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What are some of the ways people identify?

Firstly, let’s be clear what we mean by sexual and gender identity.

Sexuality is about how you see and express yourself romantically and sexually. This is different for everyone and it is not as simple as identifying as ‘straight’ or ‘gay’.

Gender identity is how you understand your gender, how you show this to others and how you want others to treat you.

There are a range of different ways people identify with sexuality and gender. Some terms you may have heard of include:

  • Transgender (a term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression is different from what they were given at birth)
  • Bisexual (a term for people attracted to more than one sex)
  • Takatāpui (a term used for Māori with identities that aren’t cisgender, which means someone who identifies with the gender given to them at birth, or straight)
  • Fa’afafine (a term used in Samoan culture for someone born biologically male but who also expresses a range of traditionally feminine characteristics. Different to the western understanding of being transgender, fa’afafine have specific roles in society. Other Polynesian societies have similar terms, such as fakaleiti in Tongan)

The ways that people identify with their gender and sexuality are unique and personal, whether that’s female or transgender, bisexual or takatāpui. What’s important is to remember that you always deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin.

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What rights does everyone have?

However you identify, you have rights that protect you by law. The main law is covered in the Human Rights Act 1993, which says: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. Basically, in the eyes of the law, everyone is seen equally, whatever your background.

There are also a number of rights that extend to specific areas of your life, whether that’s home, school or work.

A few examples include:

  • To receive medical services regardless of your gender or sexual identity
  • Not to be discriminated against while at work
  • Not to be physically or emotionally abused by your partner

For more information on what you're entitled to in different situations, the Rainbow Rights link below is a good one to check out.

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How about useful resources and places for support?

As is always the case, finding people you can relate to, and can talk through any challenges with, is the first, and probably the biggest, step to dealing with any issues. Whether that’s friends, family or whānau, having a close support network around you is important to help you feel comfortable and appreciated.

If you need more support, there are other resources out there that provide useful information, and organisations which run events, support groups, and can be contacted for help. We’ve included a few examples below.

Key websites

  • Community Law: The Community Law website is the official home of the Community Law Centres across Aotearoa New Zealand, which aim to provide free legal help to people throughout the country.
  • Gender Minorities Aotearoa: Gender Minorities has a national database of transgender, takatāpui and intersex information and resources, covering everything from self-care to community support groups.
  • Human Rights Commission: The Human Rights Commission works to help protect the rights of all types of people in Aotearoa New Zealand. They look at rights both in work and in your everyday life.
  • YouthLaw Aotearoa: YouthLaw Aotearoa is a community law centre which provides free legal help to children and young people under 25. Their website contains useful information in relation to your rights.