Center for Young Women's Health

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity:

Gender Identity


Sexuality/Sexual Orientation Mental Health Issues
current guideGender Identity Helpful Resources

Gender identity is how strong a person's feeling is about being male or female, or possibly parts of both. Most people are comfortable with the feeling that they are one gender (male or female); however, not everybody falls into this category.


How do people express their gender identity?

Gender can be expressed in many ways: through our clothes, our speech, activities, hobbies, and our behaviors. It's ok for any of these things to change depending on what feels comfortable to us at the time.


What's the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation?

Many people confuse the two, but here is a simple way to understand the difference! Gender identity is more about "who you are" (boy, girl, or even possibly both types of feelings) and sexual orientation is about "who you have a crush on".


What does "transgender" mean?

Transgender people are people whose gender identity (feeling about which gender they are) doesn't match with their biologic gender (or sex). This means that their mind may tell them one thing, but their bodies tell them another. For example, a person born female feels that they are a male trapped in a girl's body. Transgender people feel strongly that their mind is right, and often desire to go through medical procedures to help change their body to the other gender.


What does gender-queer mean?

This is a term used by people who don't feel comfortable calling themselves male or female. They actually may feel comfortable with parts of both categories (or neither category). Some people who feel this way do not like to use male or female pronouns.


Is it ok to be transgender or gender-queer?

Absolutely. As with gay or bisexual people, some people with traditional beliefs may be uncomfortable with those who express these feelings, but professional medical and psychiatric organizations agree that it is better to express who you are, even if it makes other people a little uncomfortable.


Can I be both transgender and gay? What about transgender and straight?

Yes and yes. Being transgender is an individual thing, and it is about people whose mind and bodies tell them contradictory things about the gender in which they were born and the gender with which the identify. However, those same people also have attractions to other people - some of them may be attracted to people with the same gender (as their mind tells them they are), and other transgender people may be attracted to people of the opposite gender (as their mind tells them they are). If you are confused by this, it's ok, because many other people are too!


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Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital


Updated: 3/4/2014

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