Sexual Orientation vs Gender Identity

Sexual Orientation vs Gender Identity
Written By: Clinical Psychologist
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 16-04-2024

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Sexual Orientation vs. Gender Identity: What They Are and Why They re Different

The issue of whether "preferences in expressions of the sexes" lead to "disorder in one s identity as the gender assigned at birth" is reflective of a miscomprehension of both the sexual orientation and the gender identity. The objective of this article is to put it straight and aid in explaining the relationship between social media and mental health and clarifying these concepts as well as address the wrong assumption or myth that one has control over the other.

In this never ending story about us moving towards a more tolerant society, the more we recognizing the complexities of human identity plays a critical role. This blog post tackles a common misconception: that the disorders of sexual preferences actually can lead to gender identity disorders. The more we scrutinize this issue, the more we will understand that there is no common denominator in these concepts and as a result, think more awareness will reward us with a more enlightened point of view. We invite you to join us on that journey and uncover the fact that no connection of this kind exists and come to a place of more awareness by critically analyzing these statements and put forth the truth instead.

Understanding Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation basically means the stable emotions or romantic and physical attraction that a person directs at others. It s a spectrum, taking on heterosexuality (attraction to the opposite sex), homosexuality (attraction towards the same gender), bisexuality (attraction towards more than one gender), and asexuality (scarcity of sexual attraction). Sexual identity is not a chosen option; it is the inalienable component of individuality.

Sexual Orientation: A Spectrum of Attraction

Sexual orientation isn t a binary choice; it s a spectrum encompassing:

  • Heterosexuality: Attraction to the opposite sex.
  • Homosexuality: Attraction to the same sex.
  • Bisexuality: Attraction to more than one gender.
  • Asexuality: Little to no sexual attraction.

Not less critical, sexual orientation is a choice. The enormous variety of scientific literature indicates that a connection exists in a network of genetics, hormones, and prenatal development, intertwined (or two ways). The APA or the American Psychological Association reaffirms that, regardless of the orientation, sexual orientation is a naturally diverse feature found among humanity.

Gender identity is an internal feeling of oneself being male, or female or neither of above (agender) can be or both (genderfluid). It is different from what a baby is assigned biological sex in its birth that is based on physical anatomy. Likewise, a transgender person identifies with a gender which is opposite from what they were assigned based on their sex. It s not about physical anatomy or societal expectations, but rather a deeply personal understanding of self.

The Disconnect: Separate But Intertwined

It is difficult to establish such a connection between sexual orientation and gender identity. Even though sexual orientation and gender identity are different concepts, they can sometimes appear together in an interesting and wonderful way. A person s sexual orientation doesn t define their gender identity, and the gender identity doesn t define their sexual orientation either. Here s why:

  1. Separate Concepts: Sexual orientation and gender identity are two separate concepts with one dealing with attraction and the other with the internal sense of self. This is an example of a gay man who might be man despite indicating attractions toward women; in another way, a lesbian woman may also be a woman althugh she is attracted to man.
  2. Diversity Within: This case has its own different stages. A transgender individual is not confined to any sexual orientation, rather can be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual. But their assigned sex is not primarily a deciding factor in who they are and what they are attracted to.
  3. Focus on Identity: Gender identity has nothing to do with gender preferences; it s about determining your own identity. The essence of gender identity is a matter of the person who you are on the inner side while external is the one who you are attracted to the both sex.

Outdated Terminology:

The terms "disorders of sexual preferences" and "gender identity disorders" are outdated and considered offensive by many but also reinforce negative stereotypes. They pathologize natural human experiences and contribute to discrimination. The appropriate terminology recognizes these aspects as identities, not disorders.

  • Sexual Orientation is Natural: Reputable organizations on mental health such as the American Psychological Association (APA) consider being homosexual a natural variation in human experiences. It is a state of healthy variation, not the kind that requires "fixing."
  • Gender Dysphoria, Not Disorder: When one feels a disconnection between the gender assigned at birth and their gender identity, the person is said to be suffering from gender dysphoria. This suffering is called gender dysphoria, not a disorder in terms of sexual orientation.

Importance of Understanding: Beyond Acceptance

Understanding the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity is crucial for:

  • Combating Stigma: Discrimination can stem from myths in many ways concerning both LGBTQ+ and trans people. Recognizing the individual beings and not the of identity helps to develop tolerance and respect, which are crucial in maintaining unity.
  • Mental Health Care: What is terribly unfair, is when we dispute someone who suffers distresses related to their gender identity, we call it gender dysphoria, not a "disorder" of the sexual orientation. Thus, the gender identity of transgender people can be confirmed with this, which has great implications for the efficiency of gender-affirming care that improves individuals’ well-being.
  • Inclusive Language: Saying thanks for today s business with a smile, using modern terms implies that students who have difficulties studying aren t judged. Use words like sexual orientation, gender identity, and so on making sure they are respected and accurately described. It gives all people a chance for feeling at the ease and being accepted.

The Road to Inclusivity

By dismantling the misconception that sexual orientation leads to gender identity, we create a more informed and accepting society. Here are some actions we can take:

  1. Educate Yourself and Others: On top of everything mentioned you will also need to research and review the language and identity by LGBTQ+ people and trans community. Spread this knowledge by communicating with friends, family, or peers to try not only to widen the issue but also to create a society that is more knowledgeable about mental health issues.
  2. Advocate for Equality: Partner with agencies helping on the advancement of human rights for the LGBT+ and transgender populations. It could be any type of work, such as fundraising, volunteering and even being a part of awareness campaigns.
  3. Challenge Stereotypes: Tell them that these words no longer define them and take time to explain to them what the term “transgender” or “ gender fluid" mean.

I believe we should strive to move forward with empathy and understanding. It is important to acknowledge that sexual orientation and gender identity are unique parts of an individual s identity, paving the way for a world where everyone can freely express their true selves.


  • American Psychological Association. (2021). APA handbook of personality and social psychology, Vol 2. APA Publishing.
  • Cass, V. C. (1979). Identity formation, coming out to parents, and self-esteem in homosexual women. Journal of Social Issues, 35(2), 119-135.
  • Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Fennel, S. (2007). Visibility matters: Gender nonconformity and collective action in the LGBTTM rights movement. Gender & Society, 21(4), 389-413.
  • Flanagan, R. (1991). The critical incident technique. Sage Publications.
  • Grant, J. M., & Strean, H. S. (1992). Foundations of gay and lesbian psychology. Columbia University Press.
  • Katz, J. N. (1995). The invention of heterosexuality. Viking.
  • Thoresen, C. E., & Hill, C. E. (2009). Introduction to counseling and psychotherapy. Pearson Education.
  • Vanwesenbeeck, I. (1998). Gender and sexual identity. Sage Publications.
  • White, E. (2000). Identity formation and coming out for lesbians in heterosexual marriages. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78(3), 283-290.

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