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Sexual Identity



Sexual identity includes more than who we have sex with, and what kind of sex we have. It’s a broader idea referring to the ways we define ourselves sexually. Our sexual identity also may incorporate who we look to for emotional and intimate love and support, and who we identify with in terms of desire, lifestyle, politics and more. Sexual identity is something we define for ourselves not based solely on sexual desires, but on how we understand ourselves in relation to others and the world.

Sexual identity and sexual orientation are often used interchangeably (and people confuse both with sexual behaviors). But sometimes it’s useful to separate them as a way of understanding the diversity of human sexual expression.

Take for example men who are in long-term relationships with women and occasionally has anonymous sex with men. Many men who do this would never identify themselves as gay or bisexual. They identify as heterosexual. We might say they just don’t “know themselves.” But ultimately there’s no way for us to know this better than they do and the truth is that some men identify themselves strongly as heterosexual AND sometime enjoy having sex with other men.

Sexual identities include gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, queer, kinky, and others. There isn’t a right or wrong way to think about sexual identity. There are no single definitions for any of these identities, and the point isn’t so much to pick one and stick with it, as it is to use these labels as a way of feeling out your own sense of yourself and how you want to be in the world. When sexual identity is used to help you define yourself on your own terms it can be a great concept. If the idea of sexual identity becomes just another box that you trap yourself or others in, it becomes a concept that can do more harm than good.

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