethnic group to the next, and from one social class to another. $ut
e%ery culture has gender roles — they all ha%e expectations for the way women and men, girls
and boys, should dress, beha%e, and loo&.
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>hildren learn gender roles from an early age — from their parents and family, their religion,
and their culture, as well as the outside world, including tele%ision, maga0ines, and other media.
As children grow, they adopt beha%iors that are rewarded by lo%e and praise. #hey stop or hide
beha%iors that are ridiculed, shamed, or punished. #his happens early in life. $y age three,
children ha%e usually learned to prefer toys and clothes that are appropriate" to their gender.
What $re Gender Stereot'pes?
A stereotype is a widely accepted 2udgment or bias regarding a person or group — e%en though it
is o%erly simplified. Stereotypes about gender can cause une!ual and unfair treatment because of
a person.s gender. #his is called sexism.
F(-) B$SI# /I*!S (F G.*!.) S%.).(%,0.S
• (ersonality traits — 7or example, women are often expected to be passi%e and submissi%e, while
men are usually expected to be self)confident and aggressi%e.
• @omestic beha%iors — 7or example, caring for children is often considered best done by women,
while household repairs are often considered best done by men.
• Occupations — 7or example, until %ery recently most nurses and secretaries were usually
women, and most doctors and construction wor&ers were usually men.
• (hysical appearance — 7or example, women are expected to be small and graceful, while men
are expected to be tall and broad)shouldered.
"'perfemininit' and "'permasculinit'
/yperfemininity is the exaggeration of stereotyped beha%ior that is belie%ed to be feminine.
/yperfeminine women, as well as some gay men and male)to)female transgenders, exaggerate
the !ualities they belie%e to be feminine. #hey belie%e they are supposed to boost men6s egos by
being passi%e, nai%e, innocent, soft, flirtatious, graceful, nurturing, and accepting.
/ypermasculinity is the exaggeration of stereotyped beha%ior that is belie%ed to be masculine.
/ypermasculine men, as well as some lesbian and female)to)male transgenders, exaggerate the
!ualities they belie%e to be masculine. #hey belie%e they are supposed to compete with other
men and dominate women by being aggressi%e, worldly, sexually experienced, hard, physically
imposing, ambitious, and demanding.
#hese exaggerated gender stereotypes can create difficult relationships. /yperfeminine women
are more li&ely to accept physical and emotional abuse from their sex partners. /ypermasculine
men are more li&ely to be physically and emotionally abusi%e to their partners.
Although most of us are not hyperfeminine or hypermasculine, many of us ha%e anxieties and
inhibitions about our femininity and masculinity.
"ow #an I #hallenge Gender Stereot'pes?
We see gender stereotypes all around us. We also may see sexism. #here are ways to challenge
these stereotypes to help e%eryone, no matter their gender or gender identity, feel e!ual.
• (oint it out — 7rom maga0ines and tele%ision to film and the 'nternet, the media is filled
with negati%e gender stereotypes. Sometimes these stereotypes are hard to see. #al& with
friends and family members about the stereotypes you see and help others recogni0e how
sexism and gender stereotypes can hurt all of us.
• Wal& the tal& — $e a role model for your friends and family. Aespect people regardless
of their gender.
• Spea& up — 'f someone is ma&ing sexist 2o&es, challenge them.
• ,i%e it a try — 'f you want to do something that is not normally associated with your
gender, thin& about whether you.ll be safe doing it. 'f you thin& you will, gi%e it a try.
(eople will learn from your example.
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'f you ha%e been struggling with gender or gender identity, you.re not alone. 't may help you to
tal& to a trusted parent, friend, family member, teacher, or professional counselor.
Sexual (rientation at a Glance
• Sexual orientation is the term used to describe what gender*s- someone is sexually and5or
romantically attracted to.
• We don6t &now for sure what causes a person6s sexual orientation.
• You can6t tell a person.s sexual orientation by the way they loo& or their 2ob or hobbies.
#he only way to &now is if they tell you.
• /omophobia and biphobia — fear and hatred of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people — are
1any of us are curious about sexual orientation. /ere are answers to some of the most common
!uestions people ha%e about it.
What Is Sexual (rientation?
Sexual orientation is the term used to describe what gender*s- someone is sexually and5or
romantically attracted to. Sexual orientation is different from gender and gender identity — how
you feel about and express your gender. Sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to and
want to ha%e intimate relationships with.
• (eople who are attracted to members of the other gender often call themsel%es straight or
• (eople who are attracted to people of the same gender often call themsel%es gay or homosexual.
Women who are gay may prefer the term lesbian.
• (eople who are attracted to both men and women often call themsel%es bisexual.
• (eople whose attracions span across the gender identity possibilities *male, female, transgender,
gender!ueer, intersex, etc.- may call themsel%es pansexual.
• (eople who are unsure about their sexual orientation may call themsel%es !uestioning or curious.
• (eople who don6t experience any sexual attraction for anyone may call themsel%es asexual.
Why do we &eep saying BoftenB or BmayB? $ecause some people don6t thin& these labels describe
them accurately. Some people don6t li&e the idea of labels at all. Some people feel comfotable
with certain labels and not others. 't6s up to you to decide how you want to label yourself, if at
Some people describe themsel%es as !ueer. Cueer is an umbrella term for a %ariety of sexualities
and gender identities, including lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, pansexuals, transgender people,
and some intersex people. BCueerB has ben used as a slur to hurt or insult people. Some people
still find it offensi%e, but others feel li&e they6%e reclaimed the word and now use it with pride to
What #auses Sexual (rientation?
't.s not &nown what causes a person6s orientation, but research shows that it6s based on biological
factors that are in place before birth. We do &now that sexual orientation is often established
before puberty. And although sexual orientation is usually set early in life, it may be fluid and
shift o%er the course of a lifetime.
One thing is clear — sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed.
"ow Man' 0eople $re +es&ian, Ga', or Bisexual 1+GB2?
#here6s no way to &now for sure because many people don6t identify as +,$, or may not act on
+,$ attractions. Someone may ha%e strong sexual attractions to only one gender or another, or
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be e!ually attracted to both genders, or tend to be attracted to one gender more than the other.
7or example, a woman may identify as straight, but ha%e occasional sexual attractions to women,
or ha%e one sexual experience with a woman while all of her relationships are with men. 7or
some people, sexual orientation can shift, or seem to shift, at different periods in their li%es. 't6s
difficult to measure how many people are +,$ when sexual orientation is so complex for many
people. (eople with same)sex attractions may also choose not to identify as +,$ because of
fear of discrimination.
Aesearch by Alfred =insey suggests that about 8 in 8: people are attracted to people of the same
gender. Other research suggests somewhat lower estimates. $ut far fewer than 8 in 8: people
identify openly as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Aesearch shows that about D.E percent of American adults identify as +,$, F.9 percent report
that they6%e engaged in same)sex sexual beha%ior, and 88 percent ac&nowledge at least some
same)sex attraction. #his shows that what people do or feel is not always the same as how they
"ow #an I Figure (ut Someones Sexual (rientation?
#he only way you can &now is if the person tells you. Some people thin& they
can determine sexual orientation by the way people wal&, tal&, or dress, or by the 2ob or hobbies
they ha%e. #his isn6t true. #hose are 2ust stereotypes — %ery simplified 2udgments about a group.
What If Im -nsure $&out M' Sexual (rientation?
You are not alone. 't can ta&e years, or e%en a lifetime, to understand your sexual orientation.
Often, people find that they6re B!uestioningB for !uite a while, or that none of the labels used to
describe sexual orientation seem to fit. 7or some, discrimination and homophobia can ma&e it
difficult to come to terms with a lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity, so the process of coming out
may be slow.
Aest assured that many people are still figuring out their sexuality, so what you6re feeling is more
common than you might thin&. #al&ing with a trusted friend or family member may help you
figure it out.
What Is 3#oming (ut?4
>oming out" or coming out of the closet" is a process of accepting and being open about being
lesbian, gay, or bisexual. #he first step is coming out to oursel%es. #his happens as we recogni0e
our sexual orientation and accept it. We may also tell family, friends and people in our
community — sometimes right away, and sometimes later on. We might decide to be open with
some people in our li%es, but not with others. >oming out is extremely personal, and different for
e%eryone. $ut it can feel better to be open and honest about your sexual orientation than it does
to hide it.
>oming out isn.t a one)time thing. $ecause many people assume that e%eryone they meet is
straight, coming out can be a constant process. E%ery time +,$ people meet someone new, they
ha%e to decide if and when to come out. $ut choosing to come out doesn6t mean you ha%e to be
out e%erywhere, all the time — part of the coming out process is choosing how, where, and when
it6s best for you to be out. And there6s no right or wrong way to do it.
#he coming)out process can be freeing, empowering, and bring us closer to those we lo%e, but it
can also be stressful or e%en ris&y.
'f you.re wondering whether or not to come out, there6s a lot to thin& about. >onsider all the ris&s
and benefits. 'f coming out means that you ris& losing emotional and financial support from your
family, for example, you may want to wait until you can find a way to support yourself. You
7 | P a g e
should also thin& about whether coming out could put you in any physical danger. $ut you6re in
charge of your coming out experience. 't6s up to you to choose how, where, when and with
whom to be open about your sexual orientation. 't may feel safer to start by being open with
other people who are also +,$. #his could be online, in community centers, at an +,$ club or
group, or with a few close friends.
7or a step)by)step resource about coming out, chec& out the /A>6s Aesource ,uide to >oming
Outing is the act of re%ealing someone else6s sexual orientation without their consent or
permission. 'f you share information about someone6s sexual orientation against their wishes, it
can ma&e them feel embarrassed, %ulnerable and put them at ris& for discrimination and e%en
%iolence. 'f someone shares their orientation with you, as& them what they feel comfortable with
you saying to other people and respect their wishes.
What are "omopho&ia and Bipho&ia?
/omophobia is fear or hatred of people who are or are thought to be lesbian or gay.
When +,$ people ha%e fear or hatred of themsel%es or other gay people because of their own
attractions, it.s called internali0ed homophobia.
$iphobia is fear or hatred of bisexuality, or the denial that bisexuality exists at all. $oth straight
and gay people can be biphobic, and people can be biphobic without being homophobic.
/omophobia and biphobia come from fear and ignorance. Some people6s families, friends,
cultures and religious authorities promote negati%e feelings and stereotypes about homosexuality
and bisexuality. And some people are fearful or ignorant because they don.t &now anyone who is
/omophobia and biphobia hurt all of us. #hey can pre%ent +,$ people from feeling safe and
from li%ing full li%es. #hey can lead to 2ob, housing, and health care discrimination and
sometimes %erbal abuse and e%en physical %iolence. /omophobia and biphobia can cause
feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation. #hey can also lead to suicide. +,$ youth are four
times more li&ely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. /omophobia can also hurt straight
people. 't can &eep straight men from forming close friendships with other men, for example, for
fear of being percei%ed as gay.
What #an I !o to "elp Stop "omopho&ia and Bipho&ia?
Go matter what your sexual orientation, there are things you can do to fight homophobia and
• #reat e%eryone — regardless of sexual orientation — with respect and dignity.
• @on6t assume e%eryone you meet is straight. 7or example, if you meet a man who wears a
wedding ring, don6t automatically refer to his partner as his wife.
• @on.t claim that bisexuality doesn.t exist, is Ba phase,B or that bisexuals are really
homosexuals who are afraid to come out. @on.t label bisexual people as confused,
indiscriminate, promiscuous, or selfish.
• #hin& about the words you use that could be considered hurtful. E%en if you don6t mean
for it to be hurtful or you Bwouldn6t say it to someone you &now is gay,B words li&e BfagB
or Bdy&eB are offensi%e. E%en if you thin& there are no +,$ people around, you can6t
assume you &now e%eryone6s sexual orientation, and homophobic slurs offend many
straight people also. And putting someone down by using a word li&e BfagB implies that
+,$ people ha%e less %alue or aren6t as important as straight people.
8 | P a g e
• >all people out who are ma&ing assumptions based on stereotypes, or saying or doing
homophobic things, as long as you feel safe doing so.
-nderstanding our sexualit' can help us en5o' our li6es
You6re tal&ing about it, reading about it, and watching it where%er you go. $ut a lot of what you
read, see, and hear about sex and sexuality is inaccurate, confusing, or e%en harmful. A basic
understanding of sex and sexuality can help you sort out myth from fact and help you ma&e good
decisions about your sexual health.
Our sexuality affects who we are and how we express oursel%es. #here6s a wide range of how
people experience their sexuality. Some people are %ery sexual, while others experience no
feelings of sexual attraction at all. Your sexuality may be influenced by your family, culture,
religion, media, friends, and experiences. Go matter how important sexuality is to you, we all
ha%e thoughts, desires, attractions, and %alues that are uni!ue.
Sexuality is about much more than 2ust sex. 't includes
• your body, including your sexual and reproducti%e anatomy and body image — how you
feel about your body
• your biological sex — male, female, or intersex
• your gender — being a girl, boy, woman, man, or transgender, or gender!ueer
• your gender identity — feelings about and how you express your gender
• your sexual orientation — who you6re sexually and5or romantically attracted to
• your desires, thoughts, fantasies, and sexual preferences
• your %alues, attitudes, and ideals about life, lo%e, and sexual relationships
• your sexual beha%iors — including masturbation
't6s normal to ha%e !uestions about sex and sexuality. And the good news is the more you &now
about it, the better you6ll be able to ta&e charge of your sexual health.
We hope these pages gi%e you the information you need to better understand your own sexuality.
'f you ha%e more !uestions or concerns about your sexual health, we can help. Staff at your local
(lanned (arenthood health center can tal& with you and help you find the information and
resources that you need.
-nderstanding Sexual 0leasure 7 at a Glance
• Sexual pleasure is the feeling we get when we are sexually aroused.
• #he sexual response cycle is the pattern of changes in our bodies and in what we feel
when ha%ing sexual pleasure.
• Sexual pleasure enhances health and well)being.
1any of us find that sexual pleasure is one of life.s most rewarding experiences. $ut there are a
lot of mixed messages about sexual pleasure in our culture. So we may not ha%e a clear
understanding of how it wor&s for us or for our partners. We may ha%e many !uestions; What is
happening to my body when '.m feeling sexual? @o all people experience sexual pleasure in the
same ways? /ow is a woman.s experience of sexual pleasure different from a man.s? And 2ust
what is sexual pleas
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What Is Sexual 0leasure?
Sexual pleasure is the feeling we ha%e when we are sexually aroused. Sexual arousal is our
body.s response to sexual stimulation. We may become aroused by things we hear, see, smell,
taste, or touch. #hey may happen in the real world, in our imaginations, or in our dreams. We
may become %ery aroused when we touch our erogenous 0ones, when a partner touches them, or
when we touch a partner.s.
Is Sexual 0leasure Good for -s?
Yes. Sexual pleasure can be important to our emotional and physical health and well)being.
Mastur&ation at a Glance
• 1asturbation is commonly defined as touching one.s own body, including sex organs, for
• 1asturbation is a common and safe &ind of sex play.
• 1asturbation has many health benefits.
7or many of us, masturbation is a taboo topic. #here are many harmful myths about masturbation
that may cause us to feel uncomfortable about it. #hese myths can cause guilt, shame, and fear.
+et.s get the facts straight. 1asturbation is a natural and common acti%ity for both women and
men. /ere are some common !uestions people as& about masturbation. We hope you find the
What Is Mastur&ation?
1asturbation is commonly defined as touching one.s own body, including sex organs, for sexual
#here are many slang terms for masturbation, including
• 2ac&ing off
• 2illing off
• 2er&ing off
• span&ing the mon&ey
• double clic&ing the mouse
1asturbation often ends in orgasm, but not always.
"ow #ommon Is Mastur&ation?
1asturbation is %ery common. Studies show that about H out of 8: adult men and more than E
out of 8: adult women masturbate. 't.s also common for children and teens to masturbate.
When !o 0eople -suall' Begin Mastur&ating?
(eople may start masturbating at any time in their li%es. 1any children begin masturbating as
they grow and explore their changing bodies. #hey often disco%er early that it feels good to
touch their genitals. >hildren usually begin masturbating long before puberty. Young children do
not ha%e sexual fantasies while masturbating, but during adolescence it becomes much more
't.s important for children to learn that masturbating is normal, is not harmful, and will not hurt
their bodies. #hey should also &now to see& pri%acy when masturbating.
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'f you ha%e children, reading about how to tal& with your children about sex may help you ha%e
comfortable con%ersations with them about masturbation.
Wh' !o 0eople Mastur&ate?
#he most common reasons adults gi%e for masturbating are to
• relie%e sexual tension
• achie%e sexual pleasure
• ha%e sex when partners are una%ailable
1any people thin& that others masturbate only when they do not ha%e a sex partner. $ut that is
not true. 'n fact, people who ha%e regular sex partners are more li&ely to masturbate than people
without sex partners.
What $re the Benefits of Mastur&ation?
1asturbation can be good for mental and physical health. (eople who feel good about their
bodies, sex, and masturbation are more li&ely to protect themsel%es from sexually transmitted
diseases and unintended pregnancy.
1asturbation is also one of the best ways we can learn about our sexuality. 't can help us explore
the types of touch we li&e the most and help us learn how to get excited and how to reach
+earning about what feels good to you can increase your chance of feeling sexual pleasure with
sex partners. When you &now what you li&e when it comes to sex, your comfort with sex
increases. And when your confidence and comfort le%el are high, it is easier to let your partner
&now what you li&e.
1asturbation can enhance our physical, mental, and sexual health and the health of our
sexual relationships. 1asturbation may
• create a sense of well)being
• enhance sex with partners, physically and emotionally
• help people learn how they li&e to be touched and stimulated sexually
• increase the ability to ha%e orgasms
• impro%e relationship and sexual satisfaction
• impro%e sleep
• increase self)esteem and impro%e body image
• pro%ide sexual pleasure for people without partners, including the elderly
• pro%ide sexual pleasure for people who choose to abstain from sex play with another person
• pro%ide treatment for sexual dysfunction
• reduce stress
• release sexual tension
• relie%e menstrual cramps and muscle tension
• strengthen muscle tone in the pel%ic and anal areas, reducing women.s chances of in%oluntary
urine lea&age and uterine prolapse
1asturbation is often thought of as a solo act. /owe%er, many people also en2oy mutual
masturbation. 1utual masturbation is two or more people masturbating in one another.s
presence. 'n addition to the potential benefits of masturbation listed abo%e, mutual masturbation
11 | P a g e
• be a safe way to explore sexual acti%ity with another person with no ris& for pregnancy or
S#@s *$ecause partners are not touching each other, there is no ris& of infection — and
no ris& of pregnancy unless semen gets on the %ul%a.-
• pro%ide sexual pleasure and intimacy before partners are ready for sex
• teach people what &ind of touch their sex partners li&e
$re %here $n' )is8s with Mastur&ation?
#here are no health ris&s with masturbation. S&in irritation is possible, but using plenty of
lubrication will &eep that from happening.
'f you worry that you masturbate too much, as& yourself this !uestion; @oes masturbation
interfere with my daily functioning? 'f it interrupts or gets in the way of your 2ob, your
responsibilities, or your social life, you may want to tal& with a therapist.
Mastur&ation and Shame
1any people feel shame or guilt about masturbating. (eople who recei%e negati%e messages
about masturbation when they are young often carry feelings of shame into adulthood.
Approximately E: percent of women and E: percent of men who masturbate feel guilty about it.
Gegati%e feelings about masturbation can threaten our health and well)being. Only you can
decide what is healthy and right for you. $ut if you feel ashamed or guilty about masturbating,
tal&ing with a trusted friend, sexuality educator, counselor, and5or clergy member may help.
"ow !o 0eople Mastur&ate?
@ifferent people en2oy different things when they masturbate.
• Women may stimulate all parts of their %ul%a, or parts of it, including the clitoris, inner or outer
labia, the %aginal opening or canal, and5or the perineum or anus. 1any women prefer rubbing
near — but not on — the clitoris because direct stimulation can be %ery intense.
• 1en may stimulate the penis, scrotum, perineum, and5or anus.
• Women and men may also touch other sensiti%e areas of their bodies. #here are ner%e endings
that can create erogenous 0ones all o%er the body and people may experience pleasure by
touching places li&e the breasts, nipples, or thighs.
• Women and men may also use sex toys li&e %ibrators and dildos during masturbation. Aead the
directions on your sex toys to learn how to &eep them clean and safe.
• Women and men may use lubricant or lotions to increase pleasure and protect against irritation.
• Sex fantasies are normal and healthy. 7antasies may add to sexual excitement, either alone or
during mutual masturbation. Women and men may fantasi0e with their own thoughts or with
erotic images or language — in print, on %ideo, or online.
,etting to &now more about sexual anatomy may help in understanding masturbation.
What $re Some #ommon M'ths $&out Mastur&ation?
#here are many myths about masturbation. You might ha%e heard it is harmful or leads to
strange beha%ior. #he myths are 2ust not true. /ere are the facts;
• does GO# cause hair to grow on the palms of hands or other strange places
• does GO# lead to blindness
• does GO# ma&e sex organs shrin& or grow or change color, texture, or appearance
• does GO# stunt growth
• does GO# cause infertility — men and boys will not run out of sperm
• is GO# addicti%e
• does GO# cause in2ury or harm
12 | P a g e
• does GO# lead to mental illness or instability
• does GO# ma&e you gay
-nderstanding Sexual $cti6it' 7 at a Glance
• Sexual acti%ity includes a wide range of beha%iors.
• Some sexual acti%ities are more common than others.
• #al&ing with a partner about sexual beha%iors may seem difficult, but it can help increase
closeness, trust, and pleasure.
1any of us find that sexual acti%ity is an important way to connect with oursel%es and other
people. $ut e%en though sexual acti%ity is %ery common and images of sex are all around us,
people often ha%e many !uestions about it. 't is normal and common to ha%e !uestions about
/ere are the answers to some of the most common !uestions we hear about it. We hope they
What Is Sexual $cti6it'?
Sexual acti%ity is any %oluntary sexual beha%ior we do. Some we do by oursel%es, li&e
masturbation. Other sexual acti%ities we do with other people. Sexual acti%ity is also called sex
#his page focuses on the &inds of sexual acti%ity we do with other people.
What $re Some #ommon Sexual $cti6ities?
#here are many common ways that people ha%e sex. /ere are 2ust a few examples;
• masturbation or mutual masturbation — people masturbating together
• &issing — on the mouth, with the tongue, on body parts
• massages —touching someone.s body in an erotic way
• touching a partner.s nipples, breasts, or sex organs
• sex tal& — phone sex, cybersex, tal&ing dirty" during sex
• rubbing bodies together — with or without clothing
• watching or reading erotica
• anal and %aginal intercourse
• oral sex — stimulating a partner.s sex organs with the mouth
• using sex toys, alone or with a partner
What $re Some +ess #ommon Sexual $cti6ities?
Some sexual beha%iors are less common. /ere are some examples of less common sexual
• S1 *sadomasochism- — the use of domination and5or pain for sexual arousal.
• $@ *bondage and discipline- — sexual role play that includes elements of S1.
• paraphilia — one of a wide %ariety of uncommon sex practices that a person may find necessary
for sexual arousal and orgasm.
• watersports — using urine or urination as a part of sex play
Wh' !o 0eople "a6e Sex?
One reason people ha%e sex is to try to ha%e children. $ut that is one of the least common
reasons people say they.re sexually acti%e. #here are many other reasons. Got all of them are
good reasons. (eople choose to be sexually acti%e to
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• express lo%e, commitment, and caring
• feel lo%ed or cared for
• experience physical pleasure
• gi%e someone else physical pleasure
• fulfill curiosity
• ha%e fun
• ma&e up with their partners after a fight
• pro%e their masculinity or femininity
• demonstrate power o%er a partner or allow a partner to demonstrate power
• pro%e maturity
• get e%en with another person
Whate%er the reason, ha%ing sex is sometimes a healthy choice, and sometimes it is not. (eople
decide to ha%e sex for different reasons. And we may ha%e different reasons from day to day or
at different times of our li%es.
Our families and cultures shape our ideas of what is sexually acceptable. Gegati%e messages we
recei%e about certain reasons for ha%ing sex or for certain sexual acti%ities can be %ery powerful.
We may feel guilty or uncomfortable about the reasons we ha%e sex. We may also feel that way
about sex play that we en2oy or thin& we may en2oy. We may e%en fear discussing, learning
about, or doing it.
Iust because a sexual beha%ior isn.t common or some people disappro%e of it or the reasons
people en2oy it, doesn.t mean there is anything wrong with it. 1any people en2oy less common
&inds of sex play, but they are often less li&ely to discuss it with others. One way to thin& about
uncommon sex play is this; if no one is hurt by the &ind of sex someone might en2oy, than it is
$m I )ead' for Sex?
We all ha%e sexual feelings. $ut we don6t always engage in sexual acti%ity when we ha%e those
feelings. When to ha%e sex is a personal choice. 7iguring out when you6re ready for sex
continues through life. (eople need to ma&e decisions about sex in their teens, 9:s, D:s, J:s, E:s,
and beyond — e%ery time a sexual situation de%elops.
A good sex life is one that &eeps in balance with e%erything you6re about — your health,
education and career goals, relationships with other people, and your feelings about yourself.
'f you.re considering ha%ing sex, as& yourself these !uestions;
• /ow clear can you be with your partner about what you do and don.t want to happen?
• /ow will ha%ing sex will ma&e you feel about yourself?
• /ow will sex affect you physically and emotionally?
• Are you considering ha%ing sex because you want to or because someone is pressuring you?
• Will sex change your relationship with your partner?
Sometimes it6s helpful to tal& these &inds of decisions through with someone you trust — a
parent, a friend, a professional counselor, or someone else who cares about you and what will be
good for you.
"ow !o I %al8 with M' 0artner $&out Sex?
#al&ing about or showing our partners what feels good and what excites us can be an important
part of a healthy and fulfilling sex life. Some people are able to share sexual desires and fantasies
with a partner without embarrassment. 7or others, it is a bit more challenging.
14 | P a g e
$ut what turns you on might be %ery different from what turns on someone else. @isco%ering
what feels good is part of what ma&es sex play fun and en2oyable. And our partners can only
&now what we li&e if we tell them or show them with our body language.
#a&ing a ris& to suggest a new or different sexual acti%ity may ma&e us feel embarrassed,
%ulnerable, or silly. Whate%er your feelings are, there are things you can do to help the
con%ersation go more smoothly.
/ere are some tips;
• @on.t belie%e that your partner will thin& you are weird for suggesting a new sexual beha%ior.
Often, these fears are worse than reality. You.ll ne%er &now until you as&.
• (ractice the con%ersation ahead of time. (redicting your partner.s !uestions or concerns will help
you feel more confident as&ing for what you want.
• Ge%er pressure your partner into trying a sexual beha%ior that she or he is not comfortable with. 't
may ta&e time to warm up to your ideas. $e patientK
• Always respect your partner.s limits about what he or she wants to do and does not want to do.
• As& your partner to share her or his desires. 1aybe there is something your partner always
wanted to try but hasn.t had the courage to bring up.
• @on.t thin& your partner is not attracted to you 2ust because he or she says no" to a beha%ior that
you suggest. Aemember, your partner is re2ecting the beha%ior, not you.
't is common to be concerned about a partner.s reaction when suggesting something new. $ut
tal&ing about what feels good and what is arousing can help sex partners ha%e richer and more
pleasurable sex li%es. 't also helps de%elop communication, trust, and openness in a relationship.
Sex and #onsent
't is important that partners are in agreement about shared sex play. Words, gestures, and actions
are all ways people consent to sex. $ut it is important not to misunderstand your partner.s
intentions. 'f there is doubt or confusion about what you or your partner wants, stop and as& for
't is 2ust as important for us to be able to stop sex play because we feel uncomfortable as it is for
us to share our sexual desires by as&ing for what we want. $eing able to tal& about what you
want is an important part of any healthy relationship.
Sex can also ha%e legal conse!uences. @rugs or alcohol may impair a person.s ability to agree to
sex play. @o not ha%e sex with someone who is too drun& or high to gi%e consent. 't is also
illegal for adults to engage in sexual beha%iors or sexually explicit discussions with minors. #he
age of consent %aries from state to state. 1a&ing sure that someone is old enough and sober
enough to agree to sex should be the first step before engaging in any sex play with another
"ow #an I 0rotect M'self !uring Sexual $cti6it'?
'nfections can be passed during sex play from s&in)to)s&in contact or through the sharing of body
15 | P a g e
• %aginal fluids
Sexually acti%e people can reduce their ris& of infection during sex play by practicing safer sex.
Any sex play that allows semen to enter the %agina could lead to pregnancy. 'f you do not want
to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy, be sure to use birth control.
1a&e sure to discuss safer sex with your partner before sex play starts. Also tal& about birth
control if pregnancy is possible. (eople are much more li&ely to ta&e ris&s if they don.t plan
)eproducti6e & Sexual $natom' at a Glance
• Aeproducti%e and sexual anatomy includes the external and internal sex organs and the
internal reproducti%e organs.
• Women and men ha%e different sexual anatomies.
• 't.s normal" to be different — one woman.s sexual anatomy will loo& different from
another woman.s, and one man.s sexual anatomy will loo& different from another man.s.
Aeproducti%e and sexual anatomy *also &nown as sex anatomy- includes both the genitals that
are %isible outside the body as well as the internal sex and reproducti%e organs.
1any people ha%e !uestions about sexual anatomy. 'n fact, the most common !uestions sex
educators answer are about sex anatomy. (eople — especially young people — are often curious
where certain body parts are, how those body parts wor&, and if their body parts are normal.
/ere are some of the most common !uestions we hear about sexual anatomy. We hope you find
What Are the Parts of a Woman’s External Sex Anatomy?
#he %ul%a includes all of a woman.s external sex organs;
• Outer Lips
The outer lips are also called the labia majora, or outer labia The outer lips are !lesh",
co#ered b" pubic hair, a$d co$$ect to the thighs %ost &ome$ ha#e larger outer lips
tha$ i$$er lips, but ma$" &ome$ ha#e larger i$$er lips tha$ outer lips
• Inner Lips
The i$$er lips are also called the labia mi$ora, or i$$er labia The" co#er the #agi$al
ope$i$g a$d the urethra
'nner lips are %isible when the outer labia are pulled apart. And in many women, the inner
lips stic& out of the outer lips. 'nner lips can be short or long, wrin&led or smooth. #he
inner lips are also sensiti%e and can swell when a woman is aroused.
#he inner lips can %ary in color from pin& to brownish blac& depending on the color of a
woman6s s&in. #he inner labia also can change color as women mature.
The clitoris is the spo$g" tissue that !ills &ith blood duri$g se'ual e'citeme$t a$d
becomes erect (t is #er" se$siti#e to the touch The e'ter$al tip o! the clitoris is located
at the top o! the #ul#a, &here the i$$er lips meet The i$$er structure o! the clitoris
i$cludes a sha!t a$d t&o crura ) roots or legs ) o! erectile tissue that e'te$d up to !i#e
i$ches i$to a &oma$*s bod" o$ both sides o! her #agi$a +et&or,s o! highl" se$siti#e
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$er#es e'te$d !rom the crura i$ the pel#ic area The clitoris is the o$l" orga$ i$ the
huma$ bod" &hose o$l" purpose is se'ual pleasure
• Clitoral Hood
The clitoral hood is the s,i$ that co#ers a$d protects the e'ter$al tip o! the clitoris
• Opening of the Urethra
The urethra is the tube that empties the bladder a$d carries uri$e out o! the bod" The
ope$i$g o! the urethra is located belo& the clitoris (t is -uite small a$d ma" be di!!icult to
see or !eel
• Opening of the Vagina
The #agi$al ope$i$g is located belo& the urethral ope$i$g The #agi$al ope$i$g is &here
!i$gers, a pe$is, or tampo$s ca$ e$ter the #agi$a a$d is also &here me$strual blood a$d
a !etus come out o! the bod"
#he mons %eneris is the fleshy, triangular mound abo%e the %ul%a that is co%ered with pubic hair
in adolescent and adult women. 't cushions the pubic bone.
What Are the Parts of a Woman’s Internal Sex Anatomy?
#he %agina is the stretchable passage that connects a woman.s external sex organs with her
cer%ix and uterus. #he %agina is a tube with walls of wrin&led tissue that lay against one another.
#he walls open 2ust enough to allow something to go in the %agina — li&e a tampon, finger, or
#he %agina is 9NJ inches long when a woman is not aroused and JNF inches long when she is
#he %agina has three functions;
• to allo& me$strual !lo& to lea#e the bod"
• to allo& se'ual pe$etratio$ to occur .either b" ha$d, se' to", or pe$is/
• to allo& a !etus to pass through duri$g #agi$al deli#er"
#he cer%ix is the narrow, lower part of the uterus. 't has an opening that connects the uterus to
the %agina. #his opening allows menstrual blood to lea%e the uterus and sperm to enter into the
uterus, and is what dilates — stretches open — during labor.
#he uterus is a pear)shaped, muscular reproducti%e organ from which women menstruate and
where a normal pregnancy de%elops. #he uterus is normally about the si0e of a woman.s fist. 't
stretches many times that si0e during pregnancy. 't is sometimes referred to as the womb.
@uring sexual arousal, the lower end of the uterus lifts toward the abdomen, which creates more
space at the end of the %agina. #his is called tenting."
#he fallopian tubes are two narrow tubes that carry eggs from the o%aries to the uterus. Sperm
tra%els into the fallopian tubes to fertili0e the egg.
#he fimbriae are li&e do0ens of tiny fingers at the end of each fallopian tube that sweep the egg
from the o%ary into the tube.
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#he o%aries are two organs that store eggs in a woman.s body. O%aries also produce hormones,
including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. @uring puberty, the o%aries start to release
eggs each month and do so until menopause. 4sually, one o%ary releases an egg each month.
#he $artholin.s glands are two glands that release fluid to lubricate the %agina during sexual
arousal. #hey are located on either side of the %aginal opening.
#he hymen is the thin fleshy tissue that stretches across part of the opening to the %agina.
#he , spot, or ,rOfenberg spot, is located on the front wall of the %agina — the wall that is
closest to the abdomen. 't is about 8N9 inches inside the %agina. #he , spot is %ery sensiti%e and
swells during sexual excitement.
#he S&ene.s glands are located in the %ul%a on opposite sides of the opening to the urethra. #hey
release the fluid that is e2aculated during female e2aculation. #hey are also called paraurethral
glands or female prostate glands.
#he urethra is the tube that empties the bladder and carries urine out of the body.
What Are the Parts of a Man’s External Sex Anatomy?
#he penis is a man.s reproducti%e and sex organ. 't is formed of three columns of spongy tissue
— the corpus spongiosum and two corpora ca%ernosa — that fill with blood during sexual
excitement, causing an erection *hard on"-. #he penis extends from the lower portion of the
belly. 't is made up of a shaft and a glans *also &nown as the head- and is %ery sensiti%e to the
touch. A man.s urethra is enclosed in his penis. 't carries urine, pre)e2aculate, and semen out of
#he shaft loo&s li&e a tube. #he shaft of the penis is about 8ND inches long when soft.
@uring an erection, the shaft expands to generally reach JNP inches.
The gla$s is the so!t a$d highl" se$siti#e part o! the pe$is, located at its tip
(pening of the -rethra
#he opening of the urethra is located at the tip of the penis. #his is where pre)e2aculate, semen,
and urine lea%e the body.
#he fores&in is a retractable tube of s&in that co%ers and protects the head *glans-. Some men
ha%e had their fores&in remo%ed by circumcision during infancy. Some choose to be circumcised
later in life.
#he frenulum is where the fores&in attaches to the underside of the penis 2ust below the glans.
4sually, a portion of it remains after circumcision.
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#he scrotum is a sac of s&in di%ided into two parts, enclosing the internal reproducti%e organs —
What Are the Parts of a Man’s Internal Sex Anatomy?
#he testicles are two ball)li&e glands inside the scrotum that produce sperm and hormones,
including testosterone. Also called testes, the testicles are sensiti%e to the touch.
#he epididymis is the tube in which sperm mature. An epididymis leads from each testicle to
each %as deferens. 't stores sperm before e2aculation. 't is tightly coiled on top of and behind
#he muscle that automatically brings the testicles closer to the body as temperatures get colder or
when the front or inner surface of the thigh is stimulated. #he automatic response of the
cremaster muscle is called the cremaster reflex. *'f only one thigh is stimulated, only the testicle
closest to the stimulated thigh is ele%ated.-
A %as deferens is a long, narrow tube that carries sperm from the epididymis to the seminal
%esicles during e2aculation. #here are two of them — one connected to each epididymis.
#he prostate gland produces a fluid that helps sperm mo%e through a man.s reproducti%e tract.
#he prostate gland is about the si0e of a walnut or golf ball. #he prostate is sensiti%e to pressure
and to the touch — the male ,)spot."
#he >owper.s glands are beneath the prostate and attach to the urethra. #hey produce a fluid —
pre)e2aculate or pre)cum — that prepares the urethra for e2aculation. (re)e2aculate reduces
friction in the urethra, ma&ing it easier for semen to pass through. >owper.s glands are also
called bulbourethral glands.
Seminal %esicles are two small organs that produce seminal fluid. #he seminal %esicles are
located below the bladder.
#he urethra is a tube that empties the bladder and carries urine, pre)e2aculate, and semen to the
Some people are born with external sex organs that are not easily distinguishable as female or
male. #his is called intersex. About one out of 9,::: people born in the 4.S. is intersex.
What Other Parts of Our Anatomies Are Sexual?
When it comes to sex, women and men are more ali&e than they are different. 'n many ways, for
example, the brain can be said to be our most important sex organ. #he brain controls our sexual
responses, releases sex hormones, and it is where all our sex fantasies, and sexual identities li%e.
#his is 2ust as true for women as it is for men.
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S&in is the largest organ of the body. 't carries a networ& of highly sensiti%e ner%es all o%er our
bodies, so that any body part may be stimulated for sexual arousal. 'n this way, too, our s&in is
our biggest sex organ. #his also is 2ust as true for men as it is for women.
Any part of the body that is sensiti%e to sensual touch — whether or not it is part of our sex
anatomy — is called an erogenous 0one." 7or both women and men, this may include our
breasts and nipples, our anuses, the bac&s of our nec&s, our lips, our mouths and tongues, the
smalls of our bac&s, our fingers and toes, the palms of our hands, the soles of the feet, the lobes
of our ears, our inner thighs, etc. Some of these may be erogenous 0ones for many of us.
%rans Identities at a Glance
• 1any people.s gender identities differ from the sex assigned to them at birth.
• #rans is an umbrella term that includes many ways people.s gender identities may differ
from their sex.
• #rans people can ha%e fulfilling li%es and relationships.
What if you ha%e a guy.s body but you feel li&e a girl? What if you li&e your girl.s body but
want people to treat you li&e a guy? What if you can.t stand your woman.s body because it &eeps
you from being the man you &now you are? What if wearing opposite)sex clothing 2ust feels
right? What if you don.t feel li&e either man" or woman" accurately describes you?
1illions of people ha%e as&ed themsel%es these and other !uestions about their gender identities.
/ere are some of the most common !uestions we hear about trans identities.
What !oes %rans Mean?
#rans *sometimes written as transQ- is a big umbrella term that describes people whose gender
identities aren.t in sync with the sex they were assigned at birth and5or most people.s notions of
what it means to be a man or a woman. #rans people express their gender identity in lots of
different ways. Some trans people use their dress, beha%ior, and mannerisms in order to be
percei%ed as the gender that feels right for them. Some get surgery and5or ta&e hormones to
change their body to match their gender identity. Some trans people re2ect the traditional
understanding of gender as di%ided between 2ust male" and female."
#ransgender people are di%erse in their gender identities *the way you feel on the inside-, gender
expressions *the way you dress and act, that others can see-, and sexual orientations *the people
you.re attracted to-.
(eople whose gender identities are in sync with the sex they were assigned at birth are called
What !oes :%ransitioning: Mean?
#ransitioning is the process of changing the way you loo& on the outside so that it reflects the
gender you feel on the inside. #ransitioning can mean lots of different things. 7or many trans
people, transitioning socially includes coming out to friends and family as transgender, as&ing
people to use or responding to different personal pronouns *she" %ersus he"-, going by a
different name, and wearing different clothes. Some trans people also ta&e hormones and5or get
surgery as a part of a medical transition process.
What !o ,ou #all 0eople Who "a6e %ransitioned From %he Sex %he' Were
$ssigned at Birth?
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A person who transitions from male to female — 1 to 7, 197, or 1#7 — is a woman, and may
choose to refer to herself that way. She might also choose to refer to herself as a transwoman. A
person who transitions from female to male — 7 to 1, 791,or 7#1 — is a man, and may
choose to refer to himself that way. Or he might refer to himself as a transman. Some trans
people re2ect the traditional understanding of gender as di%ided between 2ust male" and
female," and might refer to themsel%es by other words and pronouns.
What /inds (f Surger' Might Be In6ol6ed In %ransitioning?
#here are a number of different surgical procedures that trans people may get as part of their
transition. #hese procedures are sometimes referred to as gender confirmation surgeries. #op"
surgery refers to procedures to remo%e and reconstruct breast tissue *for transmen-, or to create
breasts *for transwomen-. $ottom" or lower" surgery refers to procedures that augment alter
the genitals. Some trans people also get plastic surgery to ma&e their facial structure loo& more
traditionally feminine or masculine, and some transwomen undergo laser hair remo%al to remo%e
#here are two different bottom surgeries that a transwoman may ha%e. 7irst, the testes are
remo%ed. #his is called orchiectomy. #hen a %agina and clitoris are created from the tissue that
ma&es up the penis. #his is called %aginoplasty. 7or a transman, there are two bottom surgery
options. A penis can be constructed by using s&in from other parts of the body. #his is called
phalloplasty. Or the clitoris can be freed from connecti%e tissue to become a penis. #he clitoral
tissue can be further enlarged with testosterone treatments. #his is called metoidioplasty.
Some trans people get surgery and some don.t. A transman who has the %ul%a and breast tissue
he was born with is still a man, and a trans woman who has the penis and chest she was born
with is still a woman.
What /inds (f "ealth #are $nd Ser6ices !o %rans 0eople *eed?
Accessing health care can be challenging for trans people. Aegardless of whether they.re using
hormones or ha%e had surgery, they may worry about re%ealing their gender identity. #hey may
feel uncomfortable with their genitals and bodies in general. #hey may feel that a routine
chec&up is in%asi%e. Got all health care pro%iders are sensiti%e to trans issues.
#rans people may also ha%e special health care concerns and needs. #hey may, for example, see&
surgeries or hormone treatments to change their bodies, so expert care is needed to a%oid serious
health and cosmetic complications.
#rans women and men who want to modify their bodies should see& out !ualified medical
professionals who can pro%ide all the information needed to decide what treatments are best for
an indi%idual. #hey can also pro%ide the ongoing care that is needed after treatment begins.
4nfortunately, these procedures are inaccessible for many trans people who want them — they
can be expensi%e, and finding a pro%ider who offers them can be difficult.
#rans people should not use street" silicone or hormones. Street silicone can ma&e breasts
bigger, but it can also lead to infection. 4sing hormones without medical guidance is also
dangerous. 't can increase the ris& for blood clots, high blood pressure, li%er disease, and other
serious health ris&s. And using syringes and needles from the street can expose people to /'R
$re %ranspeople Ga'?
,ay refers to a sexual orientation. #ransgender is a gender identity, not a sexual orientation. $ut
that doesn.t mean some trans people can.t or don.t identify as gay *or lesbian, or bisexual, or
!ueer-. #rans people ha%e a %ariety of sexual orientations. Some transwomen are attracted to
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men, some are attracted to women, and some are attracted to both. And some trans people find
that after they transition, they aren.t attracted to the gender they thought they would be.
What Is :0assing:?
7or a trans person, passing" means ha%ing other people percei%e you as the gender you present.
#he way other people percei%e your gender is often called being read" — as in, being read as a
woman5man. (assing is extremely important for many trans people. Got only is it emotionally
important, but for many trans people passing effecti%ely can pro%ide safety from harassment and
#he word passing," howe%er, may ha%e negati%e connotations for some trans people who feel it
suggests that their gender presentation is not authentic.
What Is %ranspho&ia?
#ransphobia is the fear and hatred of people who are transgender, gender!ueer, or who cross)
Some people are transphobic because they ha%e the wrong information — family, friends, and
religious authorities often encourage negati%e ideas about trans people and trans identities. And
some people are transphobic because they don.t ha%e any information about trans identities —
they are not aware of trans people or trans issues.
#ransphobia can pre%ent trans people from being or feeling safe and from li%ing full li%es. 't
leads to discrimination and %iolence. #rans people may face %erbal abuse or physical %iolence
because of their gender identities.
#ransphobia can also create subtle forms of discrimination. 7or example, people who are *or who
are percei%ed to be- trans may not be hired for certain 2obs, may not be allowed to rent certain
apartments, and may be treated poorly by health care pro%iders.
#he stress of being targeted by transphobia can be %ery harmful. 't can cause
What #an I !o %o Fight %ranspho&ia?
#here are se%eral simple things you can do to fight against transphobia;
• >hallenge stereotypes that you see and hear about trans people.
• 4se inclusi%e language — language that ac&nowledges that not e%eryone.s gender
identity and biological sex are in sync with one another.
• #reat e%eryone — regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation — with respect and
dignity. 4se an indi%idual.s preferred pronouns and name. Ge%er out" a trans personyou
&now to other people.
Whether you.re trans yourself or are a trans ally, here are some tips that might help you
challenge transphobia in your e%eryday life;
• 7irst, ma&e sure you.re safe. @on.t challenge someone if you fear for your safety.
• (ic& a good time. Some transphobic situations happen publicly with strangers, while
others happen 2ust between friends. Sometimes you might decide to spea& up right away.
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Other times you might want to say something later on. And sometimes you might choose
to 2ust wal& away.
• As& !uestions and stay calm. Often, people don.t &now what language is insensiti%e. #ry
to remain calm and tell them why you find their words offensi%e.
• 7riends are important. #hey can help you practice different ways to approach situations,
and can pro%ide a support system when you.re frustrated.
• Where #an I Find Support If I:m %rans?
• 't can be helpful to find and connect with trans)friendly resources in your community.
You can 2oin your local +,$# community center, if there is one. 't can pro%ide you with
information about gender identity and trans issues. Some offer support groups so you can
tal& confidentially with other trans fol&s. You can also %isit the ,+AA@ website for
more transgender resources.
• Should I #ome (ut $s %rans?
• B>oming outB as trans is a %ery personal decision. Some choose to come out before they
medically or socially transition, and some choose to come out after.
• 'f you choose to come out as trans, ma&e sure it6s to people you trust. And ma&e sure you
ha%e a trusted support system in place. #his can include friends, family, or a support
group. #he reality is that not e%eryone will be accepting, supporti%e, or e%en tolerant. 't6s
important to feel as confident as possible that coming out will not 2eopardi0e your safety
• #he process of coming out is different for e%eryone. Someone may be out to their friends
but not their family, for example, and that.s o&ay. E%ery situation is different and
• 't.s important to recogni0e that there are differences in what it means to be out for +,$
people and transgender or transsexual people. 4nfortunately, for trans people, coming out
*or being outed- as trans can mean that their identities are misunderstood, negated, or
disbelie%ed. And coming out and being out can mean different things to different trans
people, depending on where they are in their 2ourney.
"ow #an I Support $ Friend Who:s %rans?
#he best way you can support trans partners, relati%es, friends, cowor&ers, or people in general is
to accept them as they want to be accepted. Aefer to them in the ways they want to be referred to
— li&e their preferred name and pronouns. $e %ery careful not to out trans fol&s that you &now
to other people. You can also be an ally to the trans community by being supporti%e of trans
rights on an indi%idual, social, and political le%el. #he Gational >enter for #ransgender E!uality
is a great resource for more information on trans rights. (7+A, is another great resource.
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