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Sexual orientation and identity

How do we define ourselves sexually?

Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation means being sexually or romantically attracted to people of the same sex (homosexual) or the opposite sex (heterosexual). There are also several sexual orientations between the two (bisexuality, pansexuality, asexuality, heteroflexibility, homoflexibility, etc.). Sexual orientation is the orientation a person is comfortable with in intimate situations, no matter what their sex or gender may be.

Gender identity

Gender identity is a strong personal feeling: deep inside, everyone feels like, and considers themselves to be, a woman, a man, a mixture of both, or neither one. It’s a way of perceiving and identifying oneself, which may or may not agree with the sex assigned at birth. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation.

Gender expression

Gender expression represents the way in which a person openly expresses their gender, depending on whether they feel like a man, a woman, a mix of both, or neither one. You can express your gender through your appearance, clothing, behaviour, the activities you choose, or the name you use, for example. Our society has criteria defining what’s considered to be male or female, but everyone can have a different perception or opinion!

Biological sex

People often think – wrongly – that a person’s biological sex is either male or female. However, even at this level, it’s not that straightforward. Some people are born with different sex organs, both male and female. These people are intersex: they have genital features belonging to both sexes.

Some examples

Jade

Jade, aged 16, was born female (biological sex). She identifies a lot with the characteristics associated with female gender (gender identity). She loves everything to do with beauty and she’s always in fashion (gender expression). She’s more attracted sexually to women than men but she thinks she could also fall in love with a man (sexual orientation).

Karym

Karym is 14 years old. He was born male (biological sex), but for some time he’s wished he had a girl’s body. That would better reflect the way he feels inside (gender identity). He prefers the company of girls and the things they do. He asks his friends to call him Kary (gender expression). Regarding love and sex, he’s starting to feel attracted to girls (sexual orientation).