On Sexual Identity

(Not to be confused or conflated with Sex Identity)

Sexual identity is how one thinks of oneself in terms of whom one is romantically or sexually attracted to.

That is, it is about how one sees one’s self in terms of their sexual orientation — it is not a statement of their identification in terms of sexual orientation, merely how they see themselves.

It is, then, not a processual approach, but a contextual and relation one.

Identity is not the same as identification. Identity is a label, whereas identification refers to the classifying act itself.

It is a component of an individual’s identity that reflects their sexual self-concept. The integration of the respective identity components (e.g. moral, religious, ethnic, occupational) into a greater overall identity is essential to the process of developing the multi-dimensional construct of identity.

Sexual identity may also refer to sexual orientation identity, which is when people identify or dis-identify with a sexual orientation or choose not to identify with a sexual orientation.

Sexual identity and sexual behavior are closely related to sexual orientation, but they are distinct:

  • Sexual Identity referring to an individual’s conception of themselves
  • Sexual Behavior referring to actual sexual acts performed by the individual
  • Sexual Orientation referring to romantic or sexual attractions toward the opposite sex, the same sex, any sexes, or having no attractions.

Sexual identity can change throughout an individual’s life, and may or may not align with physical, assigned, or presumed sex, sexual behavior or actual sexual orientation. For example, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people may not openly identify as such in a homophobic/heterosexist setting or in areas whose record on LGBT rights is poor. Sexual identity is more closely related to sexual behavior than sexual orientation is.

It is not only sexual minorities that undergo sexual identity development, but heterosexual populations as well.