Understanding Differences between Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression

Today’s society is becoming increasingly sophisticated in how we view gender. Experts who work with youth and gender issues share the two most common myths:

  • Gender is binary, offering only two options
  • Gender and sex are the same things.

The take-aways: your gender is not based on your anatomy. And people can be “gender fluid” rather than only male or female.

Some important distinctions to understand:

Biological Sex. This is a medical classification that refers to anatomical, physiological, genetic or physical attributes that determine if a person is assigned male, female or intersex identity at birth.

Gender Identity. One’s innermost feeling of maleness, femaleness, a blend of both or neither. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender Expression. External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being masculine or feminine.

Sexual orientation. The gender of people you are sexually attracted to.