Gender identity is one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither. Gender identity is how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.
It’s a common misconception that gender identity and sexual orientation are connected. If someone is transgender, for example, many people automatically assume that they must also be gay. That, however, is not the case. Gender and sexuality are different, and it’s an important distinction to understand. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men would typically identify as a straight woman.
A person’s sexual orientation determines who they are attracted to. A person’s gender identity is about their innermost concept of their self as male, female, a blend of both or neither.
One easy way to think about the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity is: “Sexuality is who you go to bed with, and gender identity is who you go to bed as.”
Most people feel that they’re either male or female. Some people feel like a masculine female, or a feminine male, while others feel neither male nor female. Feelings about gender identity can begin as early as age 2 or 3.
Most people’s assigned sex and gender identity are pretty much the same, or in line with each other. These people are called cisgender. However, some people feel that their assigned sex does not match their gender identity. (i.e., assigned sex is female, but gender identity is male). These people are called transgender or trans. There are many gender identities that fall under the transgender label/umbrella including gender queer, bi gender, agender, non binary and gender fluid.
Future “DEFINE IT” series posts will go into more detail about specific gender identities and other related terms.