Sexual identity and orientation

Your sexual identity refers to whether you feel you are male or female. Whereas your sexual orientation refers to who you are attracted to sexually, men or women. 

Sexual identity 

Some people are transsexual, which means they may have been born female but they do not feel female. Instead they identify more with being a male and vice versa.  This can start to happen to people from as young as four years old and for many young people, without good support and early acceptance, it can lead to a life time of confusion. 

Your sex refers to your physical attributes, whereas gender roles are created by society.  

Most modern societies promote gender equity, with varying degrees of success. Even in the most progressive societies, women still tend to find it hard to take on and to sustain positions of leadership. Women in our own society generally earn less than men and still tend to be primary carers for children. In more traditional societies and in some religions and cultures, gender expectations can be very limiting and often oppressive for women. 

Sexual orientation

Your sexual orientation describes who you are attracted to sexually. You might be attracted to males, females, both or neither. The majority of people are heterosexual; that is, they are attracted to their opposite sex.  Men are attracted to women, and women are attracted to men. Somewhere between five and ten per cent of the total population are males who are sexually attracted to other men, known as gay or homosexual, and up to two per cent of the population are lesbian, that is women who are attracted to women. About eight per cent of the population identify as bisexual; that is, they are attracted to both males and females.

Many young people struggle to come to terms with their sexual orientation. It is quite natural to go through phases where you are a little confused.  It can be troubling to think you might be different to the norm, especially in cultures where homosexuality or bisexuality is forbidden. In Australia there is increasing recognition and acceptance of difference in terms of sexual orientation. Many gay and lesbian people are ‘out’, that is they are open about their sexuality and sexual preferences. This is not to say that homophobia – fear or hostility to homosexuals – has been eradicated; gay and lesbian people may still suffer abuse and insults or subtle discrimination. So even in contemporary society, accepting that you are gay or lesbian can still be hard to come to terms with.  Your sexual orientation is at least partially inborn, and it is accepted that your patterns of sexual attraction are probably set by the age of four. 

Sexuality can be confusing, so allow your feelings and desires to form gradually. As most people mature, their sexual orientation becomes clearer to them. 

All sexual orientations and identities are equally valid. 

If you are feeling confused there are lots of good websites and telephone help lines that can be very helpful. 


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Disclaimer

The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.

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