Who Are We? The Basics Of Sexual Identity

There are so many questions relating to how we think of ourselves and how we relate to sex - Dr. Yoni will put some order into all of it, and will let you feel more comfortable in your skin and how to relate to others.

Who Are We? The Basics Of Sexual Identity

Who Are We? The Basics Of Sexual Identity

Who Are We? The Basics Of Sexual Identity

3 minute read

Cis, trans, heterosexual, gay, genderqueer, gender non-binary — you’ve probably heard these terms thrown around, but things can get a bit confusing with so many on the table. 

In this stream, Dr. Yoni Alkan, a doctor of human sexuality who identifies as a cis-hetero man, will explain some terms that can describe a person’s sexual identity, 

First, he breaks down sexual identity into six criteria: biosex, sexual attraction, romantic attraction, gender roles, gender identities, and sexual behavior.  Here is the criteria explained in layman's terms: 

1. Biosex

This is the sex you were assigned at birth based on your chromosomes, hormones, external characteristics, gonads, and internal organs. Most people are assigned male or female, but a small minority may be intersex, meaning their genitalia aren’t clearly male or female. 

2. Sexual Orientation

This is who you’re attracted to sexually. You may be attracted to people of your own gender (homosexual), the opposite gender (heterosexual), both genders (bisexual), or neither (asexual). Sexual orientation is a spectrum, so many of us exist somewhere in between, though we may be closer to one end or the other. 

3. Romantic attraction 

This is who we’d like to build a relationship with. This doesn’t necessarily coincide with sexual orientation because, as Dr. Alkan says, you might want to build a relationship with one gender but have sex with both genders or a person who is gender-nonconforming, etc.  

4. Gender

Dr. Alkan first points out that gender is a made up social construct. Gender is the traits society expects a person of a certain biosex to possess and present. Gender roles are how we present those traits, and ourselves, to society and how society expects us to act. 

5. Gender Identity 

Gender Identity is how we feel on the inside. This may or may not coincide with our gender assigned at birth. If it does, you may identify as cisgender. If it doesn’t, you may identify as transgender. Some people who are transgender may change their outside selves, with surgery, hormones, etc., to match the gender they feel on the inside. You could also be gender-nonconforming, meaning you’re gender fluid and might change your gender. If you’re agendered, you do not conform to any of those genders. 

6. Sexual behavior

This is the ways and frequencies at which you like to have sex with other people. You could love having many sexual partners, or you might enjoy having just one partner for long periods of time. Your sexual behaviors may exist in between and change over time. 

All of these terms can be helpful ways to describe your identity if you feel the need to define it. It’s also totally okay to throw them all away and just be you, with no defining terms attached. Take what serves you and leave the rest behind.

Dr. Yoni Alkan

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Dr. Yoni, DHS, seeks to do his part to improve our dating landscape as well as to share his knowledge of consent culture and alternative relationships through O.school live streams and beyond. Yoni facilitates individual cuddling sessions as well as cuddle parties in San Francisco. He speaks about human sexuality around the world and has been writing about sex and relationships since 2011.

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