[Vision2020] Understand Sexual Identity

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Tue Apr 3 15:04:33 PDT 2012

Courtesy of the UI Argonaut at:


Understand sexual identity
Cynthia Fine | Community Health Educator for Planned Parenthood

Meet the amazing Genderbread Person: A model for understanding sexual identity. The genderbread person is comprised of four different and interconnected aspects of sexual identity. The first important thing to understand is that it’s not a binary equation. You’re not either/or. Think of it more as a continuum or a Venn diagram with overlapping qualities.

Biological sex
This is the piece that’s easiest to understand. It’s the chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs you were born with. Typically, these qualities are congruent and a person is male with testes, XY chromosomes and male hormones or female with ovaries, XX chromosomes and female hormones. A small, but significant, number of people are born with variations which may be subtle and unnoticed until puberty, or significant and obvious at birth. People who are intersex have characteristics of each sex in various degrees.

Gender identity
This is inside our heads. It’s how we see ourselves. Child development specialists believe children develop this sense of identity somewhere between 18 months and 3 years old. They may not be fully aware of their inner beliefs and perceptions, but they are determined early and not subject to change. Most develop an identity that matches their biological sex, but some develop a gender identity of neither or both sexes. For transgender people, their identity does not match their body. Some choose surgery and/or hormones to change their bodies to match their identity.

Sexual orientation
This is the potential to be erotically and romantically attracted to others. You may be attracted to the same gender, both genders, the other gender or no genders. There is broad agreement among experts that sexual orientation is not chosen or learned but is basically “hardwired” in the brain. Some people feel a lack of sexual attraction to anyone and define asexuality as a sexual orientation. Things can get complicated when sexual behavior doesn’t match sexual orientation. People may have sexual relationships with someone they’re not attracted to for a variety of reasons, including the desire for a perceived traditional family and concerns of discrimination and religious ostracism.

Gender expression
This is our outward expressions of femininity or masculinity. This is highly influenced by culture and subject to change. Clothing, hairstyle and manner of speaking and walking give clues to how we see ourselves.

Life might be less complicated if we all fit neatly into tidy little boxes and matched simple descriptions. But it would also be infinitely less interesting.


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom "lesbian trapped in a man's body" Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"If not us, who?
If not now, when?"

- Unknown

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