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Sexual Identity Development: Here's What You Should Know

Sexual Identity Development: Here's What You Should Know

Coming out of the closet or openly acknowledging one’s sexual identity is a brave and inspiring act. This may encourage others, who may otherwise be afraid to be themselves. There is nothing wrong with being true to oneself.

However, there are people who may struggle in identifying which sexual identity they may belong to. This is a common occurrence and it is okay to feel afraid and confused.

Sexual Identity Development: How Does One Determine Their Sexual Identity?

Sexuality refers to how you express yourself sexually, including who you are attracted to, or want to be romantically or sexually involved with.

Sexual identity includes: biological sex, gender identity, social sexual role, and sexual orientation. In other words, sexual orientation or the gender you are attracted to is just a part of sexual identity.

Here is a list of some types of sexual identities:

  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Bisexual
  • Queer
  • Asexual
  • Pansexual
  • Questioning

Sexual Identity Development: What Age Does an Individual Learn Their Sexual Identity?

There is no exact age as to when an individual may determine what their sexual identity is. This varies based on a person’s own experience. However, the instance where an individual’s sexual feelings become active is during adolescence.

During this period, people may feel a sudden burst of emotions towards other people (be it the same gender or other genders). This may make them feel confused and that is okay.

Determining Your Sexual Identity

Determining your sexual identity may sound simple. But some people may find this to be more complicated. Different people discover their sexual identity in different ways. Some people take years to find their sexual identity.

People may take a while to determine what their sexual identity is because they may “question” themselves over a long period of time.

However, we now recognize a wider range of sexual identities. This makes it a bit easier for people to determine where they may belong. For instance, simply choosing between being straight and being gay may not be applicable to all people’s experiences.

If people are still unsure of what their sexual identity is, that is normal and they are not alone when it comes to this. There is no rush to determine what sexual identity a person has. What matters is they take their time to know themselves better. If people need help with regards to determining their sexual identity, they can talk to their trusted friends or family members for help.

Whatever these trusted friends or family members may say are merely things to help a person determine their sexual identity. In the end, a person is the only one who truly knows how they feel on the inside.

Some Terms Related to Sexual Identity Development

Here are a few terms related to sexual identities.

Lesbian

This refers to women attracted to women.

Gay

This refers to men attracted to men. This also refers to people attracted to the same sex, so this also applies to women attracted to women as well.

Bisexual

A bisexual person is attracted to both one’s gender and the opposite gender. A misconception about bisexuality is that the person has simply not decided what their sexual identity is.

Transgender

This is an umbrella term used to describe a person whose sexual identity, gender identity, or gender expression is not the same as their gender at birth.

Queer

This term may be considered derogatory or offensive, when used against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) persons. However, to those who are part of the LBGT community, the term may refer to their chosen self-identification. Being queer means that a person’s sexual preferences and habits are not restricted to gender-binary norms.

Key takeaway

It is normal for people to feel confused as to what their sexual identity is, and it may take time to determine what yours is. Individuals may take their time in doing this. Others must treat an individual with respect and dignity regardless of their sexual identity.

Learn more about Sexual Wellness here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

How Do I Know My Sexual Orientation?

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sexual-orientation/sexual-orientation/how-do-i-know-my-sexual-orientation

Accessed July 18, 2021

Sexual Attraction and Orientation, https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/sexual-orientation.html

Accessed July 18, 2021

Basic Definitions: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE), https://www.chp.edu/-/media/chp/departments-and-services/adolescent-and-young-adult-medicine/documents/gender-and-sexual-development/basic-definitions-sogie.pdf?la=en

Accessed July 18, 2021

Transgender People, Gender Identity and Gender Expression, https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbtq/transgender

Accessed July 18, 2021

Sexual Identity, https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/issues/sexual-identity

Accessed August 8, 2021

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Written by Jen Mallari Updated 2 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Kristina Campos, MD