What is sexual orientation?

Sexual orientation is defined as a person's romantic, sexual, and/or emotional attraction to other people. Sexual orientation is an inherent, immutable, and enduring identity. As with any other identity vector, there are innumerable ways that a person may choose to identify their sexual orientation, including none at all. Some common sexual orientations and definitions include:

  • Lesbian or Gay | A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.
  • Bisexual or Pansexual | A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity. Attraction is not not necessarily experienced simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.
  • Queer | A fluid or umbrella term often used to express a variety of sexual or romantic identities and orientations outside of heterosexuality.
  • Same-gender loving | A term some prefer to use instead of lesbian, gay or bisexual to express attraction to and love of people of the same gender.
  • Asexual | A person who experiences lessened or no sexual attraction. Asexual people typically have the same emotional needs as all other humans and are just as capable of forming intimate and romantic relationships.
  • Demisexual | A person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form an emotional connection.
  • Heterosexual or Straight | Romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or sexual behavior between persons of different genders.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is an internal experience of how a person perceives their gender and chooses to describe their felt sense of self. Given that gender is an entirely social construct, it varies widely across cultures and eras based on social and cultural differences in much the same way that any other identity, culture, or custom may. For example, though many contemporary Western constructs of gender are traditionally binary (meaning you only have two options), that is not the case in many civilizations across the world, including hijra (South Asia), aravani (Tamil Nadu), and meti (Nepal), as well as mashoga (Kenya and Tanzania), guevedoche (Dominican Republic), fa'afafine (Samoa), nádleehí (Navajo), and mahu (Native Hawaiian), just to name a few.

Gender expression

Gender expression refers to the external appearance of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, accessories, jewelry, and other methods of signifying or performing gender. Gender expression may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being  masculine, feminine, and/or androgynous.

transGender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) People

For many people, one's sex assigned at birth of female, male, or intersex does align with their gender identity (often termed cisgender or cis people). However, for many other people, their internal experience of gender does not align with their sex as prescribed at birth. The term transgender or trans is often used as 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. Given that gender is limitless, there are many and more gender identity labels that people may use. Some common gender identities include:

  • Genderqueer
  • Gender non-conforming
  • Non-binary
  • Genderfluid
  • Agender
  • Two-spirit (Native/First Peoples)
  • Genderless
  • Omnigender

The Gender Unicorn! 


The Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) also created this kickass graphic to help you make visual sense of the overlap and differences between sexual and romantic orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex assigned at birth.


Trikone |


Trikone, a South Asian LGBT org originally based in the Bay Area, started a peer-support hotline for LGBT Desis, their friends, and family. You can write to DeQH anytime or call 908-367-3374.

  • Thursdays, 8-10 PM Eastern (5-7 PM Pacific)
  • Sundays, 8-10 PM Eastern (5-7 PM Pacific)

Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention |

This is an awesome resource page for LGBTQ mental health put together by the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP). Some resources are Canada-specific but many are general. 

South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association of New York City |

The South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association of New York City (SALGA-NYC) serves to promote awareness, acceptance, empowerment, and safe inclusive spaces for people of all sexual and gender identities, who trace their heritage to South Asia or who identify as South Asian. SALGA features a support group that meets every second Saturday of the month from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the Lesbian and Gay Community Center (208 W 13th Street, between 7th & 8th Aves., New York, NY).


KhushDC is a community and event organizer for LGBT South Asians in D.C.

National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance |

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance is a network of Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander LGBTQ organizations and has some cool resources including language-specific queer affirming postcards.

The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity |

The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity works to affirm that all Muslims have a right to claim their faith and identity–irrespective of sexual identity, gender identity and expression, relationship formation, or spiritual practice or communities–and be fully and meaningfully included in the religious, civic, and social life of Muslim communities.


Dosti is for South Asian guys who like guys and is Toronto-based.


Links to a variety of resources for queer youth and friends/supporters. 


GLAAD is another visible LGBT organization that offers a variety of resources sorted by sub-populations (youth, bisexuality, military, aging, etc.)