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In which Hank takes on a topic he's been afraid to cover for a while now. How should we talk about sexuality, what is the difference between sex and gender...and between sexual orientation and sexual behavior.

It's very interesting...and I think understanding it is a key to decreasing the amount of hate and self-hate out there.


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A Bunny
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Good morning John -- today, we plumb the depths of the marvelously complex human. But first, allow me to acknowledge that I am not a sociologist. I am also a straight white man, who doesn't have to worry about a lot of the hate that a lot of other people do have to worry about. But my goal with this video is, I want people to understand, because I think understanding will lead to less hate, and also less self-hate.

For a lot of people, it's nice to imagine that humans are simple, and that you can know a person's sex, and then you will know all sorts of things about them deeply and clearly. And if you don't fit into this nice little box people who do can get really confused and sometimes even angry -- and if you yourself don't fit into one of these nice little boxes and you think that people should, then you end up hating yourself. And that's probably even worse.

I think the best and maybe only way to solve this problem is for people to understand that there are no nice shiny boxes. Or, if there are shiny boxes, there are an infinite number of them, enough to put all of the people who currently exist, have ever existed, and will ever exist. So, together, let's understand.

We're gonna start simple, what's goin' on down here, in between the legs -- that is your sex. Your biological sex -- and it tends to be binary though there are all sorts of conditions that result in intersex individuals. And as interesting and complicated as this is, the rest of it is much more complicated, so I'm just gonna move on from here, 'cause we all kind of get what sex is.

Now, we move on up to the top, to the brain, which is the thing that decides what gender you identify with -- whether you feel like a man, or a woman, or neither, or both... because the fascinating thing is, as much as we try to label things, there is no way to label every point on an infinite continuum, and that's what we're dealing with here.

So, to actually visualize how this works, I've created a graph for you. On the x-axis, we have gender -- male to female. And on the y-axis we have the intensity of the identification with that gender. I would be about here, because I identify as a man, though I recognize that there are some woman-y parts of me.

But let's also put a hypothetical biological female on the graph that identifies very strongly as a man. Now that could be really uncomfortable, especially when there's a bunch of people in the world who insist on calling him a woman just because of the body that he happens to be very uncomfortable with. Which is why sex does not determine the pronoun you should use -- gender does.

Now, moving on to your heart, your metaphorical heart of course -- this is who you're attracted to. Men, woman, all genders -- again, it's a spectrum, and that spectrum includes intensity, because there are people who don't feel strong sexual attraction at all; that's why asexual is a sexual orientation.

A newer idea that I was happy to be exposed to yesterday on Tumblr is the idea of romantic orientation. These are the people that you want to have strong, intimate relationships with, but it sort of separates out the idea that sex has to be the goal or endpoint or, like, end-all and be-all of every intimate relationship.

Now that we've dealt with how we feel, let's deal with what happens when other people actually get involved -- that's sexual behavior, which is actually very different from sexual orientation. Now that might seem a little bit strange at first, but it's not -- consider for example a heterosexual priest. That priest's orientation is heterosexual, but because of his religion, his behavior is celibate. Here we're not talking about the preference, we're talking about the behavior.

Now built on top of all of this are gender roles, which are built by societies, not by individuals. The obvious ones are masculine gender roles and feminine gender roles, but as all dichotomies are false dichotomies, this one is a spectrum too.

Now that we've sort of gone over all this, it's important to note that every single one of these categories is independent from each other. So a biological female can be a man who only has sex with women, despite the fact that he's attracted to both men and women, and kind of, you know, feels more comfortable in feminine gender roles. That may not be the most common combination of these factors, but it's certainly not weird.

And another important point -- many people move across these spectrums, sometimes from year to year, sometimes hour to hour.

But what's really important is that we trust ourselves, and we understand ourselves, and we love and respect ourselves -- and we grant that same understanding and respect to the people around us. Because when the world becomes one of infinite continuums and those false dichotomies break down and those two shiny boxes break apart into seven billion shiny boxes, it's actually pretty beautiful.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.