All people have a sexual orientation, and a gender identity. But sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing.
Sexual orientation tells you about a person’s sexual and romantic attractions. Common words to describe sexual orientation are:
- Heterosexual (straight) describes someone who is attracted to people of a different sex. For example: a man who is attracted to women; or a woman attracted to men.
- Homosexaul (Gay) describes someone who is attracted to people of the same sex. Gay is usually used for men who are attracted to men.
- Lesbian describes a woman who is attracted to other women.
- Bisexual describes someone who is attracted to both men and women.
Some people describe their sexual orientation in other ways. For example, younger people may use the term “queer” instead of lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Gender identity describes whether individual people think of themselves as a man, a woman, or in some cases, another gender.
Most people feel their gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth – for example, a person who is born male and feels he is a man. But some people feel their gender identity is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth—for example, a person assigned male at birth may strongly feel she is a woman, or a person assigned female at birth may strongly feel he is a man.
- A transgender man is someone who was assigned the female sex at birth but identifies as a man (some use the term female-to-male or FTM). Note that in these cases, “man” or “woman” is always used to describe the gender identity a person has chosen, not the sex they were assigned at birth.
- A transgender woman is someone who was assigned the male sex at birth but identifies as a woman (some use the term male-to-female or MTF).
Other people reject thinking of themselves as either man or woman, and may identify themselves as something else, for example “genderqueer.”
Did you know?
Transgender people can have any sexual orientation. For example, a transgender woman can be attracted to men, and might therefore consider herself straight or heterosexual. Another transgender woman can be attracted to women, in which case she might think of herself as lesbian.
Transgender people often “transition” the way they look on the outside in order to “affirm” their gender identity.