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We are a welcoming faith. Unitarian Universalism doesn’t just open its doors to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities—we value diversity of sexuality and gender and see this diversity as a profound spiritual gift.
Language about sexual orientation and gender identity shifts and changes: new words are born; other words change meanings. Learning how different people use language to create meaning is important, as is using inclusive language ourselves. In conversation with many people and communities, we’ve developed some working definitions:
Definitions like the ones below can be helpful on that path, but don’t stop there. Here are three steps for truly deepening your understanding.
We affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Sexual orientation is a central part of who we are—being true to ourselves and honoring each other’s truth is a spiritual imperative.
Sexual orientation describes the pattern of a person’s sexual attractions based on gender. Sexual attraction and romantic attraction are often lumped together as if they are the same. That is not always the case. Affectional orientation describes the pattern of a person’s romantic attraction, or the gender of the people a person falls in love with or desires to partner with.
There are three basic types of sexual orientations: Monosexual, polysexual, and asexual.
Some people are exclusively attracted to members of only one gender. Sexual orientation labels used by monosexual people include:
Some people are attracted to members of multiple genders. Sexual orientation labels used by polysexual people include:
Some people do not experience sexual attraction. Most people this applies to identify as asexual.
In addition to the above, some people don’t like and don’t use labels. Other people identify as Questioning: a term used to describe someone who is unsure of or exploring their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
We affirm each person’s ability to judge for themselves who they are and express themselves in the way that is most authentic to their soul. We honor the diversity of truths that exists within our communities.
Gender is complex and multi-faceted. In North American culture several distinct facets of ourselves get lumped together when we talk about “gender”:
The cultural expectation is that one’s biological sex, gender identity, and gender expression will align in stereotypical ways: that someone who is male will identify as a boy/man and have a masculine gender expression, for example. This expectation does not serve our diverse world and the myriad experiences of self that exist.
For more definitions about gender identity and expression, see Transgender 101. We also have resources for Queer and Trans Youth.
Definitions can never encompass who we are as full human beings. The spiritual invitation is to cross divides of difference and take risks by authentically choosing to get to know one another. Labels can be tools of liberation or oppression—it’s all in how we use them.
For more information contact lgbtq @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Wednesday, October 29, 2014.
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Basic Definitions (PDF)
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Transgender 101 (PDF)
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Asexuality 101 (PDF)
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