Sexuality and sexual identity. In 2021, we have progressed so far as a society in accepting the many sexual identities and gender identities out there.
Sexual identity and sexuality are intertwined, but different. Sexual identity is how you view yourself in the sense of who you are sexually attracted to and romantically attracted to. It can also correspond with your sexual orientation identity, when people choose not to identify with a sexual orientation, or choose which sexual orientation they are. Sexual identity and sexual behavior are directly related to sexual orientation, but they do differ. Sexual identity refers to a person’s concept of themselves. Sexual behavior is a person’s sexual acts that they take part in. Sexual orientation is the romantic and sexual attraction towards the people they are attracted to, whether that is the same sex or gender, or the opposite sex or gender. Some may be attracted to both sexes or genders, and some may not be attracted to any of them.
Sexuality as a whole is how you view yourself and express yourself sexually – by the people you like or have crushes on, who you go out with, and who you want to have a sexual relationship, experience, or romantic relationship with.
Some people are straight, some are gay, lesbians, asexual, or queer. Many things can shape your sexuality as a person, but the reason for sexual preferences is really not known at this time. Every person on this earth is incredibly unique and complex, so it only makes sense that this is a complex and unique topic as well.
So how do I know what my sexual identity is?
- While many people seem to know from a very young age who they want to have relationships with, others may discover their sense of sexuality much later in life. Some may believe they are straight their entire life and then realize that they are not!
- Remember that sexuality is different for every single person, and it is a natural thing. It is not a choice, and telling someone that it is, is an ignorant thing to say. Just as you have the right to be accepted for your preferences and to be accepted, so does everyone else. You cannot be selective about whose lifestyle you approve and accept.
- It is totally ok to feel curious or confused about your sexuality. Wondering whether you are gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or something else is a normal part of life. So many people experience this as they grow up in a certain mindset and are taught that sexuality is a choice, and that being one way or another is wrong. There is no normal, and there is no right or wrong sexual identity.
- You can change your mind. You may believe you are straight now, and later realize you are not. Or vice versa! There is nothing wrong, and it is a part of learning who you are as a person, and what feels right for you. Relationships are complex and so are our bodies and minds.
- You may be the same sexuality your entire life, or you may end up defining yourself differently as you grow and learn more about who you are as a person. Again, there is nothing wrong with this.
What does it mean if I am questioning my sexual identity?
Questioning your sexual identity means that you are striving to understand yourself. It is normal and okay, and part of life, to question or feel unsure about your sexuality or sexual identity. However, there are a few things to note:
- Just because you have a crush on a person of different sex or gender than you typically do, or have a dream about them, does not necessarily mean you are gay, lesbian, queer, or bisexual. Many people do experience this with no further meaning.
- You may not be dating someone of the opposite gender to know you are straight. This goes both ways! You may not be dating someone of the same sex, and still know you are queer or lesbian. It is also ok to be dating someone and still be questioning your sexual identity.
- You also may not experience sexual interest in anyone at all. This is normal as well and nothing to be ashamed of or worry about.
What happens if my sexual identity changes?
For some, the realization that they are attracted to someone who is of the same sex or gender can be very stressful and emotionally painful. This is often due to being raised in an environment where this is labeled as unacceptable or wrong. They may experience fear and worry that their families and friends won’t accept them. They may be currently in a relationship and realize that this relationship is not what they want, which means that they not only experience their own confusion, but also the pain and stress of letting their partner know and the potential to emotionally hurt their partner with this news.
However, it is important to remember that understanding your sexual identity can be a relief. It can free you and allow you to experience your true self. The fear of your family or friends not accepting you should not outweigh the joy and freedom of being your true self. This is an exciting time for you!
Every single person has the right to be who they truly are without having to hide it from others or explain it to people. This is your right as a human being. The pressure to hide your true, authentic self can actually affect you mentally, and in turn, harm your physical wellbeing in the long run.
What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation is your emotional and sexual attraction to people. This also includes your romantic relationships.
What is gender identity?
Gender identity is your concept of what gender you are. Male, female, both, neither, it does not matter. This is what you call yourself, the pronouns you use, and how you perceive yourself. This can be different from the gender that you are assigned at birth or the same.
What is gender expression?
Gender expression is how you present yourself through behavior, hairstyle, clothing, voice, and other ways to show your gender. The typical gender expressions are feminine or masculine, and androgynous. Your gender expression may or may not conform to what we have defined societally as gender norms, and that is totally ok.
What does transgender mean?
Transgender is a term used for those whose gender expression and/or gender identity is different from what sex they may have been assigned at birth. However, being transgender does not define your sexual orientation and sexual identity. You can be transgender and also straight, gay, lesbian, asexual, or bisexual!
What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is a distress that those who realize their assigned birth gender is not the same as the way that they gender identify. It can be a harrowing and stressful experience for many to realize that these differ, especially if their families and friends do not support them.
Remember that no matter your sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, you have the right to do what makes you happy and fulfilled. Do not allow others to dictate your happiness and rights!