At birth, we are assigned a sex based on our anatomy. For many people they feel like their biological sex matches who they are. For example, someone who is born female identifying as female. Conversely, many people do not identify with the biological sex they were assigned at birth. For people who are transgender, their given sex at birth does not match up with how they feel inside. It can be very confusing, no matter how old you are, to cope with these feelings. You think that you are gay or bisexual because you do not feel comfortable in your body and do not identify with your biological sex. Some people treat gender identity and sexual orientation as the same thing when in fact they are not. So, what is the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation?
Gender identity is our innermost concept of self. We can identify as male, female, a mixture of both or neither. Your gender identity is yours and yours alone. Only you can define who you are, no matter the sex you were assigned at birth. You do not have to have top or bottom surgery to identify as female or male. It is your choice how you want to define yourself and that is your gender identity. We can express our gender identity in the way we dress, act and refer to ourselves.
Sexual orientation is used to define the way a person feels sexual desire towards people of their same gender (gay, lesbian), the opposite gender (straight), both genders (bisexual) or neither (asexual). You can also be “questioning” which means you are unsure of your sexual orientation. No matter what your orientation is, it’s important to remember that there is nothing wrong with you.
Gender and orientation today
Gender and sexual orientation are such complex issues that they may be hard to understand at times, especially if you are struggling to figure out exactly who you are. The way society views gender is shifting. Although, homophobia, transphobia and sexism are still present in our society, more and more people are open to accepting everyone as they are.
You are not alone
If you are struggling to figure out who you are, you are not alone. People of all ages search for their gender identity and sexual orientation. No matter how you identify and who you choose to love, it is your life and you should be able to live it as you please.