What is gender identity?
Gender identity means how you experience your own gender. It may seem simple, but it is a lot more complex than you might think!
What's the difference between gender identity and sexual identity?
Gender identity and sexual identity are often confused, but it’s important to understand how they are different.
Gender identity is about how we see ourselves. Whereas sexual identity is about who we’re emotionally and physically attracted to.
Confusion about gender identity and sexual identity can also make it harder for people to understand themselves, like Trans or gender diverse people who wonder whether they are queer until better understanding their gender identity.
Confusing gender identity and sexuality can lead to people making the wrong assumptions about others, which affects how well we understand and communicate with them. For example, when someone’s gender expression is different to what people expect, they are often thought to be gay or lesbian. Like males who like to play with dolls or girls who buy ‘male’ clothing.
Gender identity and sexuality are also confused when thinking about Trans and gender diverse people. Like an assigned male who is attracted to females and labels their sexuality as ‘straight’, but then transitions to female and re-labels their sexuality as ‘lesbian’.
I’m questioning my gender identity. Is it normal to feel…?
Understanding yourself takes time, so it’s normal to feel unsure about your gender identity. But keep in mind:
- It’s not “just a phase” and you’re not “just confused”. From a young age, children know their gender identity and find it really hard to think of themselves in any other way.
- Even if you start feeling comfortable expressing your gender identity, people may try to fit you into boxes. Remember, gender is about more than the gender binary.
- You can change your mind! Understanding yourself takes time and it is normal to change your mind many times about how you label or express your gender identity before things ‘feel right’ for you
Realising your gender identity doesn’t fit the expectations and stereotypes people have of your assigned sex can be confusing, and sometimes distressing, when you’re not able to be your true self.
Because of their fears and concerns, many people feel pressured or scared about showing their gender identity, and may keep this a secret to fit in.
Even for those who show their gender identity openly, there can be challenges about expressing yourself safely or feeling invalidated when your gender doesn’t fit stereotypes.
Choosing to keep your gender identity secret can be distressing and lead to mental and physical health problems. So if you’re unsure about how to express your gender identity safely, take a look at our other tip sheets below.
What can I DO to help me feel more comfortable expressing my gender identity?
If you want to start expressing your gender identity, but are unsure what steps you can take, here are a few ideas that may help:
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