Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 9: Gender and sexuality: Including identity, expression, assignment, orientation and behavior


This example is another excellent illustration by its author of holding himself accountable to others, based on his life experience, to the service of society. It again illustrates harnessing the creative energy between being authentic and accountable.


A contributor’s example of Layer 9:

I am a cisgender, heterosexual male who presents as a man.



Most of my life, I assumed that I was simply “normal” and would have identified more with that word than anything else. It wasn’t until doing my UCL Exercise that I came to realize that the world is not a simple binary, and that I have benefitted immensely from being able to identify as “normal.”

The transition from me qualifying myself as “normal” to saying that I am a cisgender, heterosexual male has made it more evident to me that there are many people who do not identify as such. By defining my own gender and sexual identity, I have forced myself to also find my place in the whole tapestry of identities, which has made me far more open-minded and curious to learn about other people’s experiences.



Thinking back, having been born Mexican, with cisgender parents, and raised in the United States, I had never seen a reason to give my gender or sexual identity a second thought. In Mexican culture, anyone who identifies as anything other than straight and cisgender is considered an outcast, or at least it used to be that way when I was growing up. The United States has also not been a place in which the topics of gender and sexual identity can be openly discussed until recently, in some cities, and we still have a long way to go.

The transition from being unaware of, and effectively denying, my privilege as a white, cisgender and straight man was not a pleasant one. My experience started with being totally oblivious to my privilege, aggressively defensive about it and denying that any such privilege existed. This was followed by a healthy serving of guilt that put me at a crossroads of either rejecting that guilt or accepting that I had benefited from my privilege for the better part of my life. I chose acceptance, and forgave myself, with the promise to use my privilege to serve as a voice for those who do not have it.


An example of being accountable:

It occurs to me that having an active awareness of my privilege as it relates to my gender and sexual identity has actually enriched my life because I can be thankful for all of these privileges and be intentional about how I use them. The richest language that I had access to 10 years ago related to my identity might well have just been “normal.” Now I know where I fit in and what responsibilities towards others I have, given my privilege. More important to me than these dimensions of identity are my active awareness and intentional engagement of them in my relationships with others. It’s this awareness and engagement that have shaped and defined who I have become as a person, enabling me to be a far more human human being.