Is there a difference between gender identity and sexual orientation?

I recently came across a statement saying, "All sexual identities namely lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc., need to be honoured and these orientations need to be protected".

The statement missed out on the fact that the term "LGBT" is an amalgamation of sexual orientation and gender identities. This Pride month, let us understand the same in detail.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation refers to your feelings and choices when it comes to sex. Basically, who would you go to bed with, and whether or not you wish to go to bed with someone at all.

So, being gay is a sexual orientation because it denotes that the person is comfortable with having sexual moments with men. Similarly, being pansexual means being open to sexual moments with all genders.

You can also be asexual, which is a spectrum in itself, indicating that you may occasionally, or never be comfortable with the idea of someone in bed.

Gender Identity

Gender Identity is a marker of your own sense of self - it goes much beyond genitalia and can differ from sex assigned at birth.

People say that gender is a spectrum, where one point corresponds to male, another point to female, and there are 'variations in between', but I do not necessarily correspond to the spectrum belief.

For example, you may associate with no gender - or associate with all genders - the concept is very flexible. As for me, I do feel like a "female", but I also feel like "a male" on many occasions, so the idea of a spectrum does not really identify these areas.

I rather see gender as scattered dots on a board of self.

Visit Tickle.Life on 3rd June to understand asexuality, allosexuality, and agender.

What is the relation between Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity?

Well, it is not uncommon for people to connect the two as the same. When I told a friend that I sometimes feel like a man, she said, "so, are you a lesbian"?

It is the compulsion to box people into binaries that often does that, so such postulations actually attempt to create more binaries.

The relation between sexual orientation and gender identity is solely of how they play out together. So a transgender woman can be asexual or pansexual, or a transgender man can be bisexual.

It is important to know about the same, because there is a tendency to hyper-sexualise non-binary gender identities.

It was these concerns that led to Facebook adding the option of 56 genders for a user to choose from to display on their bio, though they have been pretty restrictive when it comes to sexual orientation, with the "Interested in" option only giving you the choice of men, women or both.

Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are important markers of our identity, through which we navigate and understand the world. It hence, becomes important and beneficial to be aware of the difference and the relation.


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash