Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation

Whoever you are, however you identify, we want you to be proud, be healthy, and be you!

Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing. Your gender identity is about who you are. Your sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to. Both are important because both are what make you YOU. 

As your health care team, we want you to be your healthiest self.  We know your mental and physical health are related to how you feel about yourself, and that means being happy with your gender identity and sexual orientation.  We hope you will be comfortable talking with us about the information we've put together below. 

About Gender Identity

About Sexual Orientation

Visit the Center for LGBTQ Health Equity


GENDER IDENTITY

Sex and gender are not the same. Here's how they are different:

Sex is the way genitals, organs, hormones, and chromosomes are medically categorized: female, male, intersex/DSD. Everyone is given a sex at birth based on our genitals, organs, hormones, and chromosomes. We call this ‘birth/legal sex’ or 'sex assigned at birth'. Knowing what genitals, organs, and hormones you have is important for your health care and is something your health care team needs to know to provide you with the care you need. But who you are doesn't have to be defined by your sex assigned at birth.

Gender is the label society uses to describe expected behaviors, clothing, and roles: girl/woman and boy/man. It is how society expects us to act and look. This is generally based on our birth sex. The gender you are labeled may not match how you feel or how you identify, though.

If you were born with female genitalia, organs, hormones, and chromosomes, you may have been labeled a 'girl'. But what if you never felt like a girl? That's where 'gender identity' comes in.

Gender identity is the gender (or genders) that best match how you feel inside. Your gender identity may be different than your legal/birth sex. For example, you may have been legally defined as a ‘male’ at birth, but feel female, or both male and female, or another gender altogether. This is who you are and your identity matters.

Gender expression is how you present your gender to the world. Your gender expression may be masculine, feminine, androgynous, or another expression that is right for you.

Some gender identities are:

Agender

​Not identifying with or feeling themselves as having a particular gender.

Cisgender 

​Gender identity and expression match your sex and gender assigned at birth. In other words, someone who is not transgender. Most people are cisgender.

Gender Fluid

Identifying as feminine or another gender identity that may fluctuate at different points in time.

Genderqueer 

​Identifying as neither male nor female, or outside of or in between the binary (masculine/feminine) gender boxes, or feel restricted by gender labels.

Non-Binary

Being sometimes neither male nor female, or sometimes both male and female, or maybe another gender altogether.

Transgender

​Living a gender experience, including identity and expression, different from your sex assigned at birth. 

Legal names are the names we are usually given at birth and are recognized as legal by federal and state organizations. Legal names are tied to legal documents like birth certificates, Social Security information, paychecks, bank accounts, and more.  

'Preferred' or chosen names are the names we give ourselves. This name could be a nickname - for example, someone named Robert going by Bobby.  Or it may be the name you give yourself as you become your true self - for example, a trans woman who was assigned male at birth and legally named Robert may choose the name Sophie for herself after transition.

Please keep in mind: We call these names 'preferred' but for those whose identity does not match with their legal identity, these names are not simply 'preferred' - they are their actual names.

Personal pronouns are the words we use to talk about ourselves, groups of people, or to address individuals other than by their name. Most of us know two types of personal pronouns used to address others: 'she/her/hers' and 'he/him/his'. There are many others. These are just a few:

 
Subjective
Objective
Possessive Adjective
Possesive Pronoun
Reflexive
Feminine Pronouns
She
Her
Her
Hers
Herself
Masculine Pronouns
He
Him
Him
His
Himself
Neutral Pronouns
They
Them
Them
Theirs
Themself
Neutral Pronouns
Ze
[Say: zee]
Hir
[Say: here]
Hir
[Say: here]
Hirs
[Say: heres]
Hirself
[Say: hereself]
Neutral Pronouns
Ey
[Say: A]
Em
[Say: M]
Eir
[Say: ear]
Eirs
[Say: ears]
Eirself
[Say: earself]
No Pronouns  
[Use person's name instead]
[Name]
[Name]
[Name]
[Name's]
[Name's self]

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to and want to have relationships with. Many of us were taught that heterosexual (or straight) relationships involving a cisgender man and cisgender woman are the norm. But there are many different types of sexual attraction and sexual orientation. These are just a few sexual orientations:

Asexual 

​A person who is not sexually attracted to anyone, but may experience emotional or romantic attraction.

Bisexual 

​A person who is attracted to/wants to have relationships with people of the same or other genders. 

Gay

A man who is attracted to/wants to have relationships with the same gender. Gay is also used as an umbrella term to describe other genders who are same gender attracted. 

Lesbian

A woman who is attracted to/wants to have relationships with the same gender.

Pansexual

​A person who has romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes. 

What about 'queer'? Queer can be used to describe either a person's gender identity or sexual orientation or both. While it can be offensive to some, others find it liberating to identify themselves with the term that was once used as a slur. Queer is used differently by different people. If you are not sure about the use of the word, ask the person using it to explain what it means to them.

How about 'same-gender loving'? A term some Black/African American people prefer to use to express their dual identities as person of African descent and someone with attraction to and desire for relationships with people of the same gender.

How about 'two-spirit’? This is an umbrella term used by some Indigenous North Americans to describe Native people in their communities who are LGBTQ and may fulfill a traditional third-gender ceremonial role in their cultures.