(Note: This story appears in the June 2021 issue of Storerotica Magazine)

*Story by Dianna Stratton

Effective communication with all customers is one of the most potent weapons for a sex store worker.

“The answer is resoundingly clear, diverse companies that also have an inclusive work environment perform better on multiple business dimensions.”
— Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever

All people deserve to have outstanding customer service. Part of outstanding customer service, particularly in the pleasure industry, is the awareness of the various gender and sexual orientation terminology. Knowledgeable use of these terms makes it easier to talk about pleasure products in gender-affirming ways, which can help your customers feel welcome in your store. Learning how to have an open and inclusive conversation about sexual products with any person visiting your store is a powerful, sex-positive skill.

Did you know everyone has a gender identity, including you! Gender identity is not a decision. Gender identity is how you, in your head, define your gender. Gender identity can correlate with your assigned sex at birth (“It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl!”), or can differ from it. Common gender identities include female/woman/girl, male/man/boy or an undefined other. It’s important to understand that there are other genders besides male and female and not all cultures operate on a male/female binary sense of gender, which is a European construct.

Gender expression is the ways you present gender through your actions, dress and demeanor. It is the external representation of the self. A person can express themselves as feminine, masculine, or other.

Sex assigned at birth (SAAB) is the assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex based on a combination of sexual anatomy, hormones, and chromosomes. Although chromosomes are frequently used to determine sex, chromosomes do not determine genitalia. Because we traditionally assign gender based on a few traits someone is born with, we customarily expect someone to grow up and behave a certain way and to become a certain type of person, according to their assigned gender. In reality, it takes between two and five years from birth for a person’s gender identity to emerge.

“The simplest way to understand these important differences is to appreciate that sexuality is who you go to bed with, while gender identity is who you go to bed as.” — Dianna Stratton

The Human Rights Campaign defines sexual orientation as the “inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.” It’s who you are interested in dating and being intimate with. It’s important to understand that sexual orientation can be further refined as physical attraction and emotional attraction.

Physical attraction is the term to describe what gender(s) someone is sexually/physically attracted to. Physical attraction is the desire to look and touch because what you see is pleasant to look at or arousing on a biological level. Basically, it’s what triggers your sexual desire.

Emotional attraction is the emotional response that people can feel that results in a desire for a romantic relationship with another. Emotional attraction is a feeling that you want to kiss someone on the mouth and meld the story of their life with yours. People can experience romantic attraction even though they may not feel sexual attraction.

Gender and sexuality are two different concepts. It’s a common misconception that gender identity and sexual orientation are connected. The simplest way to understand these important differences is to appreciate that sexuality is who you go to bed with, while gender identity is who you go to bed as.

Once you appreciate the different terms and their meaning, it’s far easier to approach your customers in the most inclusive, affirming way possible, regardless of their identity, expression or orientation. The language you use matters, and the more open and accepting your retail associates can be, the greater chance your store will succeed in this changing and challenging world.

Dianna Stratton is the Marketing Communications Strategist for Eldorado Trading Company.