Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Are Not the Same
There are a lot of myths surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation. The LGBTQIA+ umbrella covers a wide assortment of identities, orientations and expressions. It can be confusing for some, especially when many of us have been socialized throughout our lives to see things on more of a binary scale. However, the ways in which people view themselves and relate to others are so much more complex.
One point of confusion some folks may have is that gender identity and sexual orientation are one in the same. This myth can lead to assumptions and miscommunications. The two concepts, in fact, are separate and have entirely different meanings. Let’s take a deeper look to clarify some things and to help form a better understanding of the ways in which individuals may identify.
Gender identity and sexual orientation are not connected. One’s gender identity is how they perceive themselves. Sexual orientation, or sexuality, refers to one’s attraction to other people.
For gender identity, this can be as female, male, a combination of both or neither at all. Some may consider themselves to be genderless, while others feel their identity encompasses all genders.
Often, people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. The ways in which people identify are fluid, though, and can change over time. There are multiple genders a person may identify with. One’s gender identity is internal or found within themselves.
In regard to sexual oritentation, there are various types of attraction. It can be emotional, sexual or romantic. Sexual orientation is external and refers to the ways in which an individual interacts with others.
Gender identities you may be familiar with include cisgender, transgender, gender fluid, intersex and genderqueer. There are a host of others. Types of sexual orientation are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual and asexual, among others. What’s important to understand is that one’s gender identity is completely separate from their sexual orientation. They are independent of each other. Neither influences the other.
There are countless combinations of gender identity and sexual orientation. The way in which you identify internally does not affect the type of people you will be attracted to externally. Well-known YouTuber, Brendan Jordan, describes it quite succinctly by stating, “Sexuality is who you go to bed with, and gender identity is who you go to bed as.”
When someone is gender-nonconforming or identifies as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, people may make assumptions about their sexual orientation. This is definitely a mistake. Just because someone is transgender or nonbinary does not make them gay or queer. As with their cisgender counterparts, these folks can identify along the spectrum of sexuality. They may be straight, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or any identity that feels right to them.
Gender identity and sexual orientation are unique and personal to each individual. The process of determining one or both can be a long and involved one that requires great introspection. What’s important is to recognize and be respectful of the ways in which people present and express themselves.