The difference between sexual orientation and gender identity

Sexual orientation vs. gender identity

A lot of people who are learning about LGBTQ+ identities for the first time confuse labels that describe sexuality with labels that describe gender, but these are two distinct concepts. 

We’re here to break it down for you.

Let's start with some easy definitions. 

When in doubt about a definition, please refer to our glossary of LGBTQ+ terminology. We will continuously add onto our glossary to ensure that you're always in the know. 

Sexual orientation is a classification used to describe one’s pattern of emotional, physical, or romantic attraction. This means that one's sexual orientation is based off of their attraction (or lack of attraction) to other people. 

Gender identity, on the other hand, is best defined as one’s innermost concept of their gender; how they perceive themselves and what they call themselves. This means that one's gender identity is based solely off of their own experience with their gender. 

The basic takeaway is that sexuality is about who a person is attracted to, while gender is about who a person is.

Some common labels.

It would be impossible to compile a list of every label anyone has ever used to describe their sexuality or gender, but grouping a few common examples might help you understand these concepts better.

A few labels people use to describe sexual orientation are lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. 

A few labels people use to describe gender identity are man, woman, cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, and genderfluid.

This may be confusing at first... 

But it's important to understand the difference between these concepts because everyone has both a sexual orientation and a gender identity. 

Both identities are unique and important as they help people put their experiences and feelings into words to share with the world. People of any gender can have any sexuality, and one does not determine the other. They are both simply aspects of human diversity.

Emory Arbor Writer
Nonbinary creator
IG: @emigettingthisright

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