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Sexual Identity and Gender Identity

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Sexual Identity and Gender Identity.

There are some aspects of identity that cannot be taken for granted, including sexual identity and gender identity. While most people are born prepared to feel comfortable with their body's gender, and to desire sexual contact with members of the opposite sex upon sexual maturity, there have always been a minority of people who do not fit this mold. Homosexual people are attracted to same-sex partners. Transgendered individuals are born feeling that they are actually a member of the opposite sex wearing the wrong body type, external characteristics to the contrary. The exact reasons for why these variations of human sexuality occur are not known definitively, but what evidence there is points to the influence of varying hormone levels on fetal brain development during pregnancy. Hormones appear to determine sexual preferences, and to condition the brain to think of itself as male or female. While homosexual and transgendered individuals can choose to not engage in sex at all (like any heterosexual person might), they seem to have little choice over who they are attracted to, or how they think of themselves.

There is widespread prejudice against homosexual people today, and even more prejudice against trans-gendered people. Consequently, the majority of homosexual and transgendered individuals are not comfortable expressing themselves or exploring their preferences freely as children and developing adolescents. Many attempt to deny the reality of their sexuality and try to fit themselves into a heterosexual mold, making themselves miserable in the process. The teen suicide rate within these populations is correspondingly high. Due to prejudice and intense social pressure to conform, people with homosexual and transgendered preferences face special challenges in coming of age that heterosexual people do not ever face. The influence of sexuality on identity is thus large, and the potential for sexuality-related issues to occur very real.

  • Are you comfortable as a man (if you are male) or do you think you might be a woman in a man's body.
  • Are you comfortable as a woman (if you are female) or do you think you might be a man in a woman's body.
  • Are you attracted to same sex partners, opposite sex partners, or to both same and opposite sex partners? If you are attracted to same sex partners, are you comfortable sharing this knowledge with sympathetic people? Have you told your family?
  • Are you comfortable with your sexuality? Are you ever ashamed of yourself or your desires?
  • Have you suffered negative consequences of prejudice against homosexual or transgender sexuality?